Super-Typhoon Haiyan Causes Catastrophic Death & Destruction – Space Images from NASA, ISRO, Roscosmos & ISS

Super Typhoon Haiyan over the Philippines on November 9, 2013 as imaged from Earth orbit by NASA Astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard the International Space Station.Category 5 killer storm Haiyan stretches across the entire photo from about 250 miles (400 kilometer) altitude. Credit: NASA/Karen Nyberg
See more Super Typhoon Haiyan imagery and video below
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NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MARYLAND – Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the island nation of the Philippines, Friday, Nov. 8, with maximum sustained winds estimated at exceeding 195 MPH (315 kilometer per hour) by the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center – leaving an enormous region of catastrophic death and destruction in its terrible wake.

The Red Cross estimates over 1200 deaths so far. The final toll could be significantly higher. Local media reports today say bodies of men, women and children are now washing on shore.

The enormous scale of Super Typhoon Haiyan can be vividly seen in space imagery captured by NASA, ISRO and Russian satellites – as well as astronaut Karen Nyberg flying overhead on board the International Space Station (ISS); collected here.

As Super-Typhoon Haiyan moved over the central Philippines on Nov. 8 at 05:10 UTC/12:10 a.m. EDT, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured this visible image.   Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
As Super-Typhoon Haiyan moved over the central Philippines on Nov. 8 at 05:10 UTC/12:10 a.m. EDT, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this visible image. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Super Typhoon Haiyan is reported to be the largest and most powerful storm ever to make landfall in recorded human history.

Haiyan is classified as a Category 5 monster storm on the U.S. Saffir-Simpson scale.

It struck the central Philippines municipality of Guiuan at the southern tip of the province of Eastern Samar early Friday morning Nov. 8 at 20:45 UTC (4:45 am local time).

As Haiyan hit the central Philippines, NASA says wind gusts exceeded 235 mph (379 kilometers per hour).

The high resolution imagery and precise measurements provided by the worlds constellation of Earth observing space satellites (including NASA, Roscosmos, ISRO, ESA, JAXA) are absolutely essential to tracking killer storms and providing significant advance warning to evacuate residents in affected areas to help minimize the death toll and damage.

More than 800,000 people were evacuated. The storm surge caused waves exceeding 30 feet (10 meters), mudslides and flash flooding.

NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured visible, microwave and infrared data on the storm just as it was crossing the island of Leyte in the central Philippines, reports NASA – see image below.

NASA's TRMM satellite data on Nov. 8 at 00:19 UTC showed Haiyan had a well-defined eye surrounded by a symmetric area of moderate rain (green ring with a blue center) with several rainbands wrapping in from the south (green arcs) while crossing the island of Leyte in the central Philippines.  Credit:  NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce
NASA’s TRMM satellite data on Nov. 8 at 00:19 UTC showed Haiyan had a well-defined eye surrounded by a symmetric area of moderate rain (green ring with a blue center) with several rainbands wrapping in from the south (green arcs) while crossing the island of Leyte in the central Philippines. Credit: NASA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

TRMM data from rain rates are measured by the TRMM Precipitation Radar (PR) and TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) and combined with infrared (IR) data from the TRMM Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS) by science teams working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Coincidentally NASA Goddard has just completed assembly of the next generation weather satellite Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory that replaces TRMM – and where I inspected the GPM satellite inside the Goddard clean room on Friday.

“GPM is a direct follow-up to NASA’s currently orbiting TRMM satellite,” Art Azarbarzin, GPM project manager, told Universe Today during my exclusive clean room inspection of the huge GPM satellite.

NASA’s next generation Global Precipation Managemnet Measurement (GPM) observatory inside the clean room at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. GPM is slated to launch In February 2014 and will provide global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours - as a direct follow-up to NASA’s currently orbiting TRMM satellite; reaching the end of its usable lifetime. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA’s next generation Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory inside the clean room at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. GPM is slated to launch In February 2014 and will provide global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours – as a direct follow-up to NASA’s currently orbiting TRMM satellite; reaching the end of its usable lifetime.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

“TRMM is reaching the end of its usable lifetime. GPM launches in February 2014 and we hope it has some overlap with observations from TRMM.”

“The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory will provide high resolution global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours,” Dalia Kirschbaum, GPM research scientist, told me at Goddard.

GPM is equipped with advanced, higher resolution radar instruments. It is vital to continuing the TRMM measurements and will help provide improved forecasts and advance warning of extreme super storms like Hurricane Sandy and Super Typhoon Haiyan, Azarbarzin and Kirschbaum explained.

Video Caption: Super Typhoon Haiyan imaged on Nov 6 – 8, 2013 by the Russian Elektro-L satellite operating in geostationary orbit. Credit: Roscosmos via Vitaliy Egorov

The full magnitude of Haiyan’s destruction is just starting to be assessed as rescue teams reach the devastated areas where winds wantonly ripped apart homes, farms, factories, buildings and structures of every imaginable type vital to everyday human existence.

Typhoon Haiyan is moving westward and is expected to forcefully strike central Vietnam in a day or two. Mass evacuations are underway at this time

Ken Kremer

SuperTyphoon Haiyan imaged by the Russian Elektro-L satellite operating in geostationary orbit. Credit: Roscosmos via Vitaliy Egorov
Super Typhoon Haiyan imaged by the Russian Elektro-L satellite operating in geostationary orbit. Credit: Roscosmos via Vitaliy Egorov
Super Typhoon Haiyan's ocean surface winds were measured by the OSCAT radar scatterometer on the Indian Space Research Organization's (ISRO) OceanSAT-2 satellite at 5:30 p.m. PST on Nov. 6. The colors indicate wind speed and arrows indicate wind direction. Credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech
Super Typhoon Haiyan’s ocean surface winds were measured by the OSCAT radar scatterometer on the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) OceanSAT-2 satellite at 5:30 p.m. PST on Nov. 6. The colors indicate wind speed and arrows indicate wind direction. Credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Juno Careening to Earth for Critical Flyby Boost and Cool Movie Making on Oct. 9 – Watch SLOOH Live

Trajectory Map of Juno’s Earth Flyby on Oct. 9, 2013
The Earth gravity assist is required to accelerate Juno’s arrival at Jupiter on July 4, 2016 and will capture an unprecedented movie of the Earth/Moon system. Credit: NASA/JPL
Details on how to watch via Slooh – see below [/caption]

NASA’s solar powered Jupiter-bound Juno orbiter is careening towards Earth for an absolutely critical gravity assisted fly by speed boost while capturing an unprecedented movie view of the Earth/Moon system – on its ultimate quest to unveiling Jupiter’s genesis!

“Juno will flyby Earth on October 9 to get a gravity boost and increase its speed in orbit around the Sun so that it can reach Jupiter on July 4, 2016,” Juno chief scientist Dr. Scott Bolton told Universe Today in an exclusive new Juno mission update – as the clock is ticking to zero hour. “The closest approach is over South Africa.”

All this ‘high frontier’ action comes amidst the utterly chaotic US government partial shutdown, that threatened the launch of the MAVEN Mars orbiter, has halted activity on many other NASA projects and stopped public announcements of the safe arrival of NASA’s LADEE lunar orbiter on Oct. 6, Juno’s flyby and virtually everything else related to NASA!

Bolton confirmed that the shutdown fortunately hasn’t altered or killed Juno’s flyby objectives. And ops teams at prime contractor Lockheed Martin have rehearsed and all set.

And some more good news is that Slooh will track the Juno Earth Flyby “LIVE” – for those hoping to follow along. Complete details below!

“The shutdown hasn’t affected our operations or plans, Bolton told me. Bolton is Juno’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), San Antonio, Texas.

“Juno is 100% healthy.”

“But NASA is unable to participate in our public affairs and press activities,” Bolton elaborated.

NASA’s Juno Jupiter-bound space probe will fly by Earth for essential speed boost on Oct 9, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL
NASA’s Juno Jupiter-bound space probe will fly by Earth for essential speed boost on Oct 9, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL

97% of NASA’s employees are furloughed – including public affairs – due to the legal requirements of the shutdown!

Credit: NASA/JPL
Credit: NASA/JPL
Juno will also capture an unprecedented new movie of the Earth/Moon system.

A full up science investigation of our Home Planet by Juno is planned, that will also serve as a key test of the spacecraft and its bevy of state of the art instruments.

“During the earth flyby we have most of our instruments on and will obtain a unique movie of the Earth Moon system on our approach.

“We will also calibrate instuments and measure earth’s magnetosphere, obtain closeup images of the Earth and the Moon in UV [ultraviolet] and IR [infrared],” Bolton explained to Universe Today.

The flyby will accelerate the spacecraft’s velocity by 16,330 mph.

Where is the best view of Juno’s flyby, I asked?

“The closest approach is over South Africa and is about 500 kilometers [350 miles],” Bolton replied.

The time of closest approach is 3:21 p.m. EDT (12:21 PDT / 19:21 UTC) on Oct. 9, 2013

Watch this mission produced video about Juno and the Earth flyby:

Video caption: On Oct. 9, 2013, NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft is making a quick pass to get a gravity boost from the mother planet. Dr. Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute® is the Juno mission principal investigator, leading an international science team seeking to answer some fundamental questions about the gas giant and, in turn, about the processes that led to formation of our solar system.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft blasted off atop an Atlas V rocket two years ago from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on Aug. 5, 2011 to begin a 2.8 billion kilometer science trek to discover the genesis of Jupiter hidden deep inside the planet’s interior.

Juno is on a 5 year and 1.7 Billion mile (2.8 Billion km) trek to the largest planet in our solar system. When it arrives at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, Juno will become the first polar orbiting spacecraft at the gas giant.

Juno’s flight track above Earth during Oct. 9, 2013 flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL
Juno’s flight track above Earth during Oct. 9, 2013 flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL

During a one year science mission – entailing 33 orbits lasting 11 days each – the probe will plunge to within about 3000 miles of the turbulent cloud tops and collect unprecedented new data that will unveil the hidden inner secrets of Jupiter’s genesis and evolution.

The goal is to find out more about the planets origins, interior structure and atmosphere, observe the aurora, map the intense magnetic field and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core

Why does Juno need a speed boost from Earth?

“A direct mission to Jupiter would have required about 50 percent more fuel than we loaded,” said Tim Gasparrini, Juno program manager for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in a statement.

“Had we not chosen to do the flyby, the mission would have required a bigger launch vehicle, a larger spacecraft and would have been more expensive.”

Juno soars skyward to Jupiter on Aug. 5, 2011 from launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT. View from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Juno soars skyward to Jupiter on Aug. 5, 2011 from launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT. View from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Viewers near Cape Town, South Africa will have the best opportunity to view the spacecraft traveling across the sky.

Juno itself will most likely not be visible to the unaided eye, but binoculars or a small telescope with a wide field should provide an opportunity to view, according to a Slooh statement.

Slooh will track Juno live on October 9th, 2013.

Check here for international starting times: http://goo.gl/7ducFs – and for the Slooh broadcast hosted by Paul Cox.

Viewers can view the event live on Slooh.com using their computer or mobile device, or by downloading the free Slooh iPad app in the iTunes store. Questions can be asked during the broadcast via Twitter by using the hashtag #nasajuno -says Slooh.

Amidst the government shutdown, Juno prime contractor Lockheed Martin is working diligently to ensure the mission success.

Because there are NO 2nd chances!

“The team is 100 percent focused on executing the Earth flyby successfully,” said Gasparrini.

“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at possible off-nominal conditions. In the presence of a fault, the spacecraft will stay healthy and will perform as planned.”

Stay tuned here for continuing Juno, LADEE, MAVEN and more up-to-date NASA news.

And be sure to check back here for my post-flyby update.

What’s not at all clear is whether Juno will detect any signs of ‘intelligent life’ in Washington D.C.!

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about Juno, LADEE, MAVEN, Curiosity, Mars rovers, Cygnus, Antares, SpaceX, Orion, the Gov’t shutdown and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Oct 8: “NASA’s Historic LADEE Lunar & Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launches from Virginia”& “Curiosity, MAVEN, Juno and Orion updates”; Princeton University, Amateur Astronomers Assoc of Princeton (AAAP), Princeton, NJ, 8 PM

Curiosity Rover Finds No Methane On Mars. What’s Happening?

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover can’t find any sign of methane on the red planet, but the agency emphasized that methane would be only one indicator of possible life. There could be others.

“It reduces the probability of current methane-producing Martian microbes, but this addresses only one type of microbial metabolism,” stated Michael Meyer, NASA’s lead scientist for Mars exploration. “As we know, there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don’t generate methane.”

Curiosity (which can look for habitable conditions, but not life itself) sniffed the atmosphere six times for methane between October 2012 and June 2013. It didn’t see any sign of the molecule, which has been detected in other parts of Mars. The instrument being used, the tunable laser spectrometer, would be able to detect minute concentrations. Scientists today estimate methane on Mars must be 1.3 parts per billion at the most, which is only one-sixth as much as earlier estimates.

The results are intriguing given that other teams have spotted methane on Mars as far back as 1999. The Mars Global Surveyor, which was working for more than 10 years, charted the evolution of Martian methane over three years, for example. NASA Earth-bound observations using spectroscopic measurements reported even greater amounts in the Martian atmosphere in 2009, based on observations in 2003 and 2006.

This image shows concentrations of Methane discovered on Mars in 2009, from an Earth-based observatory. Credit: NASA
This image shows concentrations of Methane reported on Mars in 2009, from an Earth-based observatory. Credit: NASA

On Thursday, NASA pointed out that reports of the highest concentrations of Mars methane came from Earth-based observatories, which seems to imply that they think peering through Earth’s atmosphere may have distorted the measurements. Some Earthly measurements indicated local regions with methane as high as 45 parts per billion.

“There’s no known way for methane to disappear quickly from the atmosphere,” stated Sushil Atreya, a professor of atmospheric and space science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“Methane is persistent. It would last for hundreds of years in the Martian atmosphere. Without a way to take it out of the atmosphere quicker, our measurements indicate there cannot be much methane being put into the atmosphere by any mechanism, whether biology, geology, or by ultraviolet degradation of organics delivered by the fall of meteorites or interplanetary dust particles.”

Researchers estimate only 10 to 20 tons per year of methane enter the atmosphere of Mars, which is 50 million times less than what occurs on Earth. You can read more details in the paper in Science Express.

What do you think is happening? Leave your ideas in the comments.

Source: NASA

The September Equinox: ‘Tis the Season to Spy the Zodiacal Light

This week leading up to the September equinox offers you a fine chance to catch an elusive phenomenon in the pre-dawn sky.

We’re talking about the zodiacal light, the ghostly pyramid-shaped luminescence that heralds the approach of dawn. Zodiacal light can also be seen in the post-dusk sky, extending from the western horizon along the ecliptic.

September is a great time for northern hemisphere observers to try and sight this glow in the early dawn. This is because the ecliptic is currently at a high and favorable angle, pitching the zodiacal band out of the atmospheric murk low to the horizon. For southern hemisphere observers, September provides the best time to hunt for the zodiacal light after dusk. In March, the situation is reversed, with dusk being the best for northern hemisphere observers and dawn providing the best opportunity to catch this elusive phenomenon for southern observers.

The clash of the zodiacal light and the plane of our galaxy. (Credit: Cory Schmitz, used with permission).
The clash of the zodiacal light and the plane of our galaxy. (Credit: Cory Schmitz, used with permission).

Cory Schmitz’s recent outstanding photos taken from the Nevada desert brought to mind just how ephemeral a glimpse of the zodiacal light can be. The glow was a frequent sight for us from dark sky sites just outside of Tucson, Arizona—but a rarity now that we reside on the light-polluted east coast of the U.S.

In order to see the zodiacal light, you’ll need to start watching before astronomical twilight—the start of which is defined as when the rising Sun reaches 18 degrees below the local horizon—and observe from as dark a site as possible under a moonless sky.

The Bortle dark sky scale lists the zodiacal light as glimpse-able under Class 4 suburban-to-rural transition skies. Under a Class 3 rural sky, the zodiacal light may extend up to 60 degrees above the horizon, and under truly dark—and these days, almost mythical—Class 1 and 2 skies, the true nature of the zodiacal band extending across the ecliptic can become apparent.  The appearance and extent of the zodiacal light makes a great gauge of the sky conditions at that favorite secret dark sky site.

The source of the zodiacal light is tiny dust particles about 10 to 300 micrometres in size scattered across the plane of the solar system. The source of the material has long been debated, with the usual suspects cited as micrometeoroid collisions and cometary dust. A 2010 paper by Peter Jenniskens and David Nesvorny in the Astrophysical Journal cites the fragmentation of Jupiter-class comets. Their model satisfactorily explains the source of about 85% of the material. Dust in the zodiacal cloud must be periodically replenished, as the material is slowly spiraling inward via what is known as the Poynting-Robertson effect. None other than Brian May of the rock group Queen wrote his PhD thesis on Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.

But even if you can’t see the zodiacal light, you still just might be able to catch it. Photographing the zodiacal light is similar to catching the band of the Milky Way. In fact, you can see the two crossing paths in Cory’s images, as the bright winter lanes of the Orion Spur are visible piercing the constellation of the same name. Cory used a 14mm lens at f/3.2 for the darker image with a 20 second exposure at ISO 6400 and a 24mm lens at f/2.8 with a 15 second exposure at ISO 3200 for the brighter shot.

The orientation of the ecliptic & the zodiacal band as seen from latitude 30 deg north in September, about 1 hour before sunrise. (Created by the author in Stellarium).
The orientation of the ecliptic & the zodiacal band as seen from latitude 30 deg north in September, about 1 hour before sunrise. (Created by the author in Stellarium).

Under a truly dark site, the zodiacal light can compete with the Milky Way in brightness. The early Arab astronomers referred to it as the false dawn. In recent times, we’ve heard tales of urbanites mistaking the Milky Way for the glow of a fire on the horizon during blackouts, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the zodiacal light could evoke the same. We’ve often heard our friends who’ve deployed to Afghanistan remark how truly dark the skies are there, as military bases must often operate with night vision goggles in total darkness to avoid drawing sniper fire.

Another even tougher but related phenomenon to spot is known as the gegenschein. This counter glow sits at the anti-sunward point where said particles are approaching 100% illumination. This time of year, this point lies off in the constellation Pisces, well away from the star-cluttered galactic plane. OK, we’ve never seen it, either. A quick search of the web reveals more blurry pics of guys in ape suits purporting to be Bigfoot than good pictures of the gegenschein. Spotting this elusive glow is the hallmark of truly dark skies. The anti-sunward point and the gegenschein rides highest near local midnight.

And speaking of which, the September equinox occurs this weekend on the 22nd at 4:44 PM EDT/20:44 Universal Time. This marks the beginning of Fall for the northern hemisphere and the start of summer for the southern.

The Full Harvest Moon also occurs later this week, being the closest Full Moon to the equinox occurring on September 19th at 7:13AM EDT/11:13 UT. Said Moon will rise only ~30 minutes apart on successive evenings for mid-northern latitude observers, owing to the shallow angle of the ecliptic. Unfortunately, the Moon will then move into the morning sky, drowning out those attempts to spy the zodiacal light until late September.

Be sure to get out there on these coming mornings and check out the zodiacal light, and send in those pics in to Universe Today!

Earth’s Highest Clouds Shine at the “Top of the Orbit”

Looking for a new desktop background? This might do nicely: a photo of noctilucent “night-shining” clouds seen above a midnight Sun over Alaska, taken from the ISS as it passed over the Aleutian Islands just after midnight local time on Sunday, August 4.

When this photo was taken Space Station was at the “top of the orbit” — 51.6 ºN, the northernmost latitude that it reaches during its travels around the planet.

According to the NASA Earth Observatory site, “some astronauts say these wispy, iridescent clouds are the most beautiful phenomena they see from orbit.” So just what are they? Read on…

Found about 83 km (51 miles) up, noctilucent clouds (also called polar mesospheric clouds, or PMCs) are the highest cloud formations in Earth’s atmosphere. They form when there is just enough water vapor present to freeze into ice crystals. The icy clouds are illuminated by the Sun when it’s just below the horizon, after darkness has fallen or just before sunrise, giving them their eponymous property.

NLCs seen in the southern hemisphere in Jan. 2010 (NASA)
NLCs seen in the southern hemisphere in Jan. 2010 (NASA)

Noctilucent clouds have also been associated with rocket launches, space shuttle re-entries, and meteoroids, due to the added injection of water vapor and upper-atmospheric disturbances associated with each. Also, for some reason this year the clouds appeared a week early.

Read more: Noctilucent Clouds — Electric Blue Visitors from the Twilight Zone

Some data suggest that these clouds are becoming brighter and appearing at lower latitudes, perhaps as an effect of global warming putting more greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere.

“When methane makes its way into the upper atmosphere, it is oxidized by a complex series of reactions to form water vapor,” said James Russell, the principal investigator of NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) project and a professor at Hampton University. “This extra water vapor is then available to grow ice crystals for NLCs.”

A comparison of noctilucent cloud formation from 2012 and 2013 has been compiled using data from the AIM spacecraft. You can see the sequence here.

And for an incredible motion sequence of noctilucent clouds — taken from down on the ground — check out the time-lapse video below by Maciej Winiarczyk, coincidentally made at around the same time as the ISS photo above:

(The video was featured as the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for August 19, 2013.)

Source: NASA Earth Observatory