A camera aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has started generating tantalizing views of Pluto rotating on its sharply tilted axis, presenting patches of bright and dark material as it spins around a pole that appears to be covered with a cap of ice.
Using “deconvolution” techniques developed to sharpen the images of the Hubble Space Telescope before the spherical aberration in its primary mirror was corrected by spacewalking astronauts in 1990, the New Horizons team has produced still images and animations based on those images with slightly better resolution than the Hubble.
Image & Illustration Credit & Copyright: NASA/JHUAPL.
With the burn up of Venus Express in late 2014-early 2015, one of our two eyes to the inferior (inner) planets was extinguished. Unfortunately, it seems that this week, by the end of April, after nearly 11 years in space and more than 4 years and 4,000 orbits around Mercury, MESSENGER will meet its fate as well.
Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared telescopes, astronomers have made an important advance in the understanding of how clusters of stars come into being.
The data show early notions of how star clusters form cannot be correct. The simplest idea is stars form into clusters when a giant cloud of gas and dust condenses. The center of the cloud pulls in material from its surroundings until it becomes dense enough to trigger star formation. This process occurs in the center of the cloud first, implying that the stars in the middle of the cluster form first and, therefore, are the oldest.
However, the latest data from Chandra suggest something else is happening. Researchers studied two clusters where Sun-like stars currently are forming — NGC 2024, located in the center of the Flame Nebula, and the Orion Nebula Cluster. From this study, they discovered the stars on the outskirts of the clusters actually are the oldest.
The shower is the May Camelopardalids, caused by dust from periodic comet 209P/LINEAR. No one has ever seen it before, but this year the Camelopardalids could put on a display that rivals the well-known Perseids of August.
The best time to look is during the hours between 6:00 and 08:00 Universal Time on May 24th or between 2 and 4 o’clock in the morning Eastern Daylight Time. That’s when an ensemble of forecast models say Earth is most likely to encounter the comet’s debris. North Americans are favored because, for them, the peak occurs during nighttime hours while the radiant is high in the sky.
For years researchers have been debating whether Enceladus, a tiny moon floating just outside Saturn’s rings, is home to a vast underground ocean. Is it wet–or not? Now, new evidence is tipping the scales. Not only does Enceladus likely have an ocean, that ocean is probably fizzy like a soft drink and could be friendly to microbial life.
- fizzy enceladus (toomanytribbles.blogspot.com)
“Preliminary data from NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater. The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the moon.
The LCROSS spacecraft and a companion rocket stage made twin impacts in the Cabeus crater Oct. 9 that created a plume of material from the bottom of a crater that has not seen sunlight in billions of years. The plume traveled at a high angle beyond the rim of Cabeus and into sunlight, while an additional curtain of debris was ejected more laterally.”
“NASA will begin transmitting commands to its Mars exploration rover, Spirit, on Monday as part of an escape plan to free the venerable robot from its Martian sand trap.
Spirit has been lodged at a site scientists call ‘Troy’ since April 23. Researchers expect the extraction process to be long and the outcome uncertain based on tests here on Earth this spring that simulated conditions at the Martian site.”
“The Mini Research Module-2, known as “Poisk,” which means “explore” in Russian, will deliver 1,800 pounds of cargo to the station. Poisk is scheduled to automatically dock to the station’s Zvezda Service Module at 9:44 a.m.“The 8-ton module is scheduled to launch at 8:22 a.m. Nov. 10 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The combination docking port and airlock will ride atop a Soyuz booster rocket. The Soyuz launch will not be broadcast on NASA TV.“The module will be used as an additional docking port for Russian vehicles, as an airlock for Russian-based spacewalks and as a platform for external science experiments. Its first use will be as a docking port during the relocation of a Soyuz crew vehicle in January.”
“WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — International Space Station Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt landed their Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft on the steppes of Kazakhstan Sunday, wrapping up a six-month stay. Joining them was spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte, who spent 11 days in space.
“MOFFETT FIELD, Calif., Sept. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA has selected a final destination for its Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, after a journey of nearly 5.6 million miles that included several orbits around Earth and the moon. The mission team announced Wednesday that Cabeus A will be the target crater for the LCROSS dual impacts scheduled for 7:30 a.m. EDT on Oct. 9, 2009. The crater was selected after an extensive review as the optimal location for LCROSS’ evaluation of whether water ice exists at the lunar south pole.
“LCROSS will search for water ice by sending its spent upper-stage Centaur rocket to impact the permanently shadowed polar crater. The satellite will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties before also colliding with the lunar surface. The LCROSS team selected Cabeus A based on a set of conditions that include proper debris plume illumination for visibility from Earth, a high concentration of hydrogen, and mature crater features such as a flat floor, gentle slopes and the absence of large boulders.”