June 29, 2006: This drives astronomers crazy. Every summer, on the one night when millions of Americans are guaranteed to be outside at nightfall, necks craned upward watching the sky, almost no one pays attention to the heavens. It's all fireworks, fireworks, fireworks. Stars and planets don't stand a chance.
But this 4th of July is different.
At sunset, just as the fireworks are about to begin, the Moon and Jupiter will pop out of the twilight side-by-side: sky map. These are the brightest objects in the night sky, easily beaming through the flash and smoke of a fireworks display.
Sidewalk astronomers, deploy your telescopes! Here is a wonderful opportunity to show off Jupiter's moons, the Great Red Spot, lunar craters and mountain ranges, and the long creeping shadows at the Moon's day-night divide. Bonus: Point your telescope at blank sky and wait for some fireworks. A good starburst at 25x magnification can be very entertaining.
And don't forget to watch out for spaceships.
Continue reading "A Heavenly Sky Show on the 4th of July"
Brent reports that one can see generally the flare-up of the left (southern) part of the fire as it climbs up a huge cliff (~1,000-1,500 ft high), and also as fire streams down a narrow line from the top of the mountain just to the right of that same area. There are also a couple of photos of the (apparently) contract television crew that did a live report from there to a Phoenix station. That's why much of the foreground vegetation in all the photos is brightly lit.
There is some "astrogeology" here, Brent writes, as in the first two photos. The "star" just above the mountain to the left-center (almost in some of the flames) is Mercury, with the stars Castor and Pollux together above the mountain at right. Those images and later images also show two "stars" to the upper left, which are Saturn (brighter) and Mars.
NASA's Constellation Program is getting to work on the new spacecraft that will return humans to the moon and blaze a trail to Mars and beyond. Thousands of people across the agency are pulling together to meet this challenge, with work assignments that will sustain ten healthy and productive centers.Each NASA center is playing a vital role in making the Vision for Space Exploration a reality.
More information and images on the NASA website:
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will be meeting this August to hammer out the final definition of the word "planet." If approved, the definition will be announced in September.
Webster defines the word planet as: any of the seven celestial bodies sun, moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Saturn that in ancient belief have motions of their own among the fixed stars b (1) : any of the large bodies that revolve around the sun in the solar system (2) : a similar body associated with another star.
So one might ask, what's the big deal? Apparently it's UB313, an object roughly the size of Pluto that orbits the Sun beyond Neptune. The object's discoverer, Mike Brown of Caltech, has argued it should be called a planet. Some astronomers say if UB313 is a planet, then several similar bodies should gain the same status. The number of planets in our solar system could ultimately climb into the thousands as technology improves.
What will the definition be? Will they scratch Pluto from being a planet? What qualifiers will they use to rewrite this definiton? Will they look at mass? Some have wondered if they in fact would include orbit characteristics and formation scenarios? I suppose we won't know until the new committee that includes historians and educators, make their recommendation to the IAU in September. Mark your calenders.
The following names in the Elysium region of Mars have been provisionally approved by the IAU. The database information and images showing the features can be seen on the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.
The following names have been provisionally approved by the IAU for features on Mars. The database information and images showing the features can be seen on the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.
NASA astronomers watched a meteoroid hit the Moon's Sea of Clouds (Mare Nubium) with 17 billion joules of kinetic energy.
Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Alabama said that the impact created a bright fireball, which was video-recorded using a 10-inch telescope. Stuff hits the Moon all the time," said Cooke--but this is the best-ever recording of an explosion in progress."
June 27 - June 30, 2006
Pasadena, California USA
Late Registration Deadline June 19
IPPW-4, the Fourth International Planetary Probe Workshop, is devoted to robotic exploration of planets with atmospheres through the use of entry probes, aerial platforms and the technologies of aeroassist. The workshop brings together planetary scientists, engineers and technologists with an interest in entry descent and flight in planetary and satellite atmospheres. This includes the major planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - with their bottomless atmospheric oceans and Mars, Venus and Saturn's moon Titan which have solid surfaces accessible to scientific investigation. The workshop will feature keynote addresses by leading researchers as well as invited and contributed papers.
The workshop will be preceded on June 25-26, 2006, by a two-day short course "In Situ Instruments for Planetary Probes and Aerial Platforms," designed to further the workshop goals.
More information: Fourth Annual International Planetary Probe Workshop
Saturn's moon Enceladus - an active, icy world with an unusually warm south pole - may have performed an unusual trick for a planetary body. New research shows Enceladus rolled over, literally, explaining why the moon's hottest spot is at the south pole.
Enceladus recently grabbed scientists' attention when the Cassini spacecraft observed icy jets and plumes indicating active geysers spewing from the tiny moon's south polar region.
"The mystery we set out to explain was how the hot spot could end up at the pole if it didn't start there," said Francis Nimmo, assistant professor of Earth sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz.
The researchers propose the reorientation of the moon was driven by warm, low-density material rising to the surface from within Enceladus. A similar process may have happened on Uranus' moon Miranda, they said. Their findings are in this week's journal Nature.
More on Enceladus. Credit: NASA
The starting and ending latitudes and longitudes for the named features on Venus, Mars, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are now available on the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. These coordinates can be viewed by displaying the table of features for a body and then selecting "Show All Fields" near the top of the table, or by selecting the box labeled "Extent" at the bottom of the page.