Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Water Plumes on Europa?

europaplumes

Does Saturn’s moon Enceladus have an analog at Jupiter?  Hubble images of Europa seem to make this a possibility.

There’s a video too, a couple minutes long. Have a look.

Caption released with image:

This composite image shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o’clock position off the limb of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The plumes, photographed by NASA’s Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity allowed for the features — rising over 100 miles (160 kilometers) above Europa’s icy surface — to be discerned. The water is believed to come from a subsurface ocean on Europa. The Hubble data were taken on January 26, 2014. The image of Europa, superimposed on the Hubble data, is assembled from data from the Galileo and Voyager missions.
Credits: NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center

More from NASA detail here.

Gancedo Meteor

What a find!

About 4,500 years ago a huge meteor hit Argentina.  It was found a few days ago on 10 September by explorers from the Astronomy Association of the Chaco (Asociación de Astronomía del Chaco).   Chaco is a province of Argentina and the meteor fall area is located in the southwestern part of the province in the town of Gancedo.

When I saw this on the news I had to go to Impact Earth and see what would happen if this hit near me.   Try it.

Video

 

Super Guppy Delivers

The Super Guppy, an aptly named NASA cargo plane might look unwieldy but don’t let looks fool you; this plane can deliver large items.

The image here for example shows the cargo bay of the plane and a new heat shield being unloaded at Kennedy Space Center (Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis).

superguppy

The heat shield will protect the new Orion spacecraft from the intense heat of re-entry. The heat-shield, built by Lockheed Martin in Colorado will withstand temperatures of 2,760 C / 5,000 F. The 5 meter / 16.5 ft diameter heat-shield plus crating fits easily inside the Guppy.

Here’s a video of the Super Guppy in action.

A Look Around Curiosity

Here’s a look around Curiosity, or the Mars Science Laboratory on Mars.  For two minutes you can look around the scene by using the arrows at the top left of the video or just “clicking and dragging” your way around.  Running out of time is no problem just replay the video (or whatever you would call this).

The scene is from a location called Murray Buttes and most of the features are labeled.  The rover is not visible in this MastCam product.

For scale The dark, flat-topped mesa seen to the left of the rover’s arm is about 50 feet (about 15 meters) high and, near the top, about 200 feet (about 60 meters) wide according to NASA.

I was looking at the panorama and thought how completely quiet it must be up there and what it would sound like to try and get an echo off the buttes. The echo time lag of course depends on the speed of sound on Mars. Looking around on the web quickly reveals the speed of sound on Mars is about 244.4 m/s or 801.3 ft/s compared to 340 m/sec or 1115 ft/sec on Earth. So the echo would take nearly 25 percent longer to return on Mars than on Earth.

Video

Speed of sound on Mars
Speed of sound on Earth

This Week At NASA

An especially good episode this week. Very interesting bit on the atmosphere of the Jupiter moon Io, the sulfur dioxide atmosphere freezes onto the moons surface during the period where Jupiter shades the moon and then is restored as the shading goes away.

Video

How About Black Holes?

chandrachoir

From Chandra and NuStar:
The blue dots in this field of galaxies, known as the COSMOS field, show galaxies that contain supermassive black holes emitting high-energy X-rays. The black holes were detected by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Array, or NuSTAR, which spotted 32 such black holes in this field and has observed hundreds across the whole sky so far.

The other colored dots are galaxies that host black holes emitting lower-energy X-rays, and were spotted by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra data show X-rays with energies between 0.5 to 7 kiloelectron volts, while NuSTAR data show X-rays between 8 to 24 kiloelectron volts.

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror archive. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planet 9 Update

planetnineOBL

We have some updated information on the planet the “numbers” say exists.  Mainly it helps explain why the Sun has an obliquity of six degrees.

Obliquity?  What is obliquity?  Easy, think of it is  just a fancy word for “tilt”.  Earth has an obliquity of a bit more than 23 degrees, it is that tilt that gives us our seasons.

Hat tip to SpaceRef for this synopsis of a paper submitted for publication (by Elizabeth Bailey, Konstantin Batygin, Michael E. Brown):

The six-degree obliquity of the sun suggests that either an asymmetry was present in the solar system’s formation environment, or an external torque has misaligned the angular momentum vectors of the sun and the planets.

However, the exact origin of this obliquity remains an open question. Batygin & Brown (2016) have recently shown that the physical alignment of distant Kuiper Belt orbits can be explained by a 5-20 Earth-mass planet on a distant, eccentric, and inclined orbit, with an approximate perihelion distance of ~250 AU.

Using an analytic model for secular interactions between Planet Nine and the remaining giant planets, here we show that a planet with similar parameters can naturally generate the observed obliquity as well as the specific pole position of the sun’s spin axis, from a nearly aligned initial state.

Thus, Planet Nine offers a testable explanation for the otherwise mysterious spin-orbit misalignment of the solar system.

Elizabeth Bailey, Konstantin Batygin, Michael E. Brown
(Submitted on 14 Jul 2016 (this version), latest version 20 Jul 2016 (v2))

Image: artist concept by NASA via SpaceRef