Spitzer and Chandra Team up


This composite of NGC-4258 is a composite from two space based telescopes the Chandra and Spitzer covering the infrared and x-ray wavelengths.

Infrared to X-ray spectrum

NGC 4258 is also known as M106 for being the 106th entry into Charles Messiers famous catalog. The galaxy is visible in optical light so you can see it with some help of course, at a mag 8.4 a small telescope should do. Have a look in Canes Venatici – more specifically RA=12 19.0, Dec=+47 18.

See M106 at SEDS.

The details from JPL:

A composite image of the spiral galaxy NGC 4258 showing X-ray emission observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue) and infrared emission observed with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red and green).

The infrared emission is produced by hydrogen molecules. A labeled version of the image shows the direction of radio jets, along with the location of the supermassive black hole driving these jets and “hotspots,” where the jets are striking gas in the galaxy. The X-ray and hydrogen emission are both thought to be caused by shocks, similar to a sonic boom from a supersonic plane. The similarity in location between the X-ray and hydrogen emission and the radio jets implies that the jets have caused the shocks.
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Gravity Map

Free air gravity map of the Moon.  Credit: NASA

Free air gravity map of the Moon. Credit: NASA

Here is a gravity map of the Moon’s southern area made from data collected by the GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) by S. Goossens and others.

Because the moon is not a smooth homogeneous sphere of equal altitude, gravity varies from area to area, just as it does here on Earth. The GRAIL spacecraft was able to measure gravitational differences from what would occur of the Moon was like a cue ball. The differences are expressed by color, in this case purple is the low end of the range, yellow is average and red is at the high end.

Get an more in-depth explanation at NASA Goddared Space Fight Center’s photostream at Flickr (along with other pictures).

Launch Day

The OCO-2 is ready to go!.  Image credit: NASA

The OCO-2 is ready to go!. Image credit: NASA

Postponed until 02 July at 09:56 UTC (05:56 EDT) – the delay was due to a problem with the noise suppression system at the launch pad and not with the rocket or spacecraft.

This is the launch gantry around the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite onboard. The image was taken 29 June at Space Launch Complex 2 – Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Launch is scheduled for 09:56 UTC (05:56 EDT). According to NASA:

The weather forecast is essentially unchanged and calls for a 100 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time. At liftoff time the temperature will be near 52 degrees, winds from the Northwest at 5-8 knots and a visibility of 1 to 2 miles in coastal fog.

NASA TV coverage at 07:45 to 11:00 UTC (03:45 to 07:00 EDT). The NASA TV link in the banner should work, but if not try here.

NASA LDSD Test Success

The test complete, the NASA LDSD is lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vehicle.  Image via SpaceRef

The test complete, the NASA LDSD is lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vehicle. Image via SpaceRef

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) launched yesterday by balloon from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

The balloon was launched at 08:45 local HST and by 11:05 HST the test vehicle was released at an altitude of 120,000 feet or 36.6 km. The decent took a half hour and the est vehicle hardware, black box data recorder and parachute were all recovered later in the day.

This first of three test planned tests designed to determine the flying ability of the vehicle and it also deployed two new landing technologies as a bonus.

The test apparently went very well:

“Because our vehicle flew so well, we had the chance to earn ‘extra credit’ points with the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator [SIAD],” said Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at JPL. “All indications are that the SIAD deployed flawlessly, and because of that, we got the opportunity to test the second technology, the enormous supersonic parachute, which is almost a year ahead of schedule.”

Here are a couple of links to video of the test / flight:

LDSD Test Flight part 1

LDSD Test Flight part 2


By studying ions, or small electrically charged particles, in and above the Martian atmosphere, the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer on board the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission may provide clues to why the Martian atmosphere has gradually been lost.

The MAVEN fact sheet.


Hubble Looks at a Dwarf Galaxy

The dwarf galaxy NGC 5474 as seen by Hubble. Click for larger. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

The dwarf galaxy NGC 5474 as seen by Hubble. Click for larger. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

NGC 5474 is visible to observers in the northern hemisphere. It’s another of the gems in the area of Ursa Major or the Big Dipper.

This is an amazing image.  To see just how good, compare the Hubble image to a pretty good image from the ground (University of Alaska).

A link to the SEDS page for the M 101 galaxy group (mentioned below).

Here’s the caption from the NASA site :

The subject of this Hubble image is NGC 5474, a dwarf galaxy located 21 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This beautiful image was taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).
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Curiosity Posts a Selfie

Curiousity takes a selfie. Click for larger.Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiousity takes a selfie. Click for larger.Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MHLI) at the end of its arm to take dozens of images of itself (selfies). The images were taken in April and May (2014) while the rover was doing science at the Windjana drilling site.

Winjana is inside a science waypoint called “The Kimberley” and was chosen were sandstone layers with varying exposure to the Martian wind which causes erosion. A great spot for science samples.

What you don’t see in the image is the rover arm. What you can see are the holes drilled by by Curiosity’s drill out in front of the rover. You can spot them left of center and down a little, look for the gray spots. We can see dust accumulating on the rover, not too bad yet.

See this links to more images and details at the NASA site.

Perseus Cluster from Chandra

The Perseus Cluster by Chandra. Click for larger. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/E.Bulbul, et al.

The Perseus Cluster by Chandra. Click for larger. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/E.Bulbul, et al.

You want big? The Perseus Cluster is BIG!

Perseus A (aka NGC 1275) is 72.7 Mpc (237 million light-years) away in the constellation Perseus of all places.

Perseus is located at RA: 03h 25m 20.601s Dec: +49°54’29.118″,actually the location of Mirfak, the alpha star which means it is the brightest star in the constellation.  Easily visible in the northern sky, it is home to the Double Cluster, a pair of open clusters, simply beautiful, It’s one of my favorites and very easy to find (the link has a finders chart).

From the Chandra site:

This image is Chandra’s latest view of the Perseus Cluster, where red, green, and blue show low, medium, and high-energy X-rays respectively. It combines data equivalent to more than 17 days worth of observing time taken over a decade with Chandra. The Perseus Cluster is one of the most massive objects in the Universe, and contains thousands of galaxies immersed in an enormous cloud of superheated gas.

In Chandra’s X-ray image, enormous bright loops, ripples, and jet-like streaks throughout the cluster can be seen. The dark blue filaments in the center are likely due to a galaxy that has been torn apart and is falling into NGC 1275 (a.k.a. Perseus A), the giant galaxy that lies at the center of the cluster. A different view of Perseus combines data from Chandra in the inner regions of the cluster and XMM data in the outer regions.


A Curious Mercury Transit

A gif of the Mercury transit from Mars. Image via JPL

The Mars Science Laboratory we know as Curiosity recently witnessed a transit of Mercury. We can see the transit captured by the Curiosity Mast cam. This is the first solar transit of a planet viewed from another planet.

Mercury appears to be a faint dot in the images, faint because the planet takes up only about 16 percent of a pixel from such a distance. The two large dots are sun spots, those two spots are each about the size of Earth.

The next Mercury transit visible from Earth will occur on 09 May 2016. From Mars the transits occur more frequently. From Mars: the next Mercury transit will be in April 2015, A Venus transit won’t occur until 2030, and an Earth transit is way out there on the calendar – November 2084.

Note:  I am posting this from a Wifi hotspot because my internet provider is failing me.  I will try to post Wednesday but if you don’t hear from me you will know my connection is still down.  Hopefully not.