Happy Solstice!

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A little déjà vu? By the way the moon is full today too and this is known as the Strawberry Moon, not for any color, rather the beginning of Strawberry season in the north.

Today the Sun reaches its most northern point in the sky in the northern hemisphere and the lowest in the southern hemisphere.

Put another way,  for the northern hemisphere: the June solstice is when the subsolar point or that point where the sun is perceived to be directly over head, is at the northern most latitude it will attain before due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis and is on the Tropic of Cancer (23.44 deg). After the June Solstice the Sun will day by day become lower in the northern sky until the December solstice when it rises to its lowest point of the year.

The southern hemisphere experiences the opposite, so today the Sun is at its lowest point and after today will gradually reach higher in sky until the December solstice.

The moment of the June Solstice occurs today at 22:34 UTC.  US Naval Observatory.

More at:  timeanddate.com

My typical June solstice tradition is to take a nice long walk at sunrise, heavy rain made me skip the walk.

#SummerSolstice

Image: Creative Commons

Welcome Home!

Good news! Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, flight engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan the three returning crew members spent 186 days in space.

Video from NASA

The crew completed the in-flight portion of NASA human research studies in ocular health, cognition, salivary markers and microbiome and part of the research looked like it was a little fun too:

Fun for Tim Kopra that is, I don’t think I could handle the “Tim Peake Twirl“.

Shores of Pluto

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Those “pits” are very intriguing, need to know more about them.

New Horizons:

This enhanced color view from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto’s great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. (Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a ‘macula’ is a dark feature on a planetary surface.)

Pluto is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across much of the surface. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain – informally named Sputnik Planum – and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep.

At the boundary with Sputnik Planum, these pits form deep valleys reaching more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) long, 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) wide and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep – almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona – and have floors covered with nitrogen ice.  New Horizons scientists think these pits may have formed through surface collapse, although what may have prompted such a collapse is a mystery.

This scene was created using three separate observations made by New Horizons in July 2015. The right half of the image is composed of 260 feet- (80 meter-) per-pixel data from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), obtained at 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach.  The left half is composed of 410 feet- (125 meter-) per-pixel LORRI data, obtained about six minutes earlier, with New Horizons 15,470 miles (24,900 kilometers) from Pluto.

These data respectively represent portions of the highest- and second-highest-resolution observations obtained by New Horizons in the Pluto system. The entire scene was then colorized using 2,230 feet- (680 meter-) per-pixel data from New Horizons’ Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC), obtained at 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before closest approach.

Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Getting Sandy

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The MSL rover Curiosity is showing it is getting sand covered, in fact there is a pretty good build up on some of the surfaces. Seems like not so long ago I commented that the dust was much less than I thought it could be.

From NASA’s website:

This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at “Namib Dune,” where the rover’s activities included scuffing into the dune with a wheel and scooping samples of sand for laboratory analysis.

The scene combines 57 images taken on Jan. 19, 2016, during the 1,228th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. The camera used for this is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.

Namib Dune is part of the dark-sand “Bagnold Dune Field” along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. Images taken from orbit have shown that dunes in the Bagnold field move as much as about 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year.

The location of Namib Dune is show on a map of Curiosity’s route at http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=7640. The relationship of Bagnold Dune Field to the lower portion of Mount Sharp is shown in a map at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16064.)

The view does not include the rover’s arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, that were used in this mosaic. This process was used previously in acquiring and assembling Curiosity self-portraits taken at sample-collection sites, including “Rocknest” (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16468), “Windjana” (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18390) and “Buckskin” (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19807).

For scale, the rover’s wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and about 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide.

MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover.

More information about Curiosity is online at http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Hubble’s Hermet

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From Hubble:

The drizzle of stars scattered across this image forms a galaxy known as UGC 4879. UGC 4879 is an irregular dwarf galaxy — as the name suggests, galaxies of this type are a little smaller and messier than their cosmic cousins, lacking the majestic swirl of a spiral or the coherence of an elliptical.

This galaxy is also very isolated. There are about 2.3 million light years between UGC 4879 and its closest neighbor, Leo A, which is about the same distance as that between the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way.

This galaxy’s isolation means that it has not interacted with any surrounding galaxies, making it an ideal laboratory for studying star formation uncomplicated by interactions with other galaxies. Studies of UGC 4879 have revealed a significant amount of star formation in the first 4 billion years after the Big Bang, followed by a strange 9-billion-year lull in star formation that ended 1 billion years ago by a more recent re-ignition. The reason for this behavior, however, remains mysterious, and the solitary galaxy continues to provide ample study material for astronomers looking to understand the complex mysteries of star birth throughout the universe.

Image credit: NASA/ESA
Text credit: European Space Agency

World Atlas of Artificial Brightness

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Light pollution is a topic that has been talked about for a number of years and some progress has been made but there is a long way to go. Some communities have used new lighting designs to direct light to where it is needed and away from the sky, more needs to be done.
From SpaceRef :

The Milky Way, the brilliant river of stars that has dominated the night sky and human imaginations since time immemorial, is but a faded memory to one third of humanity and 80 percent of Americans.

A new global atlas of light pollution has been produced by Italian and American scientists, including Chris Elvidge of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and Kimberly Baugh of NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

“We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way,” said Elvidge. “It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos ­ and it’s been lost.”

Light pollution is most extensive in countries like Singapore, Italy and South Korea, while Canada and Australia retain the darkest skies. In Western Europe, only small areas of night sky remain relatively undiminished, mainly in Scotland, Sweden and Norway. Despite the vast open spaces of the American west, almost half of the U.S. experiences light-­polluted nights.

Light pollution does more than rob humans of the opportunity to ponder the night sky. Unnatural light can confuse or expose wildlife like insects, birds and sea turtles, with often fatal consequences.

The atlas takes advantage of low­light imaging now available from the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellit, calibrated by thousands of ground observations. The brighter the area in this interactive map (at right), the harder it is to see stars and constellations in the night sky.

For more information about the study, see http://goo.gl/gWeZvs

To read the study in its entirety, go to http://goo.gl/dDsmju