Cassini Bids Farewell to Dione with Some Fantastic Final Views

Mosaic of Saturn's 700-mile-wide moon Dione made from nine images acquired on Aug. 17, 2015. Saturn itself covers the entire background. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Mosaic of Saturn’s 700-mile-wide moon Dione made from nine images acquired during its “D-5” flyby on Aug. 17, 2015. Saturn itself covers the entire background. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

NASA’s venerable Cassini spacecraft may still have another two years left in its exploration of the Saturn system but on Monday, August 17, it had its final intimate visit with Dione, one of Saturn’s largest natural satellites at nearly 700 miles (1,126 km) across. On that day Cassini passed within 300 miles (480 km) of Dione at 2:33 p.m. EDT (18:33 UTC), not its closest flyby ever but certainly near enough to get some truly spectacular views of the icy moon’s ancient and cratered surface.

Check out some of Cassini’s last close-up images of Dione below:

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No Asteroids on an Impact Course with Earth, NASA Says

There are no asteroids on their way to collide with Earth this coming, or in any known future, September

There are no asteroids on their way to collide with Earth this coming, or in any known future, September

In case you were concerned, there are no large* asteroids, comets, or anything else of a cosmic origin on a destructive collision course with Earth in the foreseeable future – and that most certainly includes this coming September.

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Elusive Red Sprite Seen From the Space Station

NASA photo ISS044-E-45576 showing storms over southern Mexico on Aug. 10, 2015. (NASA/JSC)

NASA photo ISS044-E-45576 showing storms over southern Mexico on Aug. 10, 2015. (NASA/JSC)

Let’s take a look back at our own planet for a moment with this stunning photo captured from the Space Station. This shot, taken on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows lightning flashes in thunderstorms over southern Mexico. Along the right edge bright red and purple streamers can be seen extending high into the atmosphere above a particularly powerful flash: a full-on “red sprite” caught on camera!

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Rosetta’s Perihelion-Bound Comet Fires a Fountain Into Space

A bright jet erupted from comet 67P for about half an hour on July 29, 2015. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A bright jet erupted from comet 67P for about half an hour on July 29, 2015. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

On July 29, with ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft in orbital tow, the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) -long Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko fired its brightest jet yet since Rosetta’s arrival just over a full year ago, on Aug. 6, 2014.

Most of the images of 67P showing jets and outgassing activity released over the past few months have been edited to boost jet visibility but this recent flare-up needed no such enhancement. Rosetta’s high-resolution OSIRIS camera had no problem capturing the brief ice capade from 115 miles (186 km) away.

Read the rest of this article on Discovery News here.

Today in 1966: Lunar Orbiter I Launched to Map our Moon

Earth was seen from the Moon for the first time by Lunar Orbiter I on August 23, 1966. (NASA/LPI/USGS)

Earth was seen from the Moon for the first time by Lunar Orbiter I on August 23, 1966. (NASA/LPI/USGS)

A test version of a Lunar Orbiter spacecraft. (Eric Long, National Air & Space Museum)

A test version of the 2-meter-long, 390-kg Lunar Orbiter spacecraft. (Eric Long, National Air & Space Museum)

On August 10, 1966, NASA’s Lunar Orbiter I launched from Cape Canaveral aboard an Atlas-Agena D rocket, the flagship spacecraft of a program designed to map the Moon and investigate intended landing sites for the planned Apollo landings, including helping determine the risks from micrometeorite and radiation exposure. Over the course of the next twelve months and five successful missions the Lunar Orbiter program photographed 99% of the Moon’s surface, both nearside and far, to a resolution as fine as 1 meter – which at the time was ten times better than what could be achieved from Earth.

Lunar Orbiter I was also responsible for sending back our first views of Earth from lunar orbit, one of which can be seen above.

Learn more about Lunar Orbiter here, and see original images from the Lunar Orbiter program here. Also, check out a cool old Apollo-era film about the Lunar Orbiter and Apollo prep missions below:

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No This Is Not an Alien Cave Crab on Mars

Curiosity Mastcam image from Mars taken on Sept. 5, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Edit by J. Major.)

Curiosity Mastcam image from Mars taken on Aug. 5, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Edit by J. Major.)

I’m in a debunking mood today, probably brought on by the seasonal “double Moon hoax” that raises its oh-so-wrong head every August. (Read more on that nonsense here.) So here’s one more thing to say “NO” to: giant alien cave crabs on Mars.

Apparently there’d been some buzz recently in the “space woo” circles online over an image acquired by NASA’s Curiosity rover showing an exposed rock outcrop on Mars. In the image, tucked into a corner between a couple of larger rocks, is an oddly-shaped… thing… that some of the more “open-minded” (sarcasm intended) viewers have claimed is an alien organism, not unlike some that have made appearances in various sci-fi films over the years.

I’ve included the original Mastcam image above with the object in question outlined and “enhanced” on the left. Is this indisputable evidence of tentacled cave dwellers on the Red Planet? Hardly.

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