Mars has Beautiful Auroras Visible with the Naked Eye, NASA Confirms


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The stunning light show is similar to the Northern Lights, but a different colour

The Northern Lights are one of Earth’s most spectacular phenomena – with eerie green and red streaks colouring the sky.

It turns out that Mars has a similar light show – visible to the naked eye of anyone on the surface of the Red Planet – but it glows a bright blue.

That’s according to research by planetary scientist Cyril Simon Wedlund from Aalto University.

He and his team carried out an experiment in the lab to simulate the conditions on Mars.

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The Planeterella sphere simulates a magnetized planet with an atmosphere of CO2 and bombarded by the solar wind. Blue aurorae develop according to its magnetic field configuration. (D. Bernard/IPAG — CNRS)

The experiment replicated the Martian atmosphere – made up mostly of carbon dioxide – using a ‘Planeterrella’, a piece of kit that can recreate aurora in the laboratory.

In the case of the Mars experiment, a blue glow formed around the magnetic structures.

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They believe that blue is the most prominent color, though red and green may also make an appearance, and that the lights — like ones on Earth — appear several times in a solar cycle, after intense solar activity.

If an astronaut looked to the southern sky from the surface of Mars during one of these flare-ups, the researchers say, he or she would see a sky glowing with blue. Until then, we’ll just have to keep imagining them.

The Auroras are visible in many other planets like Jupiter, Saturn. below are the some photographs of auroras taken by various probes.

Source : Washington post, Mirror

See a blue sunset on Mars


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The “blue-tinged” sky is caused by fine dust in the atmosphere, according to a statement from Mark Lemmon, a Curiosity team member from Texas A&M University in College Station.

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“The colors come from the fact that the very fine dust is the right size so that blue light penetrates the atmosphere slightly more efficiently,” Lemmon said in the statement. “When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the sun than light of other colors does. The rest of the sky is yellow to orange, as yellow and red light scatter all over the sky instead of being absorbed or staying close to the sun.”

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This is the first sunset captured in color by the rover, according to NASA.

Source: USA TODAY

Pluto’s five moons captured on camera for first time EVER


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PLUTO’S five moons have been captured on camera for the first time EVER as a NASA probe nears the dwarf planet.

The historic moment was recorded by NASA’s New Horizons probe, which is exploring Pluto and beyond.

Previously the probe has only caught footage of Pluto, which was previously downgraded from its status as a full planet, as well as its largest moon Charon and two of its smallest moons – Hydra and Nix.

However, now, Kerberos and Styx, the dwarf planet’s smallest and faintest moons, are also visible.

Detecting these tiny moons from a distance of more than 55 million miles is amazing, and a credit to the team that built our LORRI long-range camera and John Spencer’s team of moon and ring hunters.

Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator

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John Spencer, programme scientist of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, said: “New Horizons is now on the threshold of discovery. If the spacecraft observes any additional moons as we get closer to Pluto, they will be worlds that no one has seen before.”

NASA said initial viewing appeared to show only four moons visible in the footage, but Charon is also in the images – although it blends into the bright centre of imagery.

Pluto’s four smaller moons were discovered by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Nix and Hydra were found in 2005, while Kerberos and Styx were discovered more recently in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The unmanned New Horizons probe will start looking for any more more moons and rings around Pluto this month.

However, astronomers fear previously unseen objects in the dwarf planet’s vicinity may put the spacecraft in jeopardy as it heads toward its closest approach in July – and navigators will be very cautious as it nears.

Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, said: “Detecting these tiny moons from a distance of more than 55 million miles is amazing, and a credit to the team that built our LORRI long-range camera and John Spencer’s team of moon and ring hunters.”

New Horizons was launched towards Pluto in 2006.

Once the probe flies past Pluto and its moons on July 14, the spacecraft will continue flying farther from Earth, investigating other cold bodies past the dwarf planet.

Source : Express.co.uk

This Is The First Ever Color Picture of Pluto


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New Horizons spacecraft is now only three months away from its historic sweep through the Pluto-Charon system in mid-July. First image in color!

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft acquired its first picture of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, in color on April 9. It’s the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. Neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved here, but their distinctly different appearances can already be seen. Image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft team released this tantalizing first color image of Pluto and its Texas-sized moon Charon. The team called this image a preliminary reconstruction, which they said will be refined later. The spacecraft acquired the image from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)-roughly the distance from the sun to Venus. New Horizons is now only three months from its historic encounter with Pluto. The flyby through the Pluto system will take place on July 14, at which time the spacecraft will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.

New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched and may be the only spacecraft to sweep past Pluto in our lifetimes. It has traveled a longer time and farther away – more than nine years and three billion miles (4.8 billion km) – than any space mission in history to reach the Pluto system, which consists of the dwarf planet and its five known moons.

NASA pointed out that New Horizons’ flyby of the Pluto system on July 14 will:

… complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new ‘third’ zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune’s orbit.

Principal investigator Alan Stern said the mission would mark the first up-close look at a binary planet. He called Pluto a binary because its large moon Charon is so nearly like Pluto in size.

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Between now and July 14, New Horizons will get closer and closer to Pluto and its moons, and the image quality will rapidly improve. At closest approach, New Horizons will sweep through the Pluto system at a speed of 30,000 mph (50,000 kilometers per hour).

Source : EarthSky.org

Eye of Super Typhoon Maysak Looks “Like a Black Hole” from Space


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Maysak, a category 4 Super Typhoon, as photographed by astronaut Terry Virts on board the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts.

From his perch on the International Space Station, astronaut Terry Virts has been taking some beautiful photos of Earth and space and sharing them on social media.

“Looking down into the eye – by far the widest one I’ve seen,” he tweeted. “It seemed like a black hole from a Sci-Fi movie.”

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According to AccuWeather.com, Super Typhoon Maysak is one of the strongest cyclones in history during the months of January, February and March. It has slammed several Micronesian islands, killing 5 people, and is now on its way to the Philippines. As of early on April 1, Maysak had sustained winds of 240 kph (150 mph), equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. Gusts as high as 390 kph (180 mph) are possible with this storm.

The typhoon is expected to weaken, but still poses a threat to the islands in its path:

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Source : Universe Today

The Milky Way’s New Neighbor May Tell Us Things About the Universe


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As part of the Local Group, a collection of 54 galaxies and dwarf galaxies that measures 10 million light years in diameter, the Milky Way has no shortage of neighbors. However, refinements made in the field of astronomy in recent years are leading to the observation of neighbors that were previously unseen. This, in turn, is changing our view of the local universe to one where things are a lot more crowded.

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Dwarf spheroidal galaxies, like this one seen in the constellation Fornax, may exist in greater numbers than previously thought. Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2 (Click Image to Download)

For instance, scientists working out of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, recently found a previously undetected dwarf galaxy that exists 7 million light years away. The discovery of this galaxy, named KKs3, and those like it is an exciting prospect for scientists, since they can tell us much about how stars are born in our universe.

The Russian team, led by Prof Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), used the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to locate KKs3 in the southern sky near the constellation of Hydrus. The discovery occurred back in August 2014, when they finalized their observations a series of stars that have only one ten-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way.

Such dwarf galaxies are far more difficult to detect than others due to a number of distinct characteristics. KKs3 is what is known as a dwarf spheroid (or dSph) galaxy, a type that has no spiral arms like the Milky Way and also suffers from an absence of raw materials (like dust and gas). Since they lack the materials to form new stars, they are generally composed of older, fainter stars.

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Image of the KKR 25 dwarf spheroid galaxy obtained by the Special Astrophysical Observatory using the HST. Credit: SAO RAS (Click Image to download)

In addition, these galaxies are typically found in close proximity to much larger galaxies, like Andromeda, which appear to have gobbled up their gas and dust long ago. Being faint in nature, and so close to far more luminous objects, is what makes them so tough to spot by direct observation.

Team member Prof Dimitry Makarov, also of the Special Astrophysical Observatory, described the process: “Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighborhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

Painstaking is no exaggeration. Since they are devoid of materials like clouds of gas and dust fields, scientists are forced to spot these galaxies by identifying individual stars. Because of this, only one other isolated dwarf spheroidal has been found in the Local Group: a dSph known as KKR 25, which was also discovered by the Russian research team back in 1999.

But despite the challenges of spotting them, astronomers are eager to find more examples of dSph galaxies. As it stands, it is believed that these isolated spheroids must have been born out of a period of rapid star formation, before the galaxies were stripped of their dust and gas or used them all up.

Studying more of these galaxies can therefore tell us much about the process star formation in our universe. The Russian team expects that the task will become easier in the coming years as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope begin service.

Much like the Spitzer Space Telescope, these next-generation telescopes are optimized for infrared detection and will therefore prove very useful in picking out faint stars. This, in turn, will also give us a more complete understanding of our universe and all that it holds.

Source : universe today

Isro to Test-Fly Heaviest Rocket, Crew Module on December 18


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India will test-fly its heaviest and upgraded rocket – the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-Mark III) – on December 18, space agency Isro said Friday.

According to a tweet by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), the 630-tonne rocket will be powered by liquid and solid fuel engines while the cryogenic stage/engine will be a passive one.

The rocket will also carry a crew module to test its re-entry characteristics.

“The main purpose of the mission is to test the atmospheric characteristics and stability of the rocket on its way up. We also decided to use this opportunity to test one component of the crew module – a human space mission that India may embark on at a later date,” M.Y.S Prasad, director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, told reporters in a recent interaction.

The experimental mission will cost Rs. 155 crores and will not carry any satellite as the cryogenic engine needed for the purpose is still under development, he said.

“This will be India’s new launch vehicle. It is bigger and can carry satellites up to four tonnes,” said GSLV Mark III project director S. Somanath.

The main objective of the crew module is to demonstrate its re-entry flight and aero braking, and end-to-end parachute system validation.

The rocket will go up to 126km and the crew capsule will then detach and fall into the Bay of Bengal, 20 minutes after blast-off.

The descent speed of the crew module will be controlled on board motors for some distance and then by three parachutes.

The module will splash down 600km from Port Blair and 1,600km from the space centre. The capsule will be recovered by an Indian Coast Guard or Indian Navy ship.

Source : NDTV

What Our Milky Way Galaxy Looked Like 10 Billion Years Ago


Using two supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, a group of researchers headed by Dr Simon Portegies Zwart of Leiden Observatory has simulated the long term evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy over a period of six billion years – from 10 to 4 billion years ago.

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If you took a photo of our Milky Way Galaxy today from a distance, it would show a spiral galaxy with a bright, central bar of dense star populations.

The Sun would be located outside this bar near one of the spiral arms composed of stars and interstellar dust; beyond the visible galaxy would be a dark matter halo.

Now, if you wanted to go back in time and take a video of our Milky Way Galaxy forming, you could go back 10 billion years, but many of the galaxy’s prominent features would not be recognizable.

You would have to wait about 5 billion years to witness the formation of our Solar System. By this point, 4.6 billion years ago, the galaxy looks almost like it does today.

This is the timeline Dr Portegies Zwart and his colleagues are seeing emerge when they use supercomputers to simulate the Milky Way’s evolution.

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This image shows what the Milky Way Galaxy looked like ten billion years ago. Image credit: SURFsara / J. Bédorf / NVIDIA.

“We don’t really know how the structure of the galaxy came about. What we realized is we can use the positions, velocities, and masses of stars in three-dimensional space to allow the structure to emerge out of the self-gravity of the system,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.

The challenge of computing galactic structure on a star-by-star basis is, as you might imagine, the sheer number of stars in the Milky Way – at least 100 billion. Therefore, the team needed at least a 100 billion-particle simulation to connect all the dots.

Before the development of the team’s code, known as Bonsai, the largest galaxy simulation topped out around 100 million particles.

The team tested an early version of Bonsai on the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s Titan – the second-most-powerful supercomputer in the world – to improve scalability in the code.

After scaling Bonsai, the scientists ran Bonsai on the Piz Daint supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Center and simulated galaxy formation over 6 billion years with 51 million particles representing the forces of stars and dark matter.

After a successful Piz Daint run, the team returned to Titan to maximize the code’s parallelism. Bonsai achieved nearly 25 petaflops of sustained single-precision, floating point performance on the Titan.

The team aims to compare simulation results to new observations coming from ESA’s Gaia satellite launched in 2013.

“One percent of the particles, or stars, in our simulated galaxy should match Gaia data,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.

Source : sci-news

Esa’s mission to Jupiter is GO! ‘Juice’ spacecraft will launch in 2022


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  • Jupiter and its moons could be best hope of finding signs of alien life
  • Jupiter icy moons explorer (Juice) will reach the Jovian system in 2030
  • It will explore volcanic Io, Europa and rock-ice Ganymede and Callisto
  • Juice will also take a look at Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere

Astronomers claim Jupiter and its moons could provide the best hope of finding signs of alien life in our solar system.

Now, in an effort to explorer its distant oceans, the Jupiter icy moons explorer (Juice) mission has been given the green light to launch in 2022.

The five-tonne satellite will reach Jupiter in 2030 where it will use its suite of instruments to explore the planet’s atmosphere, magnetosphere and tenuous set of rings.

Juice will also look at Jupiter’s diverse Galilean moons – volcanic Io, icy Europa and rock-ice Ganymede and Callisto – which make the Jovian system a miniature solar system in its own right.

The focus will largely be on Ganymede, though, and will the first time any icy moon has been orbited by a spacecraft.

Earlier this year, scientists said Ganymede might have ice and oceans stacked up in several layers similar to a club sandwich.

Previously, the moon was thought to harbour a thick ocean sandwiched between just two layers of ice, one on top and one on bottom, but now it seems it has multiple layers.

Scientists claims that places where water and rock interact are important for the development of life. For example, it is possible life began on Earth in bubbling vents on our sea floor.

Prior to the new study, Ganymede’s rocky sea bottom was thought to be coated with ice, not liquid – a problem for the emergence of life.

It will visit Callisto, the most heavily cratered object in the solar system, and will twice fly by Europa.

Juice is hoping to make the first measurements of the thickness of Europa’s icy crust and will identify candidate sites for future in situ exploration.

The Galileo mission found strong evidence that a subsurface ocean of salty water is in contact with a rocky seafloor.

Source : Daily mail