Tour of the Moon

NASA has released a video tour of the Moon.

Take a virtual tour of the Moon in all-new 4K resolution, thanks to data provided by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. As the visualization moves around the near side, far side, north and south poles, we highlight interesting features, sites, and information gathered on the lunar terrain.

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4619 Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/David Ladd

Music Provided By Killer Tracks: “Never Looking Back” – Frederick Wiedmann. “Flying over Turmoil” – Benjamin Krause & Scott Goodman.

More about Jupiter revealed

The Juno spacecraft has gathered more science that gives insights into the turbulence of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Data collected by NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter indicate that the atmospheric winds of the gas-giant planet run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth. The findings will improve understanding of Jupiter’s interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin.

Other Juno science results released today include that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter’s north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system. The findings are part of a four-article collection on Juno science results being published in the March 8 edition of the journal Nature.

“These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter’s curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments.  Juno’s unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. “Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter.”

The depth to which the roots of Jupiter’s famous zones and belts extend has been a mystery for decades. Gravity measurements collected by Juno during its close flybys of the planet have now provided an answer.

I don’t think it’s surprising Jupiter’s atmosphere acts differently to Earth’s, the planets are quite different.

Panorama of Mars

NASA have put together a cool panorama of Mars from the rover Curiosity, that has been there rolling around trhere for five years.

Washington Post:

After nearly 2,000 Martian days — after crossing an ancient lake bed and weaving past sand dunes on a planet of bluetinged sunsets and small, lumpy moons — the Mars rover Curiosity turned around to look back on its years-long journey.

This week, NASA released a composite photo of what Curiosity saw in October, and if the rover could breathe, it might gasp.

In one image was its whole story: from the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, where it sat holding its camera, to the spot in the crater floor 11 miles distant, where it had touched down five years earlier to great celebration on Earth.

Curiosity has brought Mars to life for the public. The soil data it’s collected suggest Mars was once a beautiful planet of rivers and lakes. But the rover’s many postcards of eclipses, dust devils and shimmering sands showed the world it’s a beautiful place, even now.

There’s a lot of details here Curiosity’s five-year journey across Mars — in one stunning photo.

Another 8 planet solar system

NASA have now discovered an eighth planet orbiting the Kepler-9 sun – or at least they were 2,545 light-years ago, we can only look back into history.

NASA: Artificial Intelligence, NASA Data Used to Discover Eighth Planet Circling Distant Star

The planet was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

The newly-discovered Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days – was found using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers “learn.” In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.

The discovery came about after researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg trained a computer to learn how to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by Kepler – the minuscule change in brightness captured when a planet passed in front of, or transited, a star. Inspired by the way neurons connect in the human brain, this artificial “neural network” sifted through Kepler data and found weak transit signals from a previously-missed eighth planet orbiting Kepler-90, in the constellation Draco.

While machine learning has previously been used in searches of the Kepler database, this research demonstrates that neural networks are a promising tool in finding some of the weakest signals of distant worlds.

Other planetary systems probably hold more promise for life than Kepler-90. About 30 percent larger than Earth, Kepler-90i is so close to its star that its average surface temperature is believed to exceed 800 degrees Fahrenheit, on par with Mercury. Its outermost planet, Kepler-90h, orbits at a similar distance to its star as Earth does to the Sun.

“The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer,” said Vanderburg, a NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow and astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin.

I don’t know how accurate this planet detection is – and of course there could be more planets not yet detected there.

A lot closer to earth: Is ‘Oumuamua an alien spacecraft? First scans show no signs of technology

The first scans for alien technology aboard a mysterious object that is barreling through the solar system have found no evidence it is the work of an intelligent civilisation.

The cigar-shaped object was spotted hurtling through the solar system in Octoberand while astronomers suspected it was an interstellar asteroid, its curious shape led them to propose sweeping it for radio signals in case it happened to be an alien craft.

While the long, slender object may have been well suited to flying through clouds of interstellar gas at breakneck speed, as some researchers noted, the observation that the body was tumbling through space suggests any aerodynamic advantage was at best minimal.

Scientists on the Breakthrough Listen project, funded by the internet billionaire Yuri Milner, used the Green Bank telescope in West Virginia to eavesdrop on the 400m-long body named ‘Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian word for “messenger” or “scout”. The body is twice as far from Earth as the sun, but the telescope is so sensitive it could detect transmissions as weak as those produced by a mobile phone.

But on Thursday, the astronomers declared that the first observations across four bands of the radio spectrum had found no evidence that ‘Oumuamua is anything other than a long lump of space rock. Scientists on the project have released the data from the observations so anyone can study the information.

I suppose until it’s proven that it isn’t aliens then it theoretically could be, but I wonder why there was speculation this rock could have been anything different.

Climate related trends

NASA has several interesting trend animations in their Climate Time Machine.

Carbon Dioxide

September 2002:

Time Series: 2002-2016, image #0

This time series shows global changes in the concentration and distribution of carbon dioxide since 2002 at an altitude range of 1.9 to 8 miles. The yellow-to-red regions indicate higher concentrations of CO2, while blue-to-green areas indicate lower concentrations, measured in parts per million.

December 2016:

Time Series: 2002-2016, image #171

Global Temperature

1884:

Time Series: 1884 to 2016, image #0

This color-coded map shows a progression of changing global surface temperatures since 1884. Dark blue indicates areas cooler than average. Dark red indicates areas warmer than average.

2016:

Time Series: 1884 to 2016, image #132

Arctic Sea Ice

1979:

Time Series: 1979-2017, image #0

This visualization shows the annual Arctic sea ice minimum since 1979. At the end of each summer, the sea ice cover reaches its minimum extent, leaving what is called the perennial ice cover. The area of the perennial ice has been steadily decreasing since the satellite record began in 1979

2017:

Time Series: 1979-2017, image #38

Obviously climate and it’s affects will fluctuate, and the climate is affected by more than man-made effects, but the trends and the human influence on them are a concern for the planet that needs ongoing monitoring and also mitigating efforts. The risk is too great to do nothing.

https://climate.nasa.gov/interactives/climate-time-machine

Possible interstellar object detected

NASA has announced they have detected an object in our Solar System that could be a visitor, possibly an interstellar comet.If this can be confirmed it would be the first proof that objects travel between stars.

I think it’s highly likely there are objects floating around untied to the gravity of one solar system, but given the vastness of Space the may be infrequent visitors – unless there’s a lot of them.

A2017U1

Diagram showing the path of A/2017 U1.
It made its closest approach to the sun on Sept. 9 and is now
zooming away 97,200 mph (156,400 km/h) relative to the sun.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Space.com: Visitor from Far, Far Away: Interstellar Object Spotted in Our Solar System

A visitor from interstellar space has likely been spotted in our solar system for the first time ever.

The object, known as A/2017 U1, was detected last week by researchers using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.

“We have been waiting for this day for decades,” Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

“It’s long been theorized that such objects exist — asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system — but this is the first such detection,” Chodas added. “So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it.”

Chodas and other researchers base this preliminary conclusion on A/2017 U1’s hyperbolic orbit — the fact that its path is taking the body out of the solar system. Other hyperbolic objects have been spotted before, but they were nudged onto escape trajectories by gravitational interactions with planets, said Matthew Holman, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A/2017 U1 has had no such close encounters, Holman added. Outgassing could theoretically also push a comet onto a hyperbolic path, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with A/2017 U1, either, he said.

“All other plausible solutions don’t work out,” Holman told Space.com. “So you’re left with, this thing came from elsewhere.”

It’s unclear what exactly this thing is. When A/2017 U1 was first spotted, it was thought to be a comet (and was therefore given the moniker C/2017 U1). But further observations have revealed no evidence of a coma — the fuzzy cloud of gas and dust surrounding a comet’s core — so the object’s name was amended to its current asteroidal designation.

Perhaps it’s an Interstarship Enterprise.

Where Your Elements Came From

An interesting best (scientific) guesses of where all the elements originated, from NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Image Credit & LicenseWikipediaCmgleeData: Jennifer Johnson (OSU)

The featured periodic table is color coded to indicate humanity‘s best guess as to the nuclear origin of all known elements. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research.

Cassini’s end of mission

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft will fly into Saturn tonight (about midnight NZ time). Final data will be received about 83 minutes after it stops transmitting (radio waves travel at the speed of light).

Cassini is being crashed so there is not risk of colliding with any of Saturn’s moons after it runs out of fuel.

Cassini was launched twenty years ago, on 15 October 1997. After two fly buys of Venus and a flyby of Earth and our Moon Cassini headed off out into the Solar System.

It entered orbit around Saturn in July 2004. An orbiter landed on the moon Total a year later.

The primary mission was scheduled to complete in 2008 but it was extended and extended again until this year.

Sept. 13, 2017 (2:15 p.m. PDT)

Cassini is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Sept. 15. The mission’s final calculations predict a signal will be received on Earth indicating loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 15 is 4:55 a.m. PDT (7:55 a.m. EDT).

More details

NASA: projected times for the end of mission

5868_IMG004868

Earth as seen from near Saturn.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Links from NASA:

  • What did we learn about Saturn during our 13 year tour? Lots.
  • Explore Cassini’s rich history of discovery in our Timeline.
  • Take a tour of our Greatest Images. 
  • Spend some time browsing the latest Raw Images straight from Saturn.
  • Explore Cassini’s rich history of discovery in our Timeline.

Highest recorded level of CO2 in May

According to Climate Central carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 ppm in May, the highest recorded and higher than research indicates there has been in human history.

However the current estimate Earth’s CO2 Home Page is 408.84, still very high, and an increase on last year (406.81).

kc-monthly-0600

NASA:  The relentless rise of carbon dioxide

CO2Trends

If fossil-fuel burning continues at a business-as-usual rate, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order of 1500 ppm. The atmosphere would then not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. This graph not only conveys the scientific measurements, but it also underscores the fact that humans have a great capacity to change the climate and planet.

NASA: Evidence

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.

 

Swooping around Jupiter

The Juno spacecraft is orbiting Jupiter, returning a lot of science and images to NASA on Earth.

Sequence of Juno Spacecraft’s Close Approach to Jupiter

Juno telecon image

Image Credit: NASA/SWRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

This sequence of enhanced-color images shows how quickly the viewing geometry changes for NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it swoops by Jupiter. The images were obtained by JunoCam.

Once every 53 days the Juno spacecraft swings close to Jupiter, speeding over its clouds. In just two hours, the spacecraft travels from a perch over Jupiter’s north pole through its closest approach (perijove), then passes over the south pole on its way back out.

The first image on the left shows the entire half-lit globe of Jupiter, with the north pole approximately in the center. As the spacecraft gets closer to Jupiter, the horizon moves in and the range of visible latitudes shrinks.

The third and fourth images in this sequence show the north polar region rotating away from our view while a band of wavy clouds at northern mid-latitudes comes into view.

By the fifth image of the sequence the band of turbulent clouds is nicely centered in the image.

The seventh and eighth images were taken just before the spacecraft was at its closest point to Jupiter, near Jupiter’s equator. Even though these two pictures were taken just four minutes apart, the view is changing quickly.

As the spacecraft crossed into the southern hemisphere, the bright “south tropical zone” dominates the ninth, 10th and 11th images.

The white ovals in a feature nicknamed Jupiter’s “String of Pearls” are visible in the 12th and 13th images.

In the 14th image Juno views Jupiter’s south poles.

An animated close encounter with Jupiter:

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran

Music by Ligeti

A Whole New Jupiter: First Science Results from NASA’s Juno Mission

Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. The findings from the first data-collection pass, which flew within about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) of Jupiter’s swirling cloud tops on Aug. 27, are being published this week in two papers in the journal Science, as well as 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters.

Among the findings that challenge assumptions are those provided by Juno’s imager, JunoCam. The images show both of Jupiter’s poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together.

We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Another surprise comes from Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR), which samples the thermal microwave radiation from Jupiter’s atmosphere, from the top of the ammonia clouds to deep within its atmosphere. The MWR data indicates that Jupiter’s iconic belts and zones are mysterious, with the belt near the equator penetrating all the way down, while the belts and zones at other latitudes seem to evolve to other structures. The data suggest the ammonia is quite variable and continues to increase as far down as we can see with MWR, which is a few hundred miles or kilometers.

Prior to the Juno mission, it was known that Jupiter had the most intense magnetic field in the solar system. Measurements of the massive planet’s magnetosphere, from Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG), indicate that Jupiter’s magnetic field is even stronger than models expected, and more irregular in shape. MAG data indicates the magnetic field greatly exceeded expectations at 7.766 Gauss, about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field found on Earth.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and the lead for the mission’s magnetic field investigation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others. This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen. Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works.”

Juno also is designed to study the polar magnetosphere and the origin of Jupiter’s powerful auroras—its northern and southern lights. These auroral emissions are caused by particles that pick up energy, slamming into atmospheric molecules. Juno’s initial observations indicate that the process seems to work differently at Jupiter than at Earth.

Juno is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, and the majority of each orbit is spent well away from the gas giant. But, once every 53 days, its trajectory approaches Jupiter from above its north pole, where it begins a two-hour transit (from pole to pole) flying north to south with its eight science instruments collecting data and its JunoCam public outreach camera snapping pictures. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the transit can take 1.5 days.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Bolton. “On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system — one that every school kid knows — Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”

More information on the Juno mission is available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/juno

http://missionjuno.org