Hubble Puts On a Happy Face

Hubble shows that happiness is a gravitational lens. Image Credit: NASA/ESA

Hubble shows that happiness is a gravitational lens. Image Credit: NASA/ESA

Hubble sees a happy face created by a beautiful gravitation lens. I saw this at NASA’s Image of the Day yesterday. Oddly enough I was just thinking about faces we precieve like the famous Face on Mars and now there is the face on Ceres. The face on Ceres will be short lived as Dawn will be there shortly, just as well the Ceres face looks scary. :)

The caption from the NASA Image of the Day site (credit: ESA):

In the center of this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 — and it seems to be smiling.

You can make out its two orange eyes and white button nose. In the case of this “happy face”, the two eyes are very bright galaxies and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.
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Perihelion Cliff

Philae's view of its home, Perihelion Cliff. Image(s) Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA/CNES/FD via NASA

Philae’s view of its home, Perihelion Cliff. Image(s) Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA/CNES/FD via NASA

Rosetta’s Philae lander too this picture of its home, Perihelion Cliff, on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Philae was released by Rosetta on 12 November 2014. The landing did not go quite as planned and the anchor harpoons did not fire. After the initial impact Philae did start sending back data, turns out the lander actually bounced twice. Philae is at the bottom of a cliff and is shaded so there is no power being generated by the solar panels. Click here to get a representation of the landing location.

Contact with the lander was lost when the batteries aboard Philae ran down. Philae may have no power there is hope in August 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will be close enough to the sun for the solar panels on Philae to get enough light to return to life.

Rosetta Blog

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Tycho’s Central Peaks

A beautful look at the central peaks of Tycho from the LRO. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

A beautful look at the central peaks of Tycho from the LRO. Click for a larger view. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Todays moon post is from close to home, our own moon. The image above is the central peaks in the crater Tycho as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The central peak complex above is about 15 km / 9.3 miles wide, left to right (southeast to northwest in this view). A very popular target with amateur astronomers, Tycho is about 82 km / 51 miles in diameter. The central peak’s summit is 2 km / 1.24 miles above the crater floor.

You have seen Tycho if you ever looked up that the full moon on a clear sky. A pair of binoculars will show the central peak. Here’s a look at Tycho  from the Simon Fraser University.

Central craters generally form from an impact of a large body onto in this case the lunar surface. The heat generates surface melt and the “liquid” is pushed from the point of impact and then rebounds from the edges back to the center and freezes in place. Rock freezes at a much higher temperature than water as you well know.

Impact craters are a whole study on their own and there are many different types. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay has a nice web page looking at the different types of craters and central peak formation. Depending on what body the craters are on they may appear a little different than lunar craters, for example: craters on Mercury generally are a little more muted the walls and central peaks don’t seem to reach out as much as lunar craters, this is because in part, Mercury has more gravity than the moon.

Click here to visit the source page for the image and more information about Tycho.

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The Tombaugh Family

Thought you’d enjoy this video from NOVA. Just look at those old telescopes! :mrgreen:

Clyde Tombaugh the discoverer of Pluto was was born on on 04 February 1906 and died 17 January 1997. The New Horizons spacecraft is fast approaching Pluto.

From the New Horizons site:

“Pluto is finally becoming more than just a pinpoint of light,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “LORRI has now resolved Pluto, and the dwarf planet will continue to grow larger and larger in the images as New Horizons spacecraft hurtles toward its targets. The new LORRI images also demonstrate that the camera’s performance is unchanged since it was launched more than nine years ago.”

There are new images from a 25 and 27 January and they were put into a animation showing both Pluto and Charon. The site has another video about Clyde Tombaugh and a great update to the mission – be certain to check it out.

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Closing In On Ceres

Ceres from Dawn on 04 February. Click for a flipped image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Ceres from Dawn on 04 February. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The Dawn spacecraft is getting closet to Ceres every day. Above is part of the latest release taken 04 February 2015 from about 145,000 km / 90,000 miles. The resolution is 14 km / 8.5 miles per pixel.

I keep second guessing myself on the curious “white spot”. First I was saying mountain then I was saying crater. To be honest I don’t know what to think any more. Is it a hill or a hole? Check out the animation at the Ceres site made from images also taken on 04 February and see what I mean.

I don’t know how close Dawn will need to be before the question is answered. If another release comes in 10 more days Dawn could be as close as 53,000 km / 33,000 miles. That’s not from any official source just my guess based on current velocities and makes for another fun thing to watch.

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Rosetta To Get Close

By close I mean really close!  Rosetta will be a nail biting 6 km / 3.7 miles from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Good thing it’s ESA doing it is all I can say, if anybody can pull it off, they can. At times during the flyby Rosetta will almost speed match the rotational rate of the comet, an amazing opportunity for detail observations from many of Rosetta’s instruments.

“The upcoming close flyby will allow unique scientific observations, providing us with high-resolution measurements of the surface over a range of wavelengths and giving us the opportunity to sample – taste or sniff – the very innermost parts of the comet’s atmosphere,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

Read more about the encounter at ESA.

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Cargo Ships to Sail From ISS

Expedition 42 crew members Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts during a recent interview.  Image: NASA

Expedition 42 crew members Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts during a recent interview. Image: NASA

The International Space Station has three cargo ships docked to it. Two of the ships are being prepared for departure.

The SpaceX Dragon ship, currently being loaded with research and gear will leave the ISS on 10 February. The Dragon will be detached from the Harmony module where it is berthed at the ISS by the Canadarm2. The Dragon will re-enter the atmosphere and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California where it will be retrieved.

The other ship, Europe’s ATV-5 (Automated Transfer Vehicle 5) is being turned into something of a garbage scow. The ATV-5 is being laden with rubbish and unwanted cast off gear and it is scheduled for departure on 14 February. The last ATV resupply ship from Europe will deorbit and incinerate on atmospheric re-entry not long after leaving the station.

A few days after the ATV-5 ends its mission a new cargo ship will launch to the station. This one is a new ISS Progress 58 will leave the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 17 February. The trip up should only take six hours and the ship will dock to the Zvezda module.

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Waiting for Pluto

New Horizons LORRI image while passing Jupiter. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

New Horizons LORRI image while passing Jupiter. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Here is an image from the New Horizon’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as it was passing by the Jupiter system on 02 March 2007.

The image shown is actually a merger of two images one from LORRI which is a high resolution black-and-white image and a lower resolution color image from teh MVIC or Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera. The result is amazing as you can see.

The image shows the Jupiter moons Io and Europa. Io shows the 300 km / 190 mile high volcanic plume from the Tvashtar volcano. There are two other plumes one from the volcano Prometheus (look at the edge at the 9 o’clock position) and Amirana located between the Prometheus and Tvashtar.

Looks can be deceiving too. while Europa appears more distant, it is 790,000 km / 490,000 miles closer then Io.  From the image caption:

This image was taken from a range of 4.6 million kilometers (2.8 million miles) from Io and 3.8 million kilometers (2.4 million miles) from Europa.

The bright crescents are from sunshine as you might expect and the nighttime side of Io is lit by reflected light from Jupiter.

For more details about the image have a look at CICLOPS, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations

Just imagine what awaits at Pluto!

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