Neptune and Triton

Neptune and Triton from the New Horizons spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Neptune and Triton from the New Horizons spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A look at Neptune and one of its moons Triton from New Horizons spacecraft on 10 July 2014. When the image was taken, New Horizons had not crossed the orbit of Neptune. At the orbit crossing New Horizons was actually closer to Pluto than Neptune.

See the non-annotated version here.

Coming up very soon, on 06 December 2015 New Horizons will exit sleep mode for the last time. The spacecraft has periodically gone in and out of sleep mode so there shouldn’t be any surprises. From then on the spacecraft will be fully awake and very shortly after will start taking science data. We should get some tantalizing views of the Plutonian system from the same camera that took the one above: New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

 

Gravity Gradients

Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum.   Image Credit:  NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum. Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Another bit of information from the flight of Ebb and Flow the twin spacecraft of the GRAIL mission. Essentially a topographical map blended with a gravity map to show gravitational anomalies thanks to the combined input from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Grail.

Best to let NASA explain:

Topography of Earth’s moon generated from data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with the gravity anomalies bordering the Procellarum region superimposed in blue. The border structures are shown using gravity gradients calculated with data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. These gravity anomalies are interpreted as ancient lava-flooded rift zones buried beneath the volcanic plains (or maria) on the nearside of the Moon.

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GRAIL Data

Artist concept (see text). Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC

Artist concept (see text). Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC

The twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, gathered data during their mission while orbiting the moon and they give us a little bit of an explanation of what the results show.

There hasn’t been too much coming out about the mission since this almost a year ago: NASA’s GRAIL Mission Puts a New Face on the Moon

Here’s the press release from the NASA:

A view of Earth’s moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. The gravity anomalies along the border structures are interpreted as ancient, solidified, lava-flooded rifts that are now buried beneath the surface of the dark volcanic plains, or maria, on the near side of the moon.

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MAVEN To Enter Orbit

The MAVEN spacecraft will enter a Martian orbit on 21 September. After a six-week period of fine tuning the orbit and scientific instruments the spacecraft will begin to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

NOTE: The SpaceX launch has changed the launch date and time – see the previous post.

MAVEN website

Video

NASA Update

Rosetta has been eclipsing most of the news lately, as it should. NASA is also staying busy as always and the first data is coming in from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.

Part of the update is about the Cygnus spacecraft leaving the ISS laden with trash. The Cygnus is about to re-enter the atmosphere and will burn up. This should occur at 13:11 UTC / 0911 EDT, today (Sunday). The atmospheric interface will occur between New Zealand and South America and is timed so the ISS crew can observe the fiery demise of the spacecraft.

Tsunami Hits Voyager

An artists concept Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. Interstellar space is dominated by plasma, ionized gas (shown here as brownish haze), that was thrown off by giant stars millions of years ago. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An artists concept Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. Interstellar space is dominated by plasma, ionized gas (shown here as brownish haze), that was thrown off by giant stars millions of years ago. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Voyager 1 spacecraft now has felt another “tsunami wave”, a pressure wave generated by a coronal mass ejection from the sun. The “tsunami wave” takes about a year to reach Voyager and they can tell because of the way the thin plasma around the spacecraft acts.

The weird thing is this plasma is denser than what Voyager was flying through previously.  All of this points to more evidence the Voyagers have entered the area of interstellar space outside our solar bubble.  Yeah that’s way out – Go Voyagers!

More dense? Confused? I was too, read the explanation from the NASA JPL site below:

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a new “tsunami wave” from the sun as it sails through interstellar space. Such waves are what led scientists to the conclusion, in the fall of 2013, that Voyager had indeed left our sun’s bubble, entering a new frontier.

“Normally, interstellar space is like a quiet lake,” said Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, the mission’s project scientist since 1972. “But when our sun has a burst, it sends a shock wave outward that reaches Voyager about a year later. The wave causes the plasma surrounding the spacecraft to sing.”

Data from this newest tsunami wave generated by our sun confirm that Voyager is in interstellar space — a region between the stars filled with a thin soup of charged particles, also known as plasma. The mission has not left the solar system — it has yet to reach a final halo of comets surrounding our sun — but it broke through the wind-blown bubble, or heliosphere, encasing our sun. Voyager is the farthest human-made probe from Earth, and the first to enter the vast sea between stars.
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