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08/28/2018 – Ephemeris – Water on the Moon

August 28, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 28th. The Sun will rise at 7:00. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 8:26. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 9:47 this evening.

Ten years ago India launched its lunar orbiting Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. On it was a NASA instrument the Moon Mineralogy Mapper to study the composition of the Moon’s crust. With it they discovered signatures of water at the Moon’s high latitudes, probably in water-bearing minerals. Water was also confirmed in craters near the Moon’s south pole by the LCROSS probe that was launched with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009. It crashed near the Moon’s south pole in a crater following a centaur stage which it was observing. Though the expected visual show wasn’t visible from Earth the LCROSS satellite saw and returned its observations before it too crashed. It relayed that the Moon had ice near the south pole.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Water Detected at High Latitudes on the Moon

Water Detected at High Latitudes on the Moon by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper The water-bearing minerals are colored blue. Credit ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGS

Map of water at the Moon's poles

The Moon’s south pole area on the left and north pole on the right. The cyan color shows shadowed areas where ice is located. From data gathered by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, and instruments on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and LCROSS. Click on image to enlarge. Credit NASA.

Finding water is a big deal.  It helps Moon colonists live off the land, so to speak.  While the poles on Earth are foreboding places, those of the Moon could give colonists an advantage.  First, that’s where the water is.  The Moon has very little axial tilt so deep craters never see the sunlight, and high peaks see eternal sunlight, a great place to place solar panels for just about continuous energy production.

 

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08/21/2018 – Ephemeris – How will the Parker Solar Probe get near to the Sun?

August 21, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 21st. The Sun rises at 6:52. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 46 minutes, setting at 8:38. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 3:09 tomorrow morning.

I introduced the Parker Solar Probe yesterday. It’s on its way to Venus to have some of its velocity stolen by that planet as to drop to nearly 15 million miles (24 million km) of the Sun at its first perihelion, before heading almost all the way out to the Earth’s orbit. Its next encounter with Venus will steal even more velocity from the probe to drop even closer to the Sun. It will take nearly 7 years to reach as close as 3.9 million miles (6.2 million km) from he center of the Sun of 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from what looks like its surface, the photosphere, the bright ball we see of the Sun. The probe has a huge heat shield that will handle the over two thousand degree heat from the Sun. Even though the corona is several million degrees in temperature, it’s not dense enough to heat the probe.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Orbits of the Parker Solar Probe

The planned orbits of the Parker Solar Probe. First flyby of Venus will occur on October 3rd 2018. The first perihelion passage a bit more than a month later on November 6th. Credit: NASA

A close look at the Sun

Mind Melting Facts about the Sun

Click on image to enlarge. Credit NASA.

08/20/2018 – Ephemeris – The Parker Solar probe is on its way to skim through the Sun’s corona

August 20, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 20th. The Sun rises at 6:51. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 8:40. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 2:22 tomorrow morning.

Eight days ago the Parker Solar Probe was launched toward the Sun. It is the first NASA spacecraft named after a living person, Eugene Parker, a Michigander, born in Houghton in 1927, graduated from Michigan State, before moving on to Caltech. He eventually landed at the University of Chicago. In the 1950’s he put forth the theory of the supersonic solar wind of charged particles pervading the solar system. The theory was not initially accepted, but has been verified by satellites. The Parker Solar Probe will make multiple passes of Venus, giving up its velocity to fall closer to the Sun on each pass, taking almost 7 years to inch closer to the Sun at its perihelion until it gets down to about 3.8 million miles of our star.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Parker Solar Probe

Artist’s visualization of the Parker Solar Probe near the Sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben.

Dr. Eugene Parker

Dr. Eugene Parker (seated in the foreground), a pioneer in heliophysics and S. Chandrasekhar distinguished service professor emeritus for the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, watches the launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. This is the first agency mission named for a living person. Standing behind Parker is Nicky Fox, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. The liftoff took place at 3:31 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. The spacecraft was built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The mission will perform the closest-ever observations of a star when it travels through the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. The probe will rely on measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and the Sun-Earth connection. Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson.

05/28/2018 – Ephemeris – NASA’s Juno spacecraft takes deep dives at Jupiter

May 28, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 9:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:02. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 6:24 tomorrow morning.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has made 11 close passes of Jupiter since being inserted into Jovian orbit in July 2016. It has a highly elliptical orbit. It comes in over the north pole, passes only 2,000 miles over the cloud tops at the equator and heads out over the south pole, avoiding the most intense parts of Jupiter’s radiation belts. The high latitude and polar clouds appear more chaotic than expected. We can’t see these very well from the Earth. The magnetic field is much stronger and lumpier than thought before. A very much improved and complex picture of our largest planet is emerging, as we expected. The mission isn’t over and years of analysis are ahead to begin to more fully understand the solar system’s greatest planet.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addenda

Chaotic storms at Jovian high latitudes

Chaotic storms at Jovian high latitudes. Credit NASA/JUNO

North Polar Cyclones

Jupiter’s North Pole in the infrared. 8 cyclones surrounding a 9th at the pole. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

South Polar Cyclones

Jupiter’s South Pole in the infrared. 5 cyclones surrounding a 6th at the pole. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

Alan Bean

Astronaut Alan Bean, 4th person to walk on the Moon with Apollo 12 passed away this weekend.  He also commanded the second Skylab mission and retired to become an artist, a painter of his adventures on the Moon and in space.  Of the twelve men who walked on the Moon, only four survive.

10/03/2017 – Ephemeris – OSIRIS-REx and the asteroid Bennu

October 3, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 3rd. The Sun will rise at 7:43. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 7:18. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 6:11 tomorrow morning.

Eleven days ago, on September 22nd, a small spacecraft named OSIRIS-REx zipped past the Earth to gain speed and alter the inclination of its solar orbit to reach the asteroid Bennu late next year. Bennu is rated as a potentially hazardous asteroid, with a tiny chance of colliding with the Earth late in the next century.

Discovered in 1999, and named by a 9-year-old boy in a contest run by the Planetary Society after an Egyptian god who is depicted as a heron, because the spacecraft kinda looked like one. It is a carbonaceous asteroid, containing very primitive material from the dawn of the solar system. OSIRIS-REx will take a sample of the asteroid and return it to the Earth in 2023 if all goes well. The Earth pass also allowed it to calibrate its instruments.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

OSIRIS-REx

Artist’s conception of OSIRIS-REx about to collect a sample from asteroid Bennu. Image Credit:
NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney

Earth flyby

OSIRIS-REx observes the Earth. Here is the Pacific Ocean with Australia at the lower left, and the western US and Baja California at the upper right. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

NASA’s caption:  A color composite image of Earth taken on Sept. 22 by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. This image was taken just hours after the spacecraft completed its Earth Gravity Assist at a range of approximately 106,000 miles (170,000 kilometers). MapCam is part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona. Visible in this image are the Pacific Ocean and several familiar landmasses, including Australia in the lower left, and Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right. The dark vertical streaks at the top of the image are caused by short exposure times (less than three milliseconds). Short exposure times are required for imaging an object as bright as Earth, but are not anticipated for an object as dark as the asteroid Bennu, which the camera was designed to image.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, NASA Tags: ,

09/14/2017 – Ephemeris – Cassini will go out in a blaze of glory tomorrow morning

September 14, 2017 2 comments

Ephemeris for Thursday, September 14th. The Sun will rise at 7:20. It’ll be up for 12 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 7:54. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 2:05 tomorrow morning.

Just about 24 hours from now the Cassini spacecraft will end its 20 year mission to Saturn and its 13 years of orbiting the planet. Monday, 4 days ago, it passed the great moon Titan for the last time, giving it one last gravitational boost into a suicidal plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere. At 7:55 tomorrow morning EDT (11:55 UTC), Cassini is expected to lose its stabilization in the thin upper atmosphere or Saturn and lose its connection with the Earth. It is expected to burn up, traveling at 70,000 miles an hour to become a part of the planet it investigated for 13 years. Instead of recording data for transmission to Earth later, it will be taking real-time atmospheric sampling, transmitting immediately up to the very end.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Cassini in the gap

An artist’s visualization of Cassini slipping between the rings and the atmosphere of Saturn. Credit NASA/JPL.

Here’s a link to yesterday’s news conference at JPL on the end of the Cassini Mission:  https://youtu.be/gs-dscW95PE.

Link to Emily Lakdawalla’s Planetary Society post on the final days of Cassini including NASA TV coverage:  http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2017/0911-cassini-eom-timeline.html.

09/04/2017 – Ephemeris – Cassini has only 11 days to go.

September 4, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Labor Day, Monday, September 4th. The Sun will rise at 7:08. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 8:13. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 6:16 tomorrow morning.

In 11 days, the school bus sized Cassini spacecraft, which has orbited Saturn for the last 13 years will make it’s final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere to burn up. Cassini’s controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory decided after finding the small moon Enceladus had an internal ocean that it was venting into space with interesting compounds, that it could possibly harbor life, so leaving Cassini derelict orbiting Saturn among the moons, was thought not to be a good idea, in case the unsterilized spacecraft were to crash into Enceladus. So since this spring Cassini was directed to make a series of orbits that took it inside the rings, and on the final orbit to plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere to burn up.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Cassini Flying between the planet and the rings.

An artist’s visualization of Cassini Flying between the planet and the rings. Credit NASA/JPL.  Click on the image to enlarge.