RSSArchive for November, 2011

Giant Jupiter takes its turn

THIS INCREDIBLE VIDEO of Jupiter rotating on its axis was made from images taken between October 10 and 25, 2011, at the Pic du Midi Observatory in France.

The observing team used a Basler Scout Camera and the 1-metre telescope at the Observatory.

Jupiter is 11.2 times wider than the Earth, and 318 times more massive. It rotates on its axis in just under 10 Earth hours—faster than any other Solar System planet—and the cloud systems on the equator move faster than those of the poles.

Video courtesy S2P / IMCCE / OPM / JL Dauvergne / Elie Rousset / Eric Meza / Philippe Tosi / François Colas / Jean Pajus / Xavi Nogués / Emil Kraaikamp.

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Earth from Space – Night turns to day

The Mediterranean region at night

The Mediterranean region, illuminated by manmade lights and natural sources (moonlight, starlight etc).

ONE OF THE EXPEDITION 29 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station took this oblique angle photo showing the Mediterranean Sea area, including the Nile River and the river’s delta, and the Sinai Peninsula, on October 15, 2011. Cyprus is visible at left.

At first look, the image appears to have been photographed in daylight, but actually it was taken in the early hours of the morning, local time.

Some areas of the photo like the river and river delta appear as the brightest areas because of either man-made lighting (mostly incandescent) or man-made lighting reflected off nearby surfaces.

The rest of the region is illuminated naturally by moonlight, starlight, or back-scattered light from the atmosphere.

Also visible is a green band following the curve of the horizon. This is airglow.

Below is another, slightly wider view.

Download full-size, high-resolution versions of the images:

Image 1

Image 2

The Mediterranean region at night

A wider view photographed at roughly the same time.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Gallery – Quintet of Saturnian moons

Five of Saturn's moons

Five of Saturn's moons can be seen in this image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

A QUINTET OF SATURN’S MOONS can be seen in this view taken by the Cassini spacecraft.

Janus (179 kilometres wide) is on the far left. Pandora (81 kilometres) orbits between the A ring and the thin F ring near the middle of the image. Brightly reflective Enceladus (504 kilometres) appears above the centre of the image. Saturn’s second largest moon, Rhea (1,528 kilometres), is bisected by the right edge of the image. The smaller moon Mimas (396 kilometres) can be seen beyond Rhea also on the right side of the image.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane. Rhea is closest to the camera. Saturn’s rings are beyond Rhea and Mimas. Enceladus also is beyond the rings.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2011. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometres from Rhea and 1.8 million kilometres from Enceladus.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

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Killer solar storms? Sorry, not going to happen

THERE’S A LOT OF NONSENSE flying around at the moment about the supposed arrival of a killer solar storm season next year.

As this NASA video points out, there is no expectation that Earth is in any danger. In fact, according to NASA, there “simply isn’t enough energy in the sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth.”

Story by Jonathan Nally. Image and video courtesy NASA / GSFC.

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Ride a rocket into space

THIS IS A GREAT VIDEO showing what it’s like to fly into space and back aboard a rocket.

On March 23, 2011, two on-board cameras followed a “sounding rocket” on its journey up to 285 kilometres altitude and back down again.

A sounding rocket is small, unmanned rocket that generally is shot straight up through the atmosphere. They’re often used to conduct measurements of conditions in the upper atmosphere and in space just above. They’re also sometimes used to make observations of astronomical objects out in space.

The main panel on the right shows the view looking backwards down the length of the rocket. The smaller panel on the left shows the view looking upward along the rocket. And in the upper left corner is a diagram showing the trajectory of the rocket.

Note also how the rocket spins during ascent. This is deliberate, and is done to keep it on course. It’s a gyroscopic effect.

Another thing to take note of is the sound. The sound of launch can be heard, as well as the rush as the rocket gains altitude. But the noise dies away after about a minute—this is because the air has become too thin for sounds to propagate easily.

Sounding rockets travel very fast and their flights are correspondingly brief.

In this case, the rocket was launched to measure solar energy output and make measurements that were used to calibrate an instrument on the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a Sun-monitoring spacecraft.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / GSFC.

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Soyuz launches crew to the Space Station

IT WAS A COLD, SNOWY DAY at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as Expedition 29 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov, NASA Flight Engineer Dan Burbank and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

The trio will dock with the station on November 15, USA time, to start a five-and-a-half-month stay on the complex, joining station Commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Volkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa, who have been on the outpost since June.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Gallery – Dione and friends

Saturn's moon Dione

Saturn's moon Dione, seen along with half of Saturn and the planets rings.

SATURN’S MOON DIONE coasts along in its orbit appearing in front of its parent planet in this Cassini spacecraft view.

The wispy terrain on the trailing hemisphere of Dione (1,123 kilometres wide) can be seen on the left of the moon here.

Dione (pronounced dy-OH-nee) is the second densest moon of Saturn, after Titan. Dione is probably composed of a rocky core making up one-third of the moon’s mass, and the rest is composed of water ice. It is similar to two other Saturnian moons, Tethys and Rhea.

Dione’s icy surface includes heavily cratered terrain, with moderately and lightly cratered plains, as well as some severely cracked areas, with very bright material on the walls of the fractures. The heavily cratered terrain has numerous craters greater than 100 kilometres in diameter. The plains area tends to have craters less than 30 kilometres in diameter.

Telesto and Epimetheus

The moon Telesto can be seen above the rings on the left, and Epimetheus is just on the bottom edge of the rings.

The tiny moon Telesto (25 kilometres wide) is visible as a white speck above and to the left of the rings in this view. Epimetheus (113 kilometres) appears just below the rings near the centre of the image. This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 18, 2011. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2.2 million kilometres from Dione.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

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Earth from Space – Videos of our World

TAKE A LOOK AT THESE VIDEOS of our amazing planet. The footage was shot from the International Space Station, orbiting hundreds of kilometres above our head.

The videos are only short, and in some cases speeded up; nevertheless they give an incredible “astronauts’ eye view” of what various parts of our planet look like from space.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy NASA.

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Take a tour of the Moon

USING ELEVATION AND IMAGE DATA returned by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this animation takes the viewer on a virtual tour of the Moon.

Unfortunately there’s no narration or music track, but the visuals are stunning enough. Try zooming the YouTube window to full screen to get the best view.

The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a wide variety of lunar terrain features. Some are on the near side and are familiar to both professional and amateur observers on Earth, while others can only be seen clearly from space.

Some are large and old (Orientale, South Pole-Aitken), others are smaller and younger (Tycho, Aristarchus, Shackleton).

Constantly shadowed areas near the poles are hard to photograph but easier to measure with altimetry, while several of the Apollo landing sites, all relatively near the equator, have been imaged at resolutions as high as 25 centimetres per pixel.

The shape of the terrain in this animation is based primarily on data from LRO’s laser altimeter (LOLA), supplemented by stereo image data from its wide-angle camera (LROC WAC) and from Japan’s Kaguya mission. The global surface colour is from the Clementine mission.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / Goddard Space Flight Centre Scientific Visualization Studio.

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Space telescope spots asteroid fly-by

AS ASTEROID 2005 YU55 swept past Earth in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 9, NASA’s Swift satellite joined professional and amateur astronomers around the globe in monitoring the fast-moving space rock.

The video above shows the asteroid zooming through space near Earth. The other dots are not the Earth and Moon, but background stars.

Although Swift is better known for its study of high-energy outbursts and cosmic explosions, the versatile satellite has made valuable observations of passing comets and asteroids as well.

Swift’s unique ultraviolet observations will aid scientists in understanding the asteroid’s surface composition.

Classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of a collision with Earth for at least the next century. But understanding the details of how its surface reflects light and heat will allow improved assessments of future hazards.

A body in space absorbs sunlight and reradiates the energy as heat, and both of these processes produce a miniscule force that, over time, can alter the object’s trajectory.

For Swift, the challenge with 2005 YU55 was its rapid motion across the sky, which was much too fast for Swift to track. Instead, the team trained the spacecraft’s optics at two locations along the asteroid’s predicted path and let it streak through the field.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / Swift / Stefan Immler and DSS.

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