Nice Trio

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Maybe you’ve noticed this just after sunset towards the south for the northern hemisphere and almost over head in the southern hemisphere.

If not have a look. Too cloudy? No problem the trio will be around for a few days.

SpaceX Update

SpaceX is being very open thorough in the investigation to the explosion of their rocket – see yesterday’s post.

I knew this was really out of the ordinary and then to find out it happened eight minutes before the test firing was to begin just adds to the mystery of what caused the explosion. We will find out.

See the SpaceX updates here.

Thanks to great safety protocols there were no injuries from the incident.

New Jupiter Images

New Jupiter images are starting come along via JunoCam. One really great thing about these image releases is that the public is more than welcome to go in and “process” the raw images. If you can go and try this!

You do need some sort of help in the way of photo software. You might have Photoshop, if so, great, if not there are many other alternatives. Including free online programs, the image below of an area round Jupiter’s north polar region resulted from PIXLR.

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This image is part of a larger image available from NASA thanks and credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

The original caption for the full image from NASA/Juno:

Storm systems and weather activity unlike anything encountered in the solar system are on view in these color images of Jupiter’s north polar region from NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

The JunoCam instrument took the images to create this color view on August 27, when the spacecraft was about 48,000 miles (78,000 kilometers) above the polar cloud tops.

A wavy boundary is visible halfway between the grayish region at left (closer to the pole and the nightside shadow) and the lighter-colored area on the right. The wavy appearance of the boundary represents a Rossby wave — a north-south meandering of a predominantly east-west flow in an atmospheric jet. This may be caused by a difference in temperature between air to the north and south of this boundary, as is often the case with such waves in Earth’s atmosphere.

The polar region is filled with a variety of discrete atmospheric features. Some of these are ovals, but the larger and brighter features have a “pinwheel” shape reminiscent of the shape of terrestrial hurricanes. Tracking the motion and evolution of these features across multiple orbits will provide clues about the dynamics of the Jovian atmosphere.

This image also provides the first example of cloud shadowing on Jupiter: near the top of the image, a high cloud feature is seen past the normal boundary between day and night, illuminated above the cloud deck below.

While subtle color differences are visible in the image, some of these are likely the result of scattered light within the JunoCam optics. Work is ongoing to characterize these effects.

The SpaceX Explosion

WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT??  I was out of town and following things along on my phone and this happens – it was just a static fire.

From this video it looks like the initial anomaly occurred at the upper stage near the vent.  I am waiting to hear what actually happened.  The video below from the BBC is excellent, but watch quick because there isn’t any lag to the incident.

So what could happen to cause this?  I can’t wait to find out.  I wouldn’t rule out the possibility the vented gases were ignited someplace external to the rocket and therefore not point to a issue with the rocket itself.  Sherlock Holmes I am not, but when I hear the news I did not expect the incident to start from the upper part of the rocket. WOW!

UPDATE SpaceX confirms the location of the initiating event (upper stages) and the incident occurred during fueling.

Methane Snowcaps

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An amazingly detailed image of Pluto from New Horizons.

The caption released with the image:

This area is south of Pluto’s dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planitia. North is at the top; in the western portion of the image, a chain of bright mountains extends north into Cthulhu Regio. New Horizons compositional data indicate the bright snowcap material covering these mountains isn’t water, but atmospheric methane that has condensed as frost onto these surfaces at high elevation. Between some mountains are sharply cut valleys – indicated by the white arrows. These valleys are each a few miles across and tens of miles long.

A similar valley system in the expansive plains to the east (blue arrows) appears to be branched, with smaller valleys leading into it. New Horizons scientists think flowing nitrogen ice that once covered this area — perhaps when the ice in Sputnik was at a higher elevation — may have formed these valleys. The area is also marked by irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions (green arrows) that can reach more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) across and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep. The great widths and depths of these depressions suggest that they may have formed when the surface collapsed, rather than through the sublimation of ice into the atmosphere.

This enhanced color image was obtained by New Horizons’ Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

Oh and take look from New Horizons at the next stop Quaoar. New Horizons will arrive 01 January 2019:

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Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A Mysterious Star

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This is very odd indeed. Almost wonder if there is an unseen companion.

From ESA:
At the centre of this image, captured by ESA’s Herschel space observatory, is a truly peculiar cosmic object: a star named IRAS 19312+1950.

Located over 12 000 light-years from us, this star has puzzled astronomers for many years because it shows conflicting signs of being both extremely old and extremely young.

Astronomers have spotted signs of emission usually associated with old, late-type stars: silicon oxide and hydroxyl masers – the microwave equivalent of a visible-light laser.

But they have also discovered characteristics mostly seen around early-type stars: a chemical-rich enveloping cloud usually seen around youthful stars and in regions of star formation.

Infrared observations from both Herschel and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope now suggest that it may instead be a star in the making, rather than a fully-fledged or ancient star. In other words, it is a protostar.

The star is about 10 times as massive as the Sun and emits about 20 000 times as much energy. It appears to be rich in oxygen, and has jets of gas streaming from both poles at speeds of at least 90 km/s.

In addition, it is surrounded and obscured by a collapsing cloud of gas, dust and ice – including large quantities of water and carbon dioxide ice – that contains an overall mass equivalent to 500 to 700 Suns.

Although it displays features atypical of its peers, astronomers believe it to be a stellar embryo fast approaching the end of its ‘accretion’ stage, the period in which it feeds upon surrounding material to fuel its growth. Although the region had not been pinpointed as a stellar nursery before, there are signs of recently formed and youthful stars nearby, supporting this idea.

This image is a composite of infrared data gathered by Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) at 70 (green) and 160 (blue) microns. The associated research is published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Image and caption: ESA/Herschel/PACS/Hi-GAL Project, KU Leuven

A Bright Spot On the Rings

Cassini sent back this image pointing out the bright spot on the rings which they call a surge – see below.

I even knew what it was, somehow I remembered a previous post – 10 years ago.

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Memory aside, I better let the Cassini folks explain and link to that previous example:

An ethereal, glowing spot appears on Saturn’s B ring in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. There is nothing particular about that place in the rings that produces the glowing effect — instead, it is an example of an “opposition surge” making that area on the rings appear extra bright.

An opposition surge occurs when the sun is directly behind the observer looking toward the rings. The particular geometry of this observation makes the point in the rings appear much, much brighter than would otherwise be expected.

For more on the surge, see PIA08247.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 28 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini wide-angle camera on June 26, 2016.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 940,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from the rings and at a sun-ring-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 0 degrees. Image scale on the rings at center is 56 miles (90 kilometers) per pixel.

Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Super Guppy Delivers

The Super Guppy, an aptly named NASA cargo plane might look unwieldy but don’t let looks fool you; this plane can deliver large items.

The image here for example shows the cargo bay of the plane and a new heat shield being unloaded at Kennedy Space Center (Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis).

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The heat shield will protect the new Orion spacecraft from the intense heat of re-entry. The heat-shield, built by Lockheed Martin in Colorado will withstand temperatures of 2,760 C / 5,000 F. The 5 meter / 16.5 ft diameter heat-shield plus crating fits easily inside the Guppy.

Here’s a video of the Super Guppy in action.