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astronomy and astrology

Astronomy & Space

Curiosity confirms clay deposits on slopes of Mount Sharp – Astronomy Now

May 31, 2019 • By
A selfie captured by the Curiosity Mars rover on 12 Might is made up of 57 photos taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager digital camera on the top of the automobile’s robotic arm. Two current drill holes, referred to as Aberlady and Kilmarie, are seen simply in entrance of the rover at decrease left. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has confirmed the presence of clay deposits on the slopes of Mount Sharp the place orbiting spacecraft first detected their presence. Curiosity lately drilled and picked up two samples from rock formations referred to as Aberlady and Kilmarie exhibiting the best quantities of clay minerals but detected by the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument, or CheMin.

Each drill targets are seen in a self portrait of Curiosity assembled from 57 photos taken taken on 12 Might, the rover’s 2,405th day, or sol, on Mars.

Clay usually kinds within the presence of water – a key ingredient for the evolution of life as it’s identified on Earth – and Curiosity’s newest findings add extra proof {that a} vital quantity of water as soon as pooled and flowed in Gale Crater. Whereas the small print stay a topic of debate, it’s probably that rocks within the space Curiosity is exploring initially fashioned as layers of mud in historic lakes.

As Curiosity climbs greater up the slopes of Mount Sharp, it’s anticipated to maneuver into youthful areas with geology reflecting an environmental change to a drier local weather. How Mars transitioned from a hotter, wetter world into the chilly, arid planet seen right this moment is a significant space of curiosity to planetary scientists.

So is the martian climate. Together with gathering soil samples for evaluation, Curiosity used its black-and-white Navigation Cameras, or NAVCAMs, to {photograph} drifting clouds above Mount Sharp. The clouds are considered made up of water ice crystals at an altitude of about 30 kilometres (19 miles) above the floor.

Curiosity photographed noctilucent water-ice clouds drifting 30 kilometres (19 miles) overhead on 17 Might, excessive sufficient for the clouds to be illuminated by daylight though the rover was in nighttime darkness on the floor. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy & Space

See dwarf planet Ceres at its greatest for 2019 – Astronomy Now

May 29, 2019 • By

Ceres, the brightest and closest dwarf planet to Earth, reaches opposition at 12am BST on 29 Might. Additionally the biggest of the minor planets between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is a straightforward binocular object attaining magnitude +7 in early June amid the celebs of Scorpius, the place it might be discovered some 18 levels above the southern horizon at 1am BST within the UK, or by 10:30pm BST on the finish of June. Ceres lies about 9 levels (or two 10×50 binocular fields of view) north of first-magnitude Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. This illustration exhibits subject stars to magnitude +7.5. Click on the graphic for a PDF finder chart appropriate for printing. AN graphic by Ade Ashford.

On Sunday, 26 Might at 21:17 UT, 1 Ceres, the closest and brightest of the dwarf planets and the biggest minor planet contained in the orbit of Neptune, handed closest to Earth for this yr. At this instantaneous, Ceres was 1.7513 astronomical models, or 262 million kilometres (162.8 million miles) from our planet.

Ceres presently lies within the constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, however the dwarf planet’s westerly movement relative to the celebs carries it into Scorpius on 29 Might the place it resides till 22 June.

This artist’s impression is predicated on an in depth map of the floor compiled from photos taken by NASA’s Daybreak spacecraft in orbit round dwarf planet 1 Ceres. Some 946 kilometres (588 miles) in diameter, Ceres orbits the Solar between Mars and Jupiter as soon as each 4.6 years. It was found by Giuseppe Piazzi in Sicily on 1 January 1801. As seen from Earth, nevertheless, the angular measurement of 1 Ceres by no means exceeds 0.9 arcseconds, so it should seem starlike in a typical yard telescope. Picture credit score: ESO/L.Calçada/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/Steve Albers/N. Risinger (

Ceres reaches opposition near 12am BST on 29 Might and shines at its peak magnitude of +7.Zero for 2019, fading to +7.Eight by the tip of June, therefore it’s a cushty binocular or small telescope goal — if you recognize precisely the place to look. Click on right here for a printable PDF model of the finder chart on the prime of the web page.

As seen from the UK, Ceres is at present highest within the sky near 1am BST, or by 10:30pm BST on the finish of June, when the dwarf planet is simply 18 levels excessive within the south as seen from the centre of the British Isles.

Ceres can be occulted (hidden) by the Moon on 15 June as seen from Russia (central and east), Kazakhstan (northeast), China (north and east) and Japan.

Astronomy & Space

New examine suggests increased cometary contribution to Earth’s oceans – Astronomy Now

May 27, 2019 • By
Comet 46P/Wirtanen, a hyperactive comet that lends assist to the thought comets performed a serious function in bringing water to Earth. Picture: NASA, ESA, D. Bodewits (Auburn College) and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)

Observations of Comet Wirtanen from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, reinforce the concept so-called hyperactive comets could have performed a serious function bringing water to Earth within the distant previous.

Knowledge collected throughout Wirtanen’s closest strategy to Earth in December 2018 present the comet incorporates an analogous ratio of regular to heavy water as is present in sea water on Earth. Regular water, or H2O, is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one in all oxygen, whereas heavy water, or HDO, consists of an isotope of hydrogen – deuterium – with an extra neutron. The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen, often known as the D/H ratio, is one approach to examine totally different sources of water to hint the origins of Earth’s oceans.

In earlier research, the D/H ratios of comets had been discovered to be as much as 3 times increased than in ocean water, implying comets may solely have delivered about 10 p.c of the water discovered on Earth.

However the Wirtanen observations marked solely the third time a comet was discovered with a D/H ratio much like Earth’s oceans. Like the 2 earlier comets, Wirtanen is a hyperactive comet that releases extra water within the heat of the Solar than would usually be anticipated based mostly on the floor space of the nucleus. The surplus is produced by ice particles within the comets’ atmospheres.

Evaluating these readings with the outcomes of earlier research, the researchers had been stunned to search out the ratio of regular to heavy water didn’t rely upon the place the comets originated, whether or not within the comparatively close by Kuiper Belt or the much more distant Oort Cloud. As an alternative, the ratio was associated to how a lot water was launched straight from the comet’s floor in comparison with a mixture of floor and atmospheric ice grains. The extra energetic the comet, the extra its D/H ratio decreases.

The researchers recommend D/H readings from cometary environment’s produced by floor ice alone might not be indicative of the entire quantity of ice making up the comet and as such, the water locked up in all comets could also be much like terrestrial water.

“This is the first time we could relate the heavy-to-regular water ratio of all comets to a single factor,” mentioned Dominique Bockelée-Morvan, a scientist on the Paris Observatory and the French Nationwide Heart for Scientific Analysis. “We may need to rethink how we study comets because water released from the ice grains appears to be a better indicator of the overall water ratio than the water released from surface ice.”

Astronomy & Space

ALMA focuses on components influencing star beginning in close by galaxies – Astronomy Now

May 4, 2019 • By

The Atacama Giant Millimetre/submillimetre Array is placing collectively an astronomical census of close by stellar nurseries referred to as the Physics at Excessive Angular decision in Close by GalaxieS, or PHANGS. Up to now, about 100,000 such nurseries have been charted over the course of greater than 750 hours of remark targeted on 74 close by galaxies. The aim is to finally characterise some 300,000 stellar nurseries to assist astronomers higher perceive why some star forming areas evolve regularly whereas others expertise speedy, if not explosive, charges of star beginning. The PHANGS examine is predicted to make clear how a galaxy’s measurement, age and inner dynamics may affect star formation.

Certainly one of 74 close by galaxies imaged by the Atacama Giant Millimeter/submillimeter Array that host quite a few stellar nurseries. Picture: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton

Astronomy & Space

Rock that hit moon throughout lunar eclipse possible impacted at 61,000 kph – Astronomy Now

May 2, 2019 • By
A quick flash of sunshine throughout January’s complete lunar eclipse marked the spot the place a rock crashed into the floor at some 61,000 kph (38,000 mph). Picture: J. M. Madiedo/MIDAS

A rock that slammed into the moon throughout a broadly seen complete lunar eclipse in January possible hit the floor at some 61,000 kilometres per hour (38,000 mph), releasing the vitality of 1.5 tonnes of TNT and blasting out a crater 10 to 15 metres (33 to 49 toes) throughout, astronomers report in Month-to-month Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Based mostly on an in depth evaluation of the good, short-lived – 0.28 second – burst of sunshine that accompanied the affect, the astronomers concluded the rock had a mass of about 45 kilograms (100 kilos) and measured 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 24 inches) throughout. Particles ejected by the affect possible reached a peak temperature of round 5,400 levels Celsius (9,750 Fahrenheit).

The eclipse occurred on 21 January and was seen throughout western Europe and North and South American. At 4:41 GMT, simply after totality started, many observers famous a short flash on the moon’s darkened floor.

Jose Madiedo of the College of Huelva and Jose L. Ortiz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia function the Moon Impacts Detection and Evaluation System, or MIDAS, utilizing eight telescopes in southern Spain to observe the lunar floor. MIDAS video captured the second of affect, the primary ever filmed throughout a lunar eclipse. Observing at a number of wavelengths, the researchers had been capable of calculate the scale of the impacting physique and the vitality launched.

“Something inside of me told me that this time would be the time,” mentioned Madiedo, including the occasion was brighter than most beforehand detected by the MIDAS survey. “It would be impossible to reproduce these high-speed collisions in a lab on Earth. Observing flashes is a great way to test our ideas on exactly what happens when a meteorite collides with the Moon.”

Astronomy & Space

Hubble marks 29th anniversary with exceptional view of Southern Crab – Astronomy Now

April 19, 2019 • By

To have fun the 29th anniversary of the Hubble House Telescope’s launch aboard the shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990, NASA and the European House Company are showcasing the observatory’s view of the Southern Crab Nebula within the southern constellation Centaurus. The nebula seems to be considerably like an hourglass, formed by a pair of stars in a binary system at its coronary heart. A kind of stars is a burned-out white dwarf, however the different is a pink big within the means of blowing off its outer layers. A few of that materials is influenced by the white dwarf’s gravity with each suns embedded in a disc of gasoline between them that forces materials from the pink big to race away above and under the disc. That’s what offers rise to the hourglass form. The “legs” of the crab are generated the place the outflow slams into interstellar gasoline and dirt.

The Southern Crab Nebula. Picture: NASA, ESA, and STScI

The pink big’s outflow could also be quick lived, with the outer construction just some thousand years outdated. The pink big ultimately will undergo the identical destiny as its companion, collapsing to type a second white dwarf. The 2 slowly cooling remnants then will illuminate a shell of gasoline often called a planetary nebula.

The Southern Crab Nebula with main parts labeled. Picture: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Astronomy & Space

With a half-million stars, Messier three reveals a splendid deep house tapestry – Astronomy Now

April 15, 2019 • By

Messier three is likely one of the largest and most sensible globular clusters within the sky, a spectacular tapestry of stars in even modest telescopes, making M3 a favorite goal for beginner astronomers. Considered by the Hubble House Telescope, the eight-billion-year-old cluster takes on a completely totally different character, revealing a shocking focus of a half-million suns, together with almost 300 identified variable stars. At the least 170 of these are RR Lyrae variables, which recurrently pulse with a interval associated to their precise brightness. Evaluating their obvious and intrinsic brightness, astronomers can decide the space to certainly one of these “standard candles,” making them essential parts in calibrating cosmic distances.

This Hubble picture captures quite a few “blue stragglers,” main-sequence stars that seem like youthful than their siblings. However all stars in globular clusters are thought to have shaped at roughly the identical time, and the blue stragglers doubtless have acquired mass from close by companions, making them shine with blue depth.

Picture: ESA/Hubble & NASA, G. Piotto et al.

Astronomy & Space

Israeli probe crashes in try and turn into first privately-funded Moon lander – Astronomy Now

April 13, 2019 • By
This picture was taken by Beresheet at an altitude of 13.7 miles (22 kilometers) above the Moon and relayed to mission controllers by way of NASA’s Deep Area Community. Credit score: SpaceIL

An Israeli-built spacecraft in search of to turn into the primary privately-developed probe to land on the Moon crashed on descent Thursday, however the mission was extensively lauded as a breakthrough for the business area trade, and Israeli prime minster Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the nation would strive once more.

“We had a failure of the spacecraft,” mentioned Opher Doron, common supervisor of the area division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which constructed the Beresheet Moon lander. “We sadly haven’t managed to land efficiently.

“We are the seventh country to orbit the Moon, and the fourth to reach the moon’s surface, and it’s a tremendous achievement up to now,” Doron mentioned.

Stay telemetry from the Beresheet spacecraft, relayed to mission management in Yehud, Israel, by way of a NASA monitoring antenna in Spain, indicated the lander bumped into hassle round 1919 GMT (3:19 p.m. EDT), six minutes earlier than its scheduled touchdown time, at an altitude of round 43,800 toes (13,350 meters).

Doron supplied updates on the progress of Beresheet’s descent. Information from the spacecraft — in regards to the measurement of a golf cart — indicated an issue in one among its inertial measurement models, a key a part of the probe’s steering system, Doron mentioned.

Controllers briefly misplaced the sign from Beresheet, and once they regained telemetry, the info indicated Beresheet was quickly falling towards the moon.

“We seem to have a problem with our main engine,” Doron mentioned. “We are resetting the spacecraft to try to enable the engine.”

Moments later, an information show in mission management steered Beresheet had crashed on the lunar floor at excessive velocity at roughly 1923 GMT (3:23 p.m. EDT).

“Well, we didn’t make it, but we definitely tried, and I think that the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous,” mentioned Morris Kahn, the president of SpaceIL who donated some $40 million of his fortune to the privately-funded lunar lander program. “I think we can be proud.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted the Beresheet management crew shortly earlier than the lunar touchdown try Thursday. Credit score: SpaceIL

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” mentioned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who noticed the touchdown try from the management heart.

Netanyahu mentioned Israel might attempt to one other moon touchdown mission in two years.

Beresheet started its descent at an altitude of about 15 miles (25 kilometers), roughly 500 miles (800 kilometers) from its focused touchdown web site, a number of hundred kilometers from the placement the place the Apollo 15 astronauts landed in 1971.

The lander first switched on its laser touchdown sensors, which had been designed to feed knowledge in regards to the craft’s altitude and descent fee to a steering laptop accountable for commanding firings of Beresheet’s major engine to manage its velocity.

Then Beresheet started pulsing its eight small management thrusters to get into the proper orientation to gradual its velocity and fall towards the moon, with its major engine dealing with within the path of journey parallel to the lunar floor.

Beresheet’s major engine was a 100-pound-thrust (400-newton) LEROS 2b engine constructed by Nammo, previously Moog, in the UK. The hydrazine-fueled engine was a modified model of a thruster sometimes utilized by giant communications satellites.

However the engine had by no means been used for a touchdown on one other planetary physique, and engineers up to date the engine’s design to permit for a number of “hot restarts,” when the lander will fireplace the engine in fast bursts to manage its descent fee. The engine couldn’t be throttled to regulate Beresheet’s velocity.

“The hot restarts represented a particular challenge as it effectively puts the engine into its most stressful temperature environment,” mentioned Robert Westcott, one among Nammo’s lead propulsion engineers on the Beresheet venture, earlier than Thursday’s touchdown try. “To test this we performed a series of hotfire trials together with SpaceIL, where we stopped and started the engine repeatedly, which confirmed that it is able to operate in this highly demanding firing mode.”

Different adjustments to the engine included shortening its nozzle to make sure it might match into the Beresheet spacecraft and maintain the thruster from hitting the Moon’s floor. Nammo additionally made the engine extra highly effective for Beresheet by growing its thrust.

Information transmitted again to Earth from the spacecraft confirmed Beresheet began slowing its velocity above the moon from roughly 3,800 mph (1.7 kilometers per second) round 1911 GMT (3:11 p.m. EDT).

If the spacecraft carried out as anticipated, Beresheet ought to have reached a horizontal velocity of zero at an altitude of about 3,300 toes (1 kilometer). Beresheet would have then pitched over and began a vertical descent.

“Roughly 15 feet (5 meters) or so above the surface of the Moon, the velocity will go to zero, and then we’ll just shut off the motors and the spacecraft will perform a free fall all the way to the surface of the Moon,” mentioned Yariv Bash, a SpaceIL co-founder, final week. “The legs of the spacecraft were designed to sustain that fall, and hopefully once we are on the Moon we’ll be able to send back images and videos to Earth.”

After selecting the floor on its 4 touchdown legs, Beresheet was to take a sequence of images, together with photographs for a panorama to indicate the probe’s environment. The lander was even be programmed to file a sequence of photographs in the course of the touchdown sequence to create a video of the descent.

Beresheet’s sole energetic science instrument was a magnetometer developed by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel to measure the magnetism of lunar rocks.

The German area company — DLR — additionally helped the SpaceIL crew with drop testing to simulate the circumstances the spacecraft will encounter for the time being of touchdown.

Regardless of touchdown failure, officers laud Beresheet’s groundbreaking mission

Beresheet, which implies “genesis” or “in the beginning” in Hebrew, was aiming to turn into the primary privately-funded spacecraft to land on one other planetary physique. The mission was developed for round $100 million by SpaceIL, a non-profit group based in 2011 by three younger Israeli engineers.

Regardless of the probe’s failure, officers from NASA and the business area trade congratulated the Beresheet crew for his or her achievement in getting the spacecraft so near touchdown.

“While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine mentioned in an announcement.

“Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress,” Bridenstine mentioned. “I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission directorate, tweeted: “Space is hard, but worth the risks. If we succeeded every time, there would be no reward. It’s when we keep trying that we inspire others and achieve greatness.”

Zurbuchen mentioned he’ll journey to Israel later this 12 months for discussions on future cooperation on lunar missions. NASA supplied a laser retroreflector and communications and monitoring help for the Beresheet mission.

Artist’s idea of the Beresheet lander throughout its last descent to the moon. Credit score: SpaceIL

“I wish to thank for doing this touchdown with thousands and thousands watching all over the world, regardless of realizing the dangers,” Zurbuchen tweeted. “We do the same because we believe in the value of worldwide exploration and inspiration. We encourage all international and commercial explorers to do the same!”

SpaceIL was based to pursue the Google Lunar X Prize, which promised $20 million grand prize for the primary crew to land a privately-funded spacecraft on the moon, return high-definition imagery, and reveal mobility on the lunar floor.

The Google Lunar X Prize contest ended final 12 months with out a winner, however Beresheet’s backers saved the mission alive.

Kahn, a South African-born Israeli businessman, was the mission’s largest single contributor. Different donors included Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a on line casino and resort magnate who lives in Las Vegas. IAI, the lander’s prime contractor, additionally invested a few of its personal inside analysis and improvement cash into this system.

The Israeli Area Company awarded SpaceIL round $2 million, this system’s solely authorities funding.

The X Prize Basis, which organized the unique Google Lunar X Prize competitors, introduced March 28 that it will provide a $1 million “Moonshot Award” to SpaceIL if the Beresheet mission efficiently landed on the moon.

Peter Diamandis, founder and govt chairman of the X Prize Basis, introduced Thursday that SpaceIL will get the $1 million Moonshot Award anyway. He tweeted that the award will assist SpaceIL “continue their work and pursue Beresheet 2.0.”

“They managed to touch the surface of the Moon, and that’s what we were looking for for our Moonshot Award,” mentioned Anousheh Ansari, CEO of the X Prize Basis.

“Besides touching the surface of the Moon, they touched the lives and the hearts of an entire nation, the entire world,” Diamandis mentioned. “These prizes are not easy, and frankly, space is not easy, not yet,” Diamandis mentioned.

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Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.