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Comet Siding Spring Was Bleeding Hydrogen As It Sped By Mars

Comet Siding Spring shines in ultraviolet in this image obtained by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/University of Colorado; NASA

Comet Siding Spring shines in ultraviolet in this image obtained by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/University of Colorado; NASA

As Comet Siding Spring passed close by Mars on Sunday (Oct. 19), NASA’s newest Mars spacecraft took a time-out from its commissioning to grab some ultraviolet pictures of its coma. What you see above is hydrogen, a whole lot of it, leaving the comet in this picture taken from 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers).

The hydrogen is a product of the water ice on the comet that the Sun is slowly melting and breaking apart into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Because hydrogen scatters ultraviolet light from the Sun, it shows up rather clearly in this picture taken by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft.

Check out more recent pictures of Siding Spring below.

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Stinky! Rosetta’s Comet Smells Like Rotten Eggs And Ammonia

A view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 26, 2014 from the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

A view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 26, 2014 from the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

While you can’t smell in space — there is no medium to carry the molecules, the same reason you can’t hear things — you can certainly detect what molecules are emanating from comets and other solar system bodies. A new analysis of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft thus found a rather pungent chemistry combination.

The spacecraft detected hydrogen sulphide (the smell of rotten eggs), ammonia and formaldehyde with traces of hydrogen cyanide and methanol. But compared to the amounts of water and carbon monixide 67P has, these molecule concentrations are quite miniscule.

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Videos: From Space, Lightning Looks Like Creepy White Blobs

Standing on the ground, we’re used to seeing the bolts and flashes of lightning during epic thunderstorms. But how would it look like from space? These three Vine videos from orbiting NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman provide a glimpse.

As you can see in these videos he uploaded to his Twitter account a few days ago, flashes and pools of light appear in this lightning storm over Kansas that he spotted from the International Space Station. Check out more below the jump. [click to continue…]

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Liftoff of the unmanned Chang'e 5 T1 lunar spacecraft atop a Long March-3C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China on Oct. 24, 2014, BJT (Oct. 23 EDT).  Credit: Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing

Liftoff of the unmanned Chang’e-5 T1 lunar spacecraft atop a Long March-3C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China on Oct. 24, 2014, BJT (Oct. 23 EDT). Credit: Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing

China launched a robotic mission to the Moon today (Oct. 23 EDT/Oct. 24 BJT) that will test a slew of key technologies required for safely delivering samples gathered from the Moon’s surface and returning them to Earth later this decade for analysis by researchers.

Today’s unmanned launch of what has been dubbed “Chang’e-5 T1” is a technology testbed serving as a precursor for China’s planned [click to continue…]

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The partial solar eclipse of October 23, 2014, with a giant sunspot visible. Credit and copyright: Derek Mellott.

The partial solar eclipse of October 23, 2014, with a giant sunspot visible. Credit and copyright: Derek Mellott.

“The Sun looks like it has a bite taken out of it!” said one enthusiastic viewer of the partial solar eclipse on October 23. Although I only had my paper plate pinhole projector that I shared with a crowd of folks (you can see an image of it near the bottom of the images here), the funny-looking Sun projected onto the plate definitely looked like a cookie with bite out of it or a clipped fingernail. But thankfully, as the Moon moved in front of the Sun today, legions of astrophotographers were out to take fantastic images of the eclipse. And the gigantic sunspot named AR 2192 made a cameo appearance as well. Enjoy the gallery below!

Thanks to everyone who uploaded images to our Flickr page or shared their images on Twitter.

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