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Author Archives: Jason Major

Have No Fear, Phobos is Here!

Mars and Phobos imaged by Hubble on may 12, 2016. Credits: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI), Acknowledgment: J. Bell (ASU) and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute).

On May 12, 2016, the Hubble Space Telescope captured a series of images of Mars and in them the planet’s moon Phobos can be seen appearing from behind the western limb. This was just 10 days before opposition which, in 2016, was the closest Mars had been to Earth since 2005, lending particularly good opportunity for picking out its largest—yet still quite small—moon.

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This Day in Space History: One Small Step

Note: This is an updated article from 2012.

Panorama of the Eagle lunar module by Ed Hengeveld from JSC scans.

“That’s one small step for a man… one giant leap for mankind.”

I’m not sure what else need be said about the significance of what happened on this day in 1969, 48 years ago… it was a shining moment in human history, and will be — should be — remembered forever as an example of what people can achieve when challenged, driven, and inspired.

More giant leaps have been made since then, and undoubtedly more will be made in the future, but this was the first and to this date still very much the biggest.
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Jupiter’s Red Spot Dominates New Juno P7 Pics

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot imaged by Juno on July 10, 2017. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

They’ve arrived! Images from NASA’s Juno spacecraft P7 pass have landed on Earth (a few days early no less) showing Jupiter’s Great Red Spot from the closest distance that it’s ever been imaged before. Captured on the night of July 10 (early July 11 morning UTC) the closest Junocam images were taken from a distance of only about 5,600 miles from the top of the storm’s clouds—that’s less than an Earth diameter away from a hundreds-year-old hurricane an Earth and a half wide!

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Today Juno Will Get Our Best Look Yet at Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot captured by Voyager 1 in 1979. Processed by Björn Jónsson.

Today, July 10 (July 11 UTC) NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its first targeted flyover of Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot since its arrival in orbit on July 4, 2016, getting our best look yet at the giant anticyclonic storm that’s been churning on the giant planet since at least 1830 (and possibly even since before 1665.)

Previous spacecraft (Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, New Horizons) have imaged the Great Red Spot but none from as close a distance as Juno will tonight. During P7—Juno’s seventh “perijove,” or closest point to Jupiter in its 53-day-long orbital path—Juno will pass over the GRS at an altitude of only about 5,600 miles.

Perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s center) will be on Monday, July 10, at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno will be about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno will have covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers) and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will pass about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the [Great] Red Spot clouds.

Once the flyover data is transmitted and received on Earth sometime on Friday, July 14 we can expect amateur image processors (myself definitely included!) to feverishly get to work bringing out as many details as possible in the raw data. (You can find raw images from Junocam and processed versions from the public here.) This, as they say, is going to be good!

Source/read more from NASA here: NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Fly Over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot July 10

Two New Moons Found Around Jupiter

Mosaic of Jupiter made from Cassini images acquired on Dec. 29, 2000 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Jupiter has long been known to have the most moons of all the planets in the Solar System—just barely surpassing Saturn’s official 62, although that’s not taking into consideration the larger chunks of icy material within Saturn’s rings—and its leading margin has just increased even further with the discovery of two more moons, bringing Jupiter’s tally up to 69.

The new moons were identified by a small team of astronomers while searching the sky for evidence of the hypothesized “Planet Nine” far beyond Pluto. Currently named S/2016 J 1 and S/2017 J 1, the new moons are only about a mile across and are in highly-inclined, retrograde orbits around Jupiter—that is, in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation. This implies that they are likely captured objects rather than having formed around the planet itself (which is actually a common feature among smaller Jovian moons.)

Read the rest of this news from Kelly Beatty at Sky and Telescope here: Two New Satellites for Jupiter

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