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Watching the World Rev its Heat Engine April 28, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in CERES Science Team, Earth, NASA, Space Fotos, Terra satellite.
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Terra/CERES  

Absorption of solar energy heats up our planet’s surface and the atmosphere and makes life for us possible. But the energy cannot stay bound up in the Earth’s environment forever. If it did then the Earth would be as hot as the Sun. Instead, as the surface and the atmosphere warm, they emit thermal longwave radiation, some of which escapes into space and allows the Earth to cool. This false-color image of the Earth was produced on September 30, 2001, by the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument flying aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. The image shows where more or less heat, in the form of longwave radiation, is emanating from the top of Earth’s atmosphere.

As one can see in the image, the thermal radiation leaving the oceans is fairly uniform. The blue swaths across the central Pacific represent thick clouds, the tops of which are so high they are among the coldest places on Earth. In the American Southwest, which can be seen in the upper righthand corner of the globe, there is often little cloud cover to block outgoing radiation and relatively little water to absorb solar energy. Consequently, the amount of outgoing radiation in the American Southwest exceeds that of the oceans. Also, that region was experiencing an extreme heatwave when these data were acquired.

Recently, NASA researchers discovered that incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation increased in the tropics from the 1980s to the 1990s. (Click to read the press release.) They believe that the reason for the unexpected increase has to do with an apparent change in circulation patterns around the globe, which effectively reduced the amount of water vapor and cloud cover in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Without the clouds, more sunlight was allowed to enter the tropical zones and more thermal energy was allowed to leave. The findings may have big implications for climate change and future global warming.

“This suggests that the tropical heat engine increased its speed,” observes Dr. Bruce Wielicki, of NASA Langley Research Center. “It’s as if the heat engine in the tropics has become less efficient, using more fuel in the 1990s than in the 1980s.”

Shifting Northern Hazes April 28, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Cassini, JPL, NASA, Saturn, Space Fotos, Space Science Institute, Titan.
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Shifting Northern Hazes

Original Caption Released with Image:
The complex and dynamic atmosphere of Titan displays multiple haze layers near the north pole in this view, which also provides an excellent look at the detached stratospheric haze layer that surrounds the moon at lower latitudes.North on Titan (5,150 kilometers, or 3,200 miles across) is up and rotated 20 degrees to the left.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 16, 2006, using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of ultraviolet light centered at 338 nanometers. The image was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (800,000 miles) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 68 degrees. Image scale is 7 kilometers (5 miles) per pixel.

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. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

NGC 7635: Bubble in a Cosmic Sea April 28, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in APoD, Deep Space, European Southern Observatory (ESO), European Space Agency, NASA, NGC 7635, Palomar Observatory, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit: Digitized Sky Survey, ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator
Color Composite: Davide De Martin (Skyfactory) Explanation: Seemingly adrift in a cosmic sea of stars and glowing gas, the delicate, floating apparition near the center (next to a blue tinted star) of this widefield view is cataloged as NGC 7635 – The Bubble Nebula. A mere 10 light-years wide, the tiny Bubble Nebula and the larger complex of interstellar gas and dust clouds are found about 11,000 light-years distant, straddling the boundary between the parental constellations Cepheus and Cassiopeia. Also included in the breathtaking vista is open star cluster M52 (upper left), some 5,000 light-years away. The digital color picture is based on photographic plates taken at the Palomar Observatory between 1992 and 1997. This cropped version spans about 2.7 degrees on the sky corresponding to a width of just over 500 light-years at the estimated distance of the Bubble Nebula.

Picture ISS013-E-8948 April 27, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Astronaut, Earth, International Space Station, NASA, Space Fotos.
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Low-resolution Browse Image

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Picture ISS013-E-8930 April 27, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Astronaut, Earth, International Space Station, NASA, Space Fotos.
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Low-resolution Browse Image

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File Name File Size (bytes) Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Comments
View ISS013-E-8930.JPG 39269 639 435 No No

Large Images to Request for Downloading

File Name File Size (bytes) Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Comments
Request ISS013-E-8930.JPG 789546 3032 2064 No No

Saturn’s Subtle Spectrum April 27, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Cassini, JPL, NASA, Saturn, Space Fotos.
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Dreamy colors ranging from pale rose to butterscotch to sapphire give this utterly inhospitable gas planet a romantic appeal. Shadows of the rings caress the northern latitudes whose blue color is presumed to be a seasonal effect

Target Name: S Rings
Is a satellite of: Saturn
Mission: Cassini
Spacecraft: Cassini Orbiter
Instrument: Imaging Science Subsystem – Wide Angle
Product Size: 1016 samples x 1002 lines
Produced By: Cassini Imaging Team
Primary Data Set: Cassini
Full-Res TIFF: PIA08166.tif (3.058 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA08166.jpg (30.66 kB)
Original Caption Released with Image:

Dreamy colors ranging from pale rose to butterscotch to sapphire give this utterly inhospitable gas planet a romantic appeal. Shadows of the rings caress the northern latitudes whose blue color is presumed to be a seasonal effect.

Enceladus (505 kilometers, or 314 miles across) hugs the ringplane right of center.

Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this color view, which approximates what the human eye would see. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on March 16, 2006 at a distance of approximately 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 102 degrees. Image scale is 120 kilometers (75 miles) per pixel on Saturn.

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

Luminous Crater Rims April 27, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Mars, NASA, Space Fotos, TPOD.
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Do the rims of the Martian craters in the picture above appear to be glowing electrically? They are not glowing, but they look that way for a good electrical reason.

Our picture for today comes from a high-resolution photographic strip taken by the Mars Global Surveyor. It is from the region of Meridiani Planum, on which the rover Opportunity landed in January 2004. (For convenience, we’ve rotated the picture 90 degrees clockwise; north is to the right).

The rover visited at least one of the craters in the region, and found that the bright rim is lighter surface material beneath a dark layer of fine sand, intermixed with millimeter-sized granules. In ways not yet understood by NASA scientists, the dark material is created and distributed by Everest-sized “dust devils” and by powerful dust storms on Mars.

The landscape exhibited here throws additional light on the electrical nature of the Martian “winds”. We have already observed that the dust devils on Mars “burn” the soil electrically, leaving dark tracks meandering across the Martian surface. The dark material resulting from electrical storms has covered large regions of Mars. Later, as new dust devils move across the darkened regions, they will often leave a lighter track by removing the darker surface material.

When a regional dust storm develops, its leading edge reveals a large complex of tornado-like vortices. In contrast to a single dust devil, a regional dust storm—sometimes growing to global proportions—can remove much more of the superficial surface material and deposit the darkened dust and grains over neighboring regions. And just as a Martian dust devil moving across a darker surface can create a lighter track, it appears that the more energetic dust storms can create eerie effects on such darkened areas as Meridiani Planum.

Little more than common sense scientifically is needed to see these effects in electrical terms. It is inconceivable that that a mere “wind”, in an atmosphere only one percent as dense as the atmosphere of the Earth, could remove dust and grainy material, then elevate them in the vertical fashion implied by pictures of the rope-like tornado columns on the edge of powerful dust storms.

In our Picture of the Day for March 24, we suggested, “Closer examination should show that these tornadoes form preferentially on high points and the sharp edges of craters or escarpments”. The effect is clear in the picture above. Material has been removed from the rims of craters in ways that would not be typical of the mechanical effects of wind alone. Note, for example, that the rims exhibit radial “rays” created by the removal of material. The rays extend in every direction around the craters—not in the one direction expected of a mechanical wind’s path. The result is a photographic image recording the electric discharge of the dust storm vortices—imitating the “glow” of the air-to-ground discharge in the contrasting light and dark material left behind.

Also significant is the “tangential” component of the darker streaks left by removal of dust from the rims. Many years ago, Ralph Juergens noted this function of a rotating electrical arc. The pattern suggests a counterclockwise rotation of an electrical vortex as it spins off the crater in the direction of the “wind streak” left behind. The familiar winds known to meteorologists do not create selective displacement of downwind material in this way.

If planetary scientists will examine these features objectively and in closer detail, they will see the signature of electrical discharge. Though electrical events today certainly cannot compare to the planet-altering events of the past, the tools now available should allow for definitive answers if planetary scientists will consider the electrical phenomena occurring episodically on the planet today

Galaxies Don Mask of Stars April 26, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, JPL, NASA, NGC 2207, Space Fotos.
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IC 2163

A pair of dancing galaxies appears dressed for a cosmic masquerade in a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The infrared picture shows what looks like two icy blue eyes staring through an elaborate, swirling red mask. These "eyes" are actually the cores of two merging galaxies, called NGC 2207 and IC 2163, which recently met and began to twirl around each other.

The "mask" is made up of the galaxies' twisted spiral arms. Dotted along the arms, like strings of decorative pearls, are dusty clusters of newborn stars. This is the first time that clusters of this type, called "beads on a string" by astronomers, have been seen in NGC 2207 and IC 2163.

"This is the most elaborate case of beading we've seen in galaxies," said Dr. Debra Elmegreen of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "They are evenly spaced and sized along the arms of both galaxies."

Elmegreen is lead author of a paper describing the Spitzer observations in the May 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers say the beads were formed when the galactic duo first met. "The galaxies shook each other, causing gas and dust to move around and collect into pockets dense enough to collapse gravitationally," said Dr. Kartik Sheth of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Once this material condensed into thick bead-like clouds, stars of various sizes began to pop up within them.

Spitzer's infrared camera was able to see the dusty clouds for the first time because they glow with infrared light. The hot, young stars housed inside the clouds heat up the dust, which then radiates at infrared wavelengths. This dust is false-colored red in the image, while stars are represented in blue.

The Spitzer data also reveal an unusually bright bead adorning the left side of the "mask." This dazzling orb is so packed full of dusty materials that it accounts for five percent of the total infrared light coming from both galaxies. Elmegreen's team thinks the central stars in this dense cluster might have merged to become a black hole.

Visible-light images of the galaxies show stars located inside the beads, but the beads themselves are invisible. In those pictures, the galaxies look more like a set of owl-like eyes with "feathers" of scattered stars.

NGC 2207 and IC 2163 are located 140 million light-years away in the Canis Major constellation. The two galaxies will meld into one in about 500 million years, bringing their masquerade days to an end.

Other authors of this research include Bruce Elmegreen of IBM Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Michele Kaufman of Ohio State University, Columbus; Curt Struck of Iowa State, Ames; Magnus Thomasson of Onsala Space Observatory, Sweden; and Elias Brinks of the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. JPL is a division of Caltech. Spitzer's infrared array camera was built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The instrument's principal investigator is Dr. Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit http://www.nasa.gov/home/

Whitney Clavin (818) 354-4673
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Cali

Floods on the Danube River April 26, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in ASTER, Earth, NASA, Space Fotos, Terra satellite.
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Floods on the Danube River Click here to view full image (3176 kb)

The Danube River spills over into farm fields in the northeastern corner of Serbia in this image, taken by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite on April 24, 2006. Though water levels on the Danube River in Eastern Europe had been expected to fall by this time, the river was still running high on April 24. Melting snow and spring rain have driven rivers across Central Europe over their banks, causing widespread flooding. High water levels on the Danube forced evacuations throughout Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria in late April 2006, according to news reports.

In the region shown here, a small village is nestled within a bend in the river. Streets, houses, and exposed earth form a tight grey grid within the village, interrupted by occasional red squares where plants are growing. The rest of the land in the scene is covered with long, rectangular agricultural fields. Bare fields, as yet unplanted, are grey, while those in which crops are growing are red. The river, blue, seeps over its banks and across the fields in the center of the image. Smudges of blue along the banks of the river in the village hint that flooding may be occurring here too, though the darker colors may also be shadows cast by the small clouds overhead. On April 23, Reuters reported that some 225,000 hectares of Serbia’s farm land, about 5 percent of the arable land in the country, had been flooded or threatened by floods.

Numerous images of floods in Central Europe can be found in the Earth Observatory’s Natural Hazards: Floods section.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.

Happy Birthday to Me! April 26, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Space Fotos.
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Well hope fully I get to bury this post, but today is my 31st year on this Earth…

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