Image Credit & Copyright: Kris Smith
What are those specks in front of the Moon? They are silhouettes of the International Space Station (ISS).
Using careful planning and split-second timing, a meticulous lunar photographer captured ten images of the ISS passing in front of last month’s full moon. But this wasn’t just any full moon — this was the first of the three consecutive 2016 supermoons.
A supermoon is a full moon that appears a few percent larger and brighter than most other full moons. The featured image sequence was captured near Dallas, Texas.
Image Credit & Copyright: Catalin Paduraru
Source: APOD NASA
These two natural color images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the changing appearance of Saturn’s north polar region between 2012 and 2016.
Scientists are investigating potential causes for the change in color of the region inside the north-polar hexagon on Saturn. The color change is thought to be an effect of Saturn’s seasons. In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017.
Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Hampton University
Researchers think the hexagon, which is a six-sided jetstream, might act as a barrier that prevents haze particles produced outside it from entering. During the polar winter night between November 1995 and August 2009, Saturn’s north polar atmosphere became clear of aerosols produced by photochemical reactions — reactions involving sunlight and the atmosphere. Since the planet experienced equinox in August 2009, the polar atmosphere has been basking in continuous sunshine, and aerosols are being produced inside of the hexagon, around the north pole, making the polar atmosphere appear hazy today.
Other effects, including changes in atmospheric circulation, could also be playing a role. Scientists think seasonally shifting patterns of solar heating probably influence the winds in the polar regions.
Both images were taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.
The full moon in November will be super-sized, the largest of 2016. “Supermoon” is a recently coined term for when the moon is full and at perigee—its closest point to the earth in its elliptical orbit. Perigee will take place on Nov. 14 when the moon passes about 356,000 km from our planet. The full moon peaks less than three hours later, wowing viewers and causing larger than normal tides along the coast.
Three minor meteor showers, the South Taurids, North Taurids and Leonids, occur in November. If you’re a night owl, you may spot some fireballs around midnight between Nov. 4 and 5 from the South Taurids, and some slow-moving bright meteors around midnight on Nov. 11 and 12 from the North Taurids. The Leonid meteor shower is better for early birds who are up an hour or more before sunrise on Nov. 17.
A Canopy of Stars
We’ll all feel like night owls once the clock changes back to Standard Time on Nov. 6. For many in the U.S., the sun will set before 5 p.m. Let’s face it: the long hours of darkness can be gloomy. But instead of hiding under the covers, bundle up and step outside to look at the brilliant sky of late fall. The crisp air will revive you, as will the clear view of stars more than a thousand light-years away. Look to the northeast to see the Capella star flashing and flaming. This vibrant beacon is a mere 42 light-years away.
Planets on the Move
In the beginning of November, Venus mingles brightly with Saturn in the southwestern sky. A crescent moon will pass the two planets from Nov. 1 to 3 and then scoot to the south, passing in the vicinity of Mars on Nov. 5. By mid-month, Saturn will drop lower in the horizon, crossing paths with Mercury around Nov. 25. Mercury will be rising away from the sun as Saturn sinks. On the last day of November, the crescent moon pops back into view in the west not far from Mercury.
Reposted from SIERRA Magazine.
Gaia’s first sky map. Source: ESA
The first catalogue of more than a billion stars from ESA’s Gaia satellite was published today – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.
On its way to assembling the most detailed 3D map ever made of our Milky Way galaxy, Gaia has pinned down the precise position on the sky and the brightness of 1142 million stars.
As a taster of the richer catalogue to come in the near future, today’s release also features the distances and the motions across the sky for more than two million stars.
“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.
Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way. Source: ESA.
“Today’s release gives us a first impression of the extraordinary data that await us and that will revolutionise our understanding of how stars are distributed and move across our Galaxy.”
Launched 1000 days ago, Gaia started its scientific work in July 2014. This first release is based on data collected during its first 14 months of scanning the sky, up to September 2015.
“The beautiful map we are publishing today shows the density of stars measured by Gaia across the entire sky, and confirms that it collected superb data during its first year of operations,” says Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA.
An artist’s conception of the view from the dwarf planet Sedna. David Gerdes of the University of Michigan says the surface of 2014 UZ224 would look much the same. Credit: NASA, ESA and Adolf Schaller
Astronomers find new dwarf planet in our Solar System. A new friend for Pluto. New dwarf planet located in the region of the solar system beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt, discovered.
The new object named 2014 UZ224, discovered by the Dark Energy Survey (DES).
It takes 1,100 years to complete a single orbit of the Sun, could soon join the dwarf planets family, along with Ceres, Eris, Haumea, Makemake and famous Pluto.
Above, scientists based on data obtained by the Dark Energy Survey (DES), have obtained evidence of another dwarf planet beyond Pluto. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger
Is one of the most distant solar system objects we know about, at more than 90 astronomical units (AU), or nearly 14 billion km, from the sun. The earth is 1 AU from the sun, so this.
Light from 2014 UZ224 takes 12.5 hours to reach our planet.
Dr. Gerdes explains in his 2014 UZ224 Fact Sheet, which is available through his University of Michigan homepage:
“To identify transients, we used a technique known as “difference imaging”. When we take a new image, we subtract from it an image of the same area of the sky taken on a different night. Objects that don’t change disappear in this subtraction, and we’re left with only the transients… This process yields millions of transients, but only about 0.1% of them turn out to be distant minor planets. To find them, we must “connect the dots” and determine which transients are actually the same thing in different positions on different nights. There are many dots and MANY more possible ways to connect them.”
The diagram at left shows the orbits of the newly-discovered dwarf planet 2014 UZ224, together with the present positions of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The dot indicates the present position of the 2014 UZ224 in its orbit. Credit: JPL Horizons / Sky and Telescope
Stephanie Hamilton, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, told Universe Today via email:
“The object’s brightness in visible light alone depends both on its size and how reflective it is, so you can’t uniquely determine one of those properties without assuming a value for the other. Fortunately there’s a solution to that problem – the heat the object emits is also proportional to its size, so obtaining a thermal measurement in addition to the optical measurements means we would then be able to calculate the object’s size and albedo (reflectance) without having to assume one or the other.
We were able to obtain an image of our object at a thermal wavelength using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. I am working on combining all of our data together to determine the size and albedo, and we expect to submit a paper on our results around mid-November or so.”