Archive for the ‘NASA missions’ Tag

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!!

Smashing the Final Planetary Frontier!   31 comments

It’s Pluto Time!

New Horizons_Desert Fantasy_New Horizonns7A

Seen from Pluto the Sun would be no more than a very bright star, the large yellow disc of Earth skies would be a distant memory in the mind of the intergalactic tourist. The light Pluto receives from the Sun is a thousand times dimmer than that enjoyed on Earth and although Pluto does have a thin atmosphere, which scatters the little sunlight it receives, the bright skies of Earth will never be seen on Pluto.

Weather and atmospheric conditions can also affect the amount of sunlight received by Pluto although at this point little is known about these matters. What is known however, is that Pluto’s day lasts approximately 153 hours. Combine this with long seasons and a long axial tilt parts of Pluto can remain sunlit for four years at a time!

So what can the intrepid intergalactic tourist actually do on Pluto? Lying on a sun-soaked Plutonian beach catching a fantastic suntan certainly is not on the agenda! Reading a good book, for example, “The Interspatial Tourist Guide Galactica” would be a great starting point – once the eyes have adjusted to Pluto light.

Alternatively it is perfectly possible to take brilliantly clear pictures of the Plutonian planetscape for the photographic enthusiast. For the avid WordPress blogger this would make for great blog material! Be sure to use a long exposure or a wider aperture to collect as much light as possible and better still take a few tips from the New Horizons probe!

pluto-timepluto-seen-from-the-surface-ron-miller2AA

Pluto Time is a moment on Earth when the light conditions at sunrise and sunset matches sunlight at high noon on Pluto.

It’s always Pluto Time somewhere on our planet.

Next Pluto timeFind your personal Pluto Time visiting by NASA’s “Pluto Time” website and entering your location into the NASA web tool.

Pluto Time generates the next exact available time from any location in the world when you can go outside and discover what it would be like to actually be on Pluto experiencing the midday Plutonian light conditions . (Everyone has two chances each day, around dusk and dawn.)

NASA is also encouraging users of the tool to take photos during their local Pluto Time and share the images via Twitter with the hashtag #PlutoTime.

Pluto from Charon_thetimes3Charon, the largest of the 5 known moons of Pluto looms large in the Plutonian sky. It is actually bigger than Pluto and the two worlds both orbit each other – like a double planet. Charon is tidally locked to Pluto and therefore can only be seen from one side of the planet. On that side Charon would, on occasion, shine very brightly in the Plutonian skies. This is a similar effect to that of Earth and The Moon where we see only the bright side of the Moon but never the dark, far-side.

It turns out that we were compluto-lolcatpletely wrong about the colour we always believed Pluto to be which was shades of steely blue or grey.

Recent images sent back by New Horizons show that it is in fact a sandy reddish colour.

Competition for Mars the traditional red planet! However Mars should probably not be too worried now that it is sporting unexpected blue sunsets and green-blue auroras to set it apart from the competition.

Not to be outdone by Mars with its latest batch of tourist-attracting features, images from New Horizons also show that Pluto has a huge heart shape slicing intpluto with square close up highlighted o the surface of what is not far short of fifty percent of its side. Just for good measure the images also show that there is a whale on Pluto! Otherwise known as an expansive shadowy area at the base going by the nick-name of “the whale”.

a-scene-on-pluto-with-charon-its-giant-ron-millerX5

Despite Pluto being undeniably similar in colour to Mars, the reasons for this colouration are worlds apart. Mars’s rich red hues are a result of the iron oxide or rust which colours the planet’s rocks and soil. Whereas in Pluto’s case its colour seems to owe itself to the interaction between the Plutonian sunlight and hydrocarbon molecules. According to NASA, “The reddish colour is likely caused by hydrocarbon molecules that are formed when cosmic rays and solar ultraviolet light interact with methane in Pluto’s atmosphere and on its surface.”

Sources:

space.com 

solarsystem.nasa.gov

mic.com (Tech.mic)

independent.co.uk

universetoday.com

A Scorched World-Kelper 10B_And Host Star   30 comments

A Scorched World-Kelper-10B And Host Star

Kelper 10b Scorched World    Imagined canyon on Planet Kelper 10b

Scorched And Blistered – The World of Planet Kelper-10B 

Planet Kepler-10b is a scorched blistering world, orbiting at a distance that’s more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our own Sun and takes less than one Earth day to orbit its star. The daytime temperature’s expected to be more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than lava flows here on Earth, hot enough to melt iron! Intense radiation from the star has kept the planet from holding onto an atmosphere. Flecks of silicates and iron may be boiled off a molten surface and swept away by the stellar radiation, much like a comet’s tail when its orbit brings it close to the Sun.

 

The Kepler team has determined that Kepler-10b who’s discovery was announced in Jan. 2011 is a rocky planet, with a surface you could stand on, a mass 4.6 times that of Earth, and a diameter 1.4 times that of Earth and an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimetre – similar to that of an iron dumbbell. It is the smallest exoplanet – a planet located outside our solar system (dark spot against yellow sun) and the first concrete evidence of a solid rocky planet orbiting a star other than our Sun discovered to date.

 Imagined view from Kelper 10b Kelper 10-b orbiting it's host star Kelper-9

“One day, the oceans we cross will be the galaxy itself, but for now, we imagine the worlds we discover…”

        KeplerArtistConcept_Family Portrait                          

The Kepler-10 star system is located about 560 light-years from our solar system. Planet Kepler-10b orbits one of the 150,000 stars that the Kelper spacecraft is monitoring with a 42 strong array of detectors aimed between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra and just above the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The star itself (Kelper 9)is very similar to our own sun in temperature, mass and size, but older with an age of over 8 billion years, compared to the 4-and-1/2 billion years of our own sun. . It’s one of the brighter stars that Kepler is monitoring and is a quiet star, slowly spinning with a weak magnetic field and few of the sun spots that characterize our own sun. It was the first star identified as potentially harbouring a very small transiting planet. The transits of the planet were first seen in July of 2009.

Artists concept of Kelper 10- Saturn sized planets

 

 

In May 2011, the Kepler team is announced another member of the Kepler-10 family, called Kepler-10c. It’s bigger than Kepler-10b with a radius of 2.2 times that of Earth’s, and it orbits the star every 45 days. Both planets would be blistering hot worlds. The Kepler-10 star system is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets.

Kelper 10 orbiting its host star

Picture Credits: NASA/Kepler Mission

The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery mission #10–Kelper-16B   23 comments

Planet Hunting Spacecraft – Search for habitable planets

WHERE THE SUN SETS TWICE-PLANET KELPER-16B

-In the Light to Two Suns

 

double sunset

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one.

The existence of a world with a double sunset has, until now, been “the stuff of science fiction” confined to sci-fi movies such as Star Wars.

Over three decades later a world with double suns is now a scientific fact.

 

 

The new planet “Kepler-16b” is located 200 light-years from Earth, and like Tatooine, the home world of Star Wars Luke Skywalker, is a circumbinary planet – a planet which orbits two stars.

StarWars-Planet TatooineLuke SkywalkerTatooines Two Suns

A cold and inhospitable world similar in size to Saturn, KELPER-16B is thought to consist of about 50 percent rock and 50 percent gas. A gas giant like Jupiter in the Earth’s system rather than another terrestrial type world. Much too cold for life. The parent stars are smaller than our sun. One is 69 percent the mass of the sun and the other only 20 percent. KELPER-16B orbits around both stars every 229 days, similar to Venus’ 225-day orbit, but lies outside the system’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface, because the stars are cooler than our sun.

                   In the Light of Two Suns_Kelper-16BKelper-16B orbiting two starsWhere the Sun Sets Twice_Kelper-16B

Researchers in Austin, Texas have been busy calculating the likelihood of Earth-like planets existing around twin stars. Worlds with two suns.

The existence of Earth-like worlds in the habitable zones around binary systems is now thought possible by astrophysicists from the University of Texas at Arlington. These regions are the right temperature to support liquid water on its surface, as in oceans and seas, and therefore life, in a form familiar to us.

Extrasolar-Moon: CREDIT: David A. Aguilar

 

Using the Kepler-16 double sun system as a basis and beginning point it has been established that as with our own the habitable zone of this system is centered mostly on the system’s primary star and extends in a region around it equal to 0.36 to 0.71 the distance of the Earth to the sun. A roughly similar distance as that between Earth and neighboring planet Venus, out to about the distance of red planetary neighbor Mars.

One possibility the researchers have also explored the possiblility that a planet the size of Earth could be orbiting beyond the twin star system which would put it ouside the area considered the habitable zone. An area known as the extended region.

There have not been any "exomoons" found so far but the planned Space Telescope – the James Webb, will have the necessary facilities to study the atmosphere of an alien exomoon, detecting and analysing vital gases for example carbon dioxide and oxygen.

The Kelper Space Telescope has so far discovered:

  • 21 confirmed planets
  • 1235 Planetary Candidates
  • 2165 Eclipsing Binary Stars

        And this is only the beginning!!!!!

2011 The Year of the Solar System   26 comments

NASA YEAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM!

(January 2011 to August 2012)

 

NASA has designated New Year 2011 the YEAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM. Spanning a Martian year of 23 months The Year of the Solar System honours the unparalleled discoveries made during NASA’s missions to explore both our neighbouring planets and also the outer edges of the Solar System. Throughout 2011 and into 2012 there will be new missions in the pipeline for the continued exploration of Jupiter, Earth’s satellite – the Moon, and Mars. Other exploratory missions will include ones to the asteroids and comets, the Sun, Mercury, Saturn and our home world Earth.

FEBRUARY 14 STARDUST NExT SPACECRAFT encounters COMET TEMPL 1, and MESSENGER enters orbit around MERCURY ON MARS 18 FEBRUARY 2011.

Comet Templ 1 NExT_spacecraft Messenger_Mercury

JULY 2011 DAWN SPACECRAFT will enter orbit round giant ASTEROID VESTA. The space probe has will spend one full year hopefully impressing researchers with ground breaking new information from this alien world.

 Dawn_spacecraft_Vesta clip_image011 

AUGUST 11TH JUNO SPACECRAFT TO JUPITER will be launched. And the roving SCIENCE LAB’ CURIOSITY will be launched to MARS IN NOVEMBER 2011.

Juno_Jupiter ScienceLab_Curiosity Mars

2012 Mars Rover OPPORTUNITY will head out into the heart of city sized impact crater ENDEAVOUR having travelled almost 2 miles from Opportunity’s original landing site.

 MarsRover_Opportunity Opportunity_Landing Heading out for Endeavour Crater

 

The DAWN SPACECRAFT will fire up its ion engines and prepare to leave ASTEROID VESTA and for the first time in space history a spacecraft orbiting an alien world will break orbit and head out for another.

Spacecraft on its way to the Asteroids

 

MarsCuriosityThe YEAR OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM ends in August 2012 when the roving nuclear-powered SCIENCE LAB CURIOSITY lands on MARS. CURIOSITY with its advanced sensors and unmatched mobility is expected to open a whole new chapter in the exploration of the Red Planet. 

 

 

 

 

News Flash!!…New Moon Rising!

(Start Howling!!!)

 

New_Moon_WolfWolfMoon (2)WolfMoonRising_Quadrantids

Start Howling! New Moon rising (4 Jan) marks the first phase of the 2011 JANUARY FULL WOLF MOON (19 Jan)

Early morning January 4th will see the New Moon passing in front of a portion of the Sun creating a PARTIAL ECLIPSE, one of four throughout the year but the only one visible from Europe, Africa and E Asia, and from London at 07:47.

Also the darkness of the New Moon makes this an ideal time to view the QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER on 3/4th January which with up to 90 meteors/hour will be the best and brightest shower of the New Year. So don’t forget to go check it out!

Posted January 2, 2011 by europasicewolf in Astronomy

Tagged with , , , , ,

Where Life Begins –Earth and Beyond   10 comments

 

Hydrothermal Origins of Life Theory

 

hydrothermal_ventUntil 1977 scientists believed that all forms of life ultimately depended on the Sun for energy. With the 1977 discovery of the first hydrothermal vent, (Geysers that billow out from the sea floor.) and the teeming, diverse arrays of life surrounding its base Astrobiologists are now believe that life on Earth might have originated in the sulphurous base of hydrothermal vents.

Vent ecosystems are the only system on Earth that we know of where life can thrive in the complete absence of sunlight offering an alternative way for life to meet its fundamental need for energy. They depend on microbes that tap into the geyser water’s chemical energy – energy originating from within the Earth itself.

hydrothermal vent Amino acids, the building blocks of life from which many of the primitive molecules required to jump-start life form from, could have occurred within these hydrothermal vents. Vent environments minimize oxygen and radiation, which can damage primitive molecules. Along with geothermally-heated mineral-rich water these molecules could have been thrown up into cooler waters where life may have originated

Astrobiologists have struggled for years to define the range of conditions in which “life as we know it” could exist. The discovery of hydrothermal vent ecosystems expanded that range. They were the first discovery of life as we don’t know it and suggest this is a realistic and possible scenario.

The ability of life to tap such geothermal energy raises interesting possibilities for other worlds like Jupiter’s moon Europa, and ancient Red planet Mars.

                                                 Europa (Thera and Thrace Macula (2dark features)   Mars

BlackSmokerGeysereuropa Europa is squeezed and stretched by gravitational forces from Jupiter and neighbouring Galilean satellites. Its icy surface has, gradually, broken up and reformed into icebergs, but the core is considered molten. Tidal friction heats Europa’s interior possibly enough to maintain beneath the icy surface, the solar system’s biggest ocean where active hydrothermal vents are believed to exist. Astrobiologists theorize that much like the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of Earth’s oceans the ones in Europa’s dark seas be similar enough to provide all of the ingredients needed to support life.

 

NASANASA is planning to send a probe to Europa within the next 20 years, which will penetrate the ice  layer in search of water and vent debris. Work carried out on Earth suggests that if basic ingredients for the origins of life are there, there is a chance of discovering vent-based life forms,