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New Year 2019 Flyby – Ultima Thule!   24 comments

New Horizons – Ultima Thule Flyby! Making history in New Year 2019!

Ultima Thule Credit- John Hopkins APL

New Horizons (NASA’s spacecraft) historic $700 million mission to Pluto launched in January 2006 and arriving on July 14, 2015. It was the first ever flyby of a probe past Pluto and it did so from approximately 7,800 miles (12,550 km) away.

Pluto from Charon_thetimes3

 

 

 

The Ultima Thule flyby is a continuation of this mission and will take New Horizons into new territory far beyond Pluto at the solar system’s edge, to an area of icy worlds in space, further out than the orbit of Neptune, (1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometres on) in a region known as the Kuiper Belt.

On New Year’s Day at 12:33 a.m. EST (0533 GMT) hopefully, New Horizons will flyby Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) at under 2,200 miles (3,500 km) away. At this point it will be 4 billion miles+ (6.4 billion km+) away from Earth.

New Horizons_Desert Fantasy_New Horizonns7A

Ultima Thule is, in point of fact, an enigmatic solar system body that scientists know almost nothing about. It is about 23-mile-wide (37 km) and currently it may or may not be just a single body. Alternatively, it is possible that it is made up of two objects that are in fact in orbit around one another.

NASA has given us the opportunity to send a message to Ultima Thule. Six choices were offered and Icewolf has chosen “Go New Horizons, Go NASA!” And we even get a certificate! Cosmic way to start the New Year 2019!!

EIW New Horiz Cert

“Travelling at light speed, the signals carrying these messages will reach the spacecraft about six hours after being beamed from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (in Laurel, Maryland, which manages the New Horizons mission for NASA), largest dish antenna, on the very same day that New Horizons flies by Ultima Thule! How cool is that?” – New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Happy New Year 2019!!

Phaethon – The Mythology   5 comments

(Image Credit: CoolCLIPS_vc051539)

Phaethon in Greek mythology was the son of Helios, the sun god, and a woman/nymph who was known among different sources as Clymene, Prote, or Rhode.

Friends of Phaethon challenged him to prove he was not illegitimate and that his father really was Helios the sun god. His mother assured him this was true and suggested he also gain confirmation from his father Helios. Phaethon decided to request from his father proof of his affiliation with the sun. Helios was happy to consent to give his son anything he wanted, but when Phaethon demanded that he should be allowed to have a whole day to drive his father’s sun chariot Helios strongly advised him not to, pointing out that even Zeus did not have the strength to handle the steeds. However, a promise was a promise and despite his misgivings Helios

CoolCLIPS_vc051539

allowed him to take charge of the chariot. As he predicted Phaethon lost control of the horses. Initially the horses climbed too high causing the Earth to freeze over. The out of control steeds then careered so close to the Earth that the chariot burned and charred the Earth. Seeing the imminent disaster and in a bid to prevent that occurrence Zeus elected to bring the chariot down with a bolt of thunder. The unfortunate consequence for Phaethon being that he plummeted down to earth and was killed at the mouth of the river Eridanus, which was later recognized as the Po.

Phaethon’s close friend or even lover, Cycnus (king of Liguria) deeply grieved his demise and so the gods transformed him into a swan. Phaethon also had seven sisters, who were known as the Heliades. They too grieved deeply for him and kept watch in the place that their brother Phaethon careered to Earth and died. This wake continued until the time when the gods transformed the sisters into Poplar trees. Their tears of grief the gods transformed into amber.

The name “Phaethon” – Greek for “Shining/Radiant One”, was given also to:

  • Phaethon (Son of Eos)
  • One of the horses of Eos (the Dawn)
  • The Sun

 

 

 

 

  • The constellation Auriga
  • The planet Jupiter (Some versions refer to the planet Saturn rather than Jupiter)
  • Used as a descriptive word to describe the sun and the moon

 

Today it is the name given to rare blue asteroid “3200 Phaethon” which orbits very close to the sun and is named after the Phaethon of Greek mythology.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaethon

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Phaethon-Greek-mythology

 

3200 Phaethon – Outlandish Blue Space Rock   14 comments

Rare Blue Asteroid 3200 Phaethon

AsteroidsTo observe a blue asteroid is an extraordinary occurrence, and to stumble on a blue comet is an unprecedented phenomenon. Asteroid (3200) Phaethon is an outlandish blue-coloured asteroid which in addition has been discerned to be acting on occasion in much the same way as a comet, and it is proving to be well beyond the mysterious and remarkable status that its international investigators originally credited it with.

Most asteroids range in colour from lacklustre grey to varying shades of red, depending on the nature of their physical surface matter. Phaethon is not only one of the very few rare blue asteroids in our galaxy but furthermore, looks to be one of the most outstanding shades of blue amongst celestial bodies of its kind, including comets.

Orbit of 3200 Phaethon
Orbit of 3200 Phaethon – Image Credit: By Tomruen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64315495

Phaethon’s blue colouring is derived from reflecting extra blue-end spectrum light and is unvarying across the whole of its surface, suggesting it has relatively recently taken a roasting by the Sun. The implication is further enforced by the surface temperature of Phaeton which can be an aluminium-melting 800 degrees C, (1,500 degrees F) approximately, due to capacity of its decidedly eccentric orbit to bring Phaethon bringing it into such close vicinity of the Sun.

Phaethon has the typical appearance of an asteroid in the night sky (a dot) despite that the standard implications say that it is a dead comet (indistinct sphere and a tail). It also appears to be where the December Geminids meteor shower springs from. Phaeton was detected in 1983, up to which point meteor showers were connected with active comets rather than asteroids in scientific circles.

Phaethon has proved something of an enigma enjoying both asteroid qualities and the appearance and behaviour of a comet. The result being that it’s hard to say which one it bears the closest resemblance to. It is alone, other than one other celestial body in the galaxy in discharging a miniature tail of dust at its nearest point to the sun. Consequently, the distinguishing features customarily understood to single out comets from asteroids suddenly became very unclear.

It is possible that Phaethon could either be a relative of, or even an actual broken-off chunk of another blue asteroid known as Pallas. A large and much more distant asteroid, Pallas has been observed to be approximately twice as reflective as Phaethon which itself has proved many shades darker than it had first been considered to be.  However, this does nothing to help in explaining the potential relationship between asteroids Phaethon and Pallas.

Another possible Phaethon relative, is 2005 UD, small blue asteroid also under observation by astronomers, along with Phaethon, to decipher the mysteries inherent in these two blue asteroids and discover whether the same rare properties exist in them both. Such research and its future results will support astronomer’s efforts to figure-out the secrets of the enigmatic blue asteroid Phaethon.

Sources:  University of Arizona, https://www.sciencedaily.com (“Rare blue asteroid reveals itself during fly-by.”)

 

Posted November 12, 2018 by europasicewolf in Astronomy

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Happy Birthday Curiosity!   13 comments

🚀It’s Mars Rover Curiosity’s Birthday Today!!🎁🚀🍰

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Image Credit: Space Exploration – Science Website (Facebook)

Curiosity’s all alone on it’s birthday WordPress friends! 😥🍰Let’s all get together and sing happy birthday to it 🎶🎂😃 No-one should be alone on their birthday so let’s show Curiosity some love!😍🤗 In the spirit of WordPress! 👩‍🚀👨‍💻

🎶🎁”Happy Birthday Curiosity!!”🙃🎉🎈🎁🎵🚀🛰😃

Global Martian Dust Storm   14 comments

The View from Insight! 🙂

It’s pretty packed here on the Mars Insight Probe and there’s nothing much to see outside right now… so we’ve been watching live streams of the dust storm taking over Mars to pass the time…Not very impressed with the view there right now either! 😉

BoardingPass_MyNameOnInSight

The Martian dust storm that has been engulfing the red planet for the last two weeks or so has now ballooned into full-blown global dust event magnitudes (officially known as a “planet-encircling” dust event.) as of 20th June. The atmospheric dust-haze now surrounding Mars and blocking out the sunlight as it covers the sky, is in the region of six to eight times greater than its seasonally normal density. In the absence of sunlight dusty red Mars has taken on a weirdly spooky-shadowless appearance.

Mars 2Poor little “Oppy” (NASA’s Opportunity rover) has been somewhat swamped, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Martian dust storm has diminished the sunlight it relies on for power, to such an extent (like completely obliterated it) that “Oppy” has been compelled to postpone all of its science activities until further notice. Without enough available power from its solar panels Oppy could not even “call home,” and NASA and Oppy lost contact altogether on 12th June 2018.

Mars 3Over on a different part of the planet at the infamous Gale Crater, Curiosity (NASA’s Curiosity rover), which has been hard at work studying the Martian soil in the region, has fared considerably better and it isn’t anticipated to be unduly bothered by the dust. Despite the antics of the Martian dust storm diminishing both sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater, Curiosity, who arrived on Mars five years after the last Martian dust storm of this nature, in 2007, has the edge over “Oppy” because it sports a nuclear-powered battery running 24/7 and doesn’t therefore have power issues to sweat over, unlike “Oppy”.

MarsThe offending dusty haze floating around the Martian atmosphere, resulting from the storm which is blocking out the sunlight, is known as “tau.” This tau level is at an all-time high rising tau level 8.0 at Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater. No higher tau has ever been recorded by the mission. The area close to Oppy’s location last measured a tau of almost level 11, and at such a high dust intensity it rendered impossible the job of Oppy – the longest working Mars rover, to provide any kind of precise measurements.  

Of course we experience dust storms of our own here on Earth. They occur  in the desert regions of, for example, the Middle East, North Africa and some southwest regions of the USA . However, thanks to our thicker atmosphere and its structural design along with the stronger gravity of Earth than on Mars, the dust is compelled to settle rather than floating around the atmosphere, as on Mars.  Our planet also benefits from the presence of land-growing vegetation.

Mars 4Usually dust storms occurring on Mars are confined locally.  This current storm is distinctive in that it covers an area the equivalent of the combination of Earth’s N America and Russia.  On a positive note it is a great opportunity to gain a more advanced knowledge of the way in which these Martian storms occur, progress and ultimately influence the red planet.

In the meantime Wolfie is passing the time chomping through stray pieces of liver cake floating past, posing for selfies and eyeing up the strange Manor-like building drifting randomly past the windows…. 🙂

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

www.space.com

www.astronomy.com

InSight is GO!!   12 comments

InSight launched successfully and Wolfie is GO for Mars! 🚀🛰😀

LEGO Safari Hunt – Easter 2018   11 comments

The Great Brick Safari LEGO Hunt 

Lego Bricks Safari Tour was a fun interactive family event held over Easter at the Festival Place shopping Centre in Basingstoke, North Hampshire by the UK’s sole LEGO-certified building company – Bright Bricks, based in Bordon, Hampshire.  

I chanced on this fun jungle trail quite by accident and consequently didn’t know what it was and therefore, only discovered the animals inside the shopping centre. So! Not too many photos got taken! But I have included a selection of the ones I did have the good fortune to encounter along the way. I was a touch disappointed to learn there were no LEGO Icewolves on display but still 😉 

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The aim was to find as many animals as possible to win prizes, and there were also creative workshops for the children, of which there were many! Here they had the opportunity to build either their own LEGO tiger or lion face, which they could then take home with them. Wolfie considered this idea but decided an Icewolf was unlikely to be allowed access! However, the LEGO Safari jeep where selfie-lovers could indulge themselves with endless selfies was a tempting proposition 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

There were in total, 20+ sculptures of LEGO zoo and jungle animals on display which had natural appeal to all age groups, and they were built to impressive life-size proportions. Shame Wolfie didn’t realise they were also to be found in a variety of different spots outside Festival Place Shopping Centre as well as inside it, but hey ho! Such is the life of an Icewolf! 😉

Sculptures included crocodile, which I did manage to find, an ostrich, gorilla, warthog, and lion, which I assume were outside somewhere, and apparently there were parrots and spiders on show…somewhere! No problem missing the spiders but I would have liked to see the parrot. The pictures of it all appear to be copyrighted so are not here (the photos on show are my own) but it was very bright and parrotish!! 1 million+ LEGO bricks were used to construct the safari sculptures, and an eye-watering total of 6,241 building hours spent doing so, by a specialist team. Pretty awesome job done, in the eyes of Wolfie 🙂

(Photos: ©Europa’s Icewolf 2018)