NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been diligently monitoring the large storm on Saturn for nearly a year.
As described by NASA, "These brand new, full-color mosaics and animated movies begin with the storm's emergence as a tiny spot in a single image on Dec. 5, 2010, and follow its subsequent growth to a storm so large it completely encircled the planet by late January 2011. The disturbance, which extends north-south approximately 9,000 miles, or 15,000 kilometers, grew to be the largest observed on Saturn in the past 21 years, and the largest by far ever observed on the planet from an interplanetary spacecraft. Other instruments on Cassini have detected the storm's electrical activity and revealed it to be a convective thunderstorm. Its active convecting phase ended in late June, but the turbulent clouds it created linger in the atmosphere today." "The storm's 200-day active period also makes it the longest-lasting planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. The previous record holder was an outburst sighted in 1903 which lingered for 150 days. The large disturbance imaged 21 years ago by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was comparable in size to the current storm. That 1990 storm lasted for only 55 days." The collected images and movies can be seen athttp://ciclops.org,http://saturn.jpl.nasa.govandhttp://www.nasa.gov/cassini. y include mosaics of dozens of images stitched together and presented in true and false colors.
NASA's MESSENGER mission around Mercury has made the news lately. The mission was a winner in "Popular Science" as it was named a winner in the magazine's 24th annual "Best of What's New" in the Aviation and Space category. [more].
Also on Nov. 14th, NASA announced that it will extend the MESSENGER mission for an additional year of orbital operations at Mercury beyond the planned end of the primary mission on March 17, 2012. The MESSENGER probe became the first spacecraft to orbit the innermost planet on March 18, 2011. [more]
Hope our US friends had a great Thanksgiving and Black Friday!
Just minutes ago NASA's next mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory named Curiosity, successfully launched from Cape Kennedy aboard an Atlas V right on time at 10:02 a.m. EST.
The 1-ton, $2.5 billion Curiosity is nuclear powered and packed with 10 science instruments that will help scientists determine if life can, did, or does exist on Mars. The MSL will land in a reselected spot within Gale Crater in 8 1/2 months.
Curiosity just separated from the Centaur upper stage and is flying free. There will be a NASA teleconference coming up at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.
In America we are preparing to have family and friends arrive to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. It is a busy time but a welcome one as we take time to be with loved ones and friends, remembering what is important in life.
I hope those of you in the U.S. have a safe, joyous and fun Thanksgiving.
For our international friends, may peace and love be with you and yours.
I will be writing as I get time to do so......
Coming up is Curiosity's launch to Mars on Saturday, the threat of space junk to ISS and hopefully.
Please take the time to see an INCREDIBLE video made by astronaut Ron Garan while he was on the International Space Station and a member of the Expedition 28 crew. It is set to great music and shows views of our Earth and sky that you can only see from space.
You will not regret taking the time to watch this......I have added it to my favorites. Seeing the aurora, the stars, the Moon (briefly) and the vista of our planet.....priceless.
The huge filament that has been visible across the Sun the past couple days was captured on the 17th by Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in ultraviolet light.....what a stunning sight. There may be more solar activity to be seen if this filament should collapse onto the Sun.
Looking for a government job? Check out this link and see if you qualify: http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/.
The headliner showcases a VERY important point - for the first time in decades NASA is looking for a new group of astronauts to send BEYOND low Earth orbit LEO). Not since the Apollo program has this been the case for new astronauts.....since December 1972 all manned missions have been to LEO.
NASA now needs astronauts to fly the new manned crew vehicle and the to be built rockets to places like asteroids and perhaps lunar orbit and beyond. This shows a commitment by NASA to finally get beyond LEO and GO SOMEPLACE within the solar system.
An update - the Soyuz mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was successfully launched and the new crew should be docking very soon with ISS. What a relief.....
Today is an important day for the future of the International Space Station (ISS) as the Russians are preparing to launch the next trio of few crew members to the ISS at 11:14 today, Sunday Nov. 13, 2011. This is crucial as the Soyuz launch vehicle that lofts the crew to orbit is the same type that failed August 24th and grounded the Russians as they figured out what went wrong.
Since the U.S. retired the Space Shuttle, the Russians are the only ticket to the ISS. If there is another problem with the Soyuz, it can have very dire circumstances for the future of the $100 billion ISS. It is also disconcerting that that the Russians suffered another engine malfunction with their recently launched Mars mission to Phobos. The upper stage engine failed to fire when commanded and has left the spacecraft and mission in doubt.
A Soyuz launched Progress resupply ship successfully docked with the ISS on October 30th but this is the first manned launch since the resumption of Soyuz launches.
I, and I am sure others are wondering if there is a quality control issue on the Russian launcher assembly line.Only time and a successful liftoff will tell.
Read More About It: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/living/index.html
Here is the latest pic from NASA of space rock 2005 YU55. See my blog from yesterday for basic deatils on this solar system interloper
"This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 7, 2011, at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the space rock was at 3.6 lunar distances, which is about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth."
The Earth should be in one piece by tomorrow night (Nov 8). If it isn't, at least it won't have been caused by the passage of an aircraft carrier sized asteroid named 2005 YU55
We know 100% for sure that the Earth will not be hit by this rock for 100 years. It has a close encounter with Venus in 2029 that will alter its orbit so we will have to monitor its new orbit.
This nomad of the solar system comes closest to us on November 8th at 6:28 p.m. EST, when it passes 198,000 miles (319,000 km) from Earth's surface. By the way, that is well inside the Moon's orbit which is about 240,000 miles on any given day.
This space rock is remarkably spherical and will be close enough that we will be able to get radar returns and further our knowledge. Amateur and professional astronomers are planning observing runs to capture images and associated data as the asteroid makes its closest approach to learn even more about this interloper.
This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from radar data taken in April 2010 by the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico.
Nov. 25th is the projected launch date of NASA's newest mission to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory, named Curiosity, is due to land in a crater named Gale - a 96 mile wide crater that has a central mountain that is three times higher than the Grand Canyon is deep.
Gale Crater was selected for the landing site as it is thought to be a place where the past history of Mars will be available in the layers of sedimentary rock that abounds in the crater. By studying these layers with the sophisticated instruments on board Curiosity, and its ability to roam the Martian surface, scientists are very optimistic that a treasure trove of information will be discovered.
SO when you watch Mars get brighter in the sky in the upcoming weeks think about Gale Crater and what we will find there - perhaps building blocks of life if not not proof of life itself.
I spotted Venus last night for the first time in months. Venus is low in the southwest just as it begins to get dark - if your horizon is clear you cannot miss the brilliant greenish-white planet. Venus will continue to get higher and brighter in the sky as the weeks go by.
With the return to standard time tonight, we will have even more darkness hours to enjoy the night sky as we progress to the Winter Solstice in December.
So as darkness falls, Venus is in the southwest, Jupiter in the east with the Moon. Mars is in the predawn hours keeping bright Regulus company.
Enjoy the sky....don't forget to check out the fly overs of the International SPace STation - get the updates for your location at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/.
You have to check out the BIG sunspot that is causing a bit of a stir as it is one of the largest we have seen on the Sun in awhile.This sunspot has been active producing solar activity and will probably continue to do so.
For you early risers - an hour or more before dawn, be sure to look up Mars high overhead, a little towards the east. Mars is becoming brighter as it moves closer to Earth and it now is a little brighter than the star Regulus in the constellation of Leo the Lion. You will see Mars and Regulus near one another and Mars is steadier, brighter and reddish-orange tinted as opposed to yellowish-white Regulus.
Mars will continue to get brighter and redder in color as the weeks roll by. It is fitting that we know where Mars is in the sky as NASA prepares to launch Curiosity towards the Red Planet on the 8th of this month. The super rover-laboratory on wheels promises to revolutionize our search for signs of life - past and present- on the planet in Gale Crater.
More to come on Mars and Curiosity to come but take a peek tomorrow in the pre-dawn sky and spot the Red Planet for yourself.