Monday, July 15, 2013

New Neptune Moon Discovered by NASA's Hubble Telescope

Scientists studying images from NASA's Hubble telescope have discovered a new moon around Neptune.  The moon measures approximately 12 miles across and is the smallest of Neptune's moons.  Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA, located the newest moon by observing a white dot which was shown to orbit the planet every 23 hours.

Source: NASA
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter SETI

Saturday, July 13, 2013

NASA's Hubble Telescope Discovers Blue Planet

NASA's Hubble telescope has detected the color of a planet more than 63 light years away and it is blue like our own planet Earth.  The planet HD 189733b gets its blue color not from huge oceans like Earth, but from silicate particles in the high atmosphere.  The conditions on the planet are very unlike our own with temperatures that reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and 4,500 mph winds.

The Hubble telescope's spectrograph measured the color of light as the planet passed in front of its parent star.  HD 189733b is one of a class of planets, called hot jupiters, that orbit very close to their parent stars.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScl)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Huge Antarctic Glacier Confirmed by Satellite this Week

NASA's Operation IceBridge scientists confirmed this week that an iceberg 1/4 the size of Rhode Island has calved from the Pine Island Glacier.  Images taken from the European Earth monitoring satellite TerraSAR-X show that a 280-square mile ice island has resulted from a rift in the ice.  The crack in the Pine Island Glacier has been monitored since 2011 when it was discovered by Operation IceBridge scientists during flights over Antarctica.

Because the TerraSAR-X uses radar, it is able to monitor the continent even through clouds and through the dark winter months.  Scientist use data on calving, as well as ocean temperatures and surface melt rates, to discover more about the effects of climate changes.

Image Credit:  NASA / DMS

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Shows Our Solar System's Tail

Like comets, it has been assumed by scientists for many years that our solar system has a tail.  The tail, or heliosphere, is caused by particles streaming off the back of the system as it journeys through space.  In a paper published today in The Astrophysical Journal, scientists have been able to map out the tail of our solar system using the initial three years of data from NASA's IBEX.

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer has been able to collect data from neutral atoms colliding with our heliosphere to give scientists a picture of the tail's shape.  Before the IBEX, scientists could only use models to theorize about it.  The shape of our heliosphere is similar to a four-leaf clover, however the full length of it is unknown.

Image Credit: NASA/HST/R.Casalegno/GALEX

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Moving Forward - NASA's 2020 Mars Mission

A team of 19 scientists and researchers from universities and research organization has outlined the goals and plans for the 2020 Mars Mission.  The document submitted to NASA consists of 154 pages of details on the mission concept and how the rover will collect samples for analysis, including visual, mineral and chemical tests. 

This mission will further knowledge gained from past Mars missions and prepare for long-term goals outlined by President Obama involving potential human missions to Mars in the 2030s.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Monday, July 8, 2013

International Space Station - Scheduled Space Walk on Tuesday July 9th, 2013

Astronauts Chris Cassidy (NASA) and Luca Parmitano (European Space Agency) are set to take a space walk from the International Space Station on Tuesday.  The two flight engineers will be taking a 6 1/2 hour walk outside the station to replace a Space-to-Ground Transmitter Receiver Controller as well as performing other important repairs and maintenance of the station. 

Watch the space walk live on NASA TV starting at 7:00am EDT.


Friday, June 28, 2013

July Astronomy Events: New Moon July 8, 2013

July's new moon will occur on July 8, 2013 at approximately 07:14 UTC.  This is your best chance this month to view those faint galaxies or star clusters with your telescope. 

During a new moon, the moon is in between the earth and the sun and it will not be visible from earth.  It is a perfect time for viewing, because there is no moonlight to interfere.