Advertisements

Blog Archives

Meteors May Make Your Hair Hiss

Meteors typically occur about 50 to 75 miles above the ground. This one was photographed from above by astronaut Ron Garan aboard the ISS in August 2011. (NASA image)

Meteors typically occur about 50 to 75 miles above the ground. This Perseid meteor was photographed from above by astronaut Ron Garan aboard the ISS in August 2011. (NASA image)

Have you ever gone outside on a cold, clear night to watch a meteor shower and witness a super-bright fireball racing across the sky so brilliantly that you could swear you could hear it? Turns out the sizzling noise might not have been all in your head after all…but rather on it. (And here’s science to prove it.)

Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

There’s a Cerulean Storm Swirling on Saturn’s North Pole

RGB color-composite of Saturn from raw images acquired on Feb. 13, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Jason Major)

RGB color-composite of Saturn from raw images acquired on Feb. 13, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Jason Major)

Like some giant beast’s great blue eye Saturn’s north polar vortex appears to glare up at Cassini’s wide-angle camera in this image, a color-composite made from raw images acquired in red, green, and blue visible light wavelengths on February 13, 2017.

Read the rest of this entry

Junocam Image of the Earth-Sized “Red Spot Jr.” Storm on Jupiter

Enhanced image of Oval BA, aka "Red Spot Jr.," from NASA's Juno spacecraft. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

Enhanced image of Oval BA, aka “Red Spot Jr.,” from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

Everyone knows about Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, the centuries-old giant anticyclone on Jupiter’s southern hemisphere 2-3 times the size of Earth. But there are many other smaller (but still huge by terrestrial standards!) storms on Jupiter, the largest of which is Oval BA—also known as the “Red Spot Jr.” The image above shows this approximately Earth-sized anticyclone, imaged by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its 4th “perijove” close pass on Feb. 2, 2017.

I enhanced the original image from Juno’s Junocam instrument to bring out the structure and colors of the swirling clouds in Oval BA. You can see some bright cloud top domes within the center of the storm itself, the result of “boiling” convection cells not unlike what happens in storms on Earth…except on a much larger scale!

Read the rest of this entry

After 15 Years NASA’s TIMED Spacecraft Keeps On Ticking

It may not be the first (or even second or third) satellite mission that comes to mind but NASA and JHUAPL’s TIMED mission continues to deliver invaluable data about Earth’s upper atmosphere over 15 years after its launch on Dec. 7, 2001. In fact its extended long-duration stay in orbit has allowed TIMED (Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) to completely change what we thought we knew about how the uppermost layers of our atmosphere react to incoming storms from the Sun…and how it’s being affected by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from below.

Read more at TIMED Marches On — 15 Years and Counting

Venus’ Water Has Been Electrified Away

ESA's Venus Express has detected a surprisingly strong electric field at Venus – the first time this has been measured at any planet. (ESA–C. Carreau)

Venus Express has detected a surprisingly strong electric field at Venus – the first time this has been measured at any planet. (ESA–C. Carreau)

Using data gathered by ESA’s Venus Express researchers have determined what likely happened to Venus’ water: it was “zapped” away by a surprisingly strong electric field generated by the planet’s atmosphere and the incoming solar wind. Without a protective magnetosphere like Earth has, Venus’ upper atmosphere directly interacts with energetic particles streaming out from the Sun. The result is an electric field that’s at least five times more powerful* than those that might exist on Earth or Mars, strong enough to strip away oxygen ions—one of the two key ingredients for water.

It’s truly an electrifying discovery. (When you’re done groaning, read on…)

Read the rest of this entry

These New Pictures of Pluto Are Almost Impossibly Awesome

A backlit, haze-covered Pluto imaged by New Horizons on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km). CLICK FOR FULL SIZE. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

A backlit, haze-covered Pluto imaged by New Horizons on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km). CLICK FOR FULL SIZE. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Hold on to your seats, hats, socks, etc… these newly-received and -released images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft are, in a word, icantbelievewhatimseeingisreal!

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:

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: