Explore the Lunar North Pole

The north pole of our moon. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The north pole of our moon. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

 

You have to check this out!

Scientists at NASA used the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has released the first high resolution interactive mosaic of the lunar north pole. What a bit of work, some 10,581 images went into the making of the image. You can pan and zoom down to an image resolution of two meters (six-and-a-half feet) per pixel.

Here’s the link.

Enjoy!

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.

24 years of Hubble

From ESA’s Space in Images this amazing Hubble image of the Monkey Head Nebula (in Orion) – the link has full-res versions of the image.

Hubble was launched on 24 April 1990, coming up on 24 years. The last servicing mission to Hubble was in 2009 which hopefully will extend the life of Hubble until 2021. I should note the expected life of Hubble after the servicing is published to be 2014 to 2021 – hopefully closer to the latter.

The James Webb Telescope is expected to launch in 2018.

About the image (from ESA):

Each year the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope releases a brand new image to celebrate its birthday. This year, the subject of its 24th celebratory snap is part of the Monkey Head Nebula, last viewed by Hubble in 2001, creating a stunning image released in 2011.

Otherwise known as NGC 2174, this cloud of gas and dust lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). Nebulas like this one are popular targets for Hubble – their colourful plumes of gas and fiery bright stars create ethereally beautiful pictures, such as the telescope’s 22nd and 23rd anniversary images of the Tarantula and Horsehead nebulas.

Continue reading

Students Looking for a Project?

Continuing on this weekend’s theme:

13 years of Cassini for a Day! This is a great opportunity for both teachers and students, espeically students. Looking for a project? You could enter this and (or) use the essay at school. Surely an entry would earn some extra credit.

Students must be in grades 5 to 12 and the entry deadline is 17 April 2014. Note: that is a US deadline, other counties may have different deadlines which are not yet listed, typically they indeed different.  The International link on the site is not yet current but it will be shortly.

Check out the Cassini Scientist for a Day website.

The contest meets U.S. National English and Science Education Standards.

Cassini Scientist for a Day is an essay contest designed to give students a taste of life as a scientist.

Students study three possible targets that the Cassini spacecraft can image during a given time set aside for education. They are to choose the one image they think will yield the best science results and explain their reasons in an essay.

The three targets are:

  1. Target 1 is Saturn’s F ring. Cassini will be taking 70 images of the F ring using the spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera to make a movie showing how the F ring changes as it orbits Saturn.
  2. Target 2 is Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Cassini will be taking nine images of Titan’s north polar region using its Narrow Angle Camera. These images will be stitched together to form a mosaic.
  3. Target 3 is the planet Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft will use its Wide Angle Camera and its Narrow Angle Camera to image Saturn’s north pole, studying the hurricane at the north pole and the hexagon-shaped polar vortex.

Video

Rhea

The Saturn moon Rhea. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The Saturn moon Rhea. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

It has been quite a while since I’ve seen the Saturn moon Rhea so I thought I’d put this recent Cassini offering up.

From Cassini:

A nearly full Rhea shines in the sunlight in this recent Cassini image.
Rhea (949 miles, or 1,527 kilometers across) is Saturn’s second largest moon.
Lit terrain seen here is on the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Rhea. North on Rhea is up and rotated 43 degrees to the left. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 10, 2013.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 990,000 miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Rhea. Image scale is 6 miles (9 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Roberts 22

The Butterfly nebula by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The Butterfly nebula by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The Interstellar Butterfly is Hubble’s Picture of the Week. Robert’s 22 is just another name for the nebula. This is what happens to a star like our own Sun as it ends its life. Stars of this size don’t blow up, rather they shed their envelopes and produce nebulae of various shapes and all beautiful.

The lobes in Roberts 22 have some outflows said to move at 450 km/s, that’s like a million miles per hour!

Pay a visit to the site and see a great archive of images.

Here’s the caption to the image:

They say the flap of a butterfly’s wings can set off a tornado on the other side of the world. But what happens when a butterfly flaps its wings in the depths of space?

This cosmic butterfly is a nebula known as AFGL 4104, or Roberts 22. Caused by a star that is nearing the end of its life and has shrugged off its outer layers, the nebula emerges as a cosmic chrysalis to produce this striking sight. Studies of the lobes of Roberts 22 have shown an amazingly complex structure, with countless intersecting loops and filaments.

A butterfly’s life span is counted in weeks; although on a much longer timescale, this stage of life for Roberts 22 is also transient. It is currently a preplanetary nebula, a short-lived phase that begins once a dying star has pushed much of the material in its outer layers into space, and ends once this stellar remnant becomes hot enough to ionise the surrounding gas clouds and make them glow. About 400 years ago, the star at the centre of Roberts 22 shed its outer shells, which raced outwards to form this butterfly. The central star will soon be hot enough to ionise the surrounding gas, and it will evolve into a fully fledged planetary nebula.

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.

Rosetta’s Goal in Sight

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as observed on Februaray 28th, 2014, with the Very Large Telescope.  Left: In order to make the comet visible, the scientists superposed several exposures. The images were shifted to compensate for the comet's motion. The stars appear as broadly smudged lines.  Right: Subtracting the starry backgrouns reveals the comet. Caption and Image © MPS/ESO

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as observed on Februaray 28th, 2014, with the Very Large Telescope.
Left: In order to make the comet visible, the scientists superposed several exposures. The images were shifted to compensate for the comet’s motion. The stars appear as broadly smudged lines.
Right: Subtracting the starry backgrouns reveals the comet.
Caption and Image © MPS/ESO

We can now see Rosetta’s goal, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko thanks to researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the European Southern Observatory. The comet disappeared behind the sun last October and it is just now out of the glare enough to be seen.

They took the image above with ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Actually the image is several exposures stacked together. Think of it is adding all the images together to bring out the features. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is small, around 3 x 5 km and it is about 740 million km / 460 million miles so it is very faint.

The new image suggests that 67P is beginning to emit gas and dust at a relatively large distance from the Sun – Colin Snodgrass from the MPS

The comet will become more visible to researchers as it gets closer.

Read more at the Max Planck Institute.

No Planet X

The third closest star system to the sun, called WISE J104915.57-531906, is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It appeared to be a single object, but a sharper image from Gemini Observatory in Chile (inset), revealed that it was binary star system, consisting of a pair of brown dwarfs. This is the closest star system to be discovered in nearly a century. The discovery was announced in March, 2013. Caption and Image: NASA/JPL/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/Berkeley.edu

The third closest star system to the sun, called WISE J104915.57-531906, is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It appeared to be a single object, but a sharper image from Gemini Observatory in Chile (inset), revealed that it was binary star system, consisting of a pair of brown dwarfs. This is the closest star system to be discovered in nearly a century. The discovery was announced in March, 2013.
Caption and Image: NASA/JPL/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/Berkeley.edu

There seems to be no Planet X. There has been an ongoing idea of a planet outside the orbit of Pluto. Surveys by the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) turned up thousands of “new to us” stars and brown dwarfs within 500 light-years, but no Planets.

The outer solar system probably does not contain a large gas giant planet, or a small, companion star

- Kevin Luhman of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, University Park, Pa., author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the results.

The recent study, looking at WISE data found no objects Saturn sized or larger to a distance of 10,000 A.U. and no Jupiter sized or larger out to 26,000 A.U. In rough terms 1 A.U. is about 150 million km / 93 million miles.

Read more about this at The WISE page at Berkeley, it is worth the visit I promise!.