A movie of weather across the globe during October of 2017.
Our series of monthly weather videos shows a combination of infrared imagery from the geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites of EUMETSAT, NOAA, the CMA and the JMA which, together, continuously observe the Earth’s surface 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
This data is used to help forecasters predict weather patterns and warn citizens of adverse weather conditions, hours and sometimes days in advance.
This week we have a roundtable discussion asking what NASA’s role should be in 2030 and beyond. We’re joined by Space MIke, Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut, Jared Head and Cariann Higginbotham.
Long March 4C Launch
Delta II Launch
and news items discussed:
First light on a revolutionary Zwicky Transient Facility Telescope
Space Keg reaches International Space Station
Sierra Nevada Completes Dreamchaser Test Flight
Hitomi’s Short But Productive Run
Rocket Lab’s is preparing for the second flight of their Electron Rocket
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Here are recent SpacePod short reports from TMRO:
** SpacePod: New Close Potentially Habitable Exoplanet
** SpacePod: What’s ZUMA? SpaceX’s top secret payload?
SpaceX is launching a super secret satellite called ZUMA…. What is ZUMA? Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut walks us through what we do and (mostly) don’t know.
Astronomers using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have conducted the deepest spectroscopic survey ever. They focused on the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, measuring distances and properties of 1600 very faint galaxies including 72 galaxies that have never been detected before, even by Hubble itself. This groundbreaking dataset has already resulted in 10 science papers that are being published in a special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics. This wealth of new information is giving astronomers insight into star formation in the early Universe, and allows them to study the motions and other properties of early galaxies — made possible by MUSE’s unique spectroscopic capabilities.
The MUSE HUDF Survey team, led by Roland Bacon of the Centre de recherche astrophysique de Lyon (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon), France, used MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) to observe the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (heic0406), a much-studied patch of the southern constellation of Fornax (The Furnace). This resulted in the deepest spectroscopic observations ever made; precise spectroscopic information was measured for 1600 galaxies, ten times as many galaxies as has been painstakingly obtained in this field over the last decade by ground-based telescopes.
The original HUDF images were pioneering deep-field observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope published in 2004. They probed more deeply than ever before and revealed a menagerie of galaxies dating back to less than a billion years after the Big Bang. The area was subsequently observed many times by Hubble and other telescopes, resulting in the deepest view of the Universe to date . Now, despite the depth of the Hubble observations, MUSE has — among many other results — revealed 72 galaxies never seen before in this very tiny area of the sky.
Roland Bacon takes up the story:
“MUSE can do something that Hubble can’t — it splits up the light from every point in the image into its component colours to create a spectrum. This allows us to measure the distance, colours and other properties of all the galaxies we can see — including some that are invisible to Hubble itself.”
The MUSE data provides a new view of dim, very distant galaxies, seen near the beginning of the Universe about 13 billion years ago. It has detected galaxies 100 times fainter than in previous surveys, adding to an already richly observed field and deepening our understanding of galaxies across the ages.
The survey unearthed 72 candidate galaxies known as Lyman-alpha emitters that shine only in Lyman-alpha light . Current understanding of star formation cannot fully explain these galaxies, which just seem to shine brightly in this one colour. Because MUSE disperses the light into its component colours these objects become apparent, but they remain invisible in deep direct images such as those from Hubble.
“MUSE has the unique ability to extract information about some of the earliest galaxies in the Universe — even in a part of the sky that is already very well studied,” explains Jarle Brinchmann, lead author of one of the papers describing results from this survey, from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences at CAUP in Porto, Portugal. “We learn things about these galaxies that is only possible with spectroscopy, such as chemical content and internal motions — not galaxy by galaxy but all at once for all the galaxies!”
Another major finding of this study was the systematic detection of luminous hydrogen halos around galaxies in the early Universe, giving astronomers a new and promising way to study how material flows in and out of early galaxies.
Many other potential applications of this dataset are explored in the series of papers, and they include studying the role of faint galaxies during cosmic reionisation (starting just 380 000 years after the Big Bang), galaxy merger rates when the Universe was young, galactic winds, star formation as well as mapping the motions of stars in the early Universe.
“Remarkably, these data were all taken without the use of MUSE’s recent Adaptive Optics Facility upgrade. The activation of the AOF after a decade of intensive work by ESO’s astronomers and engineers promises yet more revolutionary data in the future,” concludes Roland Bacon .
> The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is one of the most extensively studied areas of space. To date, 13 instruments on eight telescopes, including the ESO-partnered ALMA (eso1633), have observed the field from X-ray to radio wavelengths.
 The negatively-charged electrons that orbit the positively-charged nucleus in an atom have quantised energy levels. That is, they can only exist in specific energy states, and they can only transition between them by gaining or losing precise amounts of energy. Lyman-alpha radiation is produced when electrons in hydrogen atoms drop from the second-lowest to the lowest energy level. The precise amount of energy lost is released as light with a particular wavelength in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, which astronomers can detect with space telescopes or on Earth in the case of redshifted objects. For this data, at redshift of z ~ 3–6.6, the Lyman-alpha light is seen as visible or near-infrared light.
The Cassini probe was sent to its doom in the Saturn atmosphere back in September but images and data will be arriving from its mission to the ringed planet for years to come. Here is a recent NASA JPL posting about a wonderful view of Saturn created form Cassini images:
In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series of images that has been assembled into a new mosaic.
Cassini’s wide-angle camera acquired 42 red, green and blue images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other, on Sept. 13, 2017. Imaging scientists stitched these frames together to make a natural color view. The scene also includes the moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.
There is much to remember and celebrate in marking the end of the mission. Cassini’s exploration of Saturn and its environs was deep, comprehensive and historic.
“Cassini’s scientific bounty has been truly spectacular — a vast array of new results leading to new insights and surprises, from the tiniest of ring particles to the opening of new landscapes on Titan and Enceladus, to the deep interior of Saturn itself,”
said Robert West, Cassini’s deputy imaging team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The Cassini imaging team had been planning this special farewell view of Saturn for years. For some, when the end finally came, it was a difficult goodbye.
“It was all too easy to get used to receiving new images from the Saturn system on a daily basis, seeing new sights, watching things change,” said Elizabeth Turtle, an imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. “It was hard to say goodbye, but how lucky we were to be able to see it all through Cassini’s eyes!”
For others, Cassini’s farewell to Saturn is reminiscent of another parting from long ago.
“For 37 years, Voyager 1’s last view of Saturn has been, for me, one of the most evocative images ever taken in the exploration of the solar system,” said Carolyn Porco, former Voyager imaging team member and Cassini’s imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “In a similar vein, this ‘Farewell to Saturn’ will forevermore serve as a reminder of the dramatic conclusion to that wondrous time humankind spent in intimate study of our Sun’s most iconic planetary system.”
Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. The mission made numerous dramatic discoveries, including the surprising geologic activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and liquid methane seas on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Cassini ended its journey with a dramatic plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15, 2017, returning unique science data until it lost contact with Earth.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team leader are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.