NASA’s Dawn Probe Sees Dwarf Planet Ceres as a Crescent


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After spending several weeks in the shadow of Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is finally getting a close-up glimpse of the dwarf planet.

For Those Who Don’t Know About CERES : Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is composed of rock and ice, is 950 kilometers (590 miles) in diameter, and comprises approximately one third of the mass of the asteroid belt. It is the only dwarf planet in the inner Solar System and the only object in the asteroid belt known to be unambiguously rounded by its own gravity.

Ceres’ cratered north pole blazes through the darkness in new images captured by Dawn on April 10. The photos are the highest-resolution views of the world that Dawn has gotten since entering Ceres’ orbit on March 6, NASA officials said.

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Dawn was about 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet when the pictures were taken, and mission team members promise even better views of Ceres in the months to come.

Full science observations begin April 23, when lighting conditions will be better for Dawn and the probe will be even closer to Ceres — just 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface. Dawn will begin moving even lower down on May 9.

In future weeks, NASA hopes the mission will help scientists better understand a key mystery of Ceres: strange bright spots on its surface that, in some cases, have different temperatures than the terrain surrounding them. Mission scientists still don’t know what the spots are made of.

The $466 million Dawn mission, which launched in September 2007, aims to better characterize the solar system’s early days by studying Ceres and Vesta, two intact protoplanets that are the largest denizens of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The probe spent 14 months at the 330-mile-wide (530-kilometer-wide) Vesta in 2011 and 2012, then headed to Ceres.

Mission scientists said they expect that Ceres, which is about 590 miles (950 km) wide, will be wetter than Vesta, and made of different stuff. Some researchers think Ceres may even harbor liquid water beneath its surface, perhaps making the dwarf planet capable of hosting life as we know it.

Source : NBS-news,Sci-news,Wikipedia

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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

Our star is five billion years younger than most in the Milky Way


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Our sun is nearly 4.5 billion years — which means it missed the charming initial years of the Milky Way galaxy. If you were standing on a planet nearly about 10 billion years ago, when the Milky Way was pretty young, the night sky would have appeared very different. The image below is an artist’s impression of the night sky on a planet in a relatively young Milky Way-type galaxy, the way our galaxy was 10 billion years ago. You can see “the sky are ablaze with star birth. Pink clouds of gas harbor newborn stars, and bluish-white, young star clusters litter the landscape,” as NASA explains.

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Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Z. Levay (STScI)

A recent study of young galaxies like our own demonstrates that as these galaxies slow down creating stars, they also stop developing as quickly in general. Which is quite logical. NASA explains:

“Astronomers don’t have baby pictures of our Milky Way’s formative years to trace the history of stellar growth so they studied galaxies similar in mass to our Milky Way, found in deep surveys of the universe. The farther into the universe astronomers look, the further back in time they are seeing, because starlight from long ago is just arriving at Earth now. From those surveys, stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, researchers assembled an album of images containing nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies. The new census provides the most complete picture yet of how galaxies like the Milky Way grew over the past 10 billion years into today’s majestic spiral galaxies. The multi-wavelength study spans ultraviolet to far-infrared light, combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, and ground-based telescopes, including the Magellan Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.”

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Above is a selection of Hubble Space Telescope photos, displaying how galaxies similar to our own developed over time.

Source : Physics-astronomy

[Video] Humanity’s 5 Farthest Reaches Into Space


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Here are the Top 5 Humanity Farthest reaches into Space.

Enjoy the video….

Source : Dark5 (Video Uploader )

The icy eyes of Mars


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One thing all solid bodies in the Solar System share in common is craters. Some worlds, like Mercury or the Moon, are covered in them, having no atmosphere to erode them away. Earth has relatively few; our dynamic atmosphere and water circulation wipes them out after a few millennia. And some icy bodies like Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s Europa only have a few because their surfaces are also constantly changing… on a geologic timescale.

Source : Sen Blog

New Hubble Telescope Photos Capture One of the Universe’s Most Stunning Formations


In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope captured what would become one of history’s most enduring images of the universe: The Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. Now, 20 years later, Hubble has released a collection of brand new, high-definition shots of the iconic formation. 

If you thought the universe was hauntingly beautiful before, wait until you see these.

Behold:

New view of the Pillars of Creation — visible

Eagle Nebula Captured by Hubble Space Telescope (Click Image to Download)

Comprised of three towers of gas, dust and space matter, structures like this are not altogether uncommon in star-forming regions. But as the Hubble website notes, the Pillars of Creation are some of the most photogenic and mesmerizing examples ever seen.

“The Hubble image of the pillars taken in 1995 is so popular that it has appeared in film and television, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on postage stamps,” HubbleSite writes.

The telescope used the Wide Field Camera 3 to capture the stunning new images. It sees near-infrared light, visible like and near-ultraviolet radiation, and also has higher resolution and a bigger field of view than the camera that came before it.

This time, Hubble also captured an image taken in infra-red light, which “penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas and unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars,” according to the website. “Here newborn stars, hidden in the visible-light view, can be seen forming within the pillars themselves.”

New view of the Pillars of Creation — infrared

Not everything is happy-go-lucky in Pillars of Creation-land, however. Despite their name, the new shots indicate that the pillars are also being worn down by the very stars they are helping to incubate. “The dust and gas in these pillars is seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars,” HubbleSite explains.

Arizona State University’s Paul Scowen, who helped lead Hubble’s first deep dive into the Eagle Nebula, stressed just how incredible our sightings of the Pillars are. “I’m impressed by how transitory these structures are,” he said in a press release. “We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution.”

Interestingly, environments like the Eagle Nebula and other star-forming regions were instrumental in our own solar system’s development. “What that means is when you look at the environment of the Eagle Nebula or other star-forming regions, you’re looking at exactly the kind of nascent environment that our Sun formed in,” Scowen said.

The Pillars of Creation — 1995 and 2015 comparison

Source : mic.com

8 new planets found in ‘Goldilocks zone’, NASA may find Earth’s ‘twin’ very soon


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(Click Image To download)

NASA is closer than ever to finding a twin for the Earth, astronomers said today, announcing the discovery of eight new planets that circle in the habitable zones of their stars.

Two of the eight are the most Earth-like of any known planets found so far outside our solar system, astronomers told the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

The pair are likely to have hard, rocky surfaces in addition to being an orbiting distance from their stars that is neither too hot nor too cold for water and possibly life to exist, astronomers said. The discovery doubles the number of known planets that are close in size to the Earth and believed to be in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” of the stars they orbit.

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Representational image. AFP

“We are now closer than we have ever been to finding a twin for the Earth around another star,” said Fergal Mullally of the Kepler Science Office. “These candidates represent the closest analogs to the Earth’s own system found to date.”

The worlds were found with the help of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission, a space telescope which has scoured more than 150,000 stars for planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009. The latest trove of candidate planets found by Kepler and announced today was 554, bringing the total potential planets to 4,175.

Scientists have recently verified the existence of the 1,000th planet found by Kepler.

“Three of the newly validated planets are located in their distant suns’ habitable zone, the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet,” NASA said in a statement. “Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.”

While it is intriguing to consider the possibility of life existing on another planet like ours, the two best candidates are so far away that learning more about them presents a big challenge.

Source : firstpost

This One Picture Will Make You Realize How Big The Universe Actually Is


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Milky Way Galaxy (Click Image to Download)

We’ve all heard the universe is a very big place, but this image from Alex Grossman really drives that concept home.

The question: How far has humanity’s influence reached?

The very first thing created by humanity that left our tiny planet wasn’t a satellite or space ship, it was the broadcasts from a world obsession with radio. This image shows how far radio broadcasts will have reached in our galaxy, the Milky Way, by the time that technology is 200 years old. Considering we only started broadcasting in 1880, this map actually represents our reach in 2080.

In the vacuum of space radio waves travel at the speed of light, so our entire influence on the universe has now traveled just 135 light years away from Earth (1 “light year” equals the distance light travels in 1 year). That’s right, the tiny blue dot in the image below is how far every single action by humanity has reached. Feel tiny yet?

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How does that compare to our furthest traveling spacecraft? The Voyager 1, which is now traveling almost outside the influence of our Sun, is only about 18 light hours away from the Earth. That’s about 97,000 times smaller than the blue dot in these pictures.

Now for the real kicker.

How many galaxies like our Milky Way are in the entire Universe? No one knows the actual figure because we can’t see to the outside edge (if there is one), but the amount we can see in the observable universe is estimated to be… wait for it…

…more than 170 billion galaxies.

There it is. We are really, really, very, amazingly, incredibly, so, small.
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Milky Way galaxy rendering by Nick Risinger

Source : www.visualnews.com

Large Asteroids to Flyby Earth in January Through March. Should Humans Worry?


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A view of the asteroid Lutetia from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft (Click Image to download)

Asteroids are headed in Earth’s direction and with most of them about as wide as a double-decker bus, a collision would most likely result in significant damage. However, while experts warn against the potential dangers of these asteroids, they also say that it is unlikely that these will veer off course and hit the planet.

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there will be 43 asteroids flying close to Earth in January and 25 in February. In March, the number further drops to 15. The biggest threat for January is the asteroid 2007 EJ slated to closely approach the planet on Jan. 12. With a maximum diameter of nearly 1 mile, the asteroid is traveling at around 34,500 miles per hour.

The next-biggest asteroid threat for the first month of the year is the 1991 VE. It features a diameter of 0.87 miles and is expected to skim past the planet on Jan. 17. On Jan. 15 and 23, 0.68-mile wide asteroids will be flying by, the 2014 UF206 and the 2062 Aten, respectively.

At 0.75 miles wide, the 2003 YK118 will follow in Feb. 27. On the same day, the biggest asteroid threat for the quarter, the 1.4-mile wide 2000 EE14 can be expected. For March, the biggest an asteroid will get will be the 2002 GM2, which measures 0.68 miles in diameter. It’s scheduled to come close to Earth on March 3.

The 2000 EE14 will also not only be the biggest for the quarter but it will also be flying by the closest, coming in up to nearly 17 million miles within the proximity of the Earth’s center.

Alarmed that about a million undetected asteroids are flying around in space right now, scientists launched Asteroid Day to raise awareness and prevent the disaster that happened 65 million years ago from happening as much as possible.

According to NASA, the agency is aware of more than 1,500 PHAs or potentially hazardous asteroids. These are defined using parameters that measure how big of a potential an asteroid has for dangerously coming close to the planet. But just because an asteroid has a high potential doesn’t mean that it will impact Earth. The measure of potential is there to simply gauge just how big the possibility of a threat is. PHAs are constantly monitored to improve predictions for close-approach statistics, which in turn improves predictions for threat and impact.

Source : techtimes , Photo by ESA

Here is a tour of No Man’s Sky’s mathematically generated incredible universe


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When released this year, this amazing new next-gen sci-fi video game, “No Man’s Sky”, will cover about 18 quintillion visit-able planets and it would take about five billion years to visit each of those planets — no breaks allowed.  This is quite a remarkable concept, even if we’ll only get to see a little portion of what No Man’s Sky is set to offer. Presently in development by self-governing UK-based studio, Hello Games, the simulated landscape is procedurally created by an algorithmic programming system that sorts what Hello Games creator, Sean Murray, tells Game Informer in the video below is “a series of very simple formulae laid on top of each other to create something quite complex”.

What this allows for is unbelievable detail and limitless material to discover; zero loading time; and nearly no content kept on a disc, your PC or PS4 console, or even in the cloud. For people among us who have been a little underwhelmed with what next generation consoles, the Playstation 4 and XBox One, have so far provided, this amazing game is well and accurately taking benefit of their exceptional processing power to make something remarkable. Watch the video linked above by Game Informer to perceive exactly how this game is being created. I must say, after learning about this game, I think 2015 is going to be a worthy year for gaming.

Source: Kotaku, Game Informer