Monthly Archives: October 2014

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NASA News Digest: Space Science For 12 October – 16 October 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:

hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA Mission Finds Widespread Evidence of Young Lunar Volcanism

RELEASE 14-284 (Click here for the full article) – 12 October 2014

2014oct20_14_284NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago.

Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old. Details of the study are published online in Sunday’s edition of Nature Geoscience.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

To access the complete collection of LROC images, visit: lroc.sese.asu.edu/

For more information about LRO, visit: www.nasa.gov/lro

NASA Mission Provides Its First Look at Martian Upper Atmosphere

RELEASE 14-285 (Click here for the full article) – 14 October 2014

2014oct20_14_285NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars, produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, and yielded a comprehensive map of highly-variable ozone in the atmosphere underlying the coronas.

The spacecraft, which entered Mars’ orbit Sept. 21, now is lowering its orbit and testing its instruments. MAVEN was launched to Mars in November 2013, to help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere.

“All the instruments are showing data quality that is better than anticipated at this early stage of the mission,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN Principal Investigator at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “All instruments have now been turned on — although not yet fully checked out — and are functioning nominally. It’s turning out to be an easy and straightforward spacecraft to fly, at least so far. It really looks as if we’re headed for an exciting science mission.”

For more about MAVEN, visit: www.nasa.gov/maven

NASA’s Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission

RELEASE 14-281 (Click here for the full article) – 15 October 2014

2014oct20_14_281Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015.

The KBOs were detected through a dedicated Hubble observing program by a New Horizons search team that was awarded telescope time for this purpose.

“This has been a very challenging search and it’s great that in the end Hubble could accomplish a detection – one NASA mission helping another,” said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

The Kuiper Belt is a vast rim of primordial debris encircling our solar system. KBOs belong to a unique class of solar system objects that has never been visited by spacecraft and which contain clues to the origin of our solar system.

For images of the KBOs and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble

For information about the New Horizons mission, visit: www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

NASA’s Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass

RELEASE 14-283 (Click here for the full article) – 16 October 2014

2014oct20_14_283Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a tiny, faint galaxy — one of the farthest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away.

This galaxy offers a peek back to the very early formative years of the universe and may just be the tip of the iceberg.

“This galaxy is an example of what is suspected to be an abundant, underlying population of extremely small, faint objects that existed about 500 million years after the big bang, the beginning of the universe,” explained study leader Adi Zitrin of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. “The discovery is telling us galaxies as faint as this one exist, and we should continue looking for them and even fainter objects, so that we can understand how galaxies and the universe have evolved over time.”

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble

NASA Spacecraft Provides New Information About Sun’s Atmosphere

RELEASE 14-288 (Click here for the full article) – 16 Ocrober 2014

2014oct20_14_288NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) has provided scientists with five new findings into how the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, is heated far hotter than its surface, what causes the sun’s constant outflow of particles called the solar wind, and what mechanisms accelerate particles that power solar flares.

The new information will help researchers better understand how our nearest star transfers energy through its atmosphere and track the dynamic solar activity that can impact technological infrastructure in space and on Earth. Details of the findings appear in the current edition of Science.

“These findings reveal a region of the sun more complicated than previously thought,” said Jeff Newmark, interim director for the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Combining IRIS data with observations from other Heliophysics missions is enabling breakthroughs in our understanding of the sun and its interactions with the solar system.”

For more information about IRIS, visit: www.nasa.gov/iris

A Busy Week – Comet Siding Spring On The 19th, Orionids On The 21st, Partial Solar Eclipse On The 23rd, Kopernik AstroFest On The 24th & 25th

Greetings Fellow astrophiles!

Several upcoming events of note – three of which depend on the weather, one of which is a go either way.

1. October 19th – CNYO @ Happy Valley For Comet Siding Spring

NOTE: Please contact us at info@cnyo.org, on our Contact Page, or on the Facebook Page about the event. This is event is weather-permitting and is a one-time event (no rescheduling)! Keep track of this website for updates on the 19th.

2014oct16_marscometComet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is going to side-swipe Mars at 2:27 p.m. Eastern time at a distance 1/3 that of the Earth-Moon distance. That’s an astronomical close-call by all metrics! That’s close enough that NASA has reportedly taken steps to protect its robot fleet in Mars’ orbit.

Now, this is a rare and special event, but we’re going to miss the closest-approach by several hours (waiting for sunset at 6:15 p.m., that is, then the additional wait for the sky to get darker). The view of Mars and Siding Spring through a single eyepiece should be great, but it’s going to require a dark, dark location to see them both well. To accommodate this, Ryan Goodson will be leading a session at Happy Valley outside of Parish, NY.

Yes, THAT Happy Valley.

Odd history aside, this is a dark sky location if ever there was one in CNY. If you’ve interest in attending, we ask that you contact us via the methods listed above for directions and so we can get a head count. Mars will set around 9:00 p.m., so this session with the drive North should still get you home by 10 p.m. (Unless you decide to stick around for some additional observing).

2. Orionid Meteor Shower, Peaking The Morning Of October 21st

2014oct16_orionid_radiantThe constellation Orion is appearing earlier every evening, marking the beginning of the winter observing session (and return of some of the best objects the Night Sky has to offer the well-insulated amateur astronomer). Those staying up late (or waking up extra-early) will be treated to the first spectacle Orion has to offer in the form of the Orionids, which peak early Tuesday morning. This shower isn’t known for quantity (10 to 25/hour) but has been known for some particularly brilliant shooters. This is also a chance for those who’ve never seen Halley’s Comet to say they’ve at least seen a teeny, tiny piece of it, as this comet’s debris field is the feeder for this late-fall shower.

As with all meteor showers, dark skies = better skies. As for observing the shower itself, your best bet is to lie down with your feet pointed at Orion, then wait (patiently) as the shooters shoot over your feet and towards your head.

3. Partial Solar Eclipse, At Sunset On October 23rd

NOTE: This event is weather-permitting and can’t be rescheduled! Keep track of this website for updates on the 23rd.

We had a limited glimpse of the recent total lunar eclipse just a few weeks ago, now have a chance to see the tables turned in the form of a partial solar eclipse. This will be a small clipping of the Sun by the New Moon and will happen VERY close to sunset – close enough that we’ll miss most of the eclipse when the Sun sets below the Western horizon. Because of that, we’re still looking for an observing location that’s up high and with a low horizon. Our plan right now is to meet at the parking lot next to the Onondaga Lake Inner Harbor Amphitheater (where we ran our first-ever CNYO session) but we’re also considering the southern end of the Onondaga Lake Parkway. We will make final decision in the next few days.

2014oct16_patia_solar_eclipse

We’ll have about 25 minutes (5:44 to 6:09) of partial solar eclipse if the skies hold and the horizon’s low. More details (like location) to follow as we finalize event details.

4. Kopernik AstroFest 2014, October 24th & 25th

Our friends (and, for some of us, fellow members) of the Kopernik Astronomical Society are getting ready to host their annual AstroFest, always one of the very best events of its kind in New York. Having already posted the official announcement on cnyo.org, I’ll leave you to the Kopernik AstroFest website to learn more about the Friday/Saturday festivities. Several of us are still planning on attending both days of the event and are willing to carpool down. Please drop a line to info@cnyo.org or our Facebook Page for arrangements.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “Creepy Chemistry”

Saturday – October 18, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY


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Ready to be spooked out of your seat? Join the TACNY Jr. Café on October 18th to see the chemistry behind glowing pumpkins, magical genies, bleeding paper, and mysterious fog. Dr. Neal Abrams from SUNY ESF will present a series of interactive Halloween chemistry demonstrations that will be sure to delight young and old alike. Come make your own slimy worms and celebrate the season!

People interested in learning more about creepy chemistry are invited to attend the free Junior Cafe presentation on Saturday, October 18, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing jrcafe@tacny.org by October 15, 2014.

Presenter

2014october10_abramsDr. Neal Abrams is an associate professor of chemistry at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). He obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and certification in teaching from Ithaca College, completed his doctorate at Penn State University, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. At ESF, he instructs general chemistry and co-teaches a course in renewable energy. He leads research programs in the areas of renewable energy and methods for teaching science. He is also the faculty advisor for the ESF chemistry club.

Abrams enjoys working with students and educators in the community. As part of this commitment, he instructs renewable energy workshops for teachers, co-instructs a series of courses on the installation of solar panels, and guest lectures in classrooms across Syracuse and CNY as part of the ESF in the High School program. He was also the recipient of the 2010 TACNY Technology Outreach award.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit www.tacny.org.

NASA Space Place – Where Does the Sun’s Energy Come From?

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in October, 2014.

This month, the Space Place is doing something a little bit different for our monthly column—providing you with a beautifully informative and educational poster about the mechanics of our sun. This poster accompanies our latest “Space Place in a Snap” animation. This “Snap” series is a set of narrated videos and posters that, together, explain basic scientific concepts in a dynamic new medium. Entertaining in their own right, we also wish to bring this new resource to your attention as an educational tool. In this edition, we address the important question of why our sun is so hot.

2014october10_sun_snap_small

Click for a larger view.

The video that goes along with this poster is below:

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 6 October – 9 October 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:

hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA Holds Media Briefing to Discuss Comet Flyby of Mars Observations

RELEASE M14-171 (Click here for the full article) – 6 October 2014

2014october10_14_m14_171_mars_cometNASA will host a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 9, to outline the space and Earth-based assets that will have extraordinary opportunities to image and study a comet from relatively close range to Mars on Sunday, Oct. 19.

The briefing will be held in NASA Headquarters’ auditorium, 300 E Street SW in Washington, and broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will miss Mars by only about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers). That is less than half the distance between Earth and its moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth. The comet’s nucleus will come closest to Mars at about 2:27 p.m. EDT (11:27 a.m. PDT), hurtling at about 126,000 mph (56 kilometers per second), relative to Mars.

For more about the comet, visit: mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring

For NASA Television downlink information, scheduling information and streaming video, visit: www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Send Your Name on NASA’s Journey to Mars, Starting with Orion’s First Flight

RELEASE 14-275 (Click here for the full article) – 7 October 2014

2014october10_14_275If only your name could collect frequent flyer miles. NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency’s Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5 hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion’s systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

To submit your name to fly on Orion’s flight test, visit: go.usa.gov/vcpz

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JourneyToMars.

For information about Orion and its first flight, visit:www.nasa.gov/orion

NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope Discovers Shockingly Bright Dead Star

RELEASE 14-270 (Click here for the full article) – 8 October 2014

2014october10_14_270Astronomers have found a pulsating, dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. This is the brightest pulsar – a dense stellar remnant left over from a supernova explosion – ever recorded. The discovery was made with NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

“You might think of this pulsar as the ‘Mighty Mouse’ of stellar remnants,” said Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. “It has all the power of a black hole, but with much less mass.”

The discovery appears in a new report in the Thursday Oct. 9 issue of the journal Nature.

More information about NuSTAR is online at: www.nasa.gov/nustar

NASA Prepares its Science Fleet for Oct. 19 Mars Comet Encounter

RELEASE 14-282 (Click here for the full article) – 9 October 2014

2014october10_14_282NASA’s extensive fleet of science assets, particularly those orbiting and roving Mars, have front row seats to image and study a once-in-a-lifetime comet flyby on Sunday, Oct. 19.

Comet C/2013 A1, also known as comet Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Red Planet — less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.

Siding Spring’s nucleus will come closest to Mars around 2:27 p.m. EDT, hurtling at about 126,000 mph (56 kilometers per second). This proximity will provide an unprecedented opportunity for researchers to gather data on both the comet and its effect on the Martian atmosphere.

Images and updates will be posted online before and after the comet flyby. Several pre-flyby images of Siding Spring, as well as information about the comet and NASA’s planned observations of the event, are available online at: mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring

NASA’s Hubble Maps the Temperature and Water Vapor on an Extreme Exoplanet

RELEASE 14-268 (Click here for the full article) – 9 October 2014

2014october10_14_268A team of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made the most detailed global map yet of the glow from a turbulent planet outside our solar system, revealing its secrets of air temperatures and water vapor.

Hubble observations show the exoplanet, called WASP-43b, is no place to call home. It is a world of extremes, where seething winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit “day” side, hot enough to melt steel, to a pitch-black “night” side with plunging temperatures below 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Astronomers have mapped the temperatures at different layers of the planet’s atmosphere and traced the amount and distribution of water vapor. The findings have ramifications for the understanding of atmospheric dynamics and how giant planets like Jupiter are formed.


For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble and hubblesite.org/news/2014/28