Samstag, 22. Juni 2013 - 22:00 Uhr

Astronomie - Pinguin-förmige Galaxie posiert mit Galaxie, die aussieht wie ein Ei


Arp 142, a pair of galaxies that resemble a penguin and an egg, in a new image from the Hubble Telescope. (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)


In case you need a reminder that the universe is a weird and amazing place, check out this photo of a galaxy shaped like a penguin interacting with a galaxy that looks like an egg.

The image, created using data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates what can happen when a pair of galaxies get close enough to start ripping each other apart.

The galaxies are located in the constellation Hydra, 400 light-years from Earth. Before it met the egg-shaped galaxy (NGC 2937), the penguin-looking galaxy (NGC 2936) used to look like a pretty, but standard, spiral galaxy.

The two galaxies were likely drifting serenely through intergalactic space -- as galaxies do -- when they came just a bit too close to each other, causing their gravitational fields to interact. That's when NGC 2937 started to distort the shape of NGC 2936.

If you look closely, you can still see remnants of the original spiral structure in the penguin-shaped galaxy. The "eye" of the penguin was once the center of the spiral galaxy, and the blue and red streaks that now form the graceful body of the penguin shape are actually the galaxy's spiral arms, stretched and pulled by the elliptical NGC 2937.

What you can't see in the photo is the violence of the interaction. Dust and gas from the two galaxies are colliding at super speeds, causing new bursts of star formation.

The pair of galaxies is known collectively as Arp 142, and they may eventually merge into one.

The image also includes two bright stars that look to be hanging out just above the two galaxies.

The sparkly blue material around the star on the right is not stardust but, rather, another galaxy. That galaxy is likely too far to have any impact with Arp 142, however.

To see a 3D visualisation of the two galaxies, check out the video below.

Quelle: ESA


Samstag, 22. Juni 2013 - 21:30 Uhr

Luftfahrt - AgustaWestland Displays Project Zero Tilt Rotor At Le Bourget




Electric VTOL Aircraft Is Turning Heads In France

Among the thousands of aircraft and products on display at the Paris Air Show getting a lot of attention this week is one that may never reach production, but which could serve as a proving ground for many concepts that eventually do.

AgustaWestland's Project Zero electric tilt-rotor single-seat VTOL aircraft has been turning heads at Le Bourget. The futuristic-looking aircraft, first introduced by AgustaWestland at Heli-Expo in Las Vegas in March, is the result of close collaborations with Finmeccanica companies - Selex ES, Ansaldo Breda, and Ansaldo Energia - and partner companies from Italy, U.K., U.S.A. and Japan. The entire aircraft exterior surface is carbon graphite, and it uses no hydraulics; the retractable landing gear, nacelle tilting mechanism, and elevons are controlled by high bandwidth electromechanical actuators (EMA) specifically developed for the program.

An efficient diesel engine for the alternative electric-hybrid propulsion solution was developed specifically for the aircraft, as was a customized special motor cooling system, wiring harness and retractable landing gears.

The "Project Zero" technology demonstrator was designed, built and tested in twelve months. Daniele Romiti, AgustaWestland’s CEO, said at its introduction earlier this year that “The ‘Project Zero’ technology demonstrator program brings together many of the advanced technologies AgustaWestland has been researching in recent years and demonstrates our strong technological base from which we will develop new products to meet the needs of our customers in the future. We strongly believe in the tilt rotor concept as the future of high speed rotorcraft flight as it offers much greater speed and range than compound helicopter technology.”

The demonstrator’s rotors are driven by advanced electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries; future hybrid solutions have also been investigated using a diesel engine to drive a generator. All of the aircraft control systems, flight control and landing gear actuators are electrically powered, removing the need for any hydraulic system.


During cruise, the wings will provide most of the lift, with the blended fuselage and shroud also making a contribution. ‘Project Zero’ has been designed with detachable outer wings for missions that will be performed primarily in helicopter mode. Elevons provide pitch and roll control in forward flight while the V-tail provides longitudinal stability. The aircraft has very low noise and thermal signature in flight and does not require oxygen, thereby permitting it to fly at altitude or in heavily polluted conditions, such as volcanic eruptions. The demonstrator’s rotors when on the ground can be tilted forward and the aircraft pointed into wind to allow the rotors to windmill and recharge the aircraft’s electrical storage device. The electrical drive system also has the advantage that it does away with the complex and heavy transmission system required by conventional rotorcraft.

Quelle: Agusta Westland





Samstag, 22. Juni 2013 - 21:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Start von Rocket Prospector-18D und SpaceLoft Sounding Rocket


The Prospector-18D rocket blasts off on June 15, 2013, carrying four tiny CubeSats on a test launch from California's Mojave Desert. 
MOJAVE DESERT, Calif. — Saturday was a good day for a launch at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry test site here near the community of Cantil. The skies were clear blue, the winds light and the temperature was hot but not scorching.
At 10:52 a.m. local time (1:52 p.m. EDT; 1752 GMT) on Saturday (June 15), the countdown reached zero and a Prospector-18D rocket carrying four tiny CubeSats rose on a column of orange flames along its vertical launch rail.
The small rocket cleared the rail in the blink of an eye and arched over in the direction of Koehn Lake — a vast expanse of bone-dry desert that, on a much windier day, would have been engulfed in a dust storm right out of a French Foreign Legion movie.
7 Space Technology Experiments to Launch on Rocket Ride Today
Seven space-technology experiments are slated to blast off Friday (June 21) on a NASA-funded suborbital research flight.
A SpaceLoft sounding rocket, built by Denver-based UP Aerospace Inc., is scheduled to launch from New Mexico's Spaceport America between 9 a.m. and noon EDT (1300 to 1600 GMT) on Friday.
The 15-minute flight is expected to reach a maximum altitude of 74 miles (119 kilometers) and provide up to four minutes of weightlessness for the onboard experiments. Landing is targeted for the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range, about 320 miles (515 km) from Spaceport America, NASA officials said.
Update: 22.06.2013

Rocket Launch From Spaceport Succesful

SL-7 Rocket shooting skyward from its launch tower at Spaceport America.

A NASA rocket was successfully propelled on a suborbital mission in what was described as a spectacular launch from Spaceport America early this morning.  The craft carried nine payloads containing scientific experiments from students across New Mexico, as well as from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The rocket sailed 74 miles into the air and also contained the cremated remains of dozens of people, including the late Hatch Mayor, Judd Nordyke. 

Less than two hours after takeoff, a parachute recovery system brought the rocket  safely back to earth. It was recovered intact over 20 miles downrange on White Sands Missile Range. The flight marks the 19th launch from the state-owned Spaceport. 


Up Aerospace shot its NASA-funded rocket into space Friday morning without a flaw from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.

“It was a perfect flight,” said UP President and CEO Jerry Larson. “We hit a new altitude record, and it came back down right in the target area at White Sands Missile Range. We went straight to it in an Army helicopter, recovered the payloads and gave them back to the payload customers right there on the spot.”

Larson said the mission’s success bodes well for more NASA-funded flights from the spaceport. This was the first of eight payload-bearing rockets that UP was selected to provide under a $4.7 million contract with NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which pays aerospace companies for suborbital flights to test new technologies in space.

The rocket, dubbed the SpaceLoft, carried seven payloads with scientific experiments designed by NASA, other federal agencies and private companies, as well as educational experiments from New Mexico students.

Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson said a few hundred people attended the launch, including about 300 students and others involved in the educational experiments, plus about 90 people from the agencies and companies that sent up other payloads.

In addition, about 140 relatives of deceased people whose ashes flew on the rocket attended the event. Celestis Inc., a commercial company that offers “memorial spaceflights” for people’s remains, placed the ashes on the SpaceLoft.

“It was very special to have all these people here today,” Anderson said. “The spaceport is not only about having successful launches. It’s about being able to share all this with everybody.”

Friday’s launch was the seventh time UP has flown its SpaceLoft rocket design from Spaceport America since 2006. In fact, it’s the fifth time UP has shot the same rocket into space, since the company has steadily improved the vehicle’s structure after each flight to turn it into a reusable rocket for suborbital missions.

“It took the first three SpaceLoft flights to eliminate the kinks and get to the reusable point, but it’s been working flawless ever since,” Larson said.

That’s essential to manage NASA missions, since the agency requires that suborbital vehicles that fly payloads under the Flight Opportunities Program be at least 80 percent reusable. That helps reduce costs, allowing more scientific experiments to get to space faster.

Rocket reusability is also critical for the success of the emerging commercial space industry including Spaceport America in general.

“As a business, reusability is where you can save a lot of money,” Larson said. “You don’t need to buy new hardware and rebuild the rocket over and over again.”

The SpaceLoft is now 87 percent reusable, with only the booster burning up during flight.

Apart from UP, two other companies are working at the spaceport to develop reusable vehicles. Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace is conducting low-altitude test flights there to gather data to build a reusable, vertically launched passenger rocket that it eventually plans to fly to space. Its last test flight was Jan. 5.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which flies cargo spaceships to the International Space Station for NASA, will soon conduct flight tests at the spaceport for a reusable passenger rocket it’s developing. The Spaceport Authority is now constructing a new vertical launch pad for the company.

With Friday’s flight over, UP is preparing for its next NASA flight, scheduled for Oct. 9.

“The success of this mission helps keep the ball rolling,” Larson said. “Now we’ll focus on the October launch. Our job is to do successful missions one right after another to allow NASA to keep doing scientific experiments at the spaceport.”





Samstag, 22. Juni 2013 - 20:15 Uhr

Astronomie - Staubige Überraschung um riesiges Schwarzes Loch


Das Very Large Telescope Interferometer der ESO hat die detailliertesten Beobachtungen des Staubs um ein riesiges Schwarzes Loch im Zentrum einer aktiven Galaxie geliefert, die jemals gemacht wurden. Dabei fanden die Astronomen den leuchtenden Staub nicht ausschließlich wie erwartet in einem ringförmigen Torus um das Schwarze Loch vor, sondern größtenteils über- und unterhalb des Torus. Diese Messungen zeigen somit, dass der Staub als kühler Wind vom Schwarzen Loch ausgeht, eine überraschende Feststellung, die eine Herausforderung für die derzeitigen Theorien darstellt und uns zeigt, wie supermassereiche Schwarze Löcher sich entwickeln und mit ihrer Umgebung wechselwirken.

In den letzten zwanzig Jahren haben Astronomen herausgefunden, dass sich in den Zentren fast aller Galaxien ein riesiges Schwarzes Loch befindet. Einige dieser Schwarzen Löcher wachsen, indem sie Materie aus ihrer Umgebung einsaugen. Dabei entstehen die energiereichsten Objekte des Universums: aktive Galaxienkerne (engl.: Active Galactic Nuclei, kurz AGN). Die zentralen Regionen dieser leuchtenden Kraftwerke sind von ringförmigen Ansammlungen aus kosmischem Staub umgeben [1], der aus der Umgebung angezogen wurde, ähnlich wie Wasser, das einen kleinen Wirbel um den Abfluss eines Waschbeckens bildet. Bislang ist man davon ausgegangen, dass der Großteil der starken Infrarotstrahlung, die von den AGN kommt, aus diesen Staubtori stammt.

Neue Beobachtungen einer nahegelegenen aktiven Galaxie namens NGC 3783, die die Leistungsfähigkeit des Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) am Paranal-Observatorium der ESO in Chile [2] ausgenutzt haben, bargen eine Überraschung für eine Gruppe von Astronomen: Obwohl der heiße Staub mit Temperaturen von 700 bis 1000 Grad Celsius sich tatsächlich wie erwartet in einem Ring befand, fanden sie eine riesige Menge an kühlem Staub über und unter diesem Haupttorus [3].

Der deutsche Astronom Sebastian Hönig, der zur Zeit an der University of California Santa Barbara in den USA und an der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel arbeitet, ist Erstautor des Fachartikels, in dem diese Ergebnisse vorgestellt werden. Er erklärt: „Das ist das erste Mal, dass wir in der Lage sind, detaillierte Beobachtungen des kühlen Staubs mit Raumtemperatur um einen AGN im mittleren Infrarotbereich mit ähnlich detaillierten Beobachtungen des sehr heißen Staubs zu vereinen. Außerdem handelt es sich bei unseren Messungen um den größten Satz infraroter Interferometriedaten für einen AGN, der bislang veröffentlicht wurde.”

Der neu entdeckte Staub bildet einen kühlen Wind aus, der vom Schwarzen Loch aus nach außen strömt. Dieser Wind muss eine wichtige Rolle in der komplexen Beziehung zwischen dem Schwarzen Loch und dessen Umgebung spielen. Das Schwarze Loch stillt zwar seinen unersättlichen Appetit mit dem umliegenden Material, gleichzeitig scheint die dadurch verursachte intensive Strahlung das Material aber auch wegzublasen. Es ist nach wie vor unklar, wie diese zwei Mechanismen zusammenspielen und es supermassereichen Schwarzen Löchern so erlauben zu wachsen und sich innerhalb von Galaxien zu entwickeln. Das Vorhandensein eines staubigen Winds trägt jedoch ein weiteres Puzzlestück zu diesem Bild bei.

Um die Zentralregion von NGC 3783 zu untersuchen, benötigten die Astronomen die vereinte Leistung der Hauptteleleskope des Very Large Telescope der ESO. Schaltet man diese Teleskopeinheiten zusammen, erhält man ein Interferometer mit einer Auflösung, die der eines Teleskops mit 130 Metern Spiegeldurchmesser gleicht.

Gerd Weigelt vom Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn, ein Mitglied des Astronomenteams, ergänzt: „Erst durch die Kombination der erstklassigen Empfindlichkeit der großen Spiegel des VLT mit der Interferometrietechnik können wir genug Licht sammeln, um so lichtschwache Objekte detailliert zu beobachten. So können wir eine Region in einer Galaxie in einigen zehn Millionen Lichtjahren Entfernung untersuchen, die gerade mal so groß ist wie der Abstand zwischen der Sonne und dem nächsten Stern. Kein anderes optisches oder Infrarotsystem ist derzeit dazu in der Lage.”

Die neuen Beobachtungen könnten zu einem Paradigmenwechsel im Verständnis von AGN führen: Sie sind ein direkter Nachweis dafür, dass Staub von intensiver Strahlung weggestoßen wird. Modelle, die die Staubverteilung und das Wachstum supermassereicher Schwarzer Löcher und deren Entwicklung beschreiben, müssen nun diesen neuentdeckten Effekt berücksichtigen.

Abschließend ergänzt Hönig: „Ich freue mich schon auf das Instrument MATISSE, das es uns ermöglichen wird, alle vier VLT-Hauptteleskope auf einmal zusammenzuschließen und gleichzeitig im nahen und mittleren Infrarot zu beobachten, was uns noch viel detaillierte Daten geben wird.” MATISSE, ein Instrument der zweiten Generation am VLTI, befindet sich derzeit noch im Aufbau.


[1] Kosmischer Staub besteht aus Silikat- und Graphitkpartikeln – Mineralien, die es auch auf der Erde gibt. Der Ruß einer Kerze ist kosmischem Graphit sehr ähnlich, jedoch sind die Staubkörner im Ruß mehr als zehn mal so groß wie die typischen Körner des kosmischen Graphits.

[2] Das VLTI besteht aus den vier VLT-Hauptteleskopen mit Spiegeldurchmessern von 8,2 Metern und den vier beweglichen VLT-Hilfsteleskopen mit 1,8 Metern Spiegeldurchmesser. Es nutzt eine Methode, die Interferometrie genannt wird, bei der ausgeklügelte Instrumente das Licht von mehreren Teleskopen zu einer Beobachtung zusammenführen. Obwohl diese Technik normalerweise keine Bilder liefert, hat diese Methode das Maß an Details, die in den resultierenden Beobachtungen gemessen werden können, drastisch verbessert. Die Messungen wären mit jenen, die ein Weltraumteleskop mit 100 Metern Spiegeldurchmesser machen würde, vergleichbar.

[3] Der heiße Staub wurde mit Hilfe des VLTI-Instruments AMBER im nahen Infrarotbereich kartiert. Für die neueren Beobachtungen, von denen hier berichtet wurde, wurde das MIDI-Instrument bei Wellenlängen zwischen 8 und 13 Mikrometern im mittleren Infrarotbereich verwendet.


Dieses Bild wurde aus Aufnahmen erstellt, die Teil des Digitized Sky Survey 2 sind. Es zeigt die Himmelsregion um die aktive Galaxie NGC 3783 im südlichen Sternbild Centaurus (der Zentaur). Die Galaxie ist die kleine von oben betrachtete Spirale genau im Zentrum.

Quelle: ESO


Samstag, 22. Juni 2013 - 15:29 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Architektur der zukünftigen Raumhäfen



Image by HDR and Luis Vidal + Architects


AIA 2013: America's Next Aviation Frontier

Spanish architect Luis Vidal, principal of Madrid-based Luis Vidal + Architects, is just 44, but he’s already become one of the world’s top airport designers, with major projects in Spain (Madrid, Pamplona, Murcia, Reus, and other cities) and Poland (Warsaw). His current aviation project is the new T2 terminal at London’s Heathrow, scheduled to open in 2014. Although Vidal spends several weeks each year in San Francisco, he’s never done a project in the United States. But that could change. And no, he’s not designing a new U.S. airport. For now, at least, he’s leapfrogged past that to design a concept for a spaceport. Vidal is working with the American engineering and architecture firm HDR to design a spaceport at a tiny Colorado facility, Front Range Airport, about six miles from Denver International Airport.

Backers hope the spaceport will become a global hub for space travel and research. The project has the support of Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who earlier this year said, “A spaceport [allows] us to conceive of flying to Australia in a couple of hours.” Provided, of course, there’s another spaceport in Australia.

Vidal discussed his airports and ideas for the Colorado spaceport at the Denver meeting of the Royal Institute of British Architects USA, which ran concurrently with the AIA convention. In may ways, he said, spaceports won’t be that much different from airports. People will arrive, check in, go through security, get on the aircraft—the usual steps involved in air travel. But he expects a huge demand for scientific research in zero-gravity conditions, so any spaceport will need facilities to accommodate that. And remember when people used to go to airports just to see planes take off and land? Vidal expects that to happen again with spaceports, so large observation areas will need to part of any design.

Vidal’s conceptual design for the spaceport resembles a large plane with wings and a bulbous tail, which appears to be the entrance to the complex. “We feel that we’re breaking new ground for a building type,” Vidal said.



Samstag, 22. Juni 2013 - 09:38 Uhr

Astronomie - Solar Splashdown


This photograph shows our Sun on June 7, 2011, at the time of an eruption. The source of the eruption glows brightly at lower right. Material blasted outward only to fall back onto the Sun's surface. By studying this process, astronomers gained new insights into how young stars grow via stellar accretion. This photo was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Red shows light at a wavelength of 304 Angstroms, green is 171 Angstroms, and blue is 335 Angstroms.
Credit: NASA / SDO / P. Testa (CfA)


Solar Splashdown
Cambridge, MA - On June 7, 2011, our Sun erupted, blasting tons of hot plasma into space. Some of that plasma splashed back down onto the Sun's surface, sparking bright flashes of ultraviolet light. This dramatic event may provide new insights into how young stars grow by sucking up nearby gas.

The eruption and subsequent splashdown were observed in spectacular detail by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. This spacecraft watches the Sun 24 hours a day, providing images with better-than-HD resolution. Its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument was designed and developed by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

"We’re getting beautiful observations of the Sun. And we get such high spatial resolution and high cadence that we can see things that weren’t obvious before," says CfA astronomer Paola Testa.

Movies of the June 7th eruption show dark filaments of gas blasting outward from the Sun's lower right. Although the solar plasma appears dark against the Sun's bright surface, it actually glows at a temperature of about 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When the blobs of plasma hit the Sun's surface again, they heat up by a factor of 100 to a temperature of almost 2 million degrees F. As a result, those spots brighten in the ultraviolet by a factor of 2 – 5 over just a few minutes.

The tremendous energy release occurs because the in falling blobs are traveling at high speeds, up to 900,000 miles per hour (400 km/sec). Those speeds are similar to the speeds reached by material falling onto young stars as they grow via accretion. Therefore, observations of this solar eruption provide an "up close" view of what happens on distant stars.

"We often study young stars to learn about our Sun when it was an 'infant.' Now we’re doing the reverse and studying our Sun to better understand distant stars," notes Testa.

These new observations, combined with computer modeling, have helped resolve a decade-long argument over how to measure the accretion rates of growing stars. Astronomers calculate how fast a young star is gathering material by observing its brightness at various wavelengths of light, and how that brightness changes over time. However, they got higher estimates from optical and ultraviolet light than from X-rays.

The team discovered that the ultraviolet flashes they observed came from the in falling material itself, not the surrounding solar atmosphere. If the same is true for distant, young stars, then by analyzing the ultraviolet light they emit, we can learn about the material they are accreting.

"By seeing the dark spots on the Sun, we can learn about how young stars accrete material and grow." explains Testa.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.


Quelle: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


Freitag, 21. Juni 2013 - 14:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Atlantis Ausstellung ist "go" für Besucher


Just one week from its grand opening, the Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is nearly ready.
The final week will be one of fine-tuning inside the $100 million building, though a few public tours have been given a sneak-peek.
“We’re ready to go,” said Tim Macy, director of project development for Delaware North Companies at the visitor complex. “We’re tweaking the sound, and doing color balance” in the theaters.
The exhibit features Atlantis, which flew 33 missions, and gives visitors a 360-degree view of the orbiter from just feet away.
“The first time I saw it, I had tears in my eyes,” astronaut Bob Springer, who flew two shuttle missions, recalled. Springer flew on Discovery in 1989 and Atlantis the following year.
The 90,000-square-foot building also features 60 other exhibits, many interactive, which highlight the history of the space program.
The exhibit opens to the public June 29.
Quelle: Florida-Today

Tags: Space-Shuttle Atlantis 


Donnerstag, 20. Juni 2013 - 15:25 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - Shenzhou-10 Astronauten sahen keine UFOs


China astronaut: No UFOs yet
BEIJING, In China's first "space class", the country's second female astronaut in space Thursday says she and her crewmates haven't seen any UFOs during the space trip.
Female astronaut Wang Yaping, one of the three crew members of Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, greeted about 330 primary and middle school students at a Beijing high school, through a live video feed system, about 340 km above the Earth.
"Through the front windows, we can see the Earth and many other stars, but up till now, we haven't seen any UFOs,"Wang says.
"We are beyond the (Earth's) atmosphere and due to the lack of obstructing atmosphere, the stars we see are much brighter, but they do not twinkle," she says.
"Meanwhile, due to the absence of the atmosphere with its light scattering feature, the sky we see is not blue but is deep dark. And also I can tell you a wonderful phenomenon: we can see sunrises 16 times a day as we circle the Earth every 90 minutes," she adds.
Quelle: Xinhua


Donnerstag, 20. Juni 2013 - 12:45 Uhr

Mars-Curiosity-Chroniken - Mars Rover Curiosity zeigt 1.3 billion pixels Panorama


This is a reduced version of panorama from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity with 1.3 billion pixels in the full-resolution version. It shows Curiosity at the "Rocknest" site where the rover scooped up samples of windblown dust and sand. Curiosity used three cameras to take the component images on several different days between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, 2012. Viewers can explore this image with pan and zoom controls at Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


PASADENA, Calif. -- A billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail.
The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route.
The full-circle scene surrounds the site where Curiosity collected its first scoops of dusty sand at a windblown patch called "Rocknest," and extends to Mount Sharp on the horizon.
"It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities," said Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details."
Deen assembled the product using 850 frames from the telephoto camera of Curiosity's Mast Camera instrument, supplemented with 21 frames from the Mastcam's wider-angle camera and 25 black-and-white frames -- mostly of the rover itself -- from the Navigation Camera. The images were taken on several different Mars days between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, 2012. 
The new mosaic from NASA shows illumination effects from variations in the time of day for pieces of the mosaic. It also shows variations in the clarity of the atmosphere due to variable dustiness during the month while the images were acquired.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover's 10 science instruments to investigate the environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity's Mastcam. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Camera and the rover.
Quelle: NASA


Donnerstag, 20. Juni 2013 - 09:48 Uhr

Astronomie - Metamorphose des Wasser Eis auf dem Mond erklärt


Panoramic lunar view taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the north rim of Cabeus crater. The distance from left to right is about 75 kilometers (46 miles). Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Arizona State Univ.
Metamorphosis of Moon’s Water Ice Explained
Using data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system’s coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the moon. They have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.
Space scientists from the University of New Hampshire and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have published their results online in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR): Planets. Lead author of the paper is research scientist Andrew Jordan of the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS).
Discovering molecular hydrogen on the moon was a surprise result from NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission, which crash-landed the LCROSS satellite’s spent Centaur rocket at 5,600 miles per hour into the Cabeus crater in the permanently shadowed region of the moon. These regions have never been exposed to sunlight and have remained at temperatures near absolute zero for billions of years, thus preserving the pristine nature of the lunar soil, or regolith.
Instruments on board LCROSS trained on the resulting immense debris plume detected water vapor and water ice, the mission’s hoped-for quarry, while LRO, already in orbit around the moon, saw molecular hydrogen—a surprise.
“LRO’s Lyman Alpha Mapping Project, or LAMP, detected the signature of molecular hydrogen, which was unexpected and unexplained,” says Jordan.
Jordan’s JGR paper, “The formation of molecular hydrogen from water ice in the lunar regolith by energetic charged particles,” quantifies an explanation of how molecular hydrogen, which is comprised of two hydrogen atoms and denoted chemically as H2, may be created below the moon’s surface.
“After the finding, there were a couple of ideas for how molecular hydrogen could be formed but none of them seemed to work for the conditions in the crater or with the rocket impact.” Jordan says. “Our analysis shows that the galactic cosmic rays, which are charged particles energetic enough to penetrate below the lunar surface, can dissociate the water, H2O, into H2 through various potential pathways.”
That analysis was based on data gathered by the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) instrument aboard the LRO spacecraft. Jordan is a member of the CRaTER scientific team, which is headed up by principal investigator Nathan Schwadron of EOS. Schwadron, a co-author on the JGR paper, was the first to suggest energetic particles as the possible mechanism for creating molecular hydrogen.
CRaTER characterizes the global lunar radiation environment by measuring radiation dose rates from galactic cosmic rays and solar energetic particles. Says Jordan, “We used the CRaTER measurements to get a handle on how much molecular hydrogen has been formed from the water ice via charged particles.” Jordan’s computer model incorporated the CRaTER data and showed that these energetic particles can form between 10 and 100 percent of the H2 measured by LAMP.
The study notes that narrowing down that percent range requires particle accelerator experiments on water ice to more accurately gauge the number of chemical reactions that result per unit of energy deposited by cosmic rays and solar energetic particles.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
Quelle: University of New Hampshire


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