A New Dwarf Planet

Dwarf Planet 2012 VP113 in three different images stacked together, it's the red, blue and green dots. Image: Courtesy Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo.

Dwarf Planet 2012 VP113 in three different images stacked together, it’s the red, blue and green dots. Image: Courtesy Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo.

A new dwarf planet has been found in our solar system, its name: 2012 VP113. The new dwarf planet is a long ways out, coming no closer to the sun than 80 AU.

Not just that, but it sounds like there is a potential of a new planet out there, possibly up to 10 times the size of the Earth! This remains to be seen though.

This from the Carnegie Institute:

New work from Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory reports the discovery of a distant dwarf planet, called 2012 VP113, which was found beyond the known edge of the Solar System. This is likely one of thousands of distant objects that are thought to form the so-called inner Oort cloud. What’s more, their work indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, perhaps up to 10 times the size of Earth, not yet seen, but possibly influencing the orbit of 2012 VP113, as well as other inner Oort cloud objects.

Read the rest of the press release at the Carnegie Institute (more images too).

The “Other Earthrise”

The less famous Earthrise image. Credit: LOIRP

The less famous Earthrise image. Credit: LOIRP

Very nice! This is an Earthrise image taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) just released the newly enhanced image they call: the “Other Earthrise.

The image is actually one of two images taken. The first of the pair was released by NASA is of course famous and one you’ve probably seen before.

There is a great story and more images at Moon Views – The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP).

Evidence of Cosmic Inflation

"The swirly B-mode pattern is a unique signature of gravitational waves because of their handedness. This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky," said co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo (Stanford/SLAC).  Credit: Keck, NASA, JPL, Harvard CfA et.al

“The swirly B-mode pattern is a unique signature of gravitational waves because of their handedness. This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky,” said co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo (Stanford/SLAC). Credit: Keck, NASA, JPL, Harvard CfA et.al

The Big Bang, the (not so aptly named) inflationary event that began the universe we know, has until now been theory.

The researchers took great care to be sure they were not missing something so now  I’m  trying to wrap my head around this and the implications for what is yet to come.

From NASA’s press release:

Astronomers are announcing today that they have acquired the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through our infant universe during an explosive period of growth called inflation. This is the strongest confirmation yet of cosmic inflation theories, which say the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times, in less than the blink of an eye.
The findings were made with the help of NASA-developed detector technology on the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.
“Operating the latest detectors in ground-based and balloon-borne experiments allows us to mature these technologies for space missions and, in the process, make discoveries about the universe,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director in Washington.

Read more at NASA / JPL.

Live From Space

In Saturday’s post I mentioned another television show from the National Geographic Channel apart from the Cosmos series.

Live from Space isn’t so much a television show as it is a television event.

The show comes from Arrow Media and will be broadcast LIVE from the International Space Station and NASA Mission Control in Houston TX. We literally will get to see a trip around the world in 90 minutes from the ISS.

The show will be hosted by Soledad O’Brien and astronaut Mike Massimino. Along with the Live broadcasts there will be some segments on launches (featuring Rich & Koichi) , from the trailers I have seen (but can’t find online) it appears there will be segments on the food the crews eat. Food costs about 10,000 dollars per pound to get up there so everything is dehydrated. I have tried the dehydrated ice cream, surprisingly good. They do get a VERY limited supply of fresh fruit but not much. It has to be a treat! Also we will see the dramatic spacewalk that went wrong for Luca Parmitano when water got into his helmet. Water does not behave the same up there as it does on Earth, he easily could have drowned! I’m am presuming O’Brien will interview the described by the people involved during the videos. I don’t actually know that but it would be perfect.

This is being described as a “Global Event”, premiering on the National Geographic Channels on March 14 at 20:00 ET / March 15 at 0:00 UTC. Check your local listings.

Hubble Catches Breakup

I first saw this and thought Hubble caught a comet breaking up, turns out it isn’t it’s an asteroid! Not to mention another Hubble first. The four largest fragments are as much as 200 meters in diameter.

“This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt of UCLA, USA, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.

Get the story at ESA’s Hubble page.

Video source

Rocket Launch

Sounding Rocket Launches Into Aurora Over Venetie, Alaska Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry

Nice!

On March 3, 2014, at 6:09 a.m. EST, a NASA-funded sounding rocket launched straight into an aurora over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) sounding rocket mission, which launched from Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, will study classic curls in the aurora in the night sky.
The GREECE mission seeks to understand what combination of events sets up these auroral curls as they’re called, in the charged, heated gas – or plasma – where aurorae form. This is a piece of information, which in turn, helps paint a picture of the sun-Earth connection and how energy and particles from the sun interact with Earth’s own magnetic system, the magnetosphere.

You can get desktop versions at the NASA site or at the Wallpaper link under the banner above.

All Wound Up

Here in the northern hemisphere low pressure systems have a counterclockwise rotation. This is a beautiful look at a storm that is well formed off the coast of California.

A strong storm system off the US west coast as see by NOAA’s GOES 15. Credit: NOAA/NASA.

The storm will move onshore tomorrow and is already bringing some much needed rain to the region which has been enduring drought conditions for a long time. I saw news accounts where some of the reservoirs are at only 20 percent capacity. Since Wednesday as much as 8.5 centimeters has fallen in the Los Angeles area, less than a centimeter than the region got all of last year! The rain will help, however flooding is occurring and it has been so dry and the area afflicted with forest fires, mudslides are almost inevitable.

In the mean time, on the other side of the Pacific. The NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory was launched.

A Japanese H-IIA rocket with the NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory onboard, is seen launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Japan. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched at 18:37 UTC Thursday, 27 February.

The spacecraft was launched from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan. The GPS system aboard the spacecraft is now active and the spacecraft is being readied for communications through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. The GPM mission will help advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles.

 

A Clockwork Hubble

Stars
Source: Hubblesite.org

The Hubble team have been watching hundreds of individual stars in the the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) over the past seven years and have mapped out their movements. What they got for their “trouble” is a precise measurement of the rotation of the galaxy! This is a first too.

The answer? The LMC rotates once every 250 million years, about the same as our solar system does in the Milky Way.

Read the Full Story at Hubblesite.org.