“NASA plots daring flight to Jupiter’s watery moon”
(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)
…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:
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)
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
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.
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)
More pictures and a full explanation courtesy of the LRO team and NASA here.
Orion, the hunter, is one of the most popular constellations in the night sky; so you may have already seen him this winter or in late fall. Throughout the year, no matter the season, when I am in schools with our Discovery Dome portable planetarium someone often asks me to point out Orion. The mighty hunter is also one of the largest and easiest constellations to find. Most people find it by locating the three stars that make up Orion’s “belt” which is an asterism or recognizable group of stars that are part of a constellation. The names of the three stars that make up Orion’s belt are Alnitak, Alnilam and Minatka. One of the brightest stars in the sky is on Orion’s right shoulder. It’s called Betelgeuse.
Orion’s belt is the only group of three stars that are spaced so evenly making them very easy to recognize. Once you have found the belt, the hunter easily pops into view especially when it is right overhead during the cold evenings of winter.
Besides being easy to spot, the constellation Orion is also where you will find one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky, the Orion Nebula. Count down to the third bright object in Orion’s sword and you will find not a star but the Orion Nebula. With binoculars focused on this object, you will find many stars rather than one.
So the next time you look for Orion in the night sky be sure to also take a look at the third object in his sword for the giant cloud of gas and dust that makes up this birthplace or stars and solar systems.
The Orion Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Of course, when you think of the tallest mountain ever you’re going to probably think of Mount Everest with its peak of a little over 29,000 feet (5.5 miles). But when you look at Mt. Everest in comparison with some of the other mountains in our Solar System it won’t even make the list. Let’s look at some of the Solar System’s tallest mountains as measured from the base to the peak.
Our night sky may appear to have stars of the same color. Look closely the next time you view the stars at night. You will notice that some stars are colored. Colored stars help us to determine the temperature of a star. A star can be defined as a natural luminous body visible in the sky especially at night.
Temperature Star Information
Blue White Stars- Hottest
White Stars- Warmer Than Average
Yellow Stars-Average Temperature
Orange Stars-Cooler Than Average
This holiday seasons create a little fun in the kitchen with some cool simple “Star Temperature Cookies”. Please view directions below!
Baked Short Bread or Sugar Cookies
Food Coloring – Red, Yellow, Blue
Place cookies on individual plates.
Mix food coloring with white icing to create the following colors: Red, Yellow, Blue .
Red + White= Red Icing
Yellow + White = Yellow Icing
Blue + White= Blue Icing
Icing cookies to create your simple “Temperature Holiday Star Cookies”!
Eat & Enjoy
Keep Looking Up At The Stars The Holiday Season!
Comet ISON is now officially gone, well, pretty much. The NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign has issued a memoriam for Comet ISON.
Here is the latest view:
Karl Battams: It may be (almost) gone but comet ISON leaves a legacy of unprecedented data from numerous locations within the solar system! [Image credit: ESA, NASA, Annotations by Karl Battams]
ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that a small nucleus may be intact
Image Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC
“Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated!” says comet ISON. Data gathered yesterday led astronomers to the unfortunate conclusion that ISON was broken up and vaporized as it grazed the Sun. However a new look at the images show a tiny piece of the comet has survived and is continuing on its journey back into the far reaches of space. Look for ISON in the upper left corner of this picture.
What does this mean? Will it still prove to be the comet of the century? We don’t know yet. Observing comets is exciting because we never truly know what they will do. ISON may still flare up in brightness to put on one final show before exiting the Solar System or it may fizzle out and be gone forever. Stay tuned!