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Bright Spots on Ceres Likely Ice, Not Cryovolcanoes

Ceres rotates in this sped-up movie comprised of images taken by NASA's Dawn mission during its approach to the dwarf planet. The images were taken on Feb. 19, 2015, from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). Dawn observed Ceres for a full rotation of the dwarf planet, which lasts about nine hours. The images have a resolution of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Ceres rotates in this sped-up movie comprised of images taken by NASA’s Dawn mission during its approach to the dwarf planet. The images were taken on Feb. 19, 2015, from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). Dawn observed Ceres for a full rotation of the dwarf planet, which lasts about nine hours. The images have a resolution of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

As the Dawn spacecraft prepares to enter orbit around Ceres on March 6, the science team provided the latest images and a mission preview during a mission briefing on March 2. The images released yesterday show more of those unusual bright spots and lots of craters, and feature two new global views of Ceres: one spinning globe, and a a mosaic of a flat map-view of Ceres’ surface.

But the most-talked about feature is the 90-km-wide (57-mile) crater with two bright spots.

“These spots are extremely surprising and have been puzzling to the team and everyone that has seen them,” said Deputy Principal Investigator Carol Raymond. “The team is really, really excited about this feature because it is unique in the solar system.”

Raymond added that the team will be revealing the true nature of spots with the public in real time as the spacecraft gets closer and is able to make a determination.

So what is the leading theory on the bright spots?
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Book Review: Emigrating Beyond Earth

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Do you believe that humans are the ultimate species and that we have a destiny to rule? Perhaps you’re being optimistic according to Cameron Smith and Evan Davies. Their book “Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization” provides an anthropologist’s view that splashes a certain amount of chagrin on the hubris of our culture. Yes, they say we can and indeed should become a spacefaring species. However, they do caution that this future for our species can be attained only if we proactively try.
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The first known reference of a Mini-Moon? A perigee versus apogee Full Moon from 2011. Credit and copyright: Ken Lord.

Supermoons. Blood Moons. Moons both Black and Blue… by now, you’d think that there was nothing new under the Sun (or Moon, as it were) when it comes to new unofficial lunar terminology.

Sure, the Moon now seems more colorful than controversial viral dress shades. Love it or loathe it, the Internet can sure set a meme in motion. And this week’s Full Moon on Thursday evening offers up one of our faves, as the most distant Full Moon of 2015 occurs on March 5th. Yup, the Mini-Moon is indeed once again upon us, a time when the Full Moon appears slightly smaller than usual as seen from the Earth. But can you really tell the difference? [click to continue…]

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Carnival of Space #395

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

The tent is up! This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Pamela Hoffman at the Everyday Spacer blog.

Click here to read Carnival of Space #395.
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Kamikaze Comet Loses its Head

Headless comet D1 SOHO photographed in evening twilight on Feb. 28. Credit: Michael Jaeger

Headless comet D1 SOHO photographed in evening twilight on Feb. 28. The comet survived its Feb. 19 perihelion passage but soon after crumbled apart to form a cloud of glowing dust. Credit: Michael Jaeger

Like coins, most comet have both heads and tails. Occasionally, during a close passage of the Sun, a comet’s head will be greatly diminished yet still retain a classic cometary outline. Rarely are we left with nothing but a tail. How eerie it looks. Like a feather plucked from some cosmic deity floating down from the sky. Welcome to C/2015 D1 SOHO, the comet that almost didn’t make it.  [click to continue…]

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Why Don’t We Search for Different Life?


If we really want to find life on other worlds, why do we keep looking for life based on carbon and water? Why don’t we look for the stuff that’s really different?
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Technicians work on NASA’s 20-foot-tall Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mated quartet of stacked observatories in the cleanroom at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on May 12, 2014.  Credit: Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

Technicians work on NASA’s 20-foot-tall Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mated quartet of stacked observatories in the cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on May 12, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

NASA’s first mission dedicated to study the process in nature known as magnetic reconnection undergoing final preparation for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in just under two weeks time.

The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission is comprised of a quartet of identically instrumented observatories aimed at providing the first three-dimensional views of a [click to continue…]

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Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy Leaves a Lasting Legacy

Leonard Nimoy with SETI astronomer Frank Drake on September 8, 1994. Seth Shostak, also from SETI, was the photographer. Image courtesy the Drake family.

Leonard Nimoy with SETI astronomer Frank Drake on September 8, 1994. Seth Shostak, also from SETI, was the photographer. Image courtesy the Drake family.

Leonard Nimoy played a half-alien-half-human character — Spock — who seemingly was going to live forever. He survived having his brain removed, being bitten by a deadly alien creature and other harrowing experiences. Later, he actually did give his life to save his crew but was resurrected. And he was transported through time in the Star Trek universe to spend his life across hundreds of years. But the very human Nimoy died earlier today at age 83, leaving a legacy of not just an enduring science fiction character, but the generations of scientists and explorers he inspired.

Nimoy had been hospitalized earlier in the week and his agent confirmed his death on February 27, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year and attributed it to years of smoking, a habit he had quit nearly 30 years ago.

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Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)

Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
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The dinosaur on Mars, the Face in Cydonia, the rat, the human skull, the Smiley face, the prehistoric vertebrae and the conglomerate rock. Something is amiss in this montage and shouldn't be included. (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL)

The dinosaur on Mars, the Face in Cydonia, the rat, the human skull, the Smiley face, the prehistoric vertebrae and the conglomerate rock. Something is amiss in this montage and shouldn’t be included. (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL)

What is up with the fossils on Mars? Found – a dinosaur skull on Mars? Discovered – a rat, squirrel or gerbil on Mars? In background of images from Curiosity, vertebrae from some extinct Martian species? And the human skull, half buried in photos from Opportunity Rover. All the images are made of stone from the ancient past and this is also what is called Pareidolia. They are figments of our imaginations, and driven by our interest to be there – on Mars – and to know that we are not alone. Altogether, they make a multitude of web pages and threads across the internet.

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