The Grand Finale

Here is the preview of The Grand Finale or the end of the Cassini Mission. What you are seeing is the entire press announcement and you will get to hear great questions and answers.

The last phase begins in just a few weeks and ends after orbits between the inner rings and Saturn itself. What is in that gap? Could be a “white-knuckled” encounter or clear ride looking at the ring-plane or Saturn’s upper atmosphere very close up.

No matter, the Cassini mission sets the “remote planetary exploration bar” pretty high and especially when you think about this mission from the international teamwork and co-operative side of things. This is yet another example of what can be done when all involved work together, space sciences are really lucky in this respect and would seem to provide a good example to follow.

 

 

Expelling A Black Hole

Think gravity waves are weak? Think again, wow almost hard to believe.

Credit: Hubblesite

from STSci:

Astronomers have uncovered a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the center of a distant galaxy by what could be the awesome power of gravitational waves.

Though there have been several other suspected, similarly booted black holes elsewhere, none has been confirmed so far. Astronomers think this object, detected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, is a very strong case. Weighing more than 1 billion suns, the rogue black hole is the most massive black hole ever detected to have been kicked out of its central home.

Researchers estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole. The most plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the monster object was given a kick by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two hefty black holes at the center of the host galaxy.
Continue reading

Saturn’s Crescent

NASA’s caption:
Although only a sliver of Saturn’s sunlit face is visible in this view, the mighty gas giant planet still dominates the view.

From this vantage point just beneath the ring plane, the dense B ring becomes dark and essentially opaque, letting almost no light pass through. But some light reflected by the planet passes through the less dense A ring, which appears above the B ring in this photo. The C ring, silhouetted just below the B ring, lets almost all of Saturn’s reflected light pass right through it, as if it were barely there at all. The F ring appears as a bright arc in this image, which is visible against both the backdrop of Saturn and the dark sky. (For a diagram showing the names and positions of the rings see PIA08389.)

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 18, 2017.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 630,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 38 miles (61 kilometers) per pixel.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Jupiter’s Pearl

This image, taken by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft, highlights a swirling storm just south of one of the white oval storms on Jupiter.

The image was taken on March 27, 2017, at 2:12 a.m. PDT (5:12 a.m. EDT), as the Juno spacecraft performed a close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 12,400 miles (20,000 kilometers) from the planet.

Citizen scientist Jason Major enhanced the color and contrast in this image, turning the picture into a Jovian work of art. He then cropped it to focus our attention on this beautiful example of Jupiter’s spinning storms. — NASA

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

I spent a good bit of time yesterday fooling around with JunoCam images. I put GIMP 2.8 to do the editing. I’m still in the learning stages, thankfully the GIMP is similar to Photoshop so that is helping but things will take a bit of time to get right.

I like this image, looks almost a water color.

Space Station Upgrades

Imagine it, history in the making as the International Space Station prepares to play its part to allow science fiction to become reality.

Here’s part of the EVA where Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA connect a Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) to the Harmony module to facilitate the addition of an International Docking Adapter to PMA-3 to which U.S. commercial crew spacecraft will link up to in the (not very distant) future:

Hosted Space X Launch Replay

Here is the SES-10 Hosted Webcast from of the historic flight by Space X. Being “out of town” most of the week, I barely got to see the launch. The hosted webcasts usually provide a good bit of information and this one is no exception:

The post yesterday never published. I had it in a queue but I made a mess of it and, well, nothing happened – my apologies.

The Magnificent Dark Spot

What are those dark spots made of? Where’s Captain Kirk or Doctor Who when you need them?

Seriously, incredible work by Citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko — the quality is top notch! I’m going to follow his work on the new images coming in from Juno very shortly.

The image above was downloaded from the 02 February pass. We will have images very shortly from the 27 March pass which was successful and was be only 4400 km / 2700 miles above the cloud tops of Jupiter.

We’ll be watching JunoCam for the latest.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko

Kick Those Tires

We have been following the wheel wear on the Curiosity rover for a few years now.

NASA of course noticed and have been keeping an eye on the wheels with regular inspections.  New breaks in the tread have been found.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Here’s the latest status report from NASA:

A routine check of the aluminum wheels on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has found two small breaks on the rover’s left middle wheel—the latest sign of wear and tear as the rover continues its journey, now approaching the 10-mile (16 kilometer) mark.

The mission’s first and second breaks in raised treads, called grousers, appeared in a March 19 image check of the wheels, documenting that these breaks occurred after the last check, on Jan. 27.

“All six wheels have more than enough working lifespan remaining to get the vehicle to all destinations planned for the mission,” said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “While not unexpected, this damage is the first sign that the left middle wheel is nearing a wheel-wear milestone,”

The monitoring of wheel damage on Curiosity, plus a program of wheel-longevity testing on Earth, was initiated after dents and holes in the wheels were seen to be accumulating faster than anticipated in 2013. Testing showed that at the point when three grousers on a wheel have broken, that wheel has reached about 60 percent of its useful life. Curiosity already has driven well over that fraction of the total distance needed for reaching the key regions of scientific interest on Mars’ Mount Sharp.

Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, also at JPL, said, “This is an expected part of the life cycle of the wheels and at this point does not change our current science plans or diminish our chances of studying key transitions in mineralogy higher on Mount Sharp.”

Curiosity is currently examining sand dunes partway up a geological unit called the Murray formation. Planned destinations ahead include the hematite-containing “Vera Rubin Ridge,” a clay-containing geological unit above that ridge, and a sulfate-containing unit above the clay unit.

The rover is climbing to sequentially higher and younger layers of lower Mount Sharp to investigate how the region’s ancient climate changed billions of years ago. Clues about environmental conditions are recorded in the rock layers. During its first year on Mars, the mission succeeded at its main goal by finding that the region once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life. The conditions in long-lived ancient freshwater Martian lake environments included all of the key chemical elements needed for life as we know it, plus a chemical source of energy that is used by many microbes on Earth.

Through March 20, Curiosity has driven 9.9 miles (16.0 kilometers) since the mission’s August 2012 landing on Mars. Studying the transition to the sulfate unit, the farthest-uphill destination, will require about 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) or less of additional driving. For the past four years, rover drive planners have used enhanced methods of mapping potentially hazardous terrains to reduce the pace of damage from sharp, embedded rocks along the rover’s route.

Each of Curiosity’s six wheels is about 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide, milled out of solid aluminum. The wheels contact ground with a skin that’s about half as thick as a U.S. dime, except at thicker treads. The grousers are 19 zigzag-shaped treads that extend about a quarter inch (three-fourths of a centimeter) outward from the skin of each wheel. The grousers bear much of the rover’s weight and provide most of the traction and ability to traverse over uneven terrain.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built the project’s rover, Curiosity. For more information about the mission, visit:

 

 

NuStar Looks at Was 49

This is pretty amazing.  For scale the distance mentioned in the press release below of 26,000 light years  approximates the distance from out solar system to the center of our Milky Way.  See here.

A long way for solar system sure, but a galaxy?  Even a small one?  Amazing.

The press release:

A supermassive black hole inside a tiny galaxy is challenging scientists’ ideas about what happens when two galaxies become one.

Was 49 is the name of a system consisting of a large disk galaxy, referred to as Was 49a, merging with a much smaller “dwarf” galaxy called Was 49b. The dwarf galaxy rotates within the larger galaxy’s disk, about 26,000 light-years from its center. Thanks to NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission, scientists have discovered that the dwarf galaxy is so luminous in high-energy X-rays, it must host a supermassive black hole much larger and more powerful than expected.

“This is a completely unique system and runs contrary to what we understand of galaxy mergers,” said Nathan Secrest, lead author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

Data from NuSTAR and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey suggest that the mass of the dwarf galaxy’s black hole is huge, compared to similarly sized galaxies, at more than 2 percent of the galaxy’s own mass.

“We didn’t think that dwarf galaxies hosted supermassive black holes this big,” Secrest said. “This black hole could be hundreds of times more massive than what we would expect for a galaxy of this size, depending on how the galaxy evolved in relation to other galaxies.”

Continue reading