RSSArchive for March, 2013

Sun sends an explosion our way

SOHO image of a CME

The Solar Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft captured these images of the sun spitting out a coronal mass ejection on March 15, 2013.

ON MARCH 15, the Sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), a solar phenomenon that can send billions of tonnes of solar particles into space and can reach Earth one to three days later and affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

Experimental NASA research models, based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft, show that the CME left the Sun at speeds of around 14,50 kilometres per second, which is a fairly fast speed for CMEs. Historically, CMEs at this speed have caused mild to moderate effects when they reach Earth.

The NASA research models also show that the CME may pass by the Spitzer (an Earth-orbiting observatory) and Messenger (Mercury orbiter) spacecraft. NASA has notified their mission operators. There is, however, only minor particle radiation associated with this event, which is what would normally concern operators of interplanetary spacecraft since the particles can trip on-board computer electronics.

Earth-directed CMEs can cause a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm, which occurs when they connect with the outside of the Earth’s magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere, for an extended period of time.

In the past, geomagnetic storms caused by CMEs such as this one have usually been of mild to medium strength.

In the USA, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is the United States Government official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

In Australia, the solar monitoring and notifications are the responsibility of IPS Radio and Space Services.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / GSFC. Image credit: ESA & NASA / SOHO.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Mars: sharp image of Mount Sharp

MSL image of Mount Sharp

This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows Mount Sharp in a white-balanced colour adjustment that makes the sky look overly blue but shows the terrain as if under Earth-like lighting.

RISING ABOVE THE PRESENT location of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, higher than any mountain in the 48 contiguous states of the United States, Mount Sharp is featured in new imagery from the rover.

A pair of mosaics assembled from dozens of telephoto images shows Mount Sharp in dramatic detail. The component images were taken by the 100-millimetre-focal-length telephoto lens camera mounted on the right side of Curiosity’s remote sensing mast, during the 45th Martian day of the rover’s mission on Mars (September 20, 2012).

The image above is only a small part of the whole panorama – you can see the full panorama here.

This layered mound, also called Aeolis Mons, in the centre of Gale Crater rises more than five kilometres above the crater floor location of Curiosity. Lower slopes of Mount Sharp remain a destination for the mission, though the rover will first spend many more weeks around a location called ‘Yellowknife Bay,’ where it has found evidence of a past environment favourable for microbial life.

A version of the mosaic that has been white-balanced to show the terrain as if under Earthlike lighting, which makes the sky look overly blue, can be seen here.

White-balanced versions help scientists recognise rock materials based on their terrestrial experience. The Martian sky would look like more of a butterscotch colour to the human eye. A version of the mosaic with raw colour, as a typical smart-phone camera would show the scene, is here.

In both versions, the sky has been filled out by extrapolating colour and brightness information from the portions of the sky that were captured in images of the terrain.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover’s 10 science instruments to investigate environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favourable for microbial life.

More information:

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory page

JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory page

Curiosity’s Twitter page

Adapted from information issued by JPL.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…