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.
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.