Category Archives: Cool Stuff

After The Landing

Philae timeline.  Click for a more readable version. Credit: ESA
Philae timeline. Click for a more readable version. Credit: ESA

The big day is almost here. What will happen once Philae lands on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko?

This from ESA:

A timeline of the science operations that Rosetta’s lander Philae will perform during the first 2.5 days on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

It does not include the experiments conducted during the seven-hour descent or immediately upon touchdown and in the 40 minutes after as the separation, descent and landing operations and experiments conclude (see this graphic for a summary of those activities).

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Two Days Away

Rosetta's NAVCAM image just 31.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 November 2014 ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Rosetta’s NAVCAM image just 31.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 November 2014 ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

An image  on 04 November shows some activity in the way of the jets emanating from the central region of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve developed quite an interest in what the cometary “soil” is like and how it got to be the way it is.  Happily we could get more clues just watching the Philae lander land on Wednesday. If the composition is very fine we could see quite a cloud kicked up relative to how much is at the landing site of course.

If you would like the four individual panels making up this image you can get them at Comet Watch

 

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Dione – A Global View

dionemap

NASA has produced global mosaics of Saturn’s moon Dione from Cassini spacecraft images. The image here is a trailing hemisphere which is darker than the leading hemisphere possibly because to “alteration by magnetospheric particles and radiation striking those surfaces”. It is also thought the leading hemisphere “is coated with icy dust from Saturn’s E-ring, formed from tiny particles ejected from Enceladus’ south pole. These satellites are all being painted by material erupted by neighboring Enceladus”.

The image is best enjoyed by looking at the high resolution verions at NASA’s Photojournal site you can see down to 250 meters per pixel – amazing!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

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New Record Jump

Google Executive Alan Eustace left an abandoned airport in New Mexico in a helium-filled balloon. He later jumped from the balloon at 41.42 km / 135,908 feet.

Eustace reached speeds of 822 mph.

Only two-years ago Felix Baumgartner jumped from 39 km / 128,000 feet to set the record. Will he respond? I hope so!

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A Rover View of Comet

NASA Rover Opportunity view of the Mars comet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ASU/TAMU
NASA Rover Opportunity view of the Mars comet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ASU/TAMU

This is the (annotated) view of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity about two-and-a-half hours before the close encounter with Mars.

Want an non-annotated version?

You will notice some cosmic ray hits are labeled. Very common artifact as anyone who dabbles even a little in astrophotography will attest. This image has been processed to remove detector artifacts and a slight twilight glow. The processing was very well done, sometimes the processing is half the fun.

You can see more images, including a blink between two frames from Opportunity. Do have a look.

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End of an Era

When NASA astronauts and any support staff that might have to quickly exit the had to get off the 60 meter/195 foot level of Launch pad 39A and B at Cape Canaveral they would do so by using slide-wire baskets.

The baskets could hold three people could get in the baskets at the Fixed Service Structure and travel 366 meters/1200 foot to safety in just about 30 seconds. The braking system was a drag chain braking system and a catch net.

via Live Leak

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BOPPS

Taken during night time calibration.  The circle of stars is a result of 100-30 second exposures as they travel around Polaris.  Credit: NASA/JHUAPL
Taken during night time calibration. The circle of stars is a result of 100-30 second exposures as they travel around Polaris. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

I just love these balloon missions.

The Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science (BOPPS) is a high-altitude, stratospheric balloon mission that is planned for launch today to study a number of objects in our solar system, including an Oort cloud comet.

The balloon payload, a gondola measuring 6.7 meters tall (22 feet) tall and 2.4 meters wide (8 feet) wide and weighs in at 5,200 pounds. If all goes as planned the balloon will hoist the gondola to an altitude of about 36.6 to 39.36 km (120,000 to 130,000 feet) and keep it there for 24 hours!

The balloon itself is another flight of the BRORISON mission, recall this was a mission to observe Comet ISON within a year of its discovery. Let me tell you that is FAST. The logistics of a observing balloon mission are tremendous. Unfortunately there was a flight anomaly and the observations were not able to be made.

A couple of the observing objectives include Comet C/2013 Siding Spring discovered on 3 January 2013. This comet is the one that will make a close approach to Mars on 19 October 2014. The comet is coming into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud, very possibly for the first time. Do you know what that means? This comet has been around since the formation of the solar system until something perturbed into this epic journey.

The second is another comet. Comet C/2012 K1 PanSTARRS was discovered on 17 May 2012 and like Siding Spring it too is making what it thought to be its first journey into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud.

The launch will be about a week before the Comet Siding Spring Mars visit. Observations will be made in the near-infrared and near-ultraviolet along with light in the visible spectrum though a 0.8 m (2.6 feet) telescope.

If things go really well there could also be observations of Uranus, Neptune, Vesta and Ceres.

GO BOPPS GO!

The BOPPS website

More about the image:  you can also make such an image.  You just need a stable camera set up and a shutter you can keep open either for multiple long exposures like this one or open most of the night during darkness of course..

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Iceland Eruption from Space

Annotated satellite image of the Iceland eruption. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies
Annotated satellite image of the Iceland eruption. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies

I’ve been following the Iceland volcanic eruption for a bit. Watching seismic activity is pretty interesting as is the ground based cameras looking at the volcano.

Now we get a space based view from the Earth Observing Satellite.

Volcano cams
Seismic activity
NASA’s Earth Observing Program

This from NASA:

On the night of Sept. 1, 2014, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft observed the ongoing eruption at Holuhraun, Iceland, from an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers). Data were collected at a resolution of 98 feet (30 meters) per pixel at different infrared wavelengths and were then combined to create this false-color image that emphasizes the hottest areas of the vent and resulting lava flows. The image captured the 0.6-mile (1-kilometer)-long fissure from which lava is erupting, a channeled lava flow, and a broad expanse of lava flows extending 2.2 miles( 3.5 kilometers) from the fissure.

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Volcanic Activity on Io

Infrared images of Jupiter's moon Io.  CREDIT: IMKE DE PATER AND KATHERINE DE KLEER, UC BERKELEY.
Infrared images of Jupiter’s moon Io. CREDIT: IMKE DE PATER AND KATHERINE DE KLEER, UC BERKELEY.

Volcanic outbursts on the Moon Io witnessed by the W. M. Keck and Gemini Observatories on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The images are amazing especially when you consider this moon is 3,700 km / 2,300 miles in diameter and it is the inner most moon of Jupiter.

While Io is known to be volcanic, this seems to be a bit unusual because three outbursts inside of two weeks is more then generally is anticipated in a year or even two. Not just that, but these are huge outbursts:

De Pater’s long-time colleague and coauthor Ashley Davies, a volcanologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., said that the recent eruptions resemble past events that spewed tens of cubic miles of lava over hundreds of square miles in a short period of time.

“These new events are in a relatively rare class of eruptions on Io because of their size and astonishingly high thermal emission,” he said. “The amount of energy being emitted by these eruptions implies lava fountains gushing out of fissures at a very large volume per second, forming lava flows that quickly spread over the surface of Io.”

Read the Keck press release here, very interesting.

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