Archive for the ‘Science’ Tag

New Year 2019 Flyby – Ultima Thule!   19 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!!

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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

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Global Martian Dust Storm   12 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

Another Earth? Exoplanet Kelper-452b   32 comments

What Would it Be Like to Live on Earth’s Cousin?

The discovery of Kelper 452b was announced on 23/05/15, and is 1,400 Light years away.

 

kelper-452b-jpl-nasa

Photo Credit: Kelper 452-b JPL/NASA

An alien experience!

Exoplanet Kelper 452-b is 60% wider than Earth and approximately 5x as massive so much stronger surface gravity.

This provides for a great workout! For the manly among us this essentially means it will make you much stronger 🙂

For everybody chilling on this Earth cousin, the higher gravity would probably lead to significant body changes long term – e.g. becoming stockier built. This is probably not a plus if you’re already on the stocky side…you may become very short and squat…like a rotund garden gnome 😉

 

A Familiar Experience

As this world’s sun is roughly the same distance away as on Earth, the light factor would be much the same as on our home-world and Earth plants transported to its cousin-world could photosynthesis the same as on Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

So Kelper 452-b is similar to Earth but not the same. Its sun is 6 billion years old whereas our Sun is only 4.5 billion years old. Kelper 452-b’s sun is at a far more energetic life-stage therefore it is hotter. And it is about 10% larger and 20% brighter in the sky. Not bad for the sun tan then 😉

Kelper 452-b completes one orbit every 385 days so it’s year is only about 20 days longer than Earth’s. Pretty much home from home.

 

kelper-452-b-jpl-nasa

Photo Credit: Kelper 452-b JPL/NASA

 

“…substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.”

(Jon Jenkins, Kelper data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Moffat Field, California. (Led team that discovered Kelper 452-b)  )

 

 

 

 

It’s Rocket Science!   28 comments

 

It’s Rocket Science! From Space Exploration to 3-D Printing

London Science Museum 2014 (South Kensington)

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

(All photos: Copyright: Europa’s Icewolf 2014)

Roll up! Roll up! 2023: Martian Inhabitants Wanted!   34 comments

 

Mars_MSSS,JPL,NASA

Image Credit:MSSS, JPL, NASA

NASA to Mars 2030

"Interest in sending humans to Mars I think has never been higher. We now stand on the precipice of a second opportunity to press forward to what I think is man’s destiny — to step onto another planet."  NASA chief Charles Bolden at the Humans 2 Mars Summit at George Washington University. (May 6-8 2013)

Yet the road to Mars is long and challenging, and the difficulties are scientific, technological, political and economic,”

“Sending astronauts to the Red Planet (as President Barack Obama has directed NASA to do and to land humans on Mars by the 2030s)  “will likely require at least three missions: one to launch the crew and the vehicle that will take them to Mars, one to launch the habitat humans will live on at the planet’s surface, and one to launch the vehicle that will lift off from Mars to take the crew home,“ said Doug Cooke, a former NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate who now heads a space consulting firm.

"To me this is one of the biggest challenges," Mike Raftery, director of space station utilization and exploration at Boeing, the primary contractor for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket being developed to go to Mars. "We have to essentially land a launch pad on the surface that’s then ready to launch the crew back to Earth.”

This will be no small challenge as to date, NASA has been unable to land more than 1 metric ton at a time on the surface of Mars — the Curiosity Rover. With a total 200 to 400 metric tons of equipment requiring delivery to the surface of Mars after being launched from Earth at the rate of 40 metric tons per trip, clearly this could prove problematic.

k_cburns_redorbit_dailyorbit_3-19-13_001_001_previewEngineers will have to develop a means to shield the Mars crews from dangerous radiation both en-route and on the surface of the Red Planet where the atmosphere is too thin to shield them as it does on Earth. They will also have to bring their own life-support systems, medicine, food, communications systems and navigation equipment.habitat_science1.nasa.gov

"It’s very likely that we’ll send some kind of lander or rover to the site we want to send people to first, to drill a couple meters down to tell us if we have fresh water," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate. Such a spacecraft could also serve as a beacon to guide the crewed lander down to the chosen spot on Mars. 

"We’re going to have to rely on being able to live off the land," said James Reuther of NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. "Those will require significant technology investments in order to actually bring that about."

Explore Mars.Org

ExploreMars Summit_h2m.exploremars.org

Despite the challenges involved, many NASA and industry experts expressed confidence it can be done. In the words of Artemis Westenberg, president of Explore Mars Inc., the non-profit space advocacy group that organized the conference:Dragon_landing_on_Mars_exploremars.org

"In the coming days we have the opportunity to write history, to determine the future of humankind. We of Explore Mars give you this platform of this three-day summit. Now all you have to do is tell each other and the world the ‘how’ of getting to Mars.” (via Space.com)

emheader

Mars One 2016

Mars_One_theregister.co.uk

The organisers of the Mars One project (a Dutch group, led by Bas Lansdorp, a researcher from the Netherlands with a Masters in Science from Delft University of Technology) think they have the answers to this quandary. They have seemingly jumped ahead of NASA, announcing ambitious plans to, execute the first fully commercial campaign of human exploration and development of Mars,” and have high hope of establishing the first settlers of a Mars colony by 2023.

By 2016 they intend to send a communications satellite to the Red Planet, following it up with additional time phased flights across succeeding years, before the actual landing of a foundation crew of permanent Mars colonists. The optimistic claim on their website states that:

“Mars One will establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2023. A habitable settlement will be waiting for the settlers when they land.”

Following the establishment of the foundation crew on the Red Planet, an additional group of new settlers will be sent to join them on a regular two-yearly basis, thereby expanding the colony.

Mars One_thetimes.co.ukmars20one20infographics

Mars One has no shortage of industry support and their suppliers include, ILC Dover, MDA Corporation, Paragon Space Development, SpaceX, Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), and Thales Alenia Space.

“SSTL believes that the commercialization of space exploration is vital in order to bring down the costs and schedules. Mars-One is an imaginative venture making use of existing technology and SSTL is highly motivated to support this initiative,”  Sir Martin Sweeting, Founder and Executive Chairman of SSTL.

“I believe that the endeavour holds great promise and Paragon is prepared to manufacture and integrate the Mars One life support, thermal control, and space suit systems,” Jane Poynter, President and Chairwoman at Paragon Space Development Corporation

          Entrance_to_SpaceX_headquarters_en.wikipedia.orgFalconheavy_zeenews.india.comspacex_mars_colony_space4peace.org

The cost of launching the initial crew of four Martian colonists and landing them on the Red Planet, in addition to the utilisation of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, will involve costs in the region of $6 billion, according to Mars One. Besides building their environment the colonists will also be tasked with answering questions regarding the on-going mystery of whether life in fact does exist on Mars and also the history of the neighbouring planet.

Astronaut selections (40 in total will be chosen) for the first manned Mars mission have already begun and applications have rolled in, in vast numbers. Potential applicants should however remember; this is a one-way trip! Mars One has no plans and no way of bringing you back! You will never set foot on Earth again…you will never breathe the air of Earth again…and you certainly won’t be able to Skype your friends and family!

Mars One_overclock.net

Further Information:

Mars One Mission and Vision

Mars 2023: Inhabitants Wanted! Apply Now!

Sources:  redOrbit.com

       space.com

mars-one.com

Fire in the Sky   15 comments

 

  

Fire in the Sky

Great Solar Storm of 1849
 
250 years ago fire lit up the skies of our predecessors world, turning night into day, wreaking havoc with the technology of the time.  Now, in the  closing days of the year 2009 and as we roll inexorably closer to New Year 2010 we stand on a pinnacle between worlds, a centre-point between past and future.  As in the year 2349, if humankind still inhabits the Earth, they, the children of the future will see once again that fire that will light up the skies. Because when 500 years of our time has passed the Great Solar Storm of 1849 is set to return to that future world…
 

This spectacular event was caused by a period of intense solar activity….
 

London saw curtains of light dancing in the skies above the Houses of Parliament.  In Cheshire newsprint could be read by its light. In Manchester people throughout the city had curtains of fire.

·         Two massive solar events; Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) sent millions of tonnes of supercharged solar gases hurtling towards Earth at 2,000+ km/sec.  Arriving in less than 18 hours they struck with enough force to throw our protective magnetic field into chaotic fits.

 ·       This magnetic disruption caused the readings on worldwide scientific instruments recording changes in Earth’s magnetic field to go completely off their scales. The communication system of the time became inoperable.

Night became day in the Northern Hemisphere and the resulting lights in the sky were reported by half the world as far South as the Caribbean and Venezuela……

 

The Coronal Mass Ejections may have been triggered by flare events resulting in a massive ejection of plasma from the Sun’s atmosphere (Corona)

 

Since we live in an electronic society the effects on modern society would be disastrous.  

·         Satellites would fail and potentially fall out of orbit

 

 

  • Electricity grids would be overwhelmed
  • Country-wide blackouts
  • Global communication systems would simply stop working

 

Following the Solar Storm the magnetic field was so distorted and overwhelmed that the Northern Lights appeared all over the planet.  This happens every 500 years or so. Next Storm expected in the year 2349.