Category Archives: News from the Solar System
NASA announced on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, the selection of science instruments for a mission to Europa, to investigate whether Jupiter’s icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. NASA received 33 proposals for science instruments to fly onboard a Europa mission, which would conduct repeated close flybys of the small moon during a three-year period.
Participants in the announcement were:
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters
Curt Niebur, Europa program scientist, NASA Headquarters
Video and Pictures of the March 20,2015 Total Solar Eclipse.
Watch highlights from the solar eclipse as seen from Newquay in Cornwall, from Svalbard in Norway and the Faroe Islands.
On March 20th, 2015, the Moon’s shadow will create a total solar eclipse. This video presents several visualizations of what this shadow would look like from space, and highlights the areas of the world in the path of the umbra and penumbra. The visualizations were created by calculating the position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun on this date, and by using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter global photo mosaics and elevation maps.
Jupiter’s moon Europa may be a habitable world. Evidence points strongly to a global subsurface ocean beneath an ice shell. The paucity of large craters argues for a surface age of only 60 million years, implying that Europa is still geologically active. Tidal flexing and nonsynchronous rotation of the floating ice shell generate stresses that can fracture and deform the surface to create Europa’s troughs, ridges, and bands. Europa’s astonishing geology and astrobiological potential make it a top priority for spacecraft exploration.
von Kármán Lecture
Dr. Robert Pappalardo
Principal Scientist & Director’s Fellow,
JPL Planetary Science and Life Detection Section
Scientists believe there is an ocean hidden beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. NASA-JPL astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains why scientists are so excited about the potential of this ice-covered world to answer one of humanity’s most profound questions.
Undersea footage provided by John Delaney, University of Washington
To learn more about Europa, visit: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/europa/overview.cfm
Remember the Titan (Landing): Ten years ago today, Jan. 14, 2005, the Huygens probe touched down on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
This new, narrated movie was created with data collected by Cassini’s imaging cameras and the Huygens Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR). The first minute shows a zoom into images of Titan from Cassini’s cameras, while the remainder of the movie depicts the view from Huygens during the last few hours of its historic descent and landing.
It was October 15, 1997, when NASA’s Cassini orbiter embarked on an epic, seven-year voyage to the Saturnian system. Hitching a ride was ESA’s Huygens probe, destined for Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The final chapter of the interplanetary trek for Huygens began on 25 December 2004 when it deployed from the orbiter for a 21-day solo cruise toward the haze-shrouded moon. Plunging into Titan’s atmosphere, on January 14 2005, the probe survived the hazardous 2 hour 27 minute descent to touch down safely on Titan’s frozen surface. Today, the Cassini spacecraft remains in orbit at Saturn. Its mission will end in 2017, 20 years after its journey began. More information and images from the mission at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
Jupiter’s moons are putting on an amazing show this month. The orbital path of the moons is tilting edge-on to Earth and the sun. This lineup makes it possible to watch the moons pass in front of each other and even eclipse each other with their shadows. Get all the details, including where to find Jupiter in the sky this month, in this edition of What’s Up.
The Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three “tsunami waves” in interstellar space. This kind of wave occurs as a result of a coronal mass ejection erupting from the sun. The most recent tsunami wave that Voyager experienced began in February 2014, and may still be going. Listen to how these waves cause surrounding ionized matter to ring like a bell.
Cosmic Journeys examines the great promise of the Voyager mission and where it will lead us in our grand ambition to move out beyond our home planet. The two Voyager spacecraft are part of an ancient quest to push beyond our boundaries… to see what lies beyond the horizon. Now tens of billions of kilometers from Earth, two spacecraft are streaking out into the void. What will we learn about the Galaxy, the Universe, and ourselves from Voyager’s epic Journey to the stars? December 19, 1972… the splashdown of the Apollo 17 crew capsule marked the end of the golden age of manned spaceflight. The Mercury…. Gemini… and Apollo programs had proven that we could send people into space… To orbit the Earth…. Fly out beyond our planet… Then land on the moon and walk among its ancient crater. The collective will to send people beyond our planet faded in times of economic uncertainty, war, and shifting priorities. And yet, just five years after Apollo ended, scientists launched a new vision that was just as profound and even more far-reaching.
It didn’t all go smoothly. Early computer problems threatened to doom Voyager 2. Then its radio receiver failed, forcing engineers to use a back up. Now, after more than three and a half decades of successful operations, the twin spacecraft are sending back information on their flight into interstellar space. Along the way, they have revealed a solar system rich beyond our imagining.
The journey was made possible by a rare alignment of the planets, a configuration that occurs only once every 176 years. That enabled the craft to go from planet to planet, accelerating as they entered the gravitational field of one, then flying out to the next. The Voyagers carried a battery of scientific equipment to collect data on the unknown worlds in their path. That included a pair of vidicom cameras, and a data transfer rate slower than a dialup modem.
Scientists have been reconstructing the history of the moon by scouring its surface, mapping its mountains and craters, and probing its interior. What are they learning about our own planet’s beginnings? Decades ago, we sent astronauts to the moon as a symbol of confidence in the face of the great cold war struggle. Landing on the moon was a giant leap for mankind. But it’s what the astronauts picked up from the lunar surface that may turn out to be Apollo’s greatest legacy.
When the astronauts of Apollo stepped out of their landing craft, they entered a world draped in fine sticky dust, strewn with rocks, and pocked with craters. They walked and rambled about, picking up rocks that they packed for the return flight. Back in earth-bound labs, scientists went to work probing the rocks for clues to one of the most vexing questions in all of science. Where did the moon come from? The answer promised to shed light on an even grander question. Where did Earth come from? And how did it evolve into the planet we know today?
The nature of the moon began to come into focus four centuries ago. Galileo Galilei had heard of an instrument built by Dutch opticians capable of “seeing faraway things as though nearby.” Galileo, in many ways the first modern scientist, saw this new instrument as a tool to help settle a long standing question. What was the nature of the heavens, and how did the world of men fit within it? To some philosophers, the moon was a perfect, crystalline sphere of divine substance, free of Earth’s imperfections. Galileo, with his telescope, saw a more familiar reality. He noted mountains and valleys on the moon, features like those of Earth.
The astronauts of Apollo lifted off on a series of missions to get a close up look at the moon and perhaps settle the debate. Because there’s no atmosphere there, the astronauts entered landscapes that are nearly frozen in time. They could scour the lunar surface for evidence of events going back almost to the time of its birth.
Indeed, eons of impacts had opened up the Moon’s interior, leaving a wealth of information strewn about their landing sites. Scientists had already noticed that some large old craters were surrounded by concentric rings. You can see one of the most pronounced examples in this image of the Mare Orientale, captured recently by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. The colors show differences in elevation.
The old view was that the impact had melted the rock below. A newer view held that the impactor had actually splashed down on a molten surface. That gave rise to the radical notion that, early in its history, the moon’s surface was covered in a vast ocean of magma. When the astronauts arrived, they found relatively light rocks known as anorthosites. Their presence suggested that heavier material had sunk toward the moon’s interior, forcing lighter material to the surface. The rocks they brought back were found to be strikingly similar to those on Earth, in part because they share forms of oxygen, called isotopes, that scientists regard as “blood types” for solar system bodies. Then there was this. The moon appeared to be completely, utterly, dry, with no evidence that water was ever present on its surface.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft launched successfully atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket Dec. 5 at 7:05 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Orion’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), is the first flight test for NASA’s new deep space capsule and is a critical step on NASA’s journey to Mars. The 4.5 hour flight is scheduled to conclude with the splashdown of Orion in the Pacific Ocean.
The testing of ORION – NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Spacecraft has been postponed once again. This video explains in detail NASA’s new deep space exploration spacecraft called Orion which will take humans farther into space than ever before including landing on an asteroid, the moons of Mars, and Mars itself.
Congratulations ESA! Fantastic achievement.
Title: Welcome to a comet
Released: 13/11/2014 10:39 am
Description: Rosetta’s lander Philae is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two CIVA images confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The image is a two-image mosaic. The full panoramic from CIVA will be delivered in this afternoon’s press briefing at 13:00 GMT/14:00 CET.
The details in this video are as of 2009. I have posted it only for you to compare the sizes and get an idea of scale. The largest star identified as of now is UY Scuti. Click here for the complete list from Wikipedia.
VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa) is a red hypergiant star located in the constellation Canis Major. With a size of 2600 solar radii, it is the largest known star and also one of the most luminous known. It is located about 1.5 kiloparsecs (4.6×1016 km) or about 4,900 light years away from Earth. Unlike most stars, which occur in either binary or multiple star systems, VY CMa is a single star. It is categorized as a semiregular variable and has an estimated period of 6,275,081 days, or just under 17,200 years.
Antares is a red supergiant star in the Milky Way galaxy and the sixteenth brightest star in the nighttime sky (sometimes listed as fifteenth brightest, if the two brighter components of the Capella quadruple star system are counted as one star). Along with Aldebaran, Spica, and Regulus it is one of the four brightest stars near the ecliptic. Antares is a variable star, whose apparent magnitude varies from +0.9 to +1.8.
The Pistol Star is a blue hypergiant and is one of the most luminous known stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is one of many massive young stars in the Quintuplet cluster in the Galactic Center region. The star owes its name to the shape of the Pistol Nebula, which it illuminates. It is located approximately 25,000 light years from Earth in the direction of Sagittarius. It would be visible to the naked eye as a fourth magnitude star, if it were not for the interstellar dust that completely hides it from view in visible light.
Rigel (β Ori / β Orionis / Beta Orionis) is the brightest star in the constellation Orion and the sixth brightest star in the sky, with visual magnitude 0.18. Although it has the Bayer designation “beta”, it is almost always brighter than Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuse).
Aldebaran (α Tau, α Tauri, Alpha Tauri) is an orange giant star located about 65 light years away in the zodiac constellation of Taurus. With an average apparent magnitude of 0.87 it is the brightest star in the constellation and is one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. The name Aldebaran is Arabic (الدبران al-dabarān) and translates literally as “the follower”, presumably because this bright star appears to follow the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters star cluster in the night sky. This star is also called the Bull’s Eye because of its striking orange color and its location in the bull’s head shaped asterism. NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which flew by Jupiter in 1973, is currently traveling in the direction and will reach it in about two million years.
Arcturus (α Boo / α Boötis / Alpha Boötis) is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes. With a visual magnitude of −0.05, it is also the third brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius and Canopus. It is, however, fainter than the combined light of the two main components of Alpha Centauri, which are too close together for the eye to resolve as separate sources of light, making Arcturus appear to be the fourth brightest. It is the second brightest star visible from northern latitudes and the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. The star is in the Local Interstellar Cloud.
Pollux (β Gem / β Geminorum / Beta Geminorum) is an orange giant star approximately 34 light-years from the Earth in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). Pollux is the brightest star in the constellation, brighter than Castor (Alpha Geminorum). As of 2006, Pollux was confirmed to have an extrasolar planet orbiting it.
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name Sirius is derived from the Ancient Greek Σείριος. The star has the Bayer designation α Canis Majoris (α CMa, or Alpha Canis Majoris). What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main sequence star of spectral type A1V, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, termed Sirius B.
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. The Sun has a diameter of about 1,392,000 kilometres (865,000 mi) (about 109 Earths), and by itself accounts for about 99.86% of the Solar System’s mass; the remainder consists of the planets (including Earth), asteroids, meteoroids, comets, and dust in orbit. About three-fourths of the Sun’s mass consists of hydrogen, while most of the rest is helium.
India’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully entered into an orbit around planet Mars today morning (September 24, 2014) by firing its 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) along with eight smaller liquid engines. This Liquid Engines firing operation which began at 07:17:32 Hrs IST lasted for 1388.67 seconds which changed the velocity of the spacecraft by 1099 metre/sec. With this operation, the spacecraft entered into an elliptical orbit around Mars. Honourable Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, was present at ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore to witness this important event. Other dignitaries who were present at ISTRAC include His Excellency Governor of Karnataka, Mr Vajubhai R Vala, Hon’ble Minister of Railways, Mr D V Sadananda Gowda, Hon’ble Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Mr Ananth Kumar, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr Siddaramaiah, Hon’ble Minister of State (Space), Dr Jitendra Singh, Hon’ble Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr G M Siddeswara, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Mr Prahlad V Joshi, Hon’ble Minister of Transport, Government of Karnataka, Mr Ramalinga Reddy and Hon’ble Member of Legislative Assembly, Government of Karnataka, Mr Muniraju S. Prof U R Rao, former chairman, ISRO and Prof Yash Pal, former director, Space Applications Centre, were also present.
The events related to Mars Orbit Insertion progressed satisfactorily and the spacecraft performance was normal. The Spacecraft is now circling Mars in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is at 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at 76,993.6 km. The inclination of orbit with respect to the equatorial plane of Mars is 150 degree, as intended. In this orbit, the spacecraft takes 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds to go round the Mars once.
Mars Orbiter Spacecraft was launched on-board India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV on November 05, 2013 into a parking orbit around the Earth. On December 01, 2013, following Trans Mars Injection (TMI) manoeuvre, the spacecraft escaped from orbiting the earth and followed a path that would allow it to encounter Mars on September 24, 2014.
With today’s successful Mars Orbit Insertion operation, ISRO has become the fourth space agency to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars orbit. In the coming weeks, the spacecraft will be thoroughly tested in the Mars orbit and the systematic observation of that planet using its five scientific instruments would begin.
In case you missed all the excitement, watch the event unfold in the morning today brought to you by our own Doordarshan.
The 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) of India’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft, last fired on December 01, 2013, was successfully fired for a duration of 3.968 seconds at 1430 hrs IST today (September 22, 2014). This operation of the spacecraft’s main liquid engine was also used for the spacecraft’s trajectory correction and changed its velocity by 2.18 metre/second. With this successful test firing, Mars Orbiter Insertion (MOI) operation of the spacecraft is scheduled to be performed on the morning of September 24, 2014 at 07:17:32 hrs IST by firing the LAM along with eight smaller liquid engines for a duration of about 24 minutes.
Many of you may be wondering how the MOM and MAVEN missions to Mars are different. If you had questions like I had about this please follow the link below to the Planetary Society Blog where Planetary Scientist Emily Lakdawalla explains the difference very clearly along with the “Basics of Space Flight” by David Doody . It is a very good online resource for knowing about Space flight. You can also download the book Basics of Space Flight and read it.
Congratulations! NASA for the successful insertion of the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) Mars Orbiter into the orbit of Mars. MAVEN is a space probe designed to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. Mission goals include determining how the Martian atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time. MAVEN was successfully launched aboard an Atlas-V launch vehicle at the beginning of the first launch window on November 18, 2013. On September 21, 2014 at 10:24 EDT, MAVEN was inserted into an areocentric elliptic orbit upon reaching Mars 6,200 km by 150 km above the planet’s surface. Watch the recording of the TV Coverage of the event from NASA. Also it is important to note that on the 24th of September we are eagerly awaiting our own Mars Orbiter Mission-Mangalyan which was launched via our four stage PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) to be inserted into the orbit of Mars.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of ISRO is entering a crucial phase on the 24th of September 2014 when the Spacecraft will be inserted into the orbit of Mars after travelling 653 Million Kilometers. Just to remind you:
- PSLV C25 launched the Mars orbiter into an orbit of 250 km X 23,550 km around Earth on 5th November, 2013.
- Six Earth Bound manoeuvers were carried out on 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th and 16th Nov. 2013.
- Trans Mars Injection was carried out on Dec 1, 2013 at 00:49 hrs IST.
- The spacecraft left the Sphere Of Influence of Earth on 4th December, 2013
- The health of the spacecraft and the payloads is normal
The status of MOM today:
- Distance between Earth and MOM – 215 Million kms
- One way communication delay – 718 seconds (~ 12 min.)
- Distance covered on the Heliocentric path – 653 Million kms
- Distance to travel in Heliocentric path to Mars – 13 Million km
- Percentage of the journey covered – 98 %
- Distance between Mars and MOM – 2.496 Million km
Read the press briefing on MOI by the Scientific Secretary of ISRO which clearly explains in a nutshell how this works.
In this Documentary you will understand the importance of Orbits of heavenly bodies and the speciality of Earth’s Orbit.
After 2 years and nearly 9 kilometers of driving, NASA’s Mars Curiosity has arrived at the base of Mount Sharp to begin a whole new phase of exploration.