Monday, June 20, 2011

So Much Science, So Little Time

I hope everyone enjoyed their Father's Day weekend, I know I had some good times with my family. There has been some great astronomy stuff happening (as always) so I figured I'll dump some links.

This hemispheric view of Venus was created using more than a decade of radar investigations culminating in the 1990-1994 Magellan mission, and is centered on the planet's North Pole. This composite image was processed to improve contrast and to emphasize small features, and was color-coded to represent elevation. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

First up, Life's Little Mysteries is presenting The Greatest Mysteries of the Cosmos every Friday this summer. They are starting with our solar systems and first was The Greatest Mysteries of Venus. It is a great opener to understanding out planetary evil twin.

Dawn captured this view of Vesta on June 14, 2011. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is getting closer and closer to asteroid Vesta by the day. It now has a better resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope. The image above was taken on June 14, 2011 from a distance of about 265,000 kilometers. Each pixel spans roughly 25 kilometers. As The Planetary Society explains it:
There's clearly a deep crater in the northern part of the image. And the outline is definitely lumpier than the outlines of similarly sized bodies in the outer solar system (like Mimas and Enceladus), but we knew that already; the rock that Vesta is made of is able to hold up steeper mountains than the relatively low-strength ices that outer planet moons are made of. Apart from that, it's still hard to tell what's albedo differences and what's topography. But that won't be true for long.


In the skies of Mars, there was recently an amazing alignment. On June 1, Mars' tiny moon Phobos slipped in front of Jupiter from the view point of the ESA’s Mars Express orbiter. Above is an animation of the event, using photos taken with the Mars Express’ High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). In addition to being a cool event, the observation also helps to improve knowledge of the martian moon's orbital position.

Color composite of Helene from June 18, 2011 flyby. There’s a bit of a blur because the moon shifted position in the frames slightly between images. NASA / JPL / SSI / J. Major

And speaking of tiny moons, the Cassini spacecraft out at Saturn performed a flyby of Helene on June 18. The second-closest flyby of the icy little moon helped to map the surface and better understand the history and gully-like features seen on previous flybys. You can read more about it here.

In other news, the Space Shuttle Atlantis had its final payload delivered on Saturday, June 18. The shuttle is on track for the final flight, STS-135, on July 8. The main payload is the Italian- built “Raffaello” logistics module for the International Space Station, which contains 5 tons of "critical space parts, crew supplies and experiments to sustain space station operations once the shuttles are retired". The secondary payload is dubbed the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) – a sort of “gas station in space”.

And finally, tomorrow, June 21, is the longest day of the year for the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice. Hopefully everyone enjoys their long and warm day. Though consequently, it is the shortest day in the southern hemisphere, so keep warm guys.


21 comments:

The Dawg said...

Oh yeah, summer solstice tomorrow!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Even though it is heavily manipulated, that image of Venus is really amazing

The Angry Lurker said...

Good update and news.

-E- said...

@Bonjour Tristesse yeah it's more of a map than a picture.

Kicking Rocks said...

I hope you had a great fathers day as well! Why consider phobos a moon, i mean is really tiny!!!

TIMMYTHEROBOT said...

looking forward to the long day tomorrow

HiFi said...

Awesome views of Helene and Vesta

Burnduro said...

Crazy stuff

Jay said...

all those moons look like lumps of rock compared to Earth's moon...

Zombie said...

Woa that looks trippy! :D

thenitefalls said...

Can't wait til the summer solstice!

Rorschach Redemption said...

Phobos slipped in front of Jupiter.
And Jupiter laughed.

Alyssa said...

ASTRO PICS! You rock!! ;) Today I bought a meteor.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

I'm sure that this is just my own head messing with me, but I can almost swear that Vesta looks to have a human face. Probably just humanize looking for patterns that aren't there. Unless it is in fact a giant head tumbling through the cosmos...

I remember reading on Richard C Hoagland's website about him having a theory that Phobos is actually an artificially made object. What are your thoughts on that, and do you consider this guy somewhat of a quack?

Shelby Fox said...

It's amazing that even with all the billions of stars out there....there are only a few habitable zones of the universe.

That video of Phobos slipping past Jupiter is unreal.

phthalo. said...

I love the description of Venus as our "planetary evil twin". The video of Phobos is very nice.

JayPower said...

Some amazing photo's you have here mate, inspiring stuff ;D

Banacek said...

Who knew Venus was so psychedelic?

RedHeadRob said...

That was some amazing stuff, I love the Phobos video, and I lol'd at the evil twin bit.

Astronomy Pirate said...

@Bonjour Tristesse It's a composite, using various data, there are actual surface features shown, but also the average elevations for a better idea of how these features compare.

@Aaron I don't see a face, then again, I've had problems seeing the man in the moon. But looking at Richard C Hoagland's website, I'm pretty sure hes full of it. For one, there's no erosion like on Earth, so you end up with seemingly perfect geometric shapes, and just as he claims NASA or the ESA to fudge images, the same claim can be made of him.

@Alyssa, Awesome, meteorites are great to have, a little piece of out there.

@phthalo and rob, everyone knows that clouds means you are the interplanetary evil twin, just like mustaches on people.

ScottD said...

great photos

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