NASA JPL and Invisible Creature Speaks have released a set of three gorgeous retro-art style space tourism themed posters: New Work: Visions Of The Future for NASA – Invisible Creature –
These 3 commissioned pieces are part of JPL’s Visions Of The Future 2016 Calendar – an internal gift to JPL and NASA staff, as well as scientists, engineers, government and university staff. The artwork for each month will also be released as a free downloadable poster at the NASA JPL site soon.
NASA JPL was kind enough to let us sell our own limited-edition signed posters and prints. Those are available here.
Got to see the #SuperBowl in person after all! But at 17,500MPH, it didn’t last long. #YearInSpace
Drag the cursor on this image to see the 360 degree view of the Namib Dune on Mars where the Curiosity rover was exploring in December:
This view of the downwind face of “Namib Dune” on Mars covers 360 degrees, including a portion of Mount Sharp on the horizon. The site is part of the dark-sand “Bagnold Dunes” field along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. Images taken from orbit indicate that dunes in the Bagnold field move as much as about 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year.
The component images of this scene were taken on Dec. 18, 2015, by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover during the 1,197th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.
The bottom of the dune nearest the rover is about 23 feet (7 meters) from the camera. This downwind face of the dune rises at an inclination of about 28 degrees to a height of about 16 feet (5 meters) above the base. The center of the scene is toward the east; both ends are toward the west.
A color adjustment has been made approximating a white balance, so that rocks and sand appear approximately as they would appear under Earth’s sunlit sky. A brightness adjustment accommodates including rover hardware in the scene.
The mission’s examination of dunes in the Bagnold field, along the rover’s route up the lower slope of Mount Sharp, is the first close look at active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover’s Mastcam. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover.
Photojournal Note: Also available is the full resolution TIFF file PIA20284_full.tif. This file may be too large to view from a browser; it can be downloaded onto your desktop by right-clicking on the previous link and viewed with image viewing software.
1. Monday, Feb. 8, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST; 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. ERIK SEEDHOUSE to discuss his new book on the Dragon capsule.
2. Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016,7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. JOHN BRANDENBURG for Part 2 of his Space Show program trilogy.
3. Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, 2016; 9:30-11AM PST; (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30AM – 1 PM CST. We welcome back ANATOLY ZAK and for the first time DEBRA WERNER to discuss their Oct. 2015 article in Aerospace America on astronaut safety. The article is available online at …AA_Oct2015_MaximizingSafety_Feature1 (pdf).
4. Sunday, Feb. 14., 2016: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. MARK BRODWIN to discuss galaxies, galaxy formation, and new galaxy discoveries. Dr. Brodwin was a recent Hotel Mars guest on these subjects.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
This week we ask, “Where in the solar system should we explore next? And should it be with humans, robots or both?”
News topics discussed:
* Eutelsat 3B launched via Proton
* Beidou launch on LongMarch 3C
* GPS 2F-12 launch via Atlas V
* Updates on the SLS Secondary Payloads and CubeQuest Challenge
* Big Game to air on the ISS
* Hills of water ice float on a nitrogen sea on Pluto
* Europe is investing in the Dreamchaser Space plane
* Cosmonauts : How Russia Won The Space Race documentary
* James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror fully assembled
TMRO is viewer supported:
TMRO Live Show are crowd funded. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/tmro for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our SpacePod campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/spacepod
Check out this wonderful time-lapse video from the project SKYGLOW, which includes great views of the night sky: A Meteorite Explodes Over the Mojave in This Incredible Timelapse Video – Gizmodo
A couple of other Skyglow videos:
Harvard College astrophysics student Nina Hooper gives a TEDx talk on the potential of asteroid mining: Spotlight TEDx Talk: How asteroid mining could help us live in space – TEDx Innovations Blog
Imagine a world with ubiquitous, affordable space travel, where getting in a spaceship is no stranger than getting in an airplane. Harvard undergraduate Nina Hooper, an astrophysics student, shows how mining asteroids for platinum could be the way to make space travel cheap and accessible to civilians.
Nina Hooper is a Harvard College student from Melbourne, Australia studying astrophysics. She loves traveling and adventure and is working towards what she believes is the ultimate adventure – going to space. She is also a private pilot, a songwriter and a major foodie. Nina intends to pursue a graduate degree in aerospace and astrospace engineering either in the US or UK.
The latest NASA “Space to Ground” report on activities related to the International Space Station:
Update: A TMRO Space Pod on ISS research: Why do we blow money on the International Space Station? – Space Pod 2/2/16 – TMRO
Former Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk chats to TMRO correspondent Lisa Stojanovski about how International Space Station research benefits Earth and how it can inspire the next generation of astronauts.
The latest ESO (European Southern Observatory) report:
Astronomers have used the ALMA and IRAM telescopes to make the first direct measurement of the temperature of the large dust grains in the outer parts of a planet-forming disc around a young star. By applying a novel technique to observations of an object nicknamed the Flying Saucer they find that the grains are much colder than expected: −266 degrees Celsius. This surprising result suggests that models of these discs may need to be revised.
The international team, led by Stephane Guilloteau at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, France, measured the temperature of large dust grains around the young star 2MASS J16281370-2431391 in the spectacular Rho Ophiuchi star formation region, about 400 light-years from Earth.
This star is surrounded by a disc of gas and dust — such discs are called protoplanetary discs as they are the early stages in the creation of planetary systems. This particular disc is seen nearly edge-on, and its appearance in visible light pictures has led to its being nicknamed the Flying Saucer.
The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe the glow coming from carbon monoxide molecules in the 2MASS J16281370-2431391 disc. They were able to create very sharp images and found something strange — in some cases they saw a negative signal! Normally a negative signal is physically impossible, but in this case there is an explanation, which leads to a surprising conclusion.
This video takes us on a journey to the young star 2MASS J16281370-2431391 in the spectacular Rho Ophiuchi star formation region, about 400 light-years from Earth. This star is surrounded by a disc of gas and dust — a protoplanetary disc, the early stage in the creation of a planetary system. This particular disc is seen nearly edge-on, and its appearance in visible light pictures has led to its being nicknamed the Flying Saucer.
The final close-up infrared view of the Flying Saucer comes from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Lead author Stephane Guilloteau takes up the story:
“This disc is not observed against a black and empty night sky. Instead it’s seen in silhouette in front of the glow of the Rho Ophiuchi Nebula. This diffuse glow is too extended to be detected by ALMA, but the disc absorbs it. The resulting negative signal means that parts of the disc are colder than the background. The Earth is quite literally in the shadow of the Flying Saucer!”
The team combined the ALMA measurements of the disc with observations of the background glow made with the IRAM 30-metre telescope in Spain . They derived a disc dust grain temperature of only −266 degrees Celsius (only 7 degrees above absolute zero, or 7 Kelvin) at a distance of about 15 billion kilometres from the central star . This is the first direct measurement of the temperature of large grains (with sizes of about one millimetre) in such objects.
This temperature is much lower than the −258 to −253 degrees Celsius (15 to 20 Kelvin) that most current models predict. To resolve the discrepancy, the large dust grains must have different properties than those currently assumed, to allow them to cool down to such low temperatures.
“To work out the impact of this discovery on disc structure, we have to find what plausible dust properties can result in such low temperatures. We have a few ideas — for example the temperature may depend on grain size, with the bigger grains cooler than the smaller ones. But it is too early to be sure,” adds co-author Emmanuel di Folco (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux).
If these low dust temperatures are found to be a normal feature of protoplanetary discs this may have many consequences for understanding how they form and evolve.
For example, different dust properties will affect what happens when these particles collide, and thus their role in providing the seeds for planet formation. Whether the required change in dust properties is significant or not in this respect cannot yet be assessed.
Low dust temperatures can also have a major impact for the smaller dusty discs that are known to exist. If these discs are composed of mostly larger, but cooler, grains than is currently supposed, this would mean that these compact discs can be arbitrarily massive, so could still form giant planets comparatively close to the central star.
Further observations are needed, but it seems that the cooler dust found by ALMA may have significant consequences for the understanding of protoplanetary discs.
- China releases hundreds of moon images to public – Globalnews.ca
- Yutu gallery – The Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration
Here’s a sample:
Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society talks about the images: Fun with a new data set: Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover camera data – The Planetary Society
The latest results from the New Horizons probe:
Data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft point to more prevalent water ice on Pluto’s surface than previously thought.
This false-color image, derived from observations in infrared light by the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument, shows where the spectral features of water ice are abundant on Pluto’s surface. It is based on two LEISA scans of Pluto obtained on July 14, 2015, from a range of about 67,000 miles (108,000 kilometers).
The scans, taken about 15 minutes apart, were stitched into a combined multispectral Pluto “data cube” covering the full hemisphere visible to New Horizons as it flew past Pluto. A data cube like this is a three-dimensional array in which an image of Pluto is formed at each LEISA-sensitive wavelength.
Water ice is Pluto’s crustal “bedrock,” the canvas on which its more volatile ices paint their seasonally changing patterns. Initial New Horizons maps of Pluto’s water ice bedrock compared LEISA spectra with a pure water ice template spectrum, resulting in the map at left.
A disadvantage of that technique is that water ice’s spectral signature is easily masked by methane ice, so that map was only sensitive to areas that were especially rich in water ice and/or depleted in methane. The much more sensitive method used on the right involves modeling the contributions of Pluto’s various ices all together. This method, too, has limitations in that it can only map ices included in the model, but the team is continually adding more data and improving the model.
The new map shows exposed water ice to be considerably more widespread across Pluto’s surface than was previously known — an important discovery. But despite its much greater sensitivity, the map still shows little or no water ice in the informally named places called Sputnik Planum (the left or western region of Pluto’s “heart”) and Lowell Regio (far north on the encounter hemisphere). This indicates that at least in these regions, Pluto’s icy bedrock is well hidden beneath a thick blanket of other ices such as methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
This image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is the first look at Pluto’s atmosphere in infrared wavelengths, and the first image of the atmosphere made with data from the New Horizons Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument.
In this image, sunlight is coming from above and behind Pluto. The image was captured on July 14, 2015, while New Horizons was about 112,000 miles (180,000 kilometers) away. The image covers LEISA’s full spectral range (1.25 to 2.5 microns), which is divided into thirds, with the shortest third being put into the blue channel, middle third into the green channel, and longest into the red channel. North in this image is around the 10 o’clock position.
The blue ring around Pluto is caused by sunlight scattering from haze particles common in Pluto’s atmosphere; scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles – a fraction of a micrometer in size – which scatter sunlight to make the blue haze. The new infrared image, when combined with earlier images made at shorter, visible wavelengths, gives scientists new clues into the size distribution of the particles.
The whitish patches around Pluto’s limb in this image are sunlight bouncing off more reflective or smoother areas on Pluto’s surface – with the largest patch being the western section of the informally named Cthulhu Regio. Future LEISA observations returned to Earth should capture the remainder of the haze, missing from the lower section of the image.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.
This NASA JPL video points to highlights in the night sky for February:
Set your alarm! Five planets will be visible in the early morning sky until Feb. 20. Plus, learn what other celestial objects will be visible this month.
1. Monday, Feb. 1, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST; 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. JOHN BRANDENBURG Mars update and his challenge for a debate.
2. Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016,7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome back ROBERT (BOB) ZIMMERMAN for space news updates and more.
4. Sunday, Feb., 2016: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): We welcome back JIM FUNARO to tell us about the upcoming Contact Conference.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The latest episode of the TMRO.tv live show is now in the archive: Is there such a thing as Safe Space travel? – TMRO
This week we ask the questions, “Is there such a thing as safe space travel? Than there ever be safe space travel? And would you fly to space now or after we make it safer?”
News topics examined:
* Belintersat 1 Launch via Long March 3B
* JASON-3 Launch via Falcon 9 1.1
* IRNSS 1E Launch via PSLV
* Intelsat 29e Launch via Ariane 5
* Drones Flying Out of Spaceport America
* Curiosity suffers a sampling system hiccup
* Blue Origin Update
* Recovered Falcon 9 booster fires again at Cape Canaveral
* Planet Nine? Not so fast… Planet X?
TMRO is viewer supported:
TMRO Live Shows are crowd funded. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/tmro for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our SpacePod campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/spacepod
Here’s the latest Space to Ground report on activities related to the Int. Space Station this week:
The movie was produced by members of Dawn’s framing camera team at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, using images from Dawn’s high-altitude mapping orbit. During that phase of the mission, which lasted from August to October 2015, the spacecraft circled Ceres at an altitude of about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers).
“The simulated overflight shows the wide range of crater shapes that we have encountered on Ceres. The viewer can observe the sheer walls of the crater Occator, and also Dantu and Yalode, where the craters are a lot flatter,” said Ralf Jaumann, a Dawn mission scientist at DLR.
Dawn is the first mission to visit Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. After orbiting asteroid Vesta for 14 months in 2011 and 2012, Dawn arrived at Ceres in March 2015. The spacecraft is currently in its final and lowest mapping orbit, at about 240 miles (385 kilometers) from the surface.
Dawn’s mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of mission participants, visit:
Presented by Encompass New Opera Theatre
Breathtaking images of the galaxies and outer space ignite this modern tale of a young man who dreams of space travel and flying to Mars. Guided by a mysterious stranger who challenges his views on creation and fuels his desire to become an astronaut, the young man discovers romance and a drive to succeed, which catapults his blast off into space, transforming his life. With stunning projections, an exciting percussive score for chamber orchestra, and gorgeous vocal music, The Astronaut’s Tale is a luminous glimpse at a multidimensional universe and the majesty of outer space.
Music by Charles Fussell
Libretto by Jack Larson
Directed by Nancy Rhodes
Conducted by Nicholas DeMaison
Sets by Stephen H. Carmody
Projections by Lianne Arnold
Costumes by Angela Huff
Lighting by Sarah Johnston
Additional details about the work can be found at The Astronaut’s Tale – Encompass New Opera Theatre.
The end of January and the beginning of February bring anniversaries of US space program catastrophes. Today marks 30 years since the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that led to the deaths of Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
And next Monday, Feb. 1st, will mark the 13th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in which Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon were killed.
- Challenger – January 28, 1986
- Space Shuttle Challenger disaster – Wikipedia
- Reporters recall Challenger disaster 30 years later – CBS News
- Reporters remember Challenger coverage – Spaceflight Now
- The Challenger seven remembered 30 years after STS-51L – NASASpaceFlight.com
- The Space Shuttle Challenger Exploded 30 Years Ago – TIME
- Columbia – February 1, 2003
- Apollo 1 – January 27, 1967
- Challenger lessons still unlearned after 30 years – Rand Simberg/USA Today
- Remembrance is Not Enough – Wayne Hale’s Blog
- Was the Space Shuttle Really Worth It? Op/Ed by Popular Mechanics Editor-In-Chief Jim Meigs
- SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the Legacy of the Challenger Shuttle Disaster – The Atlantic
ESO (European Southern Oberservatory) has a new report out:
Many galaxies are chock-full of dust, while others have occasional dark streaks of opaque cosmic soot swirling in amongst their gas and stars. However, the subject of this new image, snapped with the OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, is unusual — the small galaxy, named IC 1613, is a veritable clean freak! IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. This is not just a matter of appearances; the galaxy’s cleanliness is vital to our understanding of the Universe around us.Max Wolf discovered IC 1613’s faint glow in 1906. In 1928, his compatriot Walter Baade used the more powerful 2.5-metre telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California to successfully make out its individual stars. From these observations, astronomers figured out that the galaxy must be quite close to the Milky Way, as it is only possible to resolve single pinprick-like stars in the very nearest galaxies to us.
Astronomers have since confirmed that IC 1613 is indeed a member of the Local Group, a collection of more than 50 galaxies that includes our home galaxy, the Milky Way. IC 1613 itself lies just over 2.3 million light-years away from us. It is relatively well-studied due to its proximity; astronomers have found it to be an irregular dwarf that lacks many of the features, such as a starry disc, found in some other diminutive galaxies.
This sequence starts with a broad view of the rather faint constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). As we zoom, we close in on a faint, but nearby galaxy, IC 1613. The final detailed image, captured with the OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, shows an unusually clean small galaxy. IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. Credit: ESO/A. Fujii/Digitised Sky Survey 2. Music: Johan B. Monell (www.johanmonell.com)
However, what IC 1613 lacks in form, it makes up for in tidiness. We know IC 1613’s distance to a remarkably high precision, partly due to the unusually low levels of dust lying both within the galaxy and along the line of sight from the Milky Way — something that enables much clearer observations .
The second reason we know the distance to IC 1613 so precisely is that the galaxy hosts a number of notable stars of two types: Cepheid variables and RR Lyrae variables . Both types of star rhythmically pulsate, growing characteristically bigger and brighter at fixed intervals (eso1311).
As we know from our daily lives on Earth, shining objects such as light bulbs or candle flames appear dimmer the further they are away from us. Astronomers can use this simple piece of logic to figure out exactly how far away things are in the Universe— so long as they know how bright they really are, referred to as their intrinsic brightness.
Cepheid and RR Lyrae variables have the special property that their period of brightening and dimming is linked directly to their intrinsic brightness. So, by measuring how quickly they fluctuate astronomers can work out their intrinsic brightness. They can then compare these values to their apparent measured brightness and work out how far away they must be to appear as dim as they do.
Stars of known intrinsic brightness can act like standard candles, as astronomers say, much like how a candle with a specific brightness would act as a good gauge of distance intervals based on the observed brightness of its flame’s flicker.
Using standard candles — such as the variable stars within IC 1613 and the less-common Type Ia supernova explosions, which can seen across far greater cosmic distances — astronomers have pieced together a cosmic distance ladder, reaching deeper and deeper into space.
Decades ago, IC 1613 helped astronomers work out how to utilise variable stars to chart the Universe’s grand expanse. Not bad for a little, shapeless galaxy.
This video sequence takes a close look at a new image, captured with the OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, showing an unusually clean small galaxy. IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. Credit: ESO. Music: Johan B. Monell (www.johanmonell.com)
 OmegaCAM is a 32-CCD, 256-million-pixel camera mounted on the 2.6-metre VLT Survey Telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile. Click here to view more images taken by OmegaCAM.
 Cosmic dust is made of various heavier elements, such as carbon and iron, as well as larger, grainier molecules. Not only does dust block out light, making dust-shrouded objects harder to see, it also preferentially scatters bluer light. As a result, cosmic dust makes objects appear redder when seen through our telescopes than they are in reality. Astronomers can factor out this reddening when studying objects. Still, the less reddening, the more precise an observation is likely to be.
 Other than the two Magellanic Clouds, IC 1613 is the only irregular dwarf galaxy in the Local Group in which RR Lyrae type variable stars have been identified.