Draconids meteor shower this week

This video says about itself:

October Night Sky Wonders / Rare Planetary Alignments / Meteor Showers / Zodiacal Lights

5 October 2015

Venus brightest object in the east before sunrise, crescent Moon with Jupiter and Mars

Venus is the brightest planet and third-brightest sky object overall, after the sun and moon. The bow of the waning crescent moon points toward Venus and Jupiter before sunrise on Wednesday, October 7.

What’s more, this dazzling world will enable you to locate the fainter yet relatively nearby planets Mars and Jupiter in the morning sky. Be sure to use the waning crescent moon to locate Venus (plus Mars and Jupiter) in the morning sky on October 7, October 8 and October 9.

The 2015 Draconid meteor shower is expected to peak on October 9. A new Moon on October 13, 2015 will create ideal conditions for those in the Northern Hemisphere to view the meteors.

The best time to see the shower is right before nightfall.

The Draconids have been responsible for some of the most spectacular meteor showers in recorded history.

Watch for South Taurid meteors in October.

The long-lasting South Taurid meteor shower (September 10 to November 20) may produce a “swarm” of fireballs this month or early next month.
The International Meteor Organization (IMO) and the American Meteor Society (AMS) give October 10 as the date for the South Taurid peak. The Taurid meteor stream consists of an extremely wide roadway of far-flung debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke.

The Taurids are known for having a high percentage of fireballs.

Zodiacal light is a faint, roughly triangular, diffuse white glow seen in the night sky that appears to extend up from the vicinity of the Sun along the ecliptic or zodiac. It is best seen just after sunset in spring, and just before sunrise in autumn, when the zodiac is at a steep angle to the horizon.

The autumn equinox came a few weeks ago for us in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that it’s a good time of year to see the zodiacal light, also known as the false dawn. With the moon out of the morning sky for the next two weeks, this is your chance to catch the zodiacal light in the east before dawn’s first light. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, where the spring equinox happened a few weeks ago, the zodiacal light appears in your western sky, beginning about an hour after the sun goes down.

From National Geographic:

Spectacular Meteor Shower This Week: How to See It

Watch the Draconids shoot through the sky Thursday and Friday on moonless nights that promise great views

By Andrew Fazekas

Wed Oct 07 17:02:00 EDT 2015

The temperamental annual meteor shower known as the Draconids peaks this week under dark skies, offering skywatchers a nearly perfect chance to see as many as two dozen shooting stars per hour.

The Draconids are predicted to reach peak performance late Thursday night into the predawn hours Friday morning, and some should remain visible Friday night. With a new moon predicted only a few days later on the 13th, the skies should be free from any lunar glare during the best viewing times.

Meteor showers occur when Earth slams into a stream of tiny particles, many the size of sand grains, that fly off a parent comet, which in this case is 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. This cometary debris burns up in our upper atmosphere and creates a streak of light.

A Dragon Show

Like other meteor showers, the Draconids get their name from the constellation where they appear to originate in the sky—in this case Draco, the dragon. The meteors will appear to streak out of Draco nearly overhead for viewers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, around midnight local time.

The constellation is the eighth largest in the entire sky, so large that it wraps itself around the North Star, Polaris. Famous neighbouring constellations include Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the great and small bears of mythology.

How to See It

The Draconids shower takes place every October, from the 6th to the 10th. The most intense activity is predicted to occur this year on October 9 at 5:40 Universal Time (1:40 a.m. EDT). This bodes well for onlookers in North America, as the peak will coincide with the darkest time of the night for them.

And while most years see about 20 shooting stars per hour at peak times, some years have seen those rates unexpectedly skyrocket and become true meteor storms. Twice in the last century, 1933 and 1946, upwards of 500 Draconid meteors burst through the sky per hour. And in 2011, hourly rates reached 300 just before the parent comet swung by the sun, a spectacular outburst. However, bright moonlight at the time blocked out all but the brightest shooting stars.

While unlikely and rare, these massive upticks in meteor numbers can also occur when Earth slams into an uncharted but particularly dense part of the meteor stream left behind by the parent comet.

One tip for the best viewing experience is to escape light-polluted cities to the dark countryside, where even the faintest meteors can be seen.

No need for telescopes or even binoculars, as the individual streaks of light can appear over large spans of the overhead sky. So it’s important to find a viewing spot, such as an open field, with unobstructed views of the entire sky.

Just make sure to make yourself comfortable for a few hours. Bring a reclining lawn chair, blankets and some hot chocolate—and you’ll be set to make plenty of wishes.

Clear skies!

Supermoon lunar eclipse, September 27th-28th, photos

Moon, 28 September 2015

The supermoon lunar eclipse of September 27th-September 28th, 2015 was visible in many parts of the world. Including Vlieland island in the Netherlands. After 27 September on Vlieland, this telephoto lens picture of the moon was taken there at 2 a.m. on 28 September.

Blood moon, 28 September 2015

And this photo is from Vlieland as well: three hours later, when the moon had become a reddish ‘blood moon’.

Planet Pluto’s moon Charon, new images

This video from the USA says about itself:

1 October 2015

Images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft were used to create this flyover video of Pluto‘s largest moon, Charon. The “flight” starts with the informally named Mordor (dark) region near Charon’s north pole. The camera then moves south to a vast chasm, descending from 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) to just 40 miles (60 kilometers) above the surface to fly through the canyon system. From there it’s a turn to the south to view the plains and “moat mountain,” informally named Kubrick Mons, a prominent peak surrounded by a topographic depression.

New Horizons Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photographs showing details at up to 400 meters per pixel were used to create the basemap for this animation. Those images, along with pictures taken from a slightly different vantage point by the spacecraft’s Ralph/ Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), were used to create a preliminary digital terrain (elevation) model. The images and model were combined and super-sampled to create this animation.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Stuart Robbins

From Space.com:

October 01, 2015 04:29pm ET

Amazing new images show the enormous canyon system on Pluto‘s big moon Charon in unprecedented detail.

The photos were captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its historic flyby of Pluto on July 14. Mission team members combined some of the images into a new video that lets viewers fly over Charon’s tortured surface.

Charon’s huge chasm snakes across the moon’s surface for more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers). It’s at least four times longer than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and twice as deep in places, New Horizons team members said. (Some parts of the Grand Canyon are more than 1 mile, or 1.6 km, deep.) [See more Pluto photos by New Horizons]

Liquid water discovery on planet Mars?

This video says about itself:

28 September 2015

This animation simulates a fly-around look at one of the places on Mars where dark streaks advance down slopes during warm seasons, possibly involving liquid water. This site is within Hale Crater. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field.

From NASA in the USA:

Sept. 28, 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.

“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.

“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

Water on Mars: What Does It Really Mean? Here.

Dwarf planet Pluto, beautiful new photos

This video says about itself:

Seeing Pluto’s ‘Ice-scapes’ In A New Light

17 September 2015

Backlit by sunset over Pluto, NASA‘s New Horizons probe captured rugged ~11,000ft (3,350m) mountains and wide glaciers of nitrogen ice. To quote Principal Investigator Alan Stern: “Pluto is surprisingly Earth-like…and no one predicted it.”

See also here.

From daily The Independent in Britain, with photos there:

New Pluto photos reveal ‘majestic’ icy mountains, glaciers and sweeping plains

Nasa’s New Horizons mission has captured the most detailed-ever images of the dwarf planet

Lizzie Dearden

Spectacular new photos of Pluto have revealed “majestic” icy mountains, sweeping plains and a low-lying haze over the distant dwarf planet.

Nasa scientists said the latest images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft showed it to be “surprisingly Earth-like”, with evidence of a process similar to the water cycle.

A view caught of Pluto at sunset on 14 July showed the rugged terrain in sharp relief, with mountains believed to be up to 11,000ft high, flanked by huge plains and glaciers.

They have been named Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes, after mountaineers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who were the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Read more:
Scientists admit they were completely wrong
New Horizons team reveal pictures of ‘glacier-like’ ice
Nasa spacecraft ‘phones home’ after successful fly-past

“This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado.

“But this image is also a scientific bonanza, revealing new details about Pluto’s atmosphere, mountains, glaciers and plains.”

The dramatic backlighting and high resolution captured by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera, which photographed the dwarf planet from 11,000 miles away, also reveals new details of hazes throughout Pluto’s “tenuous but extended” nitrogen atmosphere.

More than a dozen wispy layers can be seen stretching from near the ground to at least 60 miles above the surface.

Will Grundy, lead of the New Horizons composition team from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, said that combined with other recent images, the picture provides evidence of a hydrological cycle on Pluto – but involving soft and “exotic” ices, including nitrogen, rather than water.

“In addition to being visually stunning, these low-lying hazes hint at the weather changing from day to day on Pluto, just like it does here on Earth,” Mr Grundy said.

Bright areas seen east of the vast icy plain, informally known as Sputnik Planum, appear to be blanketed with ice, which Nasa believes may have evaporated from the surface and been redeposited.

A panorama also showed glaciers flowing back into the plain from the icy region, similar to the flows seen on the edges of Earth’s polar ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica.

“We did not expect to find hints of a nitrogen-based glacial cycle on Pluto operating in the frigid conditions of the outer solar system,” said Alan Howard, a member of the mission’s Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team from the University of Virginia.

“Driven by dim sunlight, this would be directly comparable to the hydrological cycle that feeds ice caps on Earth, where water is evaporated from the oceans, falls as snow, and returns to the seas through glacial flow.”

Dr Stern said the apparent cycle made Pluto “surprisingly Earth-like”, adding: “No one predicted it.”

The New Horizons mission, which launched in 2006, is the first to get a close look at Pluto and its moons, three billion miles away.

It is next scheduled to visit the Kuiper Belt region, which is believed to contain comets, asteroids and other icy bodies.

Another awesome sunset on Pluto.

Ocean discovery on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

This video from the USA says about itself:

NASA: Saturn‘s Moon Enceladus Has Global Ocean

16 September 2015

New research suggests the ocean underneath Saturn‘s moon Enceladus is global in nature.

Saturn‘s moon Enceladus likely contains a global ocean. Scientists working off of images obtained from the Cassini mission have observed a noticeable wobble in Enceladus that they say only makes sense if its inner core is not directly connected to its outer shell. Using over seven years’ worth of images, researchers were able to accurately determine the magnitude of the wobble and arrive at their conclusion.

Enceladus is home to what scientists call “tiger stripes”—large cracks in the moon’s south pole where ice particles, salts, water vapor and organic molecules are expelled in a thin mist. The geologic spraying activity has been observed for some time and was previously thought to be fed by a simple lens-like reservoir—something much smaller than a global ocean. But data culled from the Cassini mission‘s numerous flybys of the icy moon has supported the idea that the reservoir might be much larger. According to NASA, the latest findings independently confirm the global ocean hypothesis.

By Sebastian Murdock in the USA:

Global Ocean Discovered On Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

Pack your swimsuit! But not really.

09/16/2015 11:50 AM EDT

A sprawling global ocean has been discovered on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Scientists made the discovery after sifting through seven years worth of images taken by NASA’s Cassini mission. Although scientists were previously aware of a body of water under the moon’s icy crust, NASA announced Tuesday that the body of water expands across the entire moon.

By mapping the position of craters across hundreds of images, the researchers were able to measure a small wobble in the moon as it orbits Saturn. The wobble indicated the presence of a vast body of water between Enceladus’s icy crust and its rocky core, Gizmodo reported.

“If the surface and core were rigidly connected, the core would provide so much dead weight the wobble would be far smaller than we observe it to be,” Dr. Matthew Tiscareno, a Cassini scientist and co-author of a paper describing the discovery, said in a written statement. “This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core.”

The Cassini spacecraft can “‘see’ in wavelengths the human eye can’t and can ‘feel’ things about the magnetic fields and tiny dust particles that no human hand could detect,” according to NASA. The spacecraft was named after famed astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini, who discovered four of Saturn’s whopping 62 moons.

On Oct. 28, Cassini will make it’s “deepest-ever dive” through the moon’s harsh, icy atmosphere when it passes just 30 miles above the surface.

Supermoon lunar eclipse, September 27th, 2015

This video from the USA says about itself:

NASA | Supermoon Lunar Eclipse

31 August 2015

On September 27th, 2015 there will be a very rare event in the night sky – a supermoon lunar eclipse. Watch this animated feature to learn more.

Ed Mazza in the USA about this:

09/03/2015 04:10 AM EDT

It’s a supermoon and a lunar eclipse at the same time, and it’ll be visible in much of the world on the night of Sept. 27 in North and South America and the morning of Sept. 28 in Europe, Africa and parts of Central Asia (sorry, Asia-Pacific — most of you will miss out on this one).