45 years ago, three astronauts blasted off on a mission to put man on the moon.
gwen: Surface of Mars, photographed by Mars Express, 22nd August 2007.
Image runs southwest from 71°S 56°E, just south of the Dorsa Brevia, to 80°S 34°E, just west of the Promethei Rupes; about 615 km. The dunes (dark blue) in the 4th image are inside Main Crater (Robert Main, astronomer, 1808-1878).
Composite of 3 visible light images for colour, and one monochrome image for detail. Colours are relative, not naturalistic.
Image credit: ESA. Composite: AgeOfDestruction.
NASA astronaut films lightning from ISS
Astronaut Reid Wiseman posted a Vine from the International Space Station today showing lightning over Houston.
Tornado warnings were issued in the Houston area earlier this afternoon but have since expired.
Nigga we got space vines dis the future
We hope tonight you will stay off tumblr long enough to catch the entirely new Camelopardalids meteor shower, which promises be a good one. Comet dust from 209P/LINEAR, sloughed off 200 years ago in its orbit around the sun is due to enter our atmosphere and provide us a remarkable show. That is provided you find somewhere with clear skies away from sources of light.
Sidereus Nuncius, sometimes called Starry Messenger, is a short work by Galileo Galilei in 1610—or almost 200 years before 209P/LINEAR laid the groundwork for tonight’s show. Above is the verso of Galileo’s drawings of the Pleiades star cluster, which makes an exceptional background for our shooting stars. The edition is available for view online in our Heralds of Science collection, a set of books donated to the Smithsonian Libraries by noted book collector and founder of the Burndy Library, Bern Dibner. Our Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology is named in his honor.
Make Galileo proud.
…. Cloudy where I am AS PER USUAL.
By Alan Duffy, Swinburne University of Technology
The Great Red Spot is a giant anticyclone storm that has been raging for at least 400 years, when astronomers were first able to build a telescope large enough to notice it. How it formed and has even lasted this long is still a mystery.
The first observations in the 1800s measured the storm to be about 41,000km across – wide enough to comfortably fit three Earths (the Earth’s diameter is about 12,700km). But by 1979-80 when the Voyager spacecraft flew by for a closer look it had already shrunk to 23,335km.
Now with the incredible precision of the Hubble Space Telescope astronomers were able to accurately measure the extent of the Great Red Spot over the past 20 years and found that it’s been shrinking by about 1,000km per year.
The Great Red Spot’s width is about 16,000km – still big enough for the Earth to fit within the eye of the storm – but at current rates of shrinking it could be gone by 2030, depriving the next generation of astronomers of one of the solar system’s most enigmatic objects.
While the shrinking has been hinted at before, the quality of the Hubble Space Telescope images have made it clearer than ever, as well as revealing a possible reason behind this amazing disappearing act.
Thanks to the superb resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have seen the Great Red Spot swallow smaller “eddies” or whirlwinds which might be somehow cancelling out the giant storm.
To confirm this we need to measure the speed and direction of the winds in these eddies. This is a topic of intense research as there may only be a few years left to study the storm before it’s gone.
Earth storms made large
On Earth we get anticyclones (regions of highest pressure on a weather map) but they don’t last long as eventually they pass over land which drains the energy from the storm.
But Jupiter – the fifth planet from the sun – is a gas giant. It doesn’t have a land surface to slow down its storms so they can continue to build.
The problem for astronomers though is that current theories show the planet isn’t spinning fast enough to power up a storm this large. So how did the Great Red Spot get so big?
Jupiter’s Shrinking Great Red Spot
One way to form such a large storm was seen by astronomers in 2000 as they noticed the formation of a new storm on Jupiter, known as the Oval (or Little Red Spot), through the merger of three smaller systems.
This suggests that Great Red Spot might just be a particularly successful storm in capturing neighbours to power itself to this size.
The Great Red Spot isn’t the only large storm in the solar system. In particular there’s the Great Dark Spot on Neptune. This is nearly as big as the (shrunken) Great Red Spot but only seems to last a few years at a time before vanishing.
Mysteries of the Spot
One of the most striking features of the Great Red Spot is its colour. It can change hue from blood red to salmon pink to nearly indistinguishable from neighbouring clouds, all in the space of months.
Even though astronomers have studied this feature for hundreds of years this is still a mystery. The colour is believed to result from complex organic molecules or sulphur-based compounds, which can also change colour when exposed to sunlight at the top of the storm, but we don’t know for sure.
The Great Red Spot may be a fraction of its former size but the storm clouds still tower 8km above their neighbours, with winds at the edge of the storm racing around the eye at hundreds of kilometres per hour. The entire storm itself takes six days to make a lap of the gas giant (although thanks to the rapid spin of Jupiter we see it come in and out of view every 10 hours).
There is always the chance that it might yet rebuild itself by engulfing a neighbouring storm, surprising astronomers yet again.
Regardless of the fate of the storm, it’s captivated astronomers and the public imagination alike for hundreds of years and will live on in the gorgeous images that the Hubble Space Telescope have managed to capture.
In many of the school-talks I give the Great Red Spot is one of the favourite topics of the class. There’s something about a world-devouring storm that captures kids’ imaginations!
Thanks to this latest finding though the tempest is just a little less grand and for the next generation may have all but disappeared.
Alan Duffy is affiliated with the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).
Neptune through Adaptive Optics
From the Earth’s surface, Neptune usually appears as a fuzzy blotch. The blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere deny clearer images. By distorting mirrors in the telescope itself in time with the changing atmosphere, however, these effects can be greatly reduced. Many of the world’s largest telescopes are now implementing these “rubber mirror” adaptive optics (AO) systems to bring out the finest details that these telescopes can resolve. Recently the 10-meter Keck II telescope in Hawaii came on-line with AO capability. The above image of Neptune in three infrared colors demonstrates the clarity of the new technique - as compared to an image of Neptune from Keck II without AO.
Credit: AO Staff, Keck, LLNL
Using the Kepler space telescope, NASA astronomers have found the first planet that they believe to be made of rock, roughly equivalent in size to Earth and potentially capable of supporting life.
The planet, Kepler-186f, orbits the star Kepler-186 some 490 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. It has a diameter of 8,700 miles, making it larger than Earth, and its orbit lies within the “Goldilocks zone” where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow on its surface. Kepler-186f likely even boasts similar gravity. It’s the first such planet to ever be discovered outside of our solar system.
Using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.
On this day in 1655…