Author Archives: Jason Major
So on the same week that the highly-anticipated film “The Martian” opens in U.S. theaters (you are going to go see it, I assume) NASA revealed the latest discovery regarding the Red Planet: there is water on the surface there, salty rivulets that periodically run down steep slopes in Hale Crater and stain its sands with dark streaks.
It might not be something that Mark Watney would want to guzzle a glassful of, but it is a major finding for planetary scientists!
Ever since we got our first good look at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from the approaching Rosetta spacecraft in 2014 it has been considered to be a textbook example of a contact binary, with its “rubber duckie” double-lobed shape consisting of an oval “head” and flat-bottomed “body” joined by a “neck.’ Now, using data gathered by Rosetta’s OSIRIS instrument while in permanent orbit, scientists are certain that this is indeed the case: 67P/C-G as we see it today was created by the slow-speed collision of two separate comets, each once an independent and fully-formed object in its own right (and not, as the alternate hypothesis suggested, via the gradual erosion of a once-larger single object.)
Read more about these findings and how they were determined on ESA’s Rosetta site here.
The Saturn V line of heavy launch vehicles used for NASA’s Apollo program were to this day the most powerful rockets ever used, and this video shows an intimate on-pad view of the ignition and liftoff of the one that carried Apollo 11 into space on July 16, 1969. Captured at 500 frames per second, the mesmerizing 8 minutes of footage represent 30 seconds in real time (as described in the video by Mark Gray of Spacecraft Films.)
Why? Because watching giant machines ride controlled mega-explosions into space will never not be fun!
You can view a similar high-speed video of the Apollo 13 Saturn launch here, and check out some of the interesting Apollo 11 post-launch “B-roll” footage captured by the many cameras set up around the pad below:
Last night a large part of the world’s population was treated to a relatively rare variety of a not-so-rare night sky spectacle: a total lunar eclipse that happened to coincide with the closest perigee Moon (aka “supermoon”) of the year. The last time these scenarios lined up this way was in 1982, and it won’t occur exactly like that again until 2033. While some parts of the U.S. were clouded out (Los Angeles and Las Vegas included, oddly enough) it was a clear night here in Rhode Island and I took the opportunity to capture some photos of the eclipse from the State House lawn, where I could include the iconic statue of the “Independent Man” atop the capitol’s neoclassical dome.
See some photos of the eclipse from around the world on NASA’s Flickr album here, and check out a couple more of my photos below:
Just a week after releasing some of the most incredible images of a planetary surface ever, the New Horizons team did it again today with even more new views of distant Pluto — this time with a high-resolution enhanced color image of Pluto that just begs to be intimately explored, pixel by pixel (and this is, in fact, what SwRI team member Alex Parker had to do over the past week in order to prepare the image for presentation.)
A low-res version is seen here, in which I have expanded the edges in order to fit nicely on a HD monitor in the event that you might want to use it as a desktop image (like me.) But in order to really experience it you have to download the full 8000×8000-pixel version here, which may take some time depending on the activity NASA’s servers are getting but trust me, it’s worth it.
There’s a lot going on in this image, which is by the way our highest-resolution enhanced-color image yet of Pluto, and you can read all about it here. But for now just enjoy. There will be much more to come!
Source: NASA/New Horizons
But they are real, and that’s what’s so great!
Obviously you’re already looking at one of them above: it’s a view of Pluto captured after New Horizons had already made its closest pass over Pluto on July 14 and was moving into its night side, giving a literally unprecedented perspective of the planet in backlit detail. With this low-angle lighting Pluto’s surface features are emphasized and its multi-layered atmospheric haze is highlighted in amazing detail.
Incredible, right? Well, get an even better look in the next one: