Monthly Archives: November 2012

Curiosity Has So Many Cool Things to Find

So many cool things to find…

Water, methane, organic compounds, Twinkies, Amelia Earhart’s plane… there’s just so many cool things for Curiosity to find on Mars!

This little production by Seattle-based Cinesaurus may be a parody of “Dumb Ways to Die” but there’s certainly nothing dumb about the exciting things that Curiosity’s already found in its brief time in Gale Crater… and there’s undoubtedly lots more to come. So enjoy the video, let your own imagination roam — er, rove — and keep an eye out for facehuggers. They’re tricky!

(If only Curiosity really could save Spirit!!)

Video: Cinesaurus (Vocals by Cara Peacock)

Saturn’s Stunning, Swirling Cyclone

Saturn’s north polar cyclone (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Oh man. It’s stuff like this that got me into space blogging in the first place.

Landing here on Earth last night, this is one of several new raw images from Cassini acquired yesterday (Nov. 27) showing the enormous cyclone of clouds swirling around Saturn’s geographic north pole. The angle of sunlight highlights the multilayered structure of the cyclone and surrounding cloud bands wonderfully… this is a roiling feature approximately 3-4,000 km across and in places appears to carve cloud channels hundreds of kilometers into Saturn’s atmosphere. Simply. Beautiful.

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten such a good look at Saturn’s north pole… over four years ago, I’d say, and in fact one of my very first blog posts here on LITD was of the hexagonal feature ringing Saturn’s northern hemisphere. Thanks to Cassini’s new orbital trajectory, which is taking it high over the ring plane and poles of Saturn, we have the opportunity to view the gas giant’s upper latitudes again.

In fact we even have a brand new look at the hexagon, which is still there, four years later:

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Titan: Dabbling in the Occult

Still from the Dec. 20, 2001 occultation sequence. Titan was removed in the bottom image. (Bouchez, Brown et al.)

Back in December of 2001, Saturn’s moon Titan passed in front of two background stars (called an “occultation”) from the point of view of the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory. Astronomers used the incredible resolving ability of the 5-meter telescope’s adaptive optics to watch the event, which revealed the diffraction of the stars’ light through Titan’s dense atmosphere as well as allowing them to measure the moon’s stratospheric winds. Check it out above!

Read more here on Universe Today.

Video credit: A. Bouchez, M. Brown, M. Troy et al./Caltech

The Coolest Calendar You’ll See All Year

The 2013 Year in Space wall calendar is chock-full of astro awesome.

Do you need a new calendar? Of course you do, the year’s almost over. (And if you’d forgotten, well.. you’re welcome.) Of course if you’re reading this post you’re most likely a fan of space exploration, and so you’ll need a calendar that’s going to entertain your fascination about space for a whole year.

This one is it.

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A Backyard View of a Solar Prominence

Hydrogen-alpha photo of the Sun by Alan Friedman

An enormous tree-shaped prominence spreads its “branches” tens of thousands of miles above the Sun’s photosphere in this image, a section of a photo acquired in hydrogen alpha (Ha) by Alan Friedman last week from his backyard in Buffalo, NY. Writes Alan on his blog, “gotta love a sunny day in November!”

Check out the full image — along with an idea of just how big this “tree” actually is — here.

What Has Curiosity Found on Mars?

……E.T., maybe?? ;)

Kidding aside, the internet science world is abuzz with the anticipation of some big news from the Mars Science Laboratory team, spurring many on Twitter to make up their own amusing suggestions.  (Martian Twinkies??) What that news could be — organic compounds? water ice? methane outgassings? — is still anyone’s guess. But since this IS Mars we’re talking about, any “big news” is of course awaited with bated breath.

Stay tuned for more!

(And if you don’t know the story that inspired the picture above, click here.)

UPDATE: Apparently the NPR article that spurred rumors of big discoveries from Curiosity was a misunderstanding… while data from the rover is “one for the history books,” that pertains to the mission as a whole — not any individual discovery. It was not made entirely clear, but the internet ran with the more exciting option. Another example of why you can’t always believe what you hear. Still, news from the MSL mission will be delivered very soon.

“Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect… at this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.” – JPL news release, 29 Nov. 2012

Read more here.

Daphnis Is Back!

Daphnis’ gravity carves waves into the edges of the Keeler gap on Nov. 11, 2012

It’s been a while since I posted an image of my favorite moon of Saturn, but while looking through some recent raw images returned by the Cassini spacecraft I spotted it: Daphnis, the little sculptor shepherd moon!

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