Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Space X Landing Attempt

The other day Space X launched the CRS-6 and then attempted to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket onto a barge floating in the ocean.

Space X has released the video of the “failed” landing. Thank you Space X! The attempt is amazing and I would not necessarily call this a failure, not a complete failure anyway, merely another step to success.

Video

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New Craters on the Moon

The bright flash of a meteor impact was seen on the moon a couple of years ago on 17 March 2013. The flash was some 10 times any flash recorded before. NASA recorded the flash at lunar coordinates 20.6°N, 336.1°E.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to image the location before and after and it turns out it has found a few more.

The video and a really cool before/after image is located at the NASA site.`

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Speeding Star

An artist impression of the mass-transfer phase followed by a double-detonation supernova that leads to the ejection of US 708.  CREDIT: ESA/HUBBLE, NASA, S. GEIER
An artist impression of the mass-transfer phase followed by a double-detonation supernova that leads to the ejection of US 708. CREDIT: ESA/HUBBLE, NASA, S. GEIER

Scientists using the W.M. Keck Observatory and Pan-STARRS1 telescopes have discovered a star that breaks a speed record. This star is traveling at 1,200 km/sec (2.7 million miles per hour). Fast enough so the star will escape the gravity of the galaxy and leave. Only a handful of such stars are known.

This star was part of a binary star system and was ejected by a supernova explosion. The image above is an artist impression and it shows the star to the left and the supernova at the same time but the supernova would have faded away by the time the star hit that position.

The hypervelocity stars are destined to spend their lives speeding through intergalactic space although it is thought usually such stars get ejected due to a close encounter with the black hole at the center of Milky Way.

While the image shown here is an artist concept, scientists observed this star called US 708 with the Echellette Spectrograph and Imager instrument on the 10-meter, Keck II telescope to measure its distance and velocity along our line of sight. By combining position measurements from the archives with new measurements from Pan-STARRS1, scientists were able to come up with the star’s velocity across our line of sight. The trajectory of the star shows the velocity cannot be from an encounter with a black hole.

There’s more (from the Keck press release):

US 708 has another peculiar property in marked contrast to other hypervelocity stars: it is a rapidly rotating, compact helium star likely formed by interaction with a close companion. Thus, US 708 could have originally resided in an ultra compact binary system, transferring helium to a massive white dwarf companion, ultimately triggering a thermonuclear explosion of a type Ia supernova. In this scenario, the surviving companion, i.e. US 708, was violently ejected from the disrupted binary as a result, and is now traveling with extreme velocity.

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Mystery Plumes on Mars

Observations of a mysterious plume-like feature (marked with yellow arrow) at the limb of the Red Planet on 20 March 2012. The observation was made by astronomer W. Jaeschke. The image is shown with the north pole towards the bottom and the south pole to the top.  Credit: ESA
Observations of a mysterious plume-like feature (marked with yellow arrow) at the limb of the Red Planet on 20 March 2012. The observation was made by astronomer W. Jaeschke. The image is shown with the north pole towards the bottom and the south pole to the top. Credit: ESA

Plumes of unknown origin over Mars have been photographed. The plumes seen in in images taken March and April of 2012.  The images prompted a  review of Hubble images of Mars and sure enough an image was found from 17 May 1997.

These are not the clouds occasionally imaged at about 100 km in the atmosphere, this phenomenon is seen at 250 km.

“At about 250 km, the division between the atmosphere and outer space is very thin, so the reported plumes are extremely unexpected,” says Agustin Sanchez-Lavega of the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain, lead author of the paper reporting the results in the journal Nature.

Read the details at ESA space science and if you live in or near Grover’s Mill NJ, I’d keep an eye on the sky.

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Keck

Showcasing the Keck telescope and its many capabilities this video was originally produced to give a hat tip to the contributions of the W. M. Keck Foundation including its support for the National Academies’ Keck Futures Initiative.

Video

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