Category Archives: Solar System

Two Mile Wide Comet Passing By Earth In 2013.



NASA confirms that a 2 mile wide comet, discovered by amateur Russian Astronomers,  is coming our way.  The comet is know as ISON.  According to NASA:
“Comet ISON appears on course to achieve sungrazer status as it passes within a solar diameter of Sun’s surface in late 2013 November. Whatever survives will then pass nearest the Earth in late 2013 December,” NASA astronomers explained in a posting. ‘Astronomers around the world will be tracking this large dirty snowball closely to better understand its nature and how it might evolve during the next 15 months’  “The comet, which is estimated to be nearly two miles wide, will likely be one of the largest comets to ever pass Earth. While there is a chance that ISON will disintegrate when it approaches the sun, some astronomers say heat from the sun will vaporize ices in its body, creating what could be a spectacular tail.”
To read more click here.
I think that a bright object in the sky at the end of December may remind some of      another bright object in the sky several thousand years ago.
Just saying.
cbdakota
 

Mars Probe Curiosity Traverses Gale Crater


NASA has published the path that the Mars Rover, Curiosity, has taken since its August landing in the Gale Crater through the end of November, 2012.  The distance traveled is about 500 meters.  NASA says that the Gale Crater is approximately the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, two small US States.  In the Center of the crater is Mount Sharp, some 3.4 miles high above the crate floor. (Click on photo to enlarge.)
curiositytravelsonMars710706main_Meyer-1-pia16577-43_946-710
NASA tells of some of the work being done by Curiosity: “ It was at the easternmost waypoint on this map on Nov. 30, 2012. It worked on scoops of soil for a few weeks at the drift of windblown sand called “Rocknest.” The place called “Glenelg” is where three types of terrain meet. The depression called “Yellowknife Bay” is a potential location for selecting the first target rock for Curiosity’s hammering drill.”  The next target will be  Mount Sharp. 
 
 
The NASA photo below is of Glenelg.
MarscuriosityglenelgPIA16550_ip
 
To view more, click here.
cbdakota

 
 

Mars Rover Opportunity Has Been Operational Since 2004—See Photos Taken By That Rover


While the new, Mars Rover Curiosity is on everyone’s mind, Opportunity and Spirit Rovers have been on Mars since January of 2004.   Spirit’s mission was ended in May of last year after being stuck in sand for about a year. Opportunity is still operational.  Curiosity is more sophisticated than Opportunity and Spirit, but these two provided many new Martian mysteries to be solved.  NASA’s website has some of the pictures that Opportunity has taken that are full of wonder for us Earth bound.  You can see them here, and here and here.

The Mission Team for Opportunity and Spirit Rovers are to be awarded the Haley Space Flight Award.  At launch the targeted operational life of these two rovers, on Mars, was estimated at 90 days.  

cbdakota

New Panorama Photo of Mars by Curiosity


New panorama of Mars from Rover Curiosity.  To view click here.

cbdakota

NASA’s Stereo Mission Captures CME–Fastest Ever Recorded


On 23 July 2012, NASA’s Stereo **Mission spacecraft recorded a coronal mass ejection (CME).   The cloud of solar material ejected from the Sun sped out into space at a speed of “between 1,800 and 2,000 miles per second”.  That translates to about 7.2 million miles per hour or about 1.1% of the speed of light.  NASA says it is probably the fastest CME ever measured by any spacecraft.  Incredibly,  it is said that, on average,  the mass ejected into space is  1.6×1012kg.   A video of the  23 July CME can be seen by clicking here.

From the NASA announcement of this event:

“Measuring a CME at this speed, traveling in a direction safely away from Earth, represents a fantastic opportunity for researchers studying the sun’s effects. Rebekah Evans is a space scientist working at Goddard’s Space Weather Lab, which works to improve models that could some day be used to improve predictions of space weather and its effects. She says that the team categorizes CMEs for their research in terms of their speed, with the fastest ones – such as this one — labeled “ER” for Extremely Rare.”

**The STEREO mission consists of two spacecraft with orbits that for most of their journey give them views of the sun that cannot be had from Earth. Watching the sun from all sides helps improve our understanding of how events around the sun are connected, as well as gives us glimpses of activity we might not otherwise see.

cbdakota

Curiosity Provides Photos from Mars


NASA has posted pictures and drawings from the Curiosity Mars Rover.  There are 120 that you can see and/or download.  To see the gallery click here

Somewhat off my usual topic but I think you will enjoy the view.

cbdakota