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Thank You all August 30, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Site Info, Space Fotos.
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In about 3 days this blog will turn 1 year old. I am quite surprised that I kept up with it this long. Also I want to thank all of you that visit the site, I actually have gotten over 100,000 hits in the last 12 months, which is my most popular website ever. So to celebrate Space Photo’s first Birthday, I will be reviewing the archives and posting my favorite images of the past year.

Once again thank you for your support.

-John

Kasei Valles, perspective view of Northern branch, looking West August 30, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Planets, Space Fotos.
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Kasei Valles, perspective view of Northern branch, looking West

Credits:

ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Description

This image, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, shows the region of Kasei Valles, one of the biggest outflow channel systems on Mars. The HRSC obtained this image during orbit 1429 on 26 February 2005, at a ground resolution of approximately 29 metres per pixel.

The image shows a perspective view of the Northern branch of Kasei Valles looking to the West (the image has been rotated approximately 90 degrees clockwise so that North is to the right). As one of the biggest outflow channel systems on Mars, Kasei Valles was probably formed by gigantic flood events and later additionally shaped by glacial activity.

AKARI’s mid-infrared image of reflection nebula IC 1396 August 30, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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AKARI’s mid-infrared image of reflection nebula IC 1396

Credit:

JAXA

Description:

This mid-infrared, false-colour composite image shows the reflection nebula IC 1396 in the constellation Cepheus, as viewed by AKARI’s Infrared Camera (IRC) in its scanning mode (at 9 and 18 micrometers wavelength). IC 1396 is a bright star formation region located about 3000 light years from our Solar System, in a region where very massive (several tens of solar masses) stars are presently being born. Massive young stars in the central region of the image have swept out the gas and dust to the periphery of the nebula, creating a hollow shell-like structure. The formation of a new generation of stars is now taking place within the compressed gas in these outer shell structures. With this high-resolution and high-quality image AKARI has revealed for the first time the detailed distribution of the gas and dust swept out over the entire nebula. Many recently born stars that were previously unknown are now expected to be detected thanks to this new image, while detailed analysis of these data will reveal the story of the star formation in this area.

A Backward Sunspot and the New Solar Cycle August 30, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Space Fotos, Sun.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit:

MDI, SOHO, ESA, NASA

Explanation:

Why is sunspot 905 backwards? Perhaps it is a key marker for the beginning of a new magnetic cycle on our Sun. Every 11 years, our Sun goes through a magnetic cycle, at the end of which its overall magnetic orientation is reversed. An 11-year solar cycle has been observed for hundreds of years by noting peaks and valleys in the average number of sunspots. Just now, the Sun is near Solar Minimum, and likely to start a long progression toward the most active time, called Solar Maximum, in about 5.5 years. An indicator that the sun’s magnetic field is reversing is the appearance of sunspots with the reverse magnetic polarity than normal. A few weeks ago, one small candidate reverse sunspot was sighted but faded quickly. Now, however, a larger sunspot with negative polarity is being tracked. This sunspot, numbered 905, appears as the unusual white spot in the above magnetic image of the Sun taken with the SOHO spacecraft a few days ago. In the past few days, Sunspot 905 has actually begun to break apart and might also become the source of coronal mass ejections and explosive solar flares. Solar astronomers predict that the coming Solar Maximum will be unusually active.

Rock Glacier on Mount Sopris August 30, 2006

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Rock Glacier on Mount Sopris
 

Description:

Not all glaciers are made of ice. Some glaciers are made of rock. More accurately, they are composed of a combination of ice and rock. Sometimes, these glaciers are “normal” glaciers covered by rock debris. Other times, water invades a field of rocks, freezes, and later deforms enough to allow the glacier to flow down a slope. Compared to ordinary glaciers, rock glaciers are rare, and may look like a rocky field shaped like a glacier.

Some fine examples of rock glaciers live in Colorado, including this glacier on the slope of Mount Sopris in the Elk Mountains, in the western part of the state. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on July 8, 2006. This is a false-color image that mimics photo-like, natural color. Green indicates vegetation, dark blue indicates water, gray indicates bare rock, and white indicates ice or snow. Shaped vaguely like an amphitheatre but stretched out like putty, the rock glacier stretches off the northeast slope of Mount Sopris’s east summit. Not far from the glacier’s tip is lush-looking vegetation. Off the east edge of the glacier are some small bodies of water. The flow rate for rock glaciers can vary, depending on each glacier’s composition, underlying slope, and local weather conditions. In Colorado, the flow rates of rock glaciers range from less than 20 centimeters (8 inches) to more than 61 centimeters (24 inches) per year.

Credits:

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

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Successfully Concludes Aerobraking August 30, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Planets, Space Fotos.
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artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during aerobraking.

Description:

Nearly six months after it entered orbit, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has concluded its aerobraking phase. The spacecraft had been dipping in and out of the red planet’s atmosphere to adjust its orbit. On August 30, 2006, during its 445th orbit, the spacecraft fired its intermediate thrusters to raise the low point of its orbit and stop dipping into the atmosphere. The six-minute engine burn began at 10:36 a.m. (PST), altering the spacecraft’s course so that its periapsis (the closest it comes to the planet) is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) above the planet, well above the atmosphere.

“Aerobraking has changed the course of the spacecraft from just over 35 hours per orbit to just under two hours per orbit and it has saved us roughly 600 kilograms of fuel,” said Dan Johnston, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Deputy Mission Manager. “Getting out of aerobraking was a phenomenal moment and everyone on the flight teams has done a fantastic job to get us where we need to be for science acquisition.”

The next step for the spacecraft will be two additional orbit adjustments to put the orbiter in the ideal path to begin gathering the most detailed scientific data yet from the red planet. The mission’s main science observations are scheduled to begin in November, after a period of transitional deployments and tests, then three weeks of intermittent communications while Mars passes nearly behind the sun.

Mississippi Meanders August 30, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Planets, Space Fotos.
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Mississippi MeandersHigh-resolution Images

Credits:

Map courtesy the US Army Corps of Engineers, Landsat image by Robert Simmon, based on data from the UMD Global Land Cover Facility.

Description:

As it winds from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River is in constant flux. Fast water carries sediment while slow water deposits it. Soft riverbanks are continuously eroded. Floods occasionally spread across the wide, shallow valley that flanks the river, and new channels are left behind when the water recedes. This history of change is recorded in the Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River, published by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1944.

This map of an area just north of the Atchafalaya River shows a slice of the complex history of the Mississippi. The modern river course is superimposed on channels from 1880 (green), 1820 (red), and 1765 (blue). Even earlier, prehistoric channels underlie the more recent patterns. An oxbow lake—a crescent of water left behind when a meander (bend in the river) closes itself off—remains from 1785. A satellite image from 1999 shows the current course of the river and the old oxbow lake. Despite modern human-made changes to the landscape, traces of the past remain, with roads and fields following the contours of past channels.

In the twentieth century, the rate of change on the Mississippi slowed. Levees now prevent the river from jumping its banks so often. The levees protect towns, farms, and roads near the banks of the river and maintain established shipping routes and ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The human engineering of the lower Mississippi has been so extensive that a natural migration of the Mississippi delta from its present location to the Atchafalaya River to the west was halted in the early 1960s by an Army Corps of Engineers project known as the Old River Control Structure (visible in the full-size Landsat image).

The delta switching has occurred every 1,000 years or so in the past. As sediment accumulates in the main channel, the elevation increases, and the channel becomes more shallow and meandering. Eventually the river finds a shorter, steeper descent to the Gulf. In the 1950s, engineers noticed that the river’s present channel was on the verge of shifting westward to the Atchafalaya River, which would have become the new route to the Gulf. Because of the industry and other development that depended on the present river course, the U.S. Congress authorized the construction of the Old River Control Structure to prevent the shift from happening

The Pluto Controversy August 27, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Planets, Space News.
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Well I don’t usually write posts for this site, but with all the coverage of Pluto’s demotion to dwarf planet, I thought I would chime in with my opinion.

Three days ago in Prague, the International Astronomical Union voted on and passed a new definition of Planets, which demotes Pluto to a new classification of Dwarf Planet. The actually definition for a Planet is:

A “planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Which means our solar system is now made up of 8 planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

The IAU also defined a new classification: a dwarf planet. The formal definition is:

A “dwarf planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape , (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

Which means Pluto, Ceres and 2003 UB313(nicknamed Xena) are the first dwarf planets. The IAU also defined all other objects except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as “Small Solar-System Bodies”. The actual press release is here.

Now I have been reading articles and blog posts objecting to the demotion of Pluto from full Planet status. I just have to ask why are people objecting to this change? Is it because most people are afraid of change? The people who should be really upset are the people working on and with the New Horizons spacecraft. These hard working people finally had their spacecraft lift off in January of this year, at the time headed for the ninth planet, now it is headed for the first Dwarf Planet. The real reason they should be upset, is when budget time comes around they will have to fight with the politicians to keep funding flowing to their project to a dwarf planet. You already know the Senators and Congressmen are not going to like the idea of spending more money on something that isn’t a planet.

An Artist's View of the Pluto System
My opinion is this, the IAU made a decision, voted on and passed by their members. These members are probably some of the most knowledgeable people on the planet to make this decision. Our knowledge of the Universe and especially our Solar System is growing, so why can’t our classifications change also. Remember when people said the world was flat, and the uproar that was caused by saying it was round, or the uproar surrounding the idea that Earth orbited the Sun and not the other way around. At least with this reclassification no one is being killed for their beliefs. Anyway this classification can change in the future, depending what data the New Horizons spacecraft send back to earth. Pluto hasn’t even been called a planet for a hundred years yet, so what is the big deal. Anyway I hope the outrage subsides and we can get back to learning more about the universe we live in.

Image Credit:

NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

Update:

I’ve been doing some additional surfing and ran across this little post about Pluto: Requiem for the 10th (and 9th) planet(s)

An Unwelcome Place for New Stars (artist concept) August 27, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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An Unwelcome Place for New Stars (artist concept)

Description:

This artist’s concept depicts a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer found evidence that black holes — once they grow to a critical size — stifle the formation of new stars in elliptical galaxies. Black holes are thought to do this by heating up and blasting away the gas that fuels star formation.The blue color here represents radiation pouring out from material very close to the black hole. The grayish structure surrounding the black hole, called a torus, is made up of gas and dust. Beyond the torus, only the old red-colored stars that make up the galaxy can be seen. There are no new stars in the galaxy.

Image Credit:

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Blue Lagoon August 27, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation. Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version. Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution version available.
Credit & Copyright:

Russell Croman

Explanation:

Stars come and go as you slide your cursor over this engaging image of M8, aka the Lagoon Nebula. Of course, the nebula is itself a star-forming region, but the stars that appear and disappear here include background and foreground stars that by chance lie along the same line of sight. In this “for fun” comparison of two nearly identical digital images, the stellar point sources were removed from one image by computer processing to leave only the diffuse emission from the glowing gas clouds. In both pictures, red emission (H-alpha emission) from atomic hydrogen dominates the cosmic lagoon’s visible light, but narrow band filters were used to record the image data and map the hydrogen emission to green hues, with emission from sulfur atoms in red and oxygen in blue. The lovely Lagoon Nebula spans about 30 light-years at an estimated distance of 5,000 light-years toward the constellation Sagittarius.

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