Cassini Reveals Saturn’s Hexagon Border


Oh Cassini, have I mentioned lately how much I admire you? In October 2015, https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/cassinis-curtain-call/ defined you as NASA’s unassuming civil servant, know that your exemplary service to humanity will never be forgotten.

On April 26, 2017 Cassini embarked on the first of 22 dives toward the heart of Saturn. Sliding dutifully between Saturn’s inner ring and outer atmosphere, Cassini encountered little resistance. Unaware of external trepidation, oblivious to collective relief she wasn’t obliterated by cosmic debris, Cassini documented her journey with stoic pride.

On May 4, 2017 NASA released this video, a Cassini eye view exposing mysteries of Saturn’s hexagon north pole cloud system and central vortex. Images that suggest neighboring hexagon and vortex clouds never mix –

In September 2017 a wild abandon death plunge toward Saturn will terminate the mission. Cameras rolling, Cassini’s demise will cement the legacy of an unassuming civil servant determined to advance science.

Outstanding link to Cassini timeline –

https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/the-journey/timeline/#saturn-orbit-insertion

Pondering Cassini’s Imminent Demise


April 26, 2017 marks the beginning of NASA’s Cassini Mission end. Twenty years from home, fuel supplies close to exhaustion, Cassini’s imminent demise starts with the first of 22 planned dives between the rings of Saturn. The final plunge on September 22,2017 will lay Cassini to rest somewhere in the arms of Saturn. Mindful of protecting one of Saturn’s 62 moons from impact of an out of control space probe, Cassini’s assisted suicide is planned to maximize scientific discovery.

http://earthsky.org/space/cassini-at-saturn-grand-finale-2017?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=0b882ebc2e-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-0b882ebc2e-393970565&mc_cid=0b882ebc2e&mc_eid=a5b828713b

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA said – “No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times. What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”

These videos give me goosebumps. Oh Cassini, know your service to humanity mattered.

Timeline of Cassini Mission – https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/the-journey/timeline/#saturn-orbit-insertion

 

April 11, 2017 Full Pink Moon


Roughly every twenty nine and a half days, a full moon occurs when sunlight fully illuminates Earth facing side of the Moon. Phases of the Moon are a matter of perspective, perceptible refracted light in relation to lunar orbit define phases of the Moon. We see a full moon when it orbits on the exact opposite side of Earth from the Sun.

Depending on where you live the first full northern hemisphere spring, southern hemisphere fall moon falls on April 11, 2017. Native American  tribes dubbed spring’s first full moon the Pink Moon, named for wild pink ground phlox, the first bloom of spring. Also known as the Flower, Sprouting Grass, Egg and Fish Moon, spring’s first full Pink Moon is believed to have originated on America’s east coast with native Algonquin tribes.

http://fullmoonphases.com/pink-moon/

http://www.space.com/36040-april-full-moon.html?utm_source=sp-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20170410-sdc

If you happen to fall under pink moonlight, ponder long ago and once upon a time. Gaze into the night, embrace prickles of instinctive wisdom with reverence for people who once called spring’s first full moon pink.Next, listen to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon….

 

2014 JO25


On April 19, 2017 the orbit of 1 km wide asteroid 2014 JO25 will pass 4.6 LD ( 1,768,239 km ) from Earth. In astronomical terms anything within 100 LD is considered a PHA (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid ) 1 LD = distance from Earth to the Moon ( 384,400 km ). Stacked against vastness of the cosmos, 4.6 LD miss by a behemoth projectile amounts to humanity winning the lottery.

2014 JO25 will pass without consequence, no harm no foul. From NASA –

“There are no known future encounters by 2014 JO25 as close as the one in 2017 through 2500. It will be among the strongest asteroid radar targets of the year. The 2017 flyby is the closest by an asteroid at least this large since the encounter by 4179 Toutatis at four lunar distances in September 2004. The next known flyby by an object with a comparable or larger diameter will occur when 800-m-diameter asteroid 1999 AN10 approaches within one lunar distance in August 2027.”

From Earthsky –

“For backyard observers, the exciting news is that asteroid 2014 JO25 might be be visible moving across the stars though 8″-diameter and bigger telescopes. Can it be seen with smaller telescopes? Maybe, but in order to be able to detect its motion across the stars, at least an 8″ scope will be required. The asteroid will not be visible to the unaided eye, as it may show a brightness or magnitude between 10 and 11.

The asteroid is currently located in the direction of the sun, but – during the first hours of April 19 – the space rock will come into view for telescopes as it crosses the constellation of Draco. Then, during the night of April 19, asteroid 2014 JO25 will seem to move across the skies covering the distance equivalent to the moon’s diameter in about 18 minutes.

The asteroid will be close to star 41 Comae, which is very close to Beta Comae. This star is magnitude 4 and thus visible to the unaided eye. Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.

That’s fast enough for its motion to be detected though an amateur telescope. The best strategy to catch the space rock in your telescope is to observe a star known to be in the asteroid’s path, and wait for it.

If you are looking at the correct time and direction, the asteroid will appear as a very slowly moving “star.” Although its distance from us will make the space rock appear to move slowly, it is in fact traveling though space at a speed of 75,072 mph (120,816 km/h)!

Because it will appear to move very slowly, observers should take a good look at a reference star for a few minutes (not seconds) to detect the moving object.

Although asteroid 2014 JO25 will be closest to Earth on the morning of Wednesday, April 19, 2017, (around 7:24 a.m. Central Time / 12:24 UTC) the space rock may look a bit brighter (but still only visible in telescopes) during the night of April 19, because the asteroid will be at a higher elevation in our skies.”

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/large-asteroid-2014-jo25-close-april-19-2017-how-to-see?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=f53b69e38c-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-f53b69e38c-393970565&mc_cid=f53b69e38c&mc_eid=a5b828713b

Ponder The Known Universe


In 2009 the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) debuted The Known Universe for an exhibit at Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. AMNH and Hayden Planetarium astrophysicists resourced Digital Universe Atlas to produce five and a half minutes capable of unfurling the sternest brow. Our world would be a better place if everyone stopped talking long enough to ponder a space video before bed.

http://www.amnh.org/our-research/hayden-planetarium/digital-universe/

Help Find Planet 9


In January 2016 Caltech astronomers publicly theorized existence of a behemoth ninth planet orbiting the Sun.  Observations of orbital anomalies in the Kuiper Belt (a massive ring of cosmic debris extending beyond Neptune – home to once a planet Pluto and estimated 100,000 neighbors measuring over 100 Km ) hypothesized a yet to be discovered gargantuan mass was responsible for peculiar behavior of Kuiper Belt residents. In theory a planetary mass ten times greater than Earth, completes an elongated orbit a thousand times farther from the Sun once every 15-20 thousand years – astronomers dubbed it Planet 9.

This diagram show the orbits of several Kuiper Belt objects that were used to infer the existence of Planet 9. Image via ASU.

Contrary to conspiracy, alien, biblical and doomsday jibber-jabber, no proof of Planet 9 exists – science has a theory based on seven years of  sky maps courtesy the WISE space telescope (see link below). Launched in 2009, WISE was designed to detect low level infrared light, light emissions consistent with planets. WISE buckled down – over 750 million curious infrared light sources later, science needs our help.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/wise/

If Planet 9 is out there, chances are WISE has digital proof somewhere within those 750 million and counting infrared hits. Missing are enough eyes to systematically scan images for indications an object moves “apart” from surrounding cosmic pixels. Enter Zooniverse Backyard Worlds –

“We need your help searching for new objects at the edges of our solar system. In this project, we’ll ask you to help us distinguish real celestial objects from image artifacts in data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. The real objects are brown dwarfs and low-mass stars, the Sun’s nearest neighbors. You may find an object closer than Proxima Centauri (the closest star to the Sun) or even discover the Sun’s hypothesized ninth planet, which models suggest might appear in these images.

What are the Sun’s nearest neighbors? You may have heard of Proxima Centauri, the star nearest the sun. But most of the Sun’s nearest neighbors are not stars, but brown dwarfs, balls of gas too big to be called planets but too small to be called stars. We’ve learned by extrapolating from recent discoveries that there is likely a hidden population of brown dwarfs floating by the solar system. This population contains the coldest known brown dwarfs, known as “Y dwarfs,” which are very similar to planets that just don’t orbit other stars. Together, we will try to find these rogue worlds to better understand how both stars and planets form.”

Backyard Worlds needs fresh eyes and plenty of them. Science doesn’t care who you are, what you do or if Kuiper Belt sounds like a foreign language – science needs help. Participants whose efforts lead to discovery will be given full credit. What are you waiting for? Join the search for Planet 9.

A previously cataloged brown dwarf named WISE 0855-0714 shows up as a moving orange dot (upper left) in this loop of WISE images spanning 5 years. By viewing movies like this, anyone can help discover more brown dwarfs or even a 9th planet. Image via ASU/ NASA/WISE.

http://earthsky.org/space/help-astronomers-look-for-planet-9?mc_cid=146840be1a&mc_eid=a5b828713b

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/marckuchner/backyard-worlds-planet-9