If this doesn’t tug at your heart’s space strings, I don’t know what will.
What we’re seeing here is a video made from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it flew past Earth on October 9, 2013. This is the first time a video has been made of the Moon orbiting our planet from beyond the Earth-Moon system*, and, in effect, it’s what a future human space traveler would see as they return home.
A combination of exceptionally clear weather, the steady approach of northern summer, and a poleward orbital path has given Cassini — and Cassini scientists — unprecedented views of countless lakes scattered across Titan’s north polar region. In the near-infrared mosaic above they can be seen as dark splotches and speckles scattered around the moon’s north pole. Previously observed mainly via radar, these are the best visual and infrared wavelength images ever obtained of Titan’s northern “land o’ lakes!”
(But don’t even think about going swimming in these lakes — they’re filled with liquid METHANE, nearly 300 degrees below zero!)
Looking for a great gift for your favorite astronomy fan (even if that happens to be yourself?) Then check out this very cool 2014 Moon Calendar from Ashland Astronomy Studio in Oregon — it shows you an entire year of Moon phases, eclipses and other lunar events so you’ll always be in tune with the Moon!
I’ve got mine up right now even though it’s a couple of months early… it looks that nice on my wall!
The Moon may not have any air to breathe, but it does have a very thin exosphere — a diffuse layer of molecules held by gravity above its surface that sometimes traps some of the very fine lunar dust in suspension via electrostatic activity. (In fact this very evening, at 11:27 pm EDT, Sept. 6, NASA’s LADEE mission will launch to study that dust suspended in the lunar exosphere.)
Now while you couldn’t take a whiff of the dust on the Moon directly (and if you have allergies, you probably wouldn’t want to) many of the Apollo astronauts reported that the super-fine Moon dust on their suits smelled like burnt gunpowder once they returned to the breathable environment inside the landing modules. But why? Find out here.
Moondust. “I wish I could send you some,” says Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. Just a thimbleful scooped fresh off the lunar surface. “It’s amazing stuff.”
Feel it—it’s soft like snow, yet strangely abrasive.
Taste it—”not half bad,” according to Apollo 16 astronaut John Young.
Sniff it—”it smells like spent gunpowder,” says Cernan.
Ultimately there may be a correlation between the smell of fresh spring rain here on Earth and the “lovely odor” of sharp, powdery dust on the Moon!
It’s been thought for some time that Saturn’s largest moon Titan has a complex internal structure consisting of multiple layers of ice and liquid water. At one point it was even suggested that there are water ice “cryovolcanoes” on Titan, where watery slush oozes to the surface and freezes solid in the moon’s 270-degree-below temperatures, in very much the same way that liquid rock does on Earth. Now, thanks to recent gravitational observations by Cassini (and who else?) some researchers think that Titan’s icy shell may be much thicker in places than once thought, making the existence of ice volcanoes and Earthlike plate tectonics much less likely.
What looks like a single open-quote (or backwards comma) is really Saturn’s two-toned moon Iapetus, seen here in RGB composite color made from raw images acquired by Cassini on Aug. 30 from a distance of about 1.5 million miles.
With a leading side stained a dark reddish hue and a trailing side bright white, the 914-mile-wide Iapetus (eye-AH-peh-tus) is — almost literally — the yin-yang of Saturn’s family of moons.
The color variation on Iapetus is due to the fine coating of dark material that falls onto its leading hemisphere, possibly sent its way by smaller, distant Phoebe. This dark coating of dust causes that half of Iapetus’ surface to warm up ever-so-slightly-more than the other, making the water ice evaporate and redepositing it on the other side. This in turn just reinforces the whole cycle…a positive feedback loop.
Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Composite by Jason Major.
Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 all successfully delivered men to the Moon between the summer of ’69 and December 1972, but do you know where on the lunar surface they each landed? This awesome vintage map from NASA points each site out (and is a great lunar atlas as well.)
With four of the six planned lunar missions completed, this chart has been prepared to show the various areas of the lunar “nearside” to be visited by astronauts representing the NASA Apollo program. Apollo’s 11, 12, 14 and 15 are shown at their respective landing points. Apollo 16 and Apollo 17, planned for later this year at Descartes and Taurus Littrow, respectively, also are depicted on the map.
The map was created in March 1972, prior to the launches of Apollo 16 and 17.
All I can think is how good it would look printed large and mounted on the wall of my office. Yes…yes…. very good indeed.