Approaching Ceres

More Cere's approach photo's from Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
More Cere’s approach photo’s from Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Beyond the mystery spots of yesterday the Framing camera on the Dawn spacecraft took other photo’s of Ceres. I like the variation in the craters. A huge flat crater on the left and just above that another will what appear to be very sheer cliff edges. And the one on the right looks like it has kind of an odd crater right in front. Where is the big melt spot making a crater look like, well a crater?

Dawn arrives in just over a week on 06 March.

Here’s the press release from Dawn:

These images of dwarf planet Ceres, processed to enhance clarity, were taken on Feb. 19, 2015, from a distance of about 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers), by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn observed Ceres completing one full rotation, which lasted about nine hours.

The images show the full range of different crater shapes that can be found at Ceres’ surface: from shallow, flattish craters to those with peaks at their centers. These views show sections of Ceres’ surface that are similar to those in PIA19056.

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The Ceres Spot

Dawn and Ceres closer than ever.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/ DLR/IDA/
Dawn and Ceres closer than ever. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/ DLR/IDA/

The Dawn spacecraft returned this new image of Ceres taken from just 46,000 km / 29,000 miles.

The mysterious bright spot everybody (including me) has been speculating about turns out to be two bright spots  The camera can’t resolve exactly what the spots are yet. There is some thought from the real experts to the idea the mystery spots are possibly of volcanic origin: “Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Check out the full press release and get higher resolution images.

The terrain is very interesting too. Look at the “streak like” marks in the surface at the 4 o’clock region.

Make a new guess at the bright spot? Let’s see, how about this: the density of Ceres is a bit more than two so there ice down there. So maybe the object causing the crater blasted enough of the crust away exposing some kind of mantle of ice that is situated closer to the surface in some areas than others. I know, next week I’ll have a new theory. All part of the fun. Plus it is possible we could know by then, perhaps even probable.

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Curiosity’s Selfie

Curiosity's Selfie at the Mojave drill site on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Curiosity’s Selfie at the Mojave drill site on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The other day I was checking out images of Curiosity and thought the rover was pretty clean. Turns out only be parts of the rover are clean. This selfie shows quite a bit of dust build up.

It’s a great picture. You really should have a look at the full image at the Mars Science Laboratory website. Not only will you get a very large image with great detail on the rover, there is also the wonderful terrain.

Curious about how a rover can take a selfie?

The scene combines dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. The pale “Pahrump Hills” outcrop surrounds the rover, and the upper portion of Mount Sharp is visible on the horizon. Darker ground at upper right and lower left holds ripples of wind-blown sand and dust.

The annotated version above labels several of the sites Curiosity has investigated during three passes up the Pahrump Hills outcrop examining the outcrop at increasing levels of detail. The rover used its sample-collecting drill at “Confidence Hills” as well as at Mojave, and in late February was assessing “Telegraph Peak” as a third drilling site.

The view does not include the rover’s robotic arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images, or portions of images, that were used in this mosaic.

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Cubist Saturn

Cassini art from Saturn.  Click. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Cassini art from Saturn. Click. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cubism is an artistic movement that featured surfaces of geometrical planes in France beginning in the early 1900’s.

Cassini got into the act back in December 2014 with this image. Usually I find cubist art pretty straightforward,  this one is a little confusing so here is the description from JPL:

Sometimes at Saturn you can see things almost as if from every angle at once, the way a Cubist might imagine things. For example, in this image, we’re seeing Saturn’s A ring in the lower part of the image and the limb of Saturn in the upper. In addition, the rings cast their shadows onto the portion of the planet imaged here, creating alternating patterns of light and dark. This pattern is visible even through the A ring, which, unlike the core of the nearby B ring, is not completely opaque.
The ring shadows on Saturn often appear to cross the surface at confusing angles in close-ups like this one. The visual combination of Saturn’s oblateness, the varying opacity of its rings and the shadows cast by those rings sometimes creates elaborate and complicated patterns from Cassini’s perspective.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 19 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 5, 2014.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

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Filament 304

A filament on the Sun.  Image: NASA / SDO
A filament on the Sun. Image: NASA / SDO

Filaments are relatively cooler and denser regions in the chromosphere that have been stretched along magnetic field lines. The bright patches could be plages, hot spots in the chromosphere and possibly future sunspots.

Check out the movie on the SDO link below.

From the SDO website:

A dark, solar filament hovered above the Sun’s surface, extending across more than half the Sun (Feb. 7-10, 2015). If that filament were straightened out, it would be more than 533,000 miles long, longer than 67 Earths. These images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet wavelength of light of material heated to about 60,000 degrees C. Filaments are cooler clouds of particles tethered above the Sun by powerful magnetic forces. Though this one has been fairly stable for many days, they are liable to break apart at any time. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

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Ranger 8

Launched on 17 February 1965, Ranger 8 reached the moon on 20 February when it impacted the surface. The spacecraft sent back some of the closest images of the lunar surface and helped select landing sites for the Apollo missions.

Ranger 8 impacted the surface at something a little less than 2.68 km/sec or 6,000 mph. I spent a bit of time looking for the possible impact site in LROC data, still looking too.


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