Archive for November, 2014

WANDERERS is a short science fiction film by Erik Wernquist - a digital artist and animator from Stockholm, Sweden. This image from the film makes use of photo taken by NASA's Opportunity Mars rover and provides true landscape while adding in future Red Planet expeditionary crew. Credit: Erik Wernquist

WANDERERS is a short science fiction film by Erik Wernquist – a digital artist and animator from Stockholm, Sweden.
This image from the film makes use of photo taken by NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover and provides true landscape while adding in future Red Planet expeditionary crew.
Credit: Erik Wernquist

WANDERERS is a short science fiction film by Erik Wernquist – a digital artist and animator from Stockholm, Sweden.

Wernquist notes that the film is a vision of our humanity’s future expansion into the Solar System. Although admittedly speculative, the visuals in the film are all based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens.

All the locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available.

Adding to the compelling nature of this video is the narrative voice of astronomer and author Carl Sagan. The audio used are excerpts from Sagan’s own reading of his book ‘Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space’ (1994).

To view this marvelous production, go to:

http://vimeo.com/108650530#at=9

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For the answer, courtesy of Astro Watch, go to:

http://www.astrowatch.net/2014/11/history-made-as-90000-earthlings-send.html

Update: There is a launch postponement of Japan’s Hayabusa2 from the Tanegashima Space Center to December 3 (Wed.), 2014 (Japan Standard Time). The liftoff delay is the result of a go/no go assessment that carefully checked the weather forecast and found  that strong wind exceeding the weather restrictions was projected around the launch pad at the scheduled launch time.

Japan's Hayabusa2 will target “1999 JU3” – a C-type asteroid – for detailed study. Artwork: Akihiro Ikeshita

Japan’s Hayabusa2 will target “1999 JU3” – a C-type asteroid – for detailed study.
Artwork: Akihiro Ikeshita

Weather conditions have prompted the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to delay the launch of its asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2.

Liftoff of the probe is now slated to occur on December 3 onboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26.

Hayabusa2 is a successor of “Hayabusa” (MUSES-C), which successfully returned to Earth bits of an asteroid in June 2010.

Hayabusa2 will target “1999 JU3” – a C-type asteroid – for detailed study.

The craft should arrive at the asteroid in mid 2018, loitering on site for one and half years before leaving the asteroid at the end of 2019 and returning its cache of samples to Earth around the end of 2020.

Artificial crater to be made

Among the spacecraft’s asteroid duties is to attempt a new function, making use of a “collision device.” This hardware will create a crater artificially a few meters in diameter on the space rock.

After making the crater, samples will be acquired for return to Earth. Those fresh samples would be less weathered by the space environment or heat.

JAXA's Hayabusa2 is ready for launch onboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26. Credit: JAXA

JAXA’s Hayabusa2 is ready for launch onboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26.
Credit: JAXA

Hopping MASCOT

Also onboard Hayabusa2 is the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT.

This asteroid lander was developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

Once dispatched from the Japanese spacecraft, MASCOT will descend to the surface of the asteroid – which measures just less than a mile (one kilometer) across and whose gravitational acceleration is 60,000 times weaker than that here on Earth – from a height of approximately 330 feet (100 meters). Mascot will conduct its measurements over two full asteroid days and nights – a period lasting up to 16 Earth hours.

Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, is prepared by engineers at the  German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Credit: DLR

Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, is prepared by engineers at the
German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
Credit: DLR

MASCOT weighs just 22 pounds (10 kilograms). It will use an eccentric arm installed in its interior to “hop” almost (230 feet (70 meters) across 1999 JU3 – delivering the first measurements from different locations on an asteroid’s surface.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, take a look at this special JAXA video on the upcoming mission:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDbtQd4LeuA&feature=youtu.be

The lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 with the surface of the Moon as background. Credit: L. Ferrière

The lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 with the surface of the Moon as background.
Credit: L. Ferrière

The Natural History Museum in Vienna is gatekeeper for the world largest and oldest meteorite display.

Now they’ve set their eyes on acquiring an extraordinary lunar meteorite – and they’ve started a fund-raising effort to do so, but they need your help!

“We’ve started a few days ago a project/campaign we call “Help Us Get the Moon,” says Ludovic Ferrière, curator of the museum’s rock collection and co-curator of their impressive meteorite collection.

The object of their attention?

The lunar meteorite, Oued Awlitis 001, was ejected from the Moon several thousands of years ago…then arrived on Earth hundreds of years ago after a very long journey through our Solar System, Ferrière explains.

Western Sahara landing site

Oued Awlitis 001– weighing in total about 410 grams – was discovered January 15, 2014 in Western Sahara. It was given that name given the desert area in which it was found.

The lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 just after it was discovered in the Western Sahara.   Credit: M. Aid

The lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 just after it was discovered in the Western Sahara.
Credit: M. Aid

“Less than five percent of the surface of the Moon was sampled during the Apollo missions,” Ferrière adds. “This meteorite is a providential way to continue the exploration of our natural satellite. It provides a spectacular asset to the study of the origin and evolution of the Moon.”

This unique lunar meteorite — an anorthositic melt rock ( formed during a meteorite impact on the Moon) — is now in the Meteorite Hall of the Natural History Museum Vienna. The object is by far the largest lunar meteorite in a European public display – at least until the end of the year 2014.

Now, given generous financial support, this celestial time capsule can be seen for the next centuries!

“You will see it, your children will see it, and many more generations will also have a chance to see and to study it…provided that this sample enters our collection,” Ferrière says.

Meteorite hall

View of the Meteorite Hall at the Natural History Museum Vienna, the world’s largest meteorite display. Credit: K. Kracher

View of the Meteorite Hall at the Natural History Museum Vienna, the world’s largest meteorite display.
Credit: K. Kracher

The objective of the fund-raising call is to acquire the lunar meteorite, display the object, but also to intensively study this unique meteorite.

A fragment of the meteorite is to be used for display purposes and for non-destructive analyses. A large fragment is to be used for the scientific analyses.

As soon as the meteorite is acquired, a consortium of scientists, from all around the world, will be able to analyze the object.

“Please help us to get the Moon to our museum by being a generous explorer,” says Ferrière.

For more information about this fund raising campaign – with details about special rewards for various levels of donation — go to:

www.ulule.com/help-us-to-get-the-moon/

Illustration by Andy Kale, University of Alberta.

Illustration by Andy Kale, University of Alberta.

Scientists have discovered an “invisible shield” roughly 7,200 miles (11,500 kilometers) above Earth that blocks so-called “killer electrons” – highly charged electrons that can fry satellites, degrade space systems during intense solar storms, and pose serious health risks to astronauts.

Researchers say that an “extremely sharp” boundary at the inner edge of the outer belt at that altitude appears to block the ultrafast electrons from breeching the shield and moving deeper towards Earth’s atmosphere.

“It’s almost like theses electrons are running into a glass wall in space,” said Daniel Baker, director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

Baker said the new discovery is somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to fend off alien weaponry.

“We are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons. It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon,” Baker added in a Univ. of Colorado, Boulder press statement.

The barrier to the particle motion was discovered in the Van Allen radiation belts, two doughnut-shaped rings above Earth that are filled with high-energy electrons and protons.

The identical Van Allen Probes follow similar orbits that take them through both the inner and outer radiation belts. The highly elliptical orbits range from a minimum altitude of approximately 373 miles (600 kilometers) to a maximum altitude of approximately 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometers).  Courtesy: JHU/APL

The identical Van Allen Probes follow similar orbits that take them through both the inner and outer radiation belts. The highly elliptical orbits range from a minimum altitude of approximately 373 miles (600 kilometers) to a maximum altitude of approximately 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometers).
Courtesy: JHU/APL

Twin probes

The impenetrable barrier has been observed by the twin Van Allen belt probes launched by NASA in August 2012.

A paper has been published in the Nov. 27 issue of Nature magazine, at: http://www.nature.com

As the study’s lead author, Baker said: “It’s not obvious how the slow, gradual processes that should be involved in motion of these particles can conspire to create such a sharp, persistent boundary at this location in space.”

“I think the key here is to keep observing the region in exquisite detail, which we can do because of the powerful instruments on the Van Allen probes,” Baker said. “If the Sun really blasts the Earth’s magnetosphere with a coronal mass ejection (CME), I suspect it will breach the shield for a period of time.”

NASA images used in a photo composite by Christine Daniloff/MIT

NASA images used in a photo composite by Christine Daniloff/MIT

Unusual phenomenon

“It’s a very unusual, extraordinary, and pronounced phenomenon,” says John Foster, associate director of MIT’s Haystack Observatory – also an author of the published research paper.

“What this tells us is if you parked a satellite or an orbiting space station with humans just inside this impenetrable barrier, you would expect them to have much longer lifetimes. That’s a good thing to know,” Foster said in an MIT press release.

Additional CU-Boulder study co-authors include Allison Jaynes, Vaughn Hoxie, Xinlin Li, Quintin Schiller, Lauren Blum and David Malaspina.

Other co-authors were from UCLA, The Aerospace Corp. Space Sciences Lab in Los Angeles, the University of Minnesota, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the University of Iowa and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Van Allen probes mission is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built the twin satellites and is managing the mission for NASA.

 

Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

A special issue of Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics has been dedicated to the early results from China’s Chang’e 3 lander mission to the Moon.

On December 14, 2013, the Chang’e 3 (CE-3) landed on the Mare Imbrium basin in the east part of Sinus Iridum (19.51◦W, 44.12◦N). It was China’s first soft landing on the Moon. The achievement made China the third country to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface.

China’s first lunar surface exploration mission made use of a heavily instrumented lander and a rover

“The mission is part of the second phase of China’s Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) that has the ultimate goal of launching manned flights to the Moon,” one of the scientific papers reports.

Previously, the first phase of China’s robotic lunar exploration program had two orbital probes, Chang’e 1 (CE-1) and Chang’e 2 (CE-2), which were launched in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Lunar dust

In the journal, an array of scientists from the Laboratory of Lunar and Deep Space Exploration, National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, present initial findings from the lander and its lunar rover, Yutu.

According to the papers, an analysis of the effect of the CE-3 engine plume on the lunar surface was done by comparing images before and after the touchdown using data from the craft’s landing camera.

For example, during the landing process of CE-3, lots of lunar dust was blown away by the engine plume. Furthermore, the scope of influence is about 60 meters from east to west and 135 meters from south to north. “Thus, this leads to a redistribution of lunar dust and changes in space weathering on the lunar surface,” one of the research papers notes.

The landing site of CE-3 was found to be a high titanium basalt stratum, and its geological age is young Eratoshenian – the longest period of the lunar timescale, thought to range from about 3.2 to 1.1 billion years old.

Ultraviolet eyes

A Moon-based Ultraviolet Telescope (MUVT) is one of the payloads on the CE-3 lunar lander.

Because of the advantages of having no atmospheric disturbances and the slow rotation of the Moon, long-term continuous observations of a series of important celestial objects in the near ultraviolet band were possible, as were sky surveys of selected areas, observations that cannot be completed on Earth.

Reported in one paper, the results from the MUVT demonstrate that the methods used for data collection and preprocessing are effective, and conducive to follow-up scientific research.

Also, the Extreme Ultraviolet Camera (EUVC) obtained the first global image of the plasmasphere from the Moon. After an image of the plasmasphere was acquired, the EUVC was rotated away from the Earth to take a dark image of the background. Then the background was removed from the image of the plasmasphere. The result was that the plasmasphere, plasmapause, airglow and the Earth’s shadow were clearly seen in imagery.

“Data from the EUVC will provide useful images for researchers to investigate how the plasmasphere responds to solar activities,” another research paper states.

Radar scans

Along with its camera gear, the Yutu lunar rover carried Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) equipment. After the lunar rover was dispatched on the Moon’s surface, the LPR started to work on December 15.

“A large amount of scientific data about exploring the lunar regolith and subsurface were successfully obtained,” it is reported.

After preliminary analysis, one channel of the LPR equipment clearly detected information about the shallow layer of the lunar crust along the path of the lunar rover. Another LPR channel detected the layer structure of lunar regolith.

“These observations have revealed the configuration of regolith where the thickness of regolith varies from about 4 meters to 6 meters. In addition, one layer of lunar rock, which is about 330 meters deep and might have been accumulated during the depositional hiatus of mare basalts, was detected,” one of the group of scientific papers states.

The regolith on the Moon’s surface is a highly comminuted surface layer, it is reported, which was formed by billions of years of collisions. The regolith is not uniform and structures with multiple layers have been observed. Working with the LPR, the data collected shows that the regolith around the landing place in Mare Inbrium is about 4 meters to 6 meters in depth.

“Since the Yutu rover had severe problems during its second lunar day, it is pity that the Yutu rover only transversed a limited distance. Nevertheless, the LPR worked successfully and performed the first on-site exploration of structure under the lunar subsurface,” one paper explains.

Looking around the landing site

Other items noted:

— The landing site of the Chinese spacecraft lies on the edge of a plateau in a flat plain with a declining trend from west to east. The topographic slope and waviness of the area are low, which is typical for terrain in lunar mare.

— The crater next to the landing site has a lower difference in elevation from east to west, but has a higher difference in elevation from south to north. There are thousands of rocks distributed in the southern and western parts of the crater wall.

— The distance from the landing point to the western edge of the crater is 40 meters. The adjacent area is flat terrain, with landforms such as craters, domes, strata and rocks with different albedos, which are good targets for scientific exploration.

To take a look at the full range of papers, go to:

http://www.raa-journal.org/raa/index.php/raa/issue/view/81

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Research by a political science professor shows opinions on space exploration are influenced by a person’s religious beliefs.

University of Dayton political science assistant professor, Joshua Ambrosius, used data from the General Social Survey and three Pew surveys to compare knowledge, interest and support for space exploration among Catholics, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Jews, Eastern religions and those with no religion.

His research, “Separation of Church and Space: Religious Influences on Support for Space Exploration Policy” was recently presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference in Indianapolis.

Among his findings, Ambrosius found Evangelicals — who account for one-quarter of the U.S. population — are the least knowledgeable, interested and supportive of space exploration, while Jews and members of Eastern traditions were most attentive and supportive, according to a Univ. of Dayton press statement.

The researcher also found that while regular church attendance, along with other measures of traditional religious belief like a high view of the authority of the Bible and belief in creationism, exert a negative effect on support for space exploration, clergy support for science exerts a significant positive effect.

Evangelicals in particular were twice as likely to recognize the benefits of space exploration if their pastors speak positively about science.

girl blowing solar system bubbles

Disturbing trend

According to Ambrosius, the youngest generations, generation X and the millennials, as a whole, exhibit less interest in space exploration than the previous baby boomer generation.

“This finding, if reflective of reality, is a disturbing trend. This again highlights the need for the space community to educate and excite young people to build the long-term constituencies necessary to promote and carry out future space exploration,” Ambrosius observes in his research paper.

Additionally, Ambrosius notes that the privatization of space exploration could be a game changer if Evangelical hesitations are, in some part, driven by anti-government sentiment. “Further research should explore this possibility,” he adds.

Our space-faring future

“This research finds evidence that religion shapes space and space policy attitudes, even if the significant effects are dampened or eliminated once socio-demographic factors, like education, are held constant. One tradition—Evangelical Protestants—stood out as exhibiting less space knowledge, space policy support, appreciation for space exploration, and expectations of achievements in space,” Ambrosius notes in his paper.

“All in all, this research shows that further study must be done to test the influence of religion on space exploration attitudes and, ultimately, to assess the roles of religion in our space-faring future,” Ambrosius explains. “Ultimately, religions must ensure their survival by embracing space.”

“No, religion does not stand in the way of serious space exploration – but the space community still has a lot of work ahead to reach skeptical Evangelicals, foster support among religious friends of space, and convince young people that our future is among the stars. Our survival as a species, and by extension the survival of human religious institutions, may very well depend on it,” Ambrosius concludes.

A composite image created by Susie Duckworth from the following: Top: Rainforest canopy in Panama. (Art Wolfe); Middle: Waterfall in the rainforest of Madagascar. (Art Wolfe); Bottom: A “Blue Marble” image created from images taken January 4, 2012, using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. Credit: NASA/NOAA

A composite image created by Susie Duckworth from the following:
Top: Rainforest canopy in Panama. (Art Wolfe); Middle: Waterfall in the rainforest of
Madagascar. (Art Wolfe); Bottom: A “Blue Marble” image created from images taken
January 4, 2012, using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the
Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. Credit: NASA/NOAA

A new book – Sanctuary: Exploring the World’s Protected Areas from Space – offers a stunning look at current global conservation challenges here on Earth and explores the role that information generated by remote-sensing satellites plays in effective terrestrial and marine conservation.

Published by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) of Arlington, Virginia, with support from NASA, the publication highlights how the view from space with Earth-orbiting sensors is being used to protect some of the world’s most interesting, changing, and threatened places.

The book recently debuted at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

Written by Nancy S. A. Colleton and Andrew Clark of IGES, they note the striking contribution of Earth orbiting satellites: “What we have found is a remarkable bounty of information about the natural world. Every shade of color we could have imagined in the past pales in comparison to what we now know.”

This “Blue Marble” image was created from images taken January 23, 2012, during six orbits of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Credit: NASA/NOAA

This “Blue Marble” image was created from images taken January 23, 2012, during six orbits of the Suomi National
Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Credit: NASA/NOAA

Gauging the impact of human activity

“NASA and numerous other space agency partners from around the globe have used this view from space to make incredible scientific advances in our understanding of how our planet works,” explains NASA’s chief, Charles Bolden. “As a result, we can now better gauge the impact of human activity on our environment and measure how and why our atmosphere, oceans, and land are changing.”

As a former astronaut, Bolden explains that he has gazed upon Earth from space, adding: “I hope that we can advance the use of space-based remote sensing and other geospatial tools to study, understand, and improve the management of the world’s parks and protected areas as well as the precious biodiversity that thrives within their borders.”

Sunrise over Lake Moraine, Banff National Park, Canada.  Credit: Shutterstock/Zvia Shever

Sunrise over Lake Moraine, Banff National
Park, Canada.
Credit: Shutterstock/Zvia Shever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a look at this impressive piece of writing and collection of photos by going to:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/www.strategies.org/IGES_SanctuaryBook_Oct2014.pdf

Credit: NASA/JPL

Credit: NASA/JPL

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is cruising for science in studying “Pink Cliffs” within the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop forming part of the basal layer of the Mount Sharp mountain.

Here are some new images from the robot showing the work in progress:

This image was taken by Front Hazcam: Right B (FHAZ_RIGHT_B) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 815 (2014-11-21 10:31:45 UTC). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Front Hazcam: Right B (FHAZ_RIGHT_B) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 815 (2014-11-21 10:31:45 UTC). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, on November 20, 2014, Sol 814 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, at 11:45:36 UTC. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on November 20, 2014, Sol 814 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, at 11:45:36 UTC. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Credit: DLR

Credit: DLR

What’s it sound like when you land on a comet?

Well, as you would guess, it’s a “thud.”

That’s the report from Martin Knapmeyer, a planetary scientist at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR)

A short but significant “thud” was heard by the Cometary Acoustic Surface Sounding Experiment (CASSE) as Europe’s Philae lander made its first touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The two-second recording from space is the very first of the contact between a human-made object with a comet upon landing.

The CASSE sensors are located in the feet at the base of all three legs of the lander and were active on November 12, 2014 during the descent to the comet.

“The contact with the surface was short, but we can evaluate the scientific data,” said Knapmeyer, scientific leader of the CASSE Team.

Go to:

http://www.dlr.de/dlr/presse/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-10172/213_read-12221/year-all/#/gallery/17248

Griffith Observatory Event