ESA spacecraft ROSSETA arives at Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P)

European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosseta spacecraft arrived at Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko Wednesday after a 10 year flight to catch up with the comet.

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Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

This image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 3 August from a distance of 285 km. The image resolution is 5.3 metres/pixel.

Watch the press conference at ESA on Wednesday for the latest in images and how scientists are going to proceed now that Rosseta has reached the comet.

 

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Comet details

Stunning close up detail focusing on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded, 6 August. The image clearly shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs. The image was taken from a distance of 130 km and the image resolution is 2.4 metres per pixel.
Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

There will be some amazing science done in the next 2 years by the team at ESA.

Congratulations ESA.

 

SPECTACULAR METEOR SHOWER……. MAYBE.

North America is predicted to have the best view of a possible new meteor shower from Comet 209P/LINEAR Friday night through Saturday morning (May 23-24, 2014). (Deborah Boyd-EarthSky)

We have had some astronomical disappointments of late but we might just see a really nice meteor shower this Friday night into Saturday morning. 

Where to see the Camelopardalid meteor showerMeteors from the May 24th’s early-morning display can appear anywhere in the sky, but they will appear to originate from a point (called the radiant) in the constellation Camelopardalis, the Giraffe. Stars are plotted for 2 a.m. local daylight time as seen from mid-northern latitudes. Sky & Telescope illustration.

I plan on being up with my Nikon and mosquito spray to hopefully get some nice shots of the unexpected astronomical display.   What a nice late spring surprise and who knows, maybe an nice annual event. I will share photos here on Saturday… if all goes well.

First Lunar Eclipse of 2014

 

 

 

These photos were shot in south Baton Rouge on Tuesday morning at 2:45 am.  This eclipse marked the beginning of a tetrad, a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row. The next three total eclipses will be occurring on Oct. 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and the final occurring on Sept. 28, 2015.

 

ECL 1

 

The ‘ghosting’ is the rapid movement of the clouds during a 2 second exposure.

 

ECL 2

 

Below the moon is Spica, in the constellation Virgo, and Mars is further west(right) in the shots.

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I expect to have better photos after the next eclipse… weather permitting. Ha.

 

 

SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight and Grasshopper test

 

 

 

Mission: SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight

Launch Vehicle: Falcon

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Date: April 14, 4:58 p.m. EDT

 

NASA’s International Space Station resupply mission includes the legs for RobonautOPALS Lasercomm experiment and much more.  I think, however, the most exciting and dramatic portion of the flight is the possible test of  the ‘Grasshopper’ reusablility system.

Read the detailed story of the SpaceX Grasshopper  program.

Grasshopper Demonstration Flight

Reusability: The Key To Making Human Life Multi-Planetary

(SpaceX)

 

The launch will be webcast live, with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CT at spacex.com/webcast and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

For a detailed description of the mission timeline, overview and SpaceX go to the SpaceX press kit. This is a wonderful resource.

 

 

B A N G !

Cosmic Inflation now has the ‘smoking gun’.  

“The minuscule ripples in space-time are the last prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity to be verified. Until now, there has only been circumstantial evidence of their existence. The discovery also provides a deep connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics, another central pillar of physics.”(Stuart Clark)

Big_bang_theory_1795533g Elise Amendola/AP

 

Scientists, from left, Clem Pryke, Jamie Bock, Chao-Lin Kuo and John Kovac smile during a news conference at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., on March 17, 2014.

science-bigbangHandout/REUTERS

The measurements were taken using the BICEP2 instrument at the South Pole Telescope facility.  Now we wait as the scientific community deliberates these findings and maybe, just maybe, we have confirmed more of Einstein’s brilliance. 

Eurpoa…. here we come

“NASA plots daring flight to Jupiter’s watery moon”

Image

(Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

On March 4, 2014 Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, released a statement which includes, “In the coming year, we’ll build on our nation’s record of breathtaking and compelling scientific discoveries and achievements in space, with science missions that will reach far into our solar system, reveal unknown aspects of our universe and provide critical knowledge about our home planet.  It includes funding for missions to Mars and the formulation for a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.”

It looks as though we may finally go to a ‘local’ body that will hold many surprises and in astronomical distances Europa is so very close.

Europa is just begging us to visit and the Europa Clipper is one mission.

This artist’s impression of Europa makes the place look more exotic than Mars.

(Credit: Chris Weeks)

New Neighbors in Space

multi_transits_many_full_0[1]…715 new planets… orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much
like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than
Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. …To verify this bounty
of planets, a research team co-led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at
NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif…used a technique called
verification by multiplicity, which relies in part on the logic of probability.
…Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates.
Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified.
This method can be likened to the behavior we know of lions and lionesses. In
our imaginary savannah, the lions are the Kepler stars and the lionesses are the
planet candidates. The lionesses would sometimes be observed grouped together
whereas lions tend to roam on their own. If you see two lions it could be a lion
and a lioness or it could be two lions. But if more than two large felines are
gathered, then it is very likely to be a lion and his pride. Thus, through
multiplicity the lioness can be reliably identified in much the same way
multiple planet candidates can be found around the same star.

“Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then
thousands, of planet candidates –but they were only candidate worlds,” said
Lissauer. “We’ve now developed a process to verify multiple planet candidates in
bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable
bonanza of new worlds.”

…Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their

sun’s habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface

temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water.

…This latest discovery brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to
nearly 1,700. As we continue to reach toward the stars, each discovery brings us
one step closer to a more accurate understanding of our place in the galaxy.

The findings papers will be published March 10 in The Astrophysical Journal

and are available for download at:

http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/digital-press-kit-kepler-planet-bonanza.

SPLAT………. New Crater on Mars

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Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

A dramatic, fresh impact crater dominates this image taken by the High
Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 19, 2013.  Researchers used HiRISE to examine
this site because the orbiter’s Context Camera had revealed a change in
appearance here between observations in July 2010 and May 2012, bracketing the
formation of the crater between those observations.(NASA)

 

 Observation Toolbox

Acquisition date: 19 November 2013 Local Mars time: 2:57 PM
Latitude (centered): 3.677° Longitude (East): 53.428°
Range to target site: 266.5 km (166.5 miles) Original image scale range: 26.7 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~80 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 25 cm/pixel and North is up Map projection: Equirectangular
Emission angle: 0.5° Phase angle: 45.7°
Solar incidence angle: 46°, with the Sun about 44° above the horizon Solar longitude: 51.4°, Northern Spring
For non-map projected products:
North azimuth: 97° Sub-solar azimuth: 29.3°
For map-projected products
North azimuth: 270° Sub solar azimuth: 203.5°

 

                                                        NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

ICE, ICE EVERYWHERE?

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An artist’s conception of the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Image Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

With the crazy winter weather warnings today in south Louisiana and even school cancellations for tomorrow, I thought it was an interesting time to find out that the dwarf planet Ceres has an icy surface also. With the help of the Herschel space observatory, scientists have detected an icy surface on the only dwarf planet that resides in the asteroid belt. It was previously suspected that ice existed on Ceres but it had not been conclusively detected until now. Plumes of water vapor are thought to shoot up from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly. This happens in the portion of the dwarf planet’s orbit that takes it closest to the sun. This is a surprise because, while comets are known to have water jets and plumes, objects in the asteroid belt are not. They also believe that if the ice in the interior of Ceres melted, there would be more fresh water than exists on all of Earth!

Ceres is smaller than a planet but, considering it’s the largest object in the asteroid belt, is obviously larger than an asteroid. When first discovered, Ceres was thought to be a comet, then a planet and of course at some point an asteroid. In 2006, The International Astronomical Union reclassified Ceres as a dwarf planet.

 

 

‘RABBIT’ SEEN ON MOON ….

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LROC NAC view of the Chang’e 3 lander (large arrow) and rover (small arrow) just before sunset on their first day of lunar exploration. LROC NAC M1142582775R, image width 576 m, north is up [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

 

 

Chang’e 3 landed on Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) just east of a 450 m diameter impact crater on 14 December 2013. Soon after landing, a small rover named Yutu (or Jade Rabbit in English) was deployed and took its first tentative drive onto the airless regolith. At the time of the landing LRO’s orbit was far from the landing site so images of the landing were not possible. Ten days later on 24 December, LRO approached the landing site, and LROC was able to acquire a series of six LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image pairs during the next 36 hours (19 orbits). The highest resolution image was possible when LRO was nearly overhead on 25 December 03:52:49 UT (24 December 22:52:49 EST). At this time LRO was at an altitude of ~150 km above the site, and the pixel size was 150 cm.(NASA)

LROC before after Chang'e 3

 

More pictures and a full explanation courtesy of the LRO team and NASA here.