Highlights from Living Planet Symposium held in Milan, Italy. I wish I could have been there especially after seeing the highlights.
NASA ScienceCasts: On the Cusp of Understanding
What no launch? There has been a delay not for weather but for “software updates”.
It appears the new launch date is a week away at this point. So here is a video with Elon Musk showing the 60 satellites which are just part of the planned 800 for the network.
There is a launch of the Starlink mission by SpaceX upcoming.
Mission: Starlink satellites (60 satellites !?).
Launch window opens at 02:30 UT / 22:35 ET (16 or 17 May depending on your location.)
Launch site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
This AfternoonSunny, with a high near 83. East wind around 10 mph.
Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 65. East wind 5 to 10 mph.
First-stage recovery? Yes, aboard “Of Course I Still Love You”.
While the weather looks great for the launch, many things can delay a launch as we all know. The Launch Window closes at 04:00 UT / 00:00 ET.
Seeing “humps” instead of craters? Click here.
NASA: The photo above shows the landing site of the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft on a region of the Moon called Sea of Serenity, or Mare Serenitatis in Latin. On April 11, 2019, SpaceIL, a non-profit organization, attempted to land its spacecraft in this ancient volcanic field on the nearside of the Moon. After a smooth initial descent, Beresheet made a hard landing on the surface.
As soon as its orbit placed NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the landing site on April 22, 2019, LRO imaged Beresheet’s impact site. The LRO Camera (LROC) consists of three imagers: a seven-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and two black-and-white Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) mounted on the LRO, which has been studying the Moon from orbit for a decade. NAC captured the Beresheet impact photo.
LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.
From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).
The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective.
There are many clues that we’re actually looking at a man-made crater instead of a meteoroid-caused one. This is an important consideration, since the Moon, having no atmosphere, is constantly bombarded by space rocks that leave craters.
Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 “before” images of the area, spanning a decade, and three “after” images. In all of these images, including one taken 16 days before the landing, we saw only one new feature of the size Beresheet would have created.
Existing mathematical models helped us estimate the size and shape of the crater that would have formed if an object of Beresheet’s mass and velocity struck the surface. We also referenced craters created by similar-size spacecraft (GRAIL, LADEE, Ranger) that have struck the Moon at about the same speed, and we saw that the white tail stretching from the landing halo towards the south is a shape that’s consistent with Beresheet’s southward descent trajectory and angle of approach.
For the before image above, we used a photo from December 16, 2016. This is because the lighting conditions that day, based on the angle at which the Sun would have illuminated the Moon at that particular time in its orbit, were the most similar to the April 22 image. Because LRO was beyond the horizon during Beresheet’s descent and landing, it couldn’t capture a photo until its orbit brought it nearby 11 days later. LRO passes over the lunar poles with each revolution. Meanwhile, the Moon rotates on its axis below the spacecraft, allowing LRO to pass over every part of the Moon twice a month (once during lunar night and once during lunar day). LROC may take more images of the landing site when it passes the same area again on May 19.
Efforts are ongoing to bounce laser pulses from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, also on board LRO, to measure the return from the Laser Retroreflector Array of small corner cube mirrors. This instrument was provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and was installed on the top deck of the Beresheet spacecraft. Attempts are ongoing to examine if the retroreflector may have survived the impact.
Images: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
ESA: Appearances can be deceiving. This thick, cloud-rich atmosphere rains sulphuric acid and below lie not oceans but a baked and barren lava-strewn surface. Welcome to Venus.
The second planet from the Sun is often coined Earth’s ‘evil twin’ on account of it being almost the same size but instead plagued with a poisonous atmosphere of carbon dioxide and a sweltering 470ºC surface. Its high pressure and temperature is hot enough to melt lead and destroy the spacecraft that dare to land on it. Thanks to its dense atmosphere, it is even hotter than planet Mercury, which orbits closer to the Sun.
ESA’s Venus Express studied the planet from orbit between 2006 and 2014, providing the most in-depth studies of its atmospheric circulation to date. This false-colour image was taken in ultraviolet light with the Venus Monitoring Camera on 23 July 2007. It shows a view of the southern hemisphere from equator (right) to the pole (left) from a distance of 35 000 km from the surface of the planet.
Scientists think that Venus once looked a lot like Earth, but underwent an irreversible climate change that is often used as an extreme example of what happens in a runaway greenhouse effect.
The main source of heat in the Solar System is the Sun’s energy, which warms a planet’s surface up, and then the planet radiates energy back into space. An atmosphere traps some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat – the so-called greenhouse effect. It is a natural phenomenon that helps regulate a planet’s temperature. If it weren’t for greenhouse gases like water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, Earth’s surface temperature would be about 30 degrees cooler than its present +15ºC average.
Over the past centuries, humans have altered this natural balance on Earth, strengthening the greenhouse effect since the dawn of industrial activity by contributing additional carbon dioxide along with nitrogen oxides, sulphates and other trace gases and dust and smoke particles into the air. The long-term effects on our planet include global warming, acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer. The consequences of a warming climate are far-reaching, potentially affecting fresh water resources, global food production and sea level, and triggering an increase in extreme-weather events.
There is no human activity on Venus, but studying its atmosphere provides a natural laboratory to better understand a runaway greenhouse effect. At some point in its history, Venus began trapping too much heat. It was once thought to host oceans like Earth, but the added heat turned water into steam, and in turn, additional water vapour in the atmosphere trapped more and more heat until entire oceans completely evaporated. Water vapour is still escaping from Venus’ atmosphere and into space today.
In the very long term – billions of years into the future – a ‘greenhouse Earth’ is an inevitable outcome at the hands of the aging Sun. Our once life-giving star will eventually swell and brighten, injecting enough heat into Earth’s delicate system that it will eventually become Venus’ true twin.
Read more here about the diverging histories of Venus, Earth and Mars and how studying our neighbour planets can teach us more about our own.
One of those areas of the sky I can’t see here from the north. Hubble really helps bring it to life too. Edit; Oops forgot the title of all things.
Constellation Pictor finders chart and information.
ESA/Hubble: Dotted across the sky in the constellation of Pictor (The Painter’s Easel) is the galaxy cluster highlighted here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope: SPT-CL J0615-5746, or SPT0615 for short. First discovered by the South Pole Telescope less than a decade ago, SPT0615 is exceptional among the myriad clusters so far catalogued in our map of the Universe — it is the highest-redshift cluster for which a full, strong lens model is published.
SPT0615 is a massive cluster of galaxies, one of the farthest observed to cause gravitational lensing. Gravitational lensing occurs when light from a background object is deflected around mass between the object and the observer. Among the identified background objects, there is SPT0615-JD, a galaxy that is thought to have emerged just 500 million years after the Big Bang. This puts it among the very earliest structures to form in the Universe. It is also the farthest galaxy ever imaged by means of gravitational lensing.
Just as ancient paintings can tell us about the period of history in which they were painted, so too can ancient galaxies tell us about the era of the Universe in which they existed. To learn about cosmological history, astronomers explore the most distant reaches of the Universe, probing ever further out into the cosmos. The light from distant objects travels to us from so far away that it takes an immensely long time to reach us, meaning that it carries information from the past — information about the time at which it was emitted.
By studying such distant objects, astronomers are continuing to fill the gaps in our picture of what the very early Universe looked like, and uncover more about how it evolved into its current state.
Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, I. Karachentsev et al., F. High et al.CC BY 4.0
This image was taken on 08 May 2019. Cloudy and cold that day. Max temp as measured by InSight was -21.6 C / 6.9 F, Min temp: -100.3 C / -148.5. The wind speed reached a maximum of 15.3 m/s / 34 mph.
NASA: NASA’s InSight Mars Lander used its Instrument Context Camera beneath the lander’s deck to image these drifting clouds at sunset on the Red Planet. This image was taken on April 25, 2019, the 145th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, starting at around 6:30 p.m. Mars local time.
Image Credit: NASA
As seen from the International Space Station, the “Eye of the Sahara” (I was taught: the Eye of Africa) looks like a mining feature but it is not. It is actually a naturally occurring “dome structure” and is also known as theRichat Structure.
NASA: From an altitude of 255 miles, an Expedition 59 crew member photographed the Richat Structure, or the “Eye of the Sahara,” in northwestern Mauritania. The circular geologic feature is thought to be caused by an uplifted dome—geologists would classify it as a domed anticline—that has been eroded to expose the originally flat rock layers.
Image: NASA et al.
The Sun is showing some activity in terms of sunspots.
Here is a magnetogram of Sunspot 2741, this along with 2740 have been firing off solar flares and the occasional coronal mass ejection (CME). We are being impacted with kind of a glancing blow from a CME at this time so be mindful of the possibility of an auroral display if you have clear skies as we are in a minor geomagnetic storm.
At the moment I have clouds but perhaps they will clear tonight and if I’m lucky I might get to see the northern lights — it’s been a while. I would like to try and gets some photos too now that I have a better camera. We’ll see.
The image above comes from SolarHam.com.