Tag Archives: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA Night Sky Notes: Observe The Moon And Beyond: Apollo 11 At 50

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. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting by the Night Sky Network in July, 2019.

By David Prosper

Saturn is at opposition this month, beckoning to future explorers with its beautiful rings and varied, mysterious moons. The Moon prominently passes Saturn mid-month, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11!

Saturn is in opposition on July 9, rising in the east as the Sun sets in the west. It is visible all night, hovering right above the teapot of Sagittarius. Saturn is not nearly as bright as Jupiter, nearby and close to Scorpius, but both giant planets are easily the brightest objects in their constellations, making them easy to identify.  A full Moon scrapes by the ringed planet late in the evening of the 15th through the early morning of the 16th.  Some observers in South America will even see the Moon occult, or pass in front of, Saturn. Observe how fast the Moon moves in relation to Saturn throughout the night by recording their positions every half hour or so via sketches or photos. 

While observing the Saturn-Moon celestial dance the early morning of the 16th, you can also contemplate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission! On June 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a journey of almost a quarter million miles to our nearest celestial neighbor, a mission made possible by the tremendous power of the Saturn V rocket – still the most powerful rocket ever launched. Just a few days later, on July 20, 1969 at 10:56 pm EDT, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the lunar surface and became the first people in history to walk on another world. The astronauts set up equipment including a solar wind sampler, laser ranging retroreflector, and seismometer, and gathered up almost 22 kilograms (48 pounds) of precious lunar rocks and soil samples.  After spending less than a day on the Moon’s surface, the duo blasted off and returned to the orbiting Columbia Command Module, piloted by Michael Collins. Just a few days later, on July 24, all three astronauts splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. You can follow the timeline of the Apollo 11 mission in greater detail at bit.ly/TimelineApollo11 and dig deep into mission history and science on NASA’s Apollo History Site: bit.ly/ApolloNASA.

Have you ever wanted to see the flag on the Moon left behind by the Apollo astronauts? While no telescope on Earth is powerful enough to see any items left behind the landing sites, you can discover how much you can observe with the Flag on the Moon handout: bit.ly/MoonFlag

You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov

Observe the larger details on the Moon with help from this map, which also pinpoints the Apollo landing site. Full handout available at bit.ly/MoonHandout  
Earth-based telescopes can’t see any equipment left behind at the Apollo 11 landing site, but the cameras onboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) can. This is Tranquility Base as seen from the LRO, just 24 kilometers (15 miles) above the Moon’s surface, with helpful labels added by the imaging team. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Arizona State University. See more landing sites at: bit.ly/ApolloLRO

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

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

CNYO Brochure – A Guide For Lunar Observing

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

In preparation for upcoming 2013 lecture and observing sessions, we have put together instructional brochures to help introduce the Night Sky to attendees. The fifth of these, entitled “A Guide For Lunar Observing,” combines facts and figures about our nearest natural satellite with a map of the largest features on its “near side,” all easily visible in low-power binoculars. This brochure will be available at our combined lecture/observing sessions, but feel free to bring your own paper copy (or the PDF on a tablet – but have red acetate ready!).

Download: A Guide For Lunar Observing (v5)

NOTE: These brochures are made better by your input. If you find a problem, have a question, or have a suggestion (bearing in mind these are being kept to one two-sided piece of paper), please contact CNYO at info@cnyo.org.

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A Guide For Lunar Observing

Some Interesting Facts About The Moon

620 millions years ago, the day was 21.9 hours long and one year was 400 days!

Phases Of The Moon

With respect to a fixed spot over the Earth’s surface, the Moon completes one orbit in a
sidereal month – 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes.

The Blue Moon (Not Really Blue)

Since the synodic cycle of the Moon (FM to FM) is 29.5 days, a FM at the very beginning of a month will result in a FM at the end of same month.

The Man In The Moon & Other Features

The surface of the Moon shows evidence of the violent nature of the early Solar System.

The Moon – Not Just A Pretty Face!

On the side of Earth nearest the Moon, lunar gravity is strongest, pulling the water up slightly (“sublunar” high tide).

Can I See The American Flag?

There is lots of equipment left on the Moon from manned and unmanned missions, but Earth-based and many space-based telescopes do not have the resolving power to see any of it.

The Dark Side Of The Moon

The Moon’s orbital period and rotation period are the same – as it makes one trip around the Earth, it completes one spin on its axis – this is called “Tidal Lock,” and is why we only ever see one side from Earth.