Awesome Map of Space Agencies Around the World

When you think of space agencies around the world, what comes to mind? Probably NASA, ESA, ISRO and JAXA are the acronyms you know; then there’s the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and the China National Space Agency. But did you know there are dozens of countries with space agencies, with nearly 200 space agencies and centers around the world? Blogger Heather Archuletta has put together a map and list of all the space agencies on the planet, including countries you may not have realized had a space agency such as Argentina, Bulgaria, Pakistan Morocco, and more. The list includes links to all the space agency’s websites and a link to an interactive Google Map. The immediate thought that came to mind, which Heather shared on Twitter was, ROAD TRIP!

For any space nerd, that would be the ultimate global trek, to visit every space agency in the world. With all the NASA and Russian centers and all the various countries in ESA, your trip would include 198 locations around our planet!

Heather is known for her Pillownaut blog which originally detailed her time participating in NASA bedrest studies to simulate long duration spaceflight. The space agency map was a new project, born from a conversation with a friend.

“Overall, I created it to be a tracking tool, and to show how huge the space industry has become,” Heather told Universe Today. “Many people think of the space game as being the US, Russia and a handful of Europeans… but truly, lifestyle in many countries is dependent upon the use of space, even if it’s just as simple as remote sensing or collaborative satellites.”

Heather noted that the map includes one site in India that is not operational yet, but built.

But consider how many jobs around the world have been created because of space exploration… and these jobs employ some of the best and brightest minds in forward-thinking, global-enriching ways. And even more, there’s now the burgeoning private space industry that is employing even more people with jobs that focus on the future.

Check out and plan your space-nerd road trip today!

Debby Dousing Delta 4 Heavy Launch Hopes for June 28

Image Caption: National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite arrives at Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 37 for mounting on top Delta 4 Heavy Rocket slated for June 28, 2012 blastoff. Credit: United Launch Alliance
See Photo Gallery below

Debby is doing a real number on vast swaths of Florida, dumping up to 15 inches of rain, unleashing deadly tornadoes and dousing hopes of launching a mighty triple barreled Delta IV Heavy rocket on Thursday morning, June 28, with a super secret spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Tropical Storm Debby has destroyed homes, killed at least 1 person and will wreak havoc as it tracks across central Florida from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast over the next two days – just north of Cape Canaveral, Florida and the Delta 4 Heavy launch pad at Space Launch Complex 37.

The last Delta 4 Heavy to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov 21, 2010. Credit: Alan Walters –

The odds of launching the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 Heavy on June 28 have dropped to just 30 percent favorable. The outlook improves slightly to 40 % favorable on Friday, June 29 according to the official Air Force weather forecast.

The launch window for Thursday’s ULA Delta 4 Heavy launch stretches from 6:16 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and comes just 8 days after the last spy satellite blasted off on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral on June 20 – launch story here.

Image Caption: Fog and heavy rain obscure view of triple barreled Delta 4 Heavy rocket protected inside Mobile Gantry from outside high security perimeter gate at Launch Pad 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Credit: Ken Kremer/

The clandestine NROL-15 payload was bolted atop the Delta 4 Heavy booster several weeks ago.

See the photo gallery below provided to Universe Today showing the shrouded upper stage being hoisted on top of the booster.

This will be only the 6th launch of the 232 foot tall Delta 4 Heavy booster and the first one to feature the upgraded RS-68A first stage engines, delivering 702,000 pounds of thrust each.

A suspect vent relief rocket valve was successfully changed out by technicians over the weekend and will not delay the launch, ULA spokesperson Jessica Rye told Universe Today.

The powerful Delta 4 Heavy rocket and NROL-15 payload are due to be unveiled at pad 37 on Wednesday evening, June 27- depending on Debby !. .

Ken Kremer

Photo Gallery: NROL-15 Spy satellite delivery and mounting atop Delta 4 Heavy Rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Space Launch Complex 37. Credit: United Launch Alliance

Extremes in the Saturn System

It’s just one extreme to another in this image from the Cassini spacecraft. Of course, you can’t miss the ginormous Saturn. But do you see three of what appear to be eentsy, tiny moons of the ringed planet?

Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across) is on the right of the image, below the rings. Smaller Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers across) is on the left of the view, below the rings. Pandora (50 miles, or 81 kilometers across) is also present in this view but is barely visible. It appears as a small grey speck above the rings on the extreme left edge of the image. Pandora has been slightly brightened by the imaging team by a factor 1.2 relative to the rest of the image.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 7, 2011 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is about 77 miles (124 kilometers) per pixel.

Image caption: Saturn and three small moons. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute


Tropical Storm Debby Douses the Gulf

Satellite image of tropical storm "Debby" over the Gulf

The eastern Gulf of Mexico is getting lashed by tropical storm Debby, which whipped up tornado-spawning winds and dumped inches of rain across much of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and southern Georgia over the weekend. NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image on June 23, just after the depression strengthened to full tropical storm status.

Born over the warm, moist air of the Gulf off the coast of Mississippi on Saturday afternoon, Debby quickly strengthened to storm status with sustained winds currently reported at over 60 mph. Slow-moving at a 6 mph crawl to the northeast, Debby continues to drench the Gulf state coasts with inches of rain — up to 10 to 20 inches projected for some areas. Major flooding has already become a problem and reports of tornadoes have been coming in since Sunday afternoon.

Debby will likely become a hurricane at some point, although her future path is still not entirely known.

Launched on May 4, 2002, NASA’s Aqua satellite specializes in keeping track of the movement of water around the planet in all its various forms. Find out more about the Aqua mission here.

Image: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: June 25 – July 1, 2012

Crater Julius Caesar - Credit: Wes Higgins

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! What a great week to enjoy lunar features! We’ll celebrate many famous birthdays – including Charles Messier – and take on challenging double stars. If you’re in the mood to just kick back in a lawn chair and enjoy, then check out the June Draconid meteor shower. (sssssh… it may have been responsible for the Tunguska Blast!) Still more? Then keep an eye on the western horizon, because Mercury is about to become a “guest star” in the Beehive Cluster! When ever you’re ready, just meet me in the back yard…

Monday, June 25 – Today celebrates the birth of Hermann Oberth – who has often been considered the father of modern rocketry. Born in Transylvania in 1894, Oberth was a visionary who was convinced space travel would one day be possible. Inspired by the works of Jules Verne, Oberth studied rockets and wrote many books devoted to the possibility of achieving spaceflight. He was the first to conceive of rocket “stages” – allowing vehicles to expend their fuel and lose dead weight. But tonight you won’t need one of Oberth’s rockets to travel to the Moon, as take on another challenge as we look mid-way along the terminator at the west shore of Mare Tranquillitatis for crater Julius Caesar.

This is also a ruined crater, but it met its demise not through lava flow – but from a cataclysmic event. The crater is 88 kilometers long and 73 kilometers wide. Although its west wall still stands over 1200 meters high, look carefully at the east and south walls. At one time, something plowed its way across the lunar surface, breaking down Julius Caesar’s walls and leaving them to stand no higher than 600 meters at the tallest. While visiting the “Tranquil Sea”, look for the unusually shaped crater Hypatia. Can you spot its rima on the southern shore of Tranquillitatis? Perhaps the bright pockmark of Moltke on its north edge will help. Hypatia sits on the northern shore of a rugged area known as Sinus Asperitatis. Do you see Alfraganus on the terminator? Follow the terrain to Theophilus and look west for Ibyn-Rushd with crater Kant to the northwest and the beautiful peak of Mons Penck to its east.

Tuesday, June 26 – On this day in 1949, asteroid Icarus was discovered on a 48-inch Schmidt plate made nine months after that telescope went into operation, and just prior to the beginning of the multi-year National Geographic-Palomar Sky Survey. The asteroid was found to have a highly eccentric orbit and a perihelion distance of just 27 million kilometers, closer to the Sun than Mercury, giving it its unusual name. It was just 6.4 million kilometers from Earth at the time of discovery, and variations in its orbital parameters have been used to determine Mercury’s mass and test Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

But, today is even more special because it is the birthday of none other than Charles Messier, the famed French comet hunter. Born in 1730, Messier is best known for cataloging the 100 or so bright nebulae and star clusters that we now refer to as the Messier objects. The catalog was intended to keep both Messier and others from confusing these stationary objects with possible new comets.

] If you missed your chance last night to see the incredible Alpine Valley, it’s now fully disclosed in the sunlight. Viewable through binoculars as a thin, dark line, telescopic observers at highest powers will enjoy a wealth of details in this area, such as a crack running inside its boundaries. It’s a wonderful lunar observing challenge and a guide to our next lunar feature – Cassini and Cassini A. Where the valley joins the lunar Alps, follow the range south into Mare Imbrium. Along the way you will see the protruding bright peaks of Mons Blanc, Promontorium DeVille, and at the very end, Promontorium Agassiz ending in the smooth sands. Southeast of Agassiz you will spot Cassini. The major crater spans 57 kilometers and reaches a floor depth of 1240 meters. The challenge is to also spot the central crater A, which is only 17 kilometers wide, yet drops down another 2830 meters below the surface. This shallow crater holds another challenge within – Cassini A. But look carefully, can you spot the B crater on Cassini’s inner southwestern rim? Or the very small M crater just outside the northern edge?

For more advanced lunar observers, head a bit further south to the Haemus Mountains to look for the bright punctuation of a small crater on the southwest shore of Mare Serenitatis. Increase your magnification and look for a curious feature with an even more curious name… Rima Sulpicius Gallus. It is nothing more than a lunar wrinkle which accompanies the crater of the same name – a long-gone Roman counselor. Can you trace its 90 kilometer length?

Now see how many Messier objects that you can capture and wish Charles a happy birthday!

Wednesday, June 27 – Let’s begin our lunar studies tonight with a little “mountain climbing!” Using Copernicus as our guide, to the north and northwest of this ancient crater lie the Carpathian Mountains ringing the southern edge of Mare Imbrium. As you can see, they begin well east of the terminator, but look into the shadow! Extending some 40 kilometers beyond the line of daylight, you will continue to see bright peaks – some of which reach a height of 2072 meters. When the area is fully revealed tomorrow, you will see the Carpathian Mountains disappear into the lava flow that once formed them.

Let’s try looking just south of Sinus Medii and identifying these features: (1) Flammarion, (2) Herschel, (3) Ptolemaeus, (4) Alphonsus, (5) Davy, (6) Alpetragius, (7) Arzachel, (8) Thebit, (9) Purbach, (10) Lacaille, (11) Blanchinus, (12) Delaunay, (13) Faye, (14) Donati, (15) Airy, (16) Argelander, (17) Vogel, (18) Parrot, (19) Klein, (20) Albategnius, (21) Muller, (22) Halley, (23) Horrocks, (24) Hipparchus, (25) Sinus Medii

When skies are dark, it’s time to have a look at the 250 light-year distant silicon star Iota Librae. This is a real challenge for binoculars – but not because the components are so close. In Iota’s case, the near 5th magnitude primary simply overshadows its 9th magnitude companion! In 1782, Sir William Herschel measured them and determined them to be a true physical pair. Yet, in 1940 Librae A was determined to have an equal magnitude companion only .2 arc seconds away…. And the secondary was proved to have a companion of its own that echoes the primary. A four star system!

While you’re out, keep watch for a handful of meteors originating near the constellation of Corvus. The Corvid meteor shower is not well documented, but you might spot as many as ten per hour.

Thursday, June 28 – Tonight on the lunar surface, use crater Copernicus as a guide and look north-northwest to survey the Carpathian Mountains. The Carpathians ring the southern edge of Mare Imbrium beginning well east of the terminator. But let’s look on the dark side. Extending some 40 km beyond into the Moon’s own shadow, you can continue to see bright peaks – some reaching 2000 meters high! Tomorrow, when this area is fully revealed, you will see the Carpathians begin to disappear into the lava flow forming them. Continuing northward to Plato – on the northern shore of Mare Imbrium – re-identify the singular peak of Pico. Between Plato and Mons Pico you will find the many scattered peaks of the Teneriffe Mountains. It is possible that these are the remnants of much taller summits of a once precipitous range. Now the peaks rise less than 2000 meters above the surface.

Time to power up! West of the Teneriffes, and very near the terminator, you will see a narrow line of mountains, very similar in size to the Alpine Valley. This is known as the Straight Range or the Montes Recti. To binoculars or small scopes at low power, this isolated strip of mountains will appear as a white line drawn across the grey mare. It is believed this feature may be all that is left of a crater wall from the Imbrium impact. It runs for a distance of around 90 kilometers, and is approximately 15 kilometers wide. Some of its peaks reach as high as 2072 meters! Although this doesn’t sound particularly impressive, that’s over twice as tall as the Vosges Mountains in west-central Europe, and on the average very comparable to the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States.

When you’re finished with your lunar observations, tonight let’s try a challenging double star – Upsilon Librae. This beautiful red star is right at the limit for a small telescope, but quite worthy as the pair is a widely disparate double. Look for the 11.5 magnitude companion to the south in a very nice field of stars!

Friday, June 29 – Today we celebrate the birthday of George Ellery Hale, who was born in 1868. Hale was the founding father of the Mt. Wilson Observatory. Although he had no education beyond his baccalaureate in physics, he became the leading astronomer of his day. He invented the spectroheliograph, coined the word astrophysics, and founded the Astrophysical Journal and Yerkes Observatory. At the time, Mt. Wilson dominated the world of astronomy, confirming what galaxies were and verifying the expanding universe cosmology, making Mt. Wilson one of the most productive facilities ever built. When Hale went on to found Palomar Observatory, the 5-meter (200?) telescope was named for him and dedicated on June 3, 1948. It continues to be the largest telescope in the continental United States.

It’s time to head deeper toward the lunar south as we take a close look at the dark, heart-shaped region Palus Epidemiarum. Caught on its southern edge is the largely eroded Campanus with well defined Cichus to the east and Ramsden to the west. Power up in your telescope and look carefully at its smooth floors. If conditions are favorable, you will catch Rima Hesiodus cutting across its northern boundary and the crisscross pattern of Rima Ramsden in the western lobe. Can you make out a small, deep puncture mark to the northeast? It might be small, but it has a name – Marth.
Now let’s go deep south and have look at an area which once held something almost half a bright as tonight’s Moon and over four times brighter than Venus. Only one thing could light up the skies like that – a supernova. According to historical records from Europe, China, Egypt, Arabia and Japan, 1001 years ago the very first supernova event was noted. Appearing in the constellation of Lupus, it was at first believed to be a comet by the Egyptians, yet the Arabs saw it as an illuminating “star.”

Located less than a fingerwidth northeast of Beta Lupus (RA 15 02 48.40 Dec -41 54 42.0) and a half degree east of Kappa Centaurus, no visible trace is left of a once grand event that spanned five months of observation beginning in May, and lasting until it dropped below the horizon in September, 1006. It is believed all the force created from the event was converted to energy and very little mass remains. In the area, a 17th magnitude star shows a tiny gas ring and radio source 1459-41 remains our best candidate for pinpointing this incredible event.

Saturday, June 30 – We start our observing evening with the beautiful Moon as we return first to the ancient and graceful landmark crater Gassendi standing at the north edge of Mare Humorum. The mare itself is around the size of the state of Arkansas and is one of the oldest of the circular maria on the visible surface. As you view the bright ring of Gassendi, look for evidence of the massive impact which may have formed Humorum. It is believed the original crater may have been in excess of 462 kilometers in diameter, indenting the lunar surface almost twice over. Over time, similar smaller strikes formed the many craters around its edges and lava flow gradually gave the area the ridge- and rille-covered floor we see tonight. Its name is the “Sea of Moisture,” but look for its frozen waves in the long dry landscape.

Caught on the north-western rim of Mare Humorum, look for crater Mersenius. It is a typical Nectarian geological formation, spanning approximately 51 miles in diameter in all directions. Power up in a telescope to look for fine features such as steep slopes supporting newer impact crater Mersenius P and tiny interior craterlet chains. Can you spot white formations and crevices along its terraced walls? How about Rimae Mersenius? Further south you’ll spy tiny Liebig helping to support Mersenius D’s older structure, along with its own small set of mountains known as the Rupes Liebig. Continue to follow the edge of Mare Humorum around the wall known as Rimae Doppelmayer until you reach the shallow old crater Doppelmayer. As you can see, the whole floor fractured crater has been filled with lava flow from Mare Humorum’s formation, pointing to an age older than Humorum itself. Look for a shallow mountain peak in its center – there’s a very good chance this peak is actually higher than the crater walls. Did this crater begin to upwell as it filled? Or did it experience some volcanic activity of its own? Take a closer look at the floor if the lighting is right to spy a small lava dome and evidence of dark pyroclastic deposits – it’s a testament to what once was!

Still got the moonlight blues? Then try your hand at a super challenging double – Mu Librae. This pair is only a magnitude apart in brightness and right at the limit for a small telescope. Up the power slowly and look for the companion just to the southwest of the primary. Good luck and mark your observation because Mu’s blues are on many observing lists!

And out of the blue comes a meteor shower! Keep watch tonight for the June Draconids. The radiant for this shower will be near handle of Big Dipper – Ursa Major. The fall rate varies from 10 to 100 per hour, but tonight’s bright skies will toast most of the offspring of comet Pons-Winnecke. On a curious note, today in 1908 was when the great Tunguska impact happened in Siberia. A fragment of a comet, perhaps?

Sunday, July 1 – Today In 1917, the astronomers at Mt. Wilson were celebrating as the 100? primary mirror arrived. Up until that time, the 60? Hale telescope (donated by George Hale’s father) was the premier creation of St. Gobrain Glassworks – which was later commissioned to create the blank for the Hooker telescope. Thanks to the funds provided by John D. Hooker (and Carnegie), the dream was realized after years of hard work and ingenuity to create not only a building to properly house it – but the telescope workings as well. It saw “first light” five months later on November 1.
As anxious astronomers waited for this groundbreaking moment, the scope was aimed at Jupiter but the image was horrible – to their dismay, workmen had left the dome open and the Sun had heated the massive mirror! Try as they might to rest until it had cooled – no astronomer slept. Fearful of the worst, sometime around three in the morning they returned again long after Jupiter had set. Pointing the massive scope towards a star, they achieved a perfect image!

If you’re looking for a perfect image, then look no further than the western horizon tonight at twilight. Why? Because Mercury is going to be a “guest star” in the Beehive Cluster! Be sure to at least get out your binoculars and look at the speedy little inner planet as it cruises about a degree or so to the western edge of M44.

Tonight we’ll return again to our landmark lunar feature – crater Grimaldi – and begin our journey north…

As you move north of Grimaldi on a crater hop, the next feature you will en-counter is the walled plain of Hevelius. With a diameter of about 64 miles, this round area doesn’t have a height we can really measure because of its lunar position, but we can see that it does have some relatively steep walls around its edges. Hevelius was formed in the Nectarian geological period and if you look closely you’ll see that it has a small central peak, a fine rimae and many craterlet chains, too. Can you spot large interior Crater Hevelius A with just binoculars? How about companion crater Cavalerius which is part of its northern border?

While you’re out, take the time to look at lowly Theta Lupi about a fistwidth south-southwest of the mighty Antares. While this rather ordinary looking 4th magnitude star appears to be nothing special – there’s a lesson to be learned here. So often in our quest to look at the bright and incredible – the distant and the impressive – we often forget about the beauty of a single star. When you take the time to seek the path less traveled, you just might find more than you expected. Hiding behind a veil of the “ordinary” lies a trio of three spectral types and three magnitudes in a diamond-dust field. An undiscovered gem…

Until next week? Ask for the Moon, but keep on reaching for the stars!

Mysterious Noctilucent Clouds as Seen from the International Space Station

Mysterious “night shining” or noctilucent clouds are beautiful to behold, and this stunning image offers an unusual view of these clouds as seen by astronauts on board the International Space Station. Also called polar mesospheric clouds, these clouds are puzzling scientists with their recent dramatic changes. They used to be considered rare, but now the clouds are growing brighter, are seen more frequently, are visible at lower and lower latitudes than ever before, and sometimes they are even appearing during the day.

The astronauts were also able to take a time-lapse sequence of these clouds on June 5, 2012, as seen below. According to NASA, it is first such sequence of images of the phenomena taken from orbit.

The sequence in this video was taken while the ISS was passing over western Asia. By focusing on the limb of the Earth at night with the Sun illuminating it, the crew was able to capture some movement to these mysterious clouds.

There is quite a bit of debate for the cause of noctilucent clouds. Dust from meteors, global warming, and rocket exhaust have all been tagged as contributors, but the latest research suggests that changes in atmospheric gas composition or temperature has caused the clouds to become brighter over time.

Noctilucent clouds are usually seen during the summertime, appearing at sunset. They are thin, wavy ice clouds that form at very high altitudes (between 76 to 85 kilometers (47 to 53 miles) above Earth’s surface and reflect sunlight long after the Sun has dropped below the horizon. They appear in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere and appear as delicate, shining wispy clouds against the dark sky.

The top image from the ISS was taken on June 13, 2012, as the space station passed over the Tibetan Plateau. At the same time, polar mesospheric clouds were also visible to aircraft flying over Canada. In addition to the noctilucent/polar mesospheric clouds trending across the center of the image, lower layers of the atmosphere are also illuminated. The lowest layer of the atmosphere visible in this image—the stratosphere—is indicated by dim orange and red tones near the horizon.

Lead image caption: Noctilucent or Polar Mesospheric clouds captured by the crew of the ISS on June 13, 2012. Credit: NASA

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Virtual Star Party – June 24, 2012

In case you missed it live, here was our Virtual Star Party for June 24, 2012. In this edition, we had live telescopes from Gary Gonella, Peter Lake and Stuart Forman. And we were joined by Dr. Pamela Gay, Scott Lewis and Ray Sanders – hosted by Fraser Cain.

We had a really great night, with views of the Moon, Saturn, and Mars, as well as several deep sky objects: the Trifid Nebula, the Swan Nebula, the Lagoon Nebula, the Ring Nebula, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, the Sombrero Galaxy, and several others.

We hold these Virtual Star Parties every Sunday night, starting when it gets dark on the West Coast. It’s the summer solstice, so we start pretty late right now, but we’ll move earlier and earlier as the days get shorter.

If you want to get a reminder of the next event, follow universetoday on YouTube, or circle Fraser on Google+. We’ve also got a page just for the Virtual Star Party on Google+.

Astrophotos: Crazy Solar Prominences

We’ve got three cool images of the hot Sun submitted by various astrophotographers! Raymond Gilchrist enhanced his image from June 23, 2012 of three solar prominences using Inspire Pro on his iPad. He used different colors to differentiate the the various “strands” of the prominences, which highlights the “texture” of these huge solar features. See more of Raymond’s great astrophotos at his Flickr page.

See more below:

Renown Australian amateur astronomy Month Leventhal captured this pyramid-shaped prominence on the NW limb of the Sun, which reaches an approximate height of 93,000km! Wow! Monty took this image early today (June 25, 2012) using a Canon 600D camera, H-alpha 6Å filter and a Meade S.C. 10 inch telescope.

This is an awesome look at the Sun on June 16th from Efrain Morales Rivera from the Jaicoa Observatory in Puerto Rico. Visible are a huge prominence, several active regions, (AR1504, 5, 7 & 8), and interesting filaments. At the time this image was taken, Efrain noted that AR1504 had developed a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that harbors energy for strong solar flares. See more at the Jaicoa Observatory website.

Lead image caption: Solar Prominences, imaged edited with Inspire Pro. Credit: Raymond Gilchrist.

Second image caption: Prominence on the NW limb reaching an approximate height of 93,000km. Credit: Monty Leventhal.

Third image caption: Several sunspots, prominences and filaments on the Sun on June 16th 13:27UT. Credit: Efrain Morales Rivera, Jaicoa Observatory

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Carnival of Space #255

This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by our good friend Amy Shira Teitel at her Vintage Space blog.

Click here to read Carnival of Space #255.

And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just email an entry to [email protected], and the next host will link to it. It will help get awareness out there about your writing, help you meet others in the space community – and community is what blogging is all about. And if you really want to help out, sign up to be a host. Send an email to the above address.

Lead image by John Williams.

Rivers of Rock

The Moon may not have ever had liquid water on its surface — despite the use of the term mare, Latin for “sea” and moniker for the large regions of darker material visible from Earth — but liquid did indeed flow on the Moon in ages past… liquid rock, briefly set loose by the impacts that formed its ubiquitous craters.

When large meteorites impacted the Moon, crust at the site would melt and get flung outwards, flowing downhill as rivers of rock and creating streams and pools of melted material before cooling and solidifying. There the rivers would remain, a permanently-hardened testament to the event that made them.

The image above, part of a NAC scan acquired by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on March 9, shows a solidified melt flow dating back to the creation of Tycho crater approximately 108 million years ago –which may sound like a long time but it’s actually very recent for large-scale lunar features.

The flow is interrupted by a younger, 400-meter-wide crater that impacted the lunar surface along its length. Since it punches through the melt flow as well as the local surface, it would be a great place for future astronaut geologists to explore!

Taken under slightly different lighting conditions, the image below shows a large melt pond that the flow above terminates in. The pond is about 4500 meters long by 2100 meters across (2.8 x 1.3 miles).

Such images wouldn’t be possible without the awesome Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO explores the lunar surface from an altitude of only 50 km (31 miles). Read more on the LRO site here.

Image credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University