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PIA07784: Cassini’s Best Maps of Jupiter (South Polar Map) March 31, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Jupiter, NASA, Space Fotos.
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Cassini's Best Maps of Jupiter (South Polar Map) These color maps of Jupiter were constructed from images taken by the narrow-angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Dec. 11 and 12, 2000, as the spacecraft neared Jupiter during its flyby of the giant planet. Cassini was on its way to Saturn. They are the most detailed global color maps of Jupiter ever produced; the smallest visible features are about 120 kilometers (75 miles) across. For other maps see PIA07782 and PIA07783.The maps are composed of 36 images: a pair of images covering Jupiter's northern and southern hemispheres was acquired in two colors every hour for nine hours as Jupiter rotated beneath the spacecraft. Although the raw images are in just two colors, 750 nanometers (near-infrared) and 451 nanometers (blue), the map's colors are close to those the human eye would see when gazing at Jupiter.The maps show a variety of colorful cloud features, including parallel reddish-brown and white bands, the Great Red Spot, multi-lobed chaotic regions, white ovals and many small vortices. Many clouds appear in streaks and waves due to continual stretching and folding by Jupiter's winds and turbulence. The bluish-gray features along the north edge of the central bright band are equatorial "hot spots," meteorological systems such as the one entered by NASA's Galileo probe. Small bright spots within the orange band north of the equator are lightning-bearing thunderstorms. The polar regions shown here are less clearly visible because Cassini viewed them at an angle and through thicker atmospheric haze.

The round maps are polar stereographic projections that show the north or south pole in the center of the map and the equator at the edge.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Doomed Star Eta Carinae March 26, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, Eta Carinae, NASA, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.  
Credit: J. Morse (Arizona State U.), K. Davidson (U. Minnesota) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

Explanation: Eta Carinae may be about to explode. But no one knows when – it may be next year, it may be one million years from now. Eta Carinae‘s mass – about 100 times greater than our Sun – makes it an excellent candidate for a full blown supernova. Historical records do show that about 150 years ago Eta Carinae underwent an unusual outburst that made it one of the brightest stars in the southern sky. Eta Carinae, in the Keyhole Nebula, is the only star currently thought to emit natural LASER light. This image, taken in 1996, resulted from sophisticated image-processing procedures designed to bring out new details in the unusual nebula that surrounds this rogue star. Now clearly visible are two distinct lobes, a hot central region, and strange radial streaks. The lobes are filled with lanes of gas and dust which absorb the blue and ultraviolet light emitted near the center. The streaks remain unexplained. Will these clues tell us how the nebula was formed? Will they better indicate when Eta Carinae will explode?

When Roses Aren’t Red March 24, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, Hubble Telescope, NASA, Space, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
Credit & Copyright: Jay Ballauer (All About Astro, 3RF)

Explanation: Not all roses are red of course, but they can still be very pretty. Likewise, the beautiful Rosette Nebula and other star forming regions are often shown in astronomical images with a predominately red hue – in part because the dominant emission in the nebula is from hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen’s strongest optical emission line, known as H-alpha, is in the red region of the spectrum, but the beauty of an emission nebula need not be appreciated in red light alone. Other atoms in the nebula are also excited by energetic starlight and produce narrow emission lines as well. In this gorgeous view of the Rosette’s central regions, narrow band images are combined to show emission from sulfur atoms in red, hydrogen in blue, and oxygen in green. In fact, the scheme of mapping these narrow atomic emission lines into broader colors is adopted in many Hubble images of stellar nurseries. This image spans about 50 light-years in the constellation Monoceros, at the 3,000 light-year estimated distance of the Rosette Nebula.

Inflating the Universe March 23, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, NASA, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.  
Credit: WMAP Science Team, NASA

Explanation: The Universe is expanding gradually now. But its initial expansion was almost impossibly rapid as it likely grew from quantum scale fluctuations in a trillionth of a second. In fact, this cosmological scenario, known as Inflation, is now reported to be further quantified by an analysis of three years of data from the WMAP spacecraft. WMAP’s instruments detect the cosmic microwave background radiation – the afterglow light from the early Universe. WMAP’s amazing success in exploring the first trillionth of a second and favoring specific inflationary scenarios lies in its ability to make unprecedented, precise measurements of the properties of the microwave background. The subtle properties are distilled from conditions in the early Universe and related to its first moments of existence. Schematically, this diagram traces the 13.7 billion year (plus a trillionth of a second …) history of the Universe from the quantum scale to the formation of stars, galaxies, planets, and WMAP.

4C37.43: Chandra Finds Evidence for Quasar Ignition March 23, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Chandra X-ray Observatory, Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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4C 37.43
Credit: Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss; X-ray inset: NASA/CXC/U.Hawaii/A.Stockton et al.
JPEG (351.4 kb) Tiff (24 MB) PS (2.8 MB)

An artist’s illustration depicts a quasar in the center of a galaxy that has turned on and is expelling gas at high speeds in a galactic superwind. Clouds of hot, X-ray producing gas detected by Chandra around the quasars 4C37.43 (shown in the inset) and 3C249.1, provide strong evidence for such superwinds.

The X-ray features seen at five, six, ten and eleven o’clock in the 4C37.43 image are located tens of thousands of light years from the central supermassive black hole that powers the quasar. They are likely due to shock waves in the superwind.

Chandra X-ray Image of 4C37.43
Chandra X-ray Image of 4C37.43 with Labels

Mergers of galaxies are a possible cause for the ignition, or turn-on, of quasars. Computer simulations show that a galactic merger drives gas toward the central region where it triggers a burst of star formation and provides fuel for the growth of a central black hole.

The inflow of gas into the black hole releases tremendous energy, and a quasar is born. The power output of the quasar dwarfs that of the surrounding galaxy and pushes gas out of the galaxy in a galactic superwind.

Over a period of about 100 million years, the superwind will drive most of the gas away from the central regions of the galaxy, quenching both star formation and further supermassive black hole growth. The quasar phase will end and the galaxy will settle down to a relatively quiet life.

NGC 2841: Galactic Chimneys Turn Up the Heat March 19, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Chandra X-ray Observatory, Deep Space, NASA, Space Fotos.
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NGC 2841
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U. Mass/Q.D.Wang; Optical: NOAO/KPNO
JPEG (223.3 kb) Tiff (4.7 MB) PS (2.8 MB)

This X-ray/optical composite image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 2841 shows multimillion degree gas (blue/X-ray) rising above the disk of stars and cooler gas (gray/optical).

The rapid outflows of gas from giant stars, and supernova explosions in the disk of a galaxy create huge shells or bubbles of hot gas that expand rapidly and rise above the disk like plumes of smoke from a chimney. Chandra’s image of NGC 2841 provides direct evidence for this process, which pumps energy into the thin gaseous halo that surrounds the galaxy. Galactic chimneys also spread hot, metal enriched gas away from the disk of the galaxy into the halo.

Fast Facts for NGC 2841:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/U. Mass/Q.D.Wang; Optical: NOAO/KPNO
Scale  Image is 5.75 arcmin across
Category  Normal Galaxies & Starburst Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 09h 22m 02.60s | Dec +50ยบ 58′ 35.50″
Constellation  Ursa Major
Observation Dates  December 18, 2004
Observation Time  8 hours
Obs. ID  6096
Color Code  X-ray: Blue, Optical: Gray/White
Instrument  ACIS
Distance Estimate  About 50 million light years
Release Date  March 06, 2006

Trio Leo March 19, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, NASA, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.  
Credit & Copyright: Daniel Verschatse (Antilhue Observatory)

Explanation: This popular group is famous as the Leo Triplet – a gathering of three magnificent galaxies in one field of view. Crowd pleasers when imaged with even modest telescopes, these galaxies can be introduced individually as NGC 3628 (top), M66 (bottom left), and M65 (bottom right). All three are large spiral galaxies. They tend to look dissimilar because their galactic disks are tilted at different angles to our line of sight. NGC 3628 is seen edge-on, with obscuring dust lanes cutting across the plane of the galaxy, while the disks of M66 and M65 are both inclined enough to show off their spiral structure. Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group have also left telltale signs, including the warped and inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66. This gorgeous deep view of the region spans about one degree (two full moons) on the sky. The field covers over 500 thousand light-years at the trio’s estimated distance of 30 million light-years.

Red Spot Jr. March 19, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Jupiter, NASA, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
Credit & Copyright: Mike Salway

Explanation: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a swirling storm seen for over 300 years, since the beginning of telescopic observations of the Solar System’s ruling gas giant. But over the last month it has been joined by Red Spot Jr. Thought to be similar to the Great Red Spot itself, this not-so-great red spot was actually seen to form as smaller whitish oval-shaped storms merged and then developed the remarkable reddish hue. This webcam image showing the two red tinted Jovian storms was recorded on the morning of March 12 from the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia – part of a series showing Jupiter’s rotation. Similar in diameter to planet Earth, Red Spot Jr. is expected to last for a while, and trails the Great Red Spot by about an hour as the planet rotates. Astronomers still don’t exactly understand why Jupiter’s red spots are red.

Our Busy Solar System March 19, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.  
Credit & Copyright: MPC, CBAT, Harvard CfA, IAU

Explanation: Our Solar System is a busy place. Although the major planets get the most press, a swarm of rocks, comets, and asteroids also exist. The above plot shows the placement of known inner Solar System objects on 2002 July 20. The light blue lines indicate the orbits of planets. The green dots indicate asteroids, officially known as minor planets. The red dots indicate asteroids that come within 1.3 Earth-Sun distances (AU) of the Sun and so pose an increased (although small) collision risk with the Earth. Comets appear as dark blue squares, while dark blue points are Jupiter Trojans, asteroids that orbit just ahead of, or just behind Jupiter. Note that most asteroids of the inner Solar System orbit between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt. Every day this plot shifts with objects nearer the Sun typically shifting the most. The current locations of these objects can be found here.

The newest thing from Google March 16, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Mars, Space Fotos.
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Well as most would know, Google likes to release new features in their Labs section. Well their newest release is called Google Mars. It’s like Google Maps but for Mars…From their Frequently Asked Questions section here is one question:

1. What am I looking at?

We’ve included three different types of data in Google Mars:

    Elevation – A shaded relief map, generated with data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. This map is color-coded by altitude, so you can use the color key at the lower left to estimate elevations.
    Visible – A mosaic of images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. MOC is like the digital camera you have at home. Basically, this is what your eyes would see if you were in orbit around Mars.
    Infrared – A mosaic of infrared images taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Warmer areas appear brighter, and colder areas are darker. Clouds and dust in the atmosphere are transparent in the infrared, making this the sharpest global map of Mars that’s ever been made.

So enjoy the newest release

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