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).

First Danish cosmonaut in space

This video says about itself:

Historic 500th Soyuz rocket sets off from Baikonur

1 September 2015

The 500th Soyuz rocket has successfully lifted off from the Gagarin’s Start launchpad marking a historic milestone for Baikonur Cosmodrome. The spacecraft will deliver three new crew members to the International Space Station.

Russian and Kazakh cosmonauts (Sergey Volkov and Aidyn Aimbetov respectively), along with the first ever Danish astronaut (Andreas Mogensen) have entered history on board Soyuz TMA-18M. The 500th manned rocket launched from the same pad that Yuri Gagarin’s original Soyuz blasted off from on April 12, 1961.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Soyuz slowly blasts off to space station

KAZAKHSTAN: A Russian, a Dane and a Kazakh blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday.

Andreas Mogensen became the first Dane in space, while Kazakh Aidyn Aimbetov got his chance to go into space when British singer Sarah Brightman pulled out.

The Soyuz spacecraft will take an unusually long two-day flightpath to the ISS due to safety concerns after the station had to adjust its orbit to avoid orbital debris.

After Pluto, spacecraft continues to dwarf planet 2014 MU69

This video says about itself:

Fly with the New Horizons spacecraft as it cruises by dozens of newly-discovered Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) near its trajectory. These objects were found by our survey team (gray points) as well as by members of the public through Ice Hunters (purple points) during a search – still under way – to find a KBO for New Horizons to approach close enough to take detailed images and measurements of its surface.


New Horizons Locks Onto Next Target: Let’s Explore the Kuiper Belt!

Mika McKinnon

8/28/15 1:10pm

We don’t have the funding but we have the target: the New Horizons spacecraft will adjust its course to make a flyby of Kuiper Belt Object MU69 in January 2019. This will be the most distant world ever explored.

The New Horizons spacecraft completed its primary mission by making a flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto and taking extensive photographs and measurements about the little system and its collection of moons. It collected so much data, we’ll be downlinking the data into the Fall of 2016! But like every NASA mission, the space agency likes to squeeze as much science as possible out of every gram of robot and drop of propellent.

The extended mission has not yet been funded, but to be fuel-efficient the team needs to pick a target and adjust New Horizons’ trajectory now. 2014 MU69, nicknamed PT1 for “Potential Target 1,” is a tiny, dim world (magnitude 26.8) of an estimated 30 to 45 kilometers (19 to 28 miles) diameter, which is roughly the size of Pluto’s mid-sized moons Hydra and Nix and ten times larger than most comets. By mass it’s 1,000 times larger than Rosetta’s Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and 1/10,000th the mass of Pluto. MU69 is easier to get to than the other lead contender, 2014 PN70, which means the team will have more flexibility to tweak the trajectory when closer to the object. But most importantly, it’s a totally different type of Kuiper Belt Object than Pluto is, giving us our first up-close look at a different type of object. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern gushes over the selection:

“2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by. Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen.

New Horizons was originally designed to fly beyond the Pluto system and explore additional Kuiper Belt objects. The spacecraft carries extra hydrazine fuel for a KBO flyby; its communications system is designed to work from far beyond Pluto; its power system is designed to operate for many more years; and its scientific instruments were designed to operate in light levels much lower than it will experience during the 2014 MU69 flyby.”

Because we think that Kuiper Belt Objects haven’t been heated or changed much in the 4.6 billion year history of our Solar System, we’re optimistic that this little world will be a timecapsule into what the outer edges looked light while planets were busy colliding and accreting in the inner solar system. New Horizons science team member John Spencer explains:

“There’s so much that we can learn from close-up spacecraft observations that we’ll never learn from Earth, as the Pluto flyby demonstrated so spectacularly. The detailed images and other data that New Horizons could obtain from a KBO flyby will revolutionize our understanding of the Kuiper Belt and KBOs.”

The New Horizons spacecraft will be making a series of burns in late October and early November to set it on a trajectory to encounter MU69. The closest approach is anticipated for January 1, 2019, although that may shift with later corrections.The closest approach of the flyby will when the object is nearly 6.5 billion kilometers (43.4 AU) from the Sun; we’re expecting that New Horizons will skim by the world even closer than it did to Pluto this summer. We’ve only discovered the world on June 26, 2014 as part of an intensive search for candidates for a New Horizons flyby: it’s so new to us that we aren’t even sure how long a year is for MU69! (We think it takes 293 Earth-years for it to make a single trip, but with a healthy margin of ±24 Earth-years error.)

Along the way, New Horizons will be making opportunistic observations of any other Kuiper Belt Objects we can. Stern anticipates we might be able to see up to fifty other Kuiper Belt Objects. The observations will be simple — basic population characteristics, searching for binary objects, estimated sizes, and if we’re very lucky a few occultations of stars.

The extended mission to actually keep New Horizons operating with a human support team and time to send back data on the Deep Space Network isn’t actually approved yet. The science team will be writing and submitting a research proposal in 2016 for external review. John Grunsfeld, astronaut and chief of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, cautions:

“Even as the New Horizon’s spacecraft speeds away from Pluto out into the Kuiper Belt, and the data from the exciting encounter with this new world is being streamed back to Earth, we are looking outward to the next destination for this intrepid explorer. While discussions whether to approve this extended mission will take place in the larger context of the planetary science portfolio, we expect it to be much less expensive than the prime mission while still providing new and exciting science.”

Many space exploration missions do get extended missions — the Mars Opportunity rover’s primary mission ended after 90 days, and Cassini’s primary mission finished after four years back in 2008. However, if you want to help NASA get the political power of clear and loud public support, here’s how you can write to your Congressional representatives about approving the New Horizons extended mission.

After the flyby, the team hopes to keep New Horizons operating as it continues beyond the Kuiper Belt, following in the spirit of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 as it discovers what lays beyond the edges of our Solar System.

The New Horizons spacecraft is in excellent condition with all systems behaving normally. Data downlinks resume on September 5, 2015, with new image releases anticipated every Friday into next year.

United States police brutality and planet Pluto, animated cartoon

This animated cartoon video by Mark Fiore from the USA says about itself:

Plutonians of Color

20 August 2015

With more brutal killings and mysterious deaths while in police custody, it seems hardly a day goes by without a new dashboard camera video or protest calling out for justice. As these tragedies keep happening, I thought it might be helpful to look at our predicament from a few billion miles away. You can see more here.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko survives sun fly-by

This video is called Dramatic outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as approaches the August 13th perihelion.

From Deutsche Welle in Germany today:

Comet Chury’s great day

On Thursday, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has reached the point closest to the sun on its long journey through space. More ice evaporates than ever before. The big question: will lander Philae make himself heard?

The chief of the European Space Agency ESA’s satellite mission control was relieved: “everything went well,” Paolo Ferri told dpa early on Thursday morning in Darmstadt: “The fly-by was not very spectacular.”

Before reaching the point, closest to the sun, comet Chury (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) has come a long way. It traveled all the way from the Kuiper Belt in the outlying areas of our solar system. It will get closer and closer to the sun and eventually disintegrate, but that’s still a long way away.

When it flew by the sun this Thursday morning, Chury still kept a safe distance of about 185 million kilometers (114 million miles) from the sun, traveling in an elliptical orbit. From now on it will fly back into darkness – only to return to the sun’s vicinity in more than six years.

During the fly-by, the distance between Chury and the sun was greater than the distance between the sun and our Earth, which is 150 million kilometers (93 million miles).

Never before has a robot got this close

The scientists are exited: never before has a robot been in a position as good as this one to observe the process of comet-evaporation. Space craft Rosetta has been orbiting Chury for almost a year, constantly recording any change. Then, Rosetta caught up with the comet after a more than ten-year journey through deep space. At that point the distance to the sun was still 500 million kilometers (310 million miles).

Since then, Rosetta has started to observe the process of the comet heating up and more ice evaporating by the day. On Chury, the surface is already hotter than on Earth because there is no atmosphere shielding the comet from sunrays. Surface temperatures reach 80 degree Celsius (176 degree Fahrenheit), enough to turn Hydrocarbon-compounds, or even water, into steam under circumstances of very low pressure.

Rosetta, meanwhile, is collecting large amounts of data with its spectrometers, cameras and other instruments. Especially the chemical makeup of the coma – the gas-shell surrounding the comet – is of interest to the researchers.

Ample hydrogen sulfides, methane and dust

Rosettas ROSINA instrument – a special spectrometer for analyzing ions, operated by the University of Bern – registered some noticeable changes in the days leading up to the approach to the sun. Chury has started emitting almost twice as much carbon dioxide, four times the amount of methane and seven times the amount of hydrogen sulfide compared to the weeks before. Only the amount of water vapor has remained stable.

The amount of measurable dust has also increased. The instruments measured about ten times more than at the beginning of July. And the researchers expect the increased values to continue for some more weeks: “We are expecting more explosions and dust-emissions into September,” Ferri said.

Philae does not speak – but does it listen?

Nobody knows what’s up with tiny landing robot Philae, which Rosetta released onto the comet at the end of last year. The experts who are in charge of Philae at the German National Aeronautics and Space Research Center (DLR) were last in touch with the lander on July 9th.

Since then, all attempts to establish a data connection to the robot have failed. And the approach to the sun has not made it easier for mission control: Because of the increasing activity of the comet, Rosetta has to keep a safe distance and maintain a higher orbit.

Nevertheless, the scientists are far away from giving up hope: They have sent telemetry commands to Philae in the hope that the robot hears and understands them and starts using its instruments. They hope that at a later point, when Chury is less active, Rosetta will be able to find a better orbit, close in on the comet, establish a connection to the lander and hopefully retrieve the collected data.

Date: 13.08.2015

Author: Fabian Schmidt

Comet spews ice, dust, Rosetta photographs

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko outburst, photo by Rosetta

From the European Space Agency:

11 August 2015

In the approach to perihelion over the past few weeks, Rosetta has been witnessing growing activity from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, with one dramatic outburst event proving so powerful that it even pushed away the incoming solar wind. The comet reaches perihelion on Thursday, the moment in its 6.5-year orbit when it is closest to the Sun. In recent months, the increasing solar energy has been warming the comet’s frozen ices, turning them to gas, which pours out into space, dragging dust along with it.

The period around perihelion is scientifically very important, as the intensity of the sunlight increases and parts of the comet previously cast in years of darkness are flooded with sunlight.

Although the comet’s general activity is expected to peak in the weeks following perihelion, much as the hottest days of summer usually come after the longest days, sudden and unpredictable outbursts can occur at any time – as already seen earlier in the mission.

On 29 July, Rosetta observed the most dramatic outburst yet, registered by several of its instruments from their vantage point 186 km from the comet. They imaged the outburst erupting from the nucleus, witnessed a change in the structure and composition of the gaseous coma environment surrounding Rosetta, and detected increased levels of dust impacts.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Rosetta found that the outburst had pushed away the solar wind magnetic field from around the nucleus.

A sequence of images taken by Rosetta’s scientific camera OSIRIS show the sudden onset of a well-defined jet-like feature emerging from the side of the comet’s neck, in the Anuket region. It was first seen in an image taken at 13:24 GMT, but not in an image taken 18 minutes earlier, and has faded significantly in an image captured 18 minutes later. The camera team estimates the material in the jet to be travelling at 10 m/s at least, and perhaps much faster.

“This is the brightest jet we’ve seen so far,” comments Carsten Güttler, OSIRIS team member at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany.

“Usually, the jets are quite faint compared to the nucleus and we need to stretch the contrast of the images to make them visible – but this one is brighter than the nucleus.”

Perseid meteor shower next week

This video from the USA says about itself:

NASA | What’s Up for August 2015

What’s Up for August. The best Perseid meteor shower in years! And view all the current and former planets this month!


What’s Up for August. The best Perseid meteor shower in years! And view all the current and former planets this month!

Hello and welcome. I’m Jane Houston Jones from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

August’s Perseid meteor shower peaks just after midnight on a moonless mid-August night. It should put on a great show this year. A good number of meteors should be visible near Perseus every night from late July through August 24. However, you’ll see fewer meteors before and after the peak. Look towards the familiar constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northeast. They rise soon after sunset, but you’ll want to wait til they are higher in the sky to see the most meteors. The best meteor watching hour is 4 a.m. Eastern or 1 a.m. Pacific time on the morning of August 13, when up to 100 meteors per hour may be visible from a dark sky.

There’s also a chance to spot all the planets, plus former planets Pluto, Ceres, Vesta, Juno and Pallas this month! But you’ll have to observe from dusk to dawn.

From in the USA:

Aug 02, 2015

Everything you need to know: Perseid meteor shower

In N. Hemisphere, August’s Perseid meteor shower ranks as a favorite. You can see these meteors from S. Hemisphere, too. 2015 is a great year for this shower!

In the Northern Hemisphere, the annual August Perseid meteor shower probably ranks as the all-time favorite meteor shower of the year. This major shower takes place during the lazy, hazy days of summer, when many families are on vacation. And what could be more luxurious than taking a siesta in the heat of the day and watching this summertime classic in the relative coolness of night?

No matter where you live worldwide, the 2015 Perseid meteor shower will probably be fine on the mornings of August 11, 12, 13 and 14, with the nod going to August 13. On a dark, moonless night, you can often see 50 or more meteors per hour from northerly latitudes, and from southerly latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps about one-third that many meteors.

Fortunately, in 2015, the waning crescent moon comes up shortly before sunrise, so you’re guaranteed of dark skies for this year’s Perseid meteor shower. Thus, on the Perseids’ peak mornings, moonlight will not obscure this year’s Perseid meteors. Follow the links below to learn more.

When and how should I watch the Perseid meteor shower in 2015?

General rules for Perseid-watching.

What’s the source of the Perseid meteor shower?

What is the radiant point for the Perseid meteor shower?

See also here.

Nothing beats the stress of daily life like packing up some gear and leaving town to enjoy quiet nature under a kaleidoscope of stars. Before heading to the campground, find out the latest interstellar news with the Nat Geo Starstruck blog, and read up on ten tips for how to become an expert camper. If pitching a tent isn’t your thing, learn how to turn your car into a camper, or check out three great spots for glamping. Wherever you sleep, stare up at the brilliant night sky and ponder the astounding density of neutron stars or an emerging quadruple-star system. Catch some fireflies and watch how scientists finally figured out how they glow. Upon your reentry to society, explore a star photo gallery for a colorful new desktop wallpaper—inspiration until your next escape.