NASA Honors Second Anniversary Of New Horizons Pluto Encounter


Launched January 19, 2006 NASA’s New Horizons probe buckled down, unfazed by billions of miles between Earth and mission objectives – exploration of Pluto, Pluto’s moons and the Kuiper Belt. A few days ago, July 14, 2017 marked the second anniversary of New Horizons first fly-by of once a planet Pluto.

https://www.space.com/37485-new-horizons-pluto-flyby-anniversary-two-years.html

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, capturing this near-sunset view of the dwarf planet’s icy mountains and flat ice plains. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) from Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 km) wide. – https://www.space.com/16533-pluto-new-horizons-spacecraft-pictures.html

Ponder New Horizons at – https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/new-horizons-nearing-pluto/

To honour New Horizon’s second “closest fly-by” of Pluto anniversary, NASA released two short commemorative videos –

 

The magnitude of New Horizons defies comprehension, it’s tough to fathom 7.5 billion kilometers culminating in near perfect dalliance with outer edges of our solar system. Rather than dismiss New Horizons for lack of tangible perspectives, ponder distance and time traveled with new eyes. Invite New Horizons images for tea, sip politely, let cosmic wonder tickle your toes. Laugh out loud when I tell you New Horizons has enough spring in her step to cross 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto for a hand shake with asteroid 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. Beyond that, New Horizons will wait as only good soldiers can. Ready to rise from trenches when fresh orders dictate another charge into the great unknown.

https://astronomynow.com/2017/01/22/new-horizons-to-continue-mission-of-discovery-with-kuiper-belt-encounter/

Ponder Solar Timelapse


SDO, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory left for work on February 11, 2010. Seven years later and counting, SDO faithfully watches the Sun in different wavelengths. Different wavelengths reveal temperature variances in vivid colour, mesmerizing real time images unlocking mysteries of our sun.

Follow this link to live SDO solar images – https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/the-sun-now/index.html Better still – lose yourself in this stunning timelapse woven from five unblinking years of SDO surveillance.

 

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

 

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

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

Landing On Pluto


Last week NASA released a video compilation of New Horizons 2015 landing on Pluto.

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto — starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon — and leading up to an eventual ride in for a “landing” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia.
To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.
After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The original black-and-white “landing” movie can be viewed at:
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/N…