Blog Archives

Cassini Has Just Taken the Best Picture of Daphnis Yet!

Image of Daphnis captured by Cassini on Jan. 18, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Image of Daphnis captured by Cassini on Jan. 16, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Hello, Daphnis! On January 16, 2017, the Cassini spacecraft captured the best photo yet of Daphnis, a 5-mile-wide shepherd moon that orbits Saturn inside the Keeler Gap at the outermost edge of the A ring (and also just so happens to be my personal favorite moon of Saturn!) The raw image arrived on Earth today, and it’s just beautiful.

Read the rest of this entry

Gene Cernan, the “Last Man on the Moon,” Has Died at 82

Photo of Gene Cernan in the Apollo 17 CSM during return from the Moon in 1972. (NASA/JSC)

Photo of Gene Cernan in the Apollo 17 CSM during return from the Moon in 1972. (NASA/JSC)

Sad news today: Eugene A. Cernan, former NASA astronaut and one of the twelve people who walked on the Moon during the Apollo program, died today at the age of 82.

“It is with very deep sadness that we share the loss of our beloved husband and father,” Cernan’s family said in a news release from NASA.  “Our family is heartbroken, of course, and we truly appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Gene, as he was known by so many, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.”

Read the rest of this entry

Apollo 14 Samples Reveal the True Age of Our Moon

The Moon on Jan. 8, 2017. (© Jason Major)

The Moon on Jan. 8, 2017. (© Jason Major)

Turns out the Moon is even older than we thought—if just by a few dozen million years. Using samples of lunar material collected by Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell in February 1971, a team of researchers from UCLA, the University of Chicago, and Princeton have determined that the Moon must have formed within the first 60 million years after the birth of the Solar System, based on dating of uranium-lead isotopes inside fragments of lunar zircons. Their findings put the age of our Moon at at least 4.51 billion years old (give or take a few million years)…about 40-50 million years older than even some of the oldest previous estimates. That’s a lot more candles for Luna’s birthday cake!

Read more about this story here.

Light and Dark: the Two Faces of Dione

Global map of Dione’s surface. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPI

Saturn’s moon Dione (pronounced DEE-oh-nee) is a heavily-cratered, 700-mile-wide world of ice and rock, its surface slashed by signature “wispy lines” that mark the bright faces of sheer ice cliffs. But Dione has some strange colorations too, evident here in a global map created in 2014 from Cassini images. Its leading half—the side that faces “forward” as it moves around Saturn in its tidally-locked orbit—is pale and bright, while its trailing hemisphere is stained a brownish color, the result of surface interaction with  charged particles in Saturn’s magnetic field.

Read more from ESA here: Space in Images – Global colour mosaic of Dione and see more pictures and news about Dione here.

Bright Clouds Make a Comeback on Titan’s North Pole

Titan’s methane lake-covered north pole imaged in infrared on Oct. 29, 2016 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Floating high above Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes, wispy clouds have finally started to return to the moon’s northern latitudes…but in much less numbers than expected.

Models of Titan’s climate have predicted more cloud activity during early northern summer than what Cassini has observed so far, suggesting that the current understanding of the giant moon’s changing seasons is incomplete.

Watch an animation of the clouds above in action here, and read the full story at: Send in the Clouds

Solar Storms Set Off Tiny Explosions In Shadowed Lunar Soil

Powerful solar storms can charge up the soil in frigid, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles, and may possibly produce “sparks” that could vaporize and melt the soil—perhaps as much as meteoroid impacts, according to new NASA-funded research.

Read the rest of this article from NASA here: Solar Storms Could Spark Lunar Soil

%d bloggers like this: