Early on September 07, 2018, UTC, NASA’s Juno probe successfully performed her Perijove-15 Jupiter flyby. Like during most of the recent Jupiter flybys, good contact to Earth and incremented storage allowed taking close-up images of good quality.
The movie is a reconstruction of the 112 minutes between 2018-09-07T00:30:00.000 and 2018-09-07T02:22:00.000 in 125-fold time-lapse. It is based on 25 of the JunoCam images taken, and on spacecraft trajectory data provided via SPICE kernel files.
In steps of five real-time seconds, one still images of the movie has been rendered from at least one suitable raw image. This resulted in short scenes, usually of a few seconds. Playing with 25 images per second results in 125-fold time-lapse.
The Chinese rocket company OneSpace launched a OS-X suborbital rocket on Thursday powered by a solid-fueled motor, which typically produce more rapid acceleration than liquid-fueled engines. The launch was captured in a remarkable video by a Chinese imaging satellite:
Here’s what the launch looked like from the ground:
After snagging a new rock sample on Aug. 9, NASA’s Curiosity rover surveyed its surroundings on Mars, producing a 360-degree panorama of its current location on Vera Rubin Ridge.
The panorama includes umber skies, darkened by a fading global dust storm. It also includes a rare view by the Mast Camera of the rover itself, revealing a thin layer of dust on Curiosity’s deck. In the foreground is the rover’s most recent drill target, named “Stoer” after a town in Scotland near where important discoveries about early life on Earth were made in lakebed sediments.
The new drill sample delighted Curiosity’s science team, because the rover’s last two drill attempts were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks. Curiosity started using a new drill method earlier this year to work around a mechanical problem. Testing has shown it to be as effective at drilling rocks as the old method, suggesting the hard rocks would have posed a problem no matter which method was used.
There’s no way for Curiosity to determine exactly how hard a rock will be before drilling it, so for this most recent drilling activity, the rover team made an educated guess. An extensive ledge on the ridge was thought to include harder rock, able to stand despite wind erosion; a spot below the ledge was thought more likely to have softer, erodible rocks. That strategy seems to have panned out, but questions still abound as to why Vera Rubin Ridge exists in the first place.
The rover has never encountered a place with so much variation in color and texture, according to Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL leads the Mars Science Laboratory mission that Curiosity is a part of.
“The ridge isn’t this monolithic thing — it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colors,” Vasavada said. “Some are visible to the eye and even more show up when we look in near-infrared, just beyond what our eyes can see. Some seem related to how hard the rocks are.”
The best way to discover why these rocks are so hard is to drill them into a powder for the rover’s two internal laboratories. Analyzing them might reveal what’s acting as “cement” in the ridge, enabling it to stand despite wind erosion. Most likely, Vasavada said, groundwater flowing through the ridge in the ancient past had a role in strengthening it, perhaps acting as plumbing to distribute this wind-proofing “cement.”
Much of the ridge contains hematite, a mineral that forms in water. There’s such a strong hematite signal that it drew the attention of NASA orbiters like a beacon. Could some variation in hematite result in harder rocks? Is there something special in the ridge’s red rocks that makes them so unyielding?
For the moment, Vera Rubin Ridge is keeping its secrets to itself.
Two more drilled samples are planned for the ridge in September. After that, Curiosity will drive to its scientific end zone: areas enriched in clay and sulfate minerals higher up Mt. Sharp. That ascent is planned for early October.
** University of Washington physics professor emeritus Dr. John Cramer talked with David Livingston this week about interstellar propulsion schemes, wormholes for getting around the universe, connecting quantum mechanics and general relativity, and many other fun topics in a manner that a non-scientist can follow: The Space Show – Mon, 06/25/2018 – 14:00
** The latest episode of the Talking Space Podcast covered several topics including Opportunity rover enduring the massive dust storm on Mars, the SpaceX CRS-15 cargo mission to the ISS, and recent launches by China, Japan, and Russa : Episode 1005: #SaveOppy?
There’s a serious Global Dust Storm happening right now on Mars. Several regional storms have kicked up a tremendous amount of dust into the skies, blocking out the sun and jeopardizing the Opportunity rover’s safety. But despite the threat, this is a great chance to do some science on Mars weather. Jake is joined by Space Science Institute’s Mark Lemmon to discuss these storms formation and what we’re learning from them.