Send Your Sweetie An Out-Of-This-World Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day from the Pluto New Horizon's mission! Click to download a pdf file you can print out and give as a valentine. Credit: NASA
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Pluto New Horizon’s mission! Click to download a high resolution pdf file you can print out. Credit: NASA

Still looking for the right card for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? Why not do it in cosmic proportion by getting NASA on your side?  The tender-hearted folks at agency may have just what you’re looking for.

The staff at the New Horizons mission headquarters offers two valentines this season that play off Pluto’s heart-shaped, icy plain Tombaugh Regio. While the temperature there hovers around 400 below,  you’re guaranteed a 98.6° smile when your sweetie opens the card and sees your love reflected in glittering nitrogen ice.

Mars has a lot of heart (s)! Click to send you Valentine a Red Planet-themed e-card. Credit: NASA
Mars has a lot of heart (s)! Click to select and send your Valentine a Red Planet-themed e-card. Credit: NASA

Pluto not your thing? Select from 12 different Mars e-card love greetings at this NASA site and blow your partner away in a Martian dust devil of love. Many of the heart-shaped features depicted on the cards are genuine features and include collapse pits, craters and mesas.

Pick from eight different valentines at the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid mission site. Credit: NASA
Click to pick from 8 different valentines at the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid mission site. Credit: NASA

Even the asteroids send their saucy wishes. Check out the delightful series of valentines from the upcoming OSIRIS-Rex sample return mission to 101955 Bennu, slated to launch in September this year and return a sample of the carbonaceous asteroid to Earth in 2023. If you go this route, I’d complement the card with a meal heavy on edible carbonaceous material at your partner’s favorite restaurant.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Spread the love for a happier planet.

For Valentine’s Day, Enjoy These Hearts On Earth, Mars And Other Places

While we’re unsure about the status of chocolates and flowers in locations far beyond Earth, there certainly is no lack of hearts for us to look at to enjoy Valentine’s Day. If you look at enough geologic features or gas clouds, statistically some of them will take on shapes that we recognize (such as faces).

Below, we’ve collected some hearts on Mars and other places in the universe. Have we missed any? Share other astronomy hearts in the comments!

This heart-shaped feature on Mars "is actually a pit formed by collapse within a straight-walled trough known in geological terms as a graben," wrote Malin Space Systems in 1999. Picture taken by Mars Global Surveyor. Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA
This heart-shaped feature on Mars “is actually a pit formed by collapse within a straight-walled trough known in geological terms as a graben,” wrote Malin Space Systems in 1999. Picture taken by Mars Global Surveyor. Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA
A heart-shaped mesa captured by Mars Global Surveyor in 1999, in the Promethei Rupes region. Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA
A heart-shaped mesa captured by Mars Global Surveyor in 1999, in the Promethei Rupes region. Credit: Malin Space Science Systems, MGS, JPL, NASA
The Heart and Soul nebulae in an infrared mosaic from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It is located about about 6,000 light-years from Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
The Heart and Soul nebulae in an infrared mosaic from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It is located about about 6,000 light-years from Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

 

 

 

One Astronaut’s Kids Get a Valentine’s Day View of Dad’s Office in Orbit

It’s a wonderful thing for children to look up to their fathers, but some kids have to look a little further than others — especially when dad is in command of the International Space Station!

Around 6 p.m. EST on February 14, the ISS passed over southern New England, and for a few brief moments the Station was directly above Rhode Island, at 37 miles wide the smallest state in the US. 240 miles up and heading northeast at 17,500 mph, the ISS quickly passed out of sight for anyone watching from the ground, but it was enough time for Heidi and Anthony Ford to get a view of the place where their father Kevin Ford has been living and working since the end of October… and thanks to Brown University’s historic Ladd Observatory and astronomer Robert Horton they got to see the Station up close while talking to their dad on the phone.

“One of the things [Anthony and I] like to do is to pop outside to watch dad fly over, which you can do on occasion when the timing is just right,” Heidi said. “We were looking at the schedule to see when the flyover would be so we could go see him. I remembered that the Ladd was open to the public, so I thought I’d call over there and see if this is something we could visit the Ladd to do.”

Robert Horton, an astronomer with Brown University, was happy to meet Heidi and Anthony at the Ladd for the flyover.

Heidi and Anthony Ford's view of the ISS (Robert Horton/Brown University)
Heidi and Anthony Ford’s view of the ISS (Robert Horton/Brown University)

While the Ladd’s main 12″ telescope doesn’t have the ability to track fast-moving objects like the ISS, Horton had some at home that could. So he set one of them up at the observatory and prepared to track the station during its six-minute pass.

Just before the flyby, Heidi’s phone rang — it was her dad calling from the ISS.

“He told her, ‘I’m over Texas. I’ll be there in a few minutes,’” Horton said later in an interview with Brown reporters. “Sure enough the point of light appeared in the sky and we started to track it. They could look through the eyepiece and actually make out the solar panels while they were talking with him.”

The Brown University-run Ladd Observatory holds free public viewing nights every Tuesday, weather permitting. People line up inside the 122-year-old dome to peer through its recently restored 12″ refracting telescope at objects like the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, and local amateur astronomers set up their own ‘scopes on the observatory’s rooftop deck for additional viewing opportunities.

Heidi had told their dad that they’d be watching from Providence as he passed over, and luckily his schedule allowed him to make a phone call during that particular evening’s pass.

NASA astronauts Kevin Ford (foreground) and Tom Marshburn working with the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) in the ISS' Destiny laboratory on Jan. 9 (NASA)
NASA astronauts Kevin Ford (foreground) and Tom Marshburn working with the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) in the ISS’ Destiny laboratory on Jan. 9 (NASA)

While they had both watched flyovers before, it was the first time either of them had ever seen the ISS through a telescope.

It made for a “very special Valentine’s Day,” Heidi said.

And as for Horton, who had donated the use of his telescope? He got a chance to talk with Commander Ford as well — an experience he’ll likely never forget.

“I can think of a thousand questions to ask him now that I’m not on the phone with him,” Horton said. “But, frankly, I was awestruck at the time.”

Read more on the Brown University news article by Kevin Stacey here. (Excerpts used with permission.)

Ladd Observatory today and after its opening in 1891. (Brown University)
Ladd Observatory today and after its opening in 1891. (Brown University)

Thanks to Jim Hendrickson of Skyscrapers, Inc. for the story alert.

With Love from Universe Today

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Here’s an image from the Mars Global Surveyor that looks like a box of chocolates, with different shaped landforms, including a heart-shaped one. We’d like to take this opportunity on Valentine’s Day to express our love and appreciation to our readers, for allowing us to share the latest in space and astronomy news with you. And it’s true, you never know what you’re going to get; what news story is going to break or what amazing images we’ll share. But our heartfelt thanks for your readership, your comments, and for your regular visits to our website.

You can see the full image MGS Mars image here — which also includes some other heart-shaped craters and other unique landforms — and below is a rose-shaped pair of interacting galaxies, just for you.


A pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. This image is a composite of Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 data taken on December 17, 2010, with three separate filters that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

From Mars with Love on Valentines Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Mars to all the readers of Universe Today !

Well it’s truly a solar system wide Valentines celebration. From the Moon, Mars and even Comet Temple 1 with some pixie Stardust for the romantic rendezvous upcoming in a few short hours [Stardust-NExT Flyby at 11:37 p.m. EST Feb 14].

The Martian camera team from Malin Space Systems, San Diego, wishes to share a special heart-shaped feature from Arabia Terra – images above and below – with all Mars fans on this St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2011. And certainly, I love Mars ! Especially those gorgeous and brainy twin gals Spirit & Opportunity.

Heart-shaped feature in Arabia Terra on Mars at 21.9 degrees north latitude, 12.7 degrees west longitude. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
The image was taken on May 23, 2010 – at the start of northern summer on Mars – by the Malin-built and operated Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The bright heart shaped feature is about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) long. Arabia Terra lies in the northern hemisphere of Mars

The tip of the heart lies above a small impact crater centered at 21.9 degrees north latitude, 12.7 degrees west longitude.

According to a JPL press release, “The crater is responsible for the formation of the bright, heart-shaped feature. When the impact occurred, darker material on the surface was blown away, and brighter material beneath it was revealed.

PIA13799: Heart-Shaped Feature in Arabia Terra (Wide View). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
Some of this brighter material appears to have flowed further downslope to form the heart shape, as the small impact occurred on the blanket of material ejected from a much larger impact crater.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif manages MRO for NASA.

More Martian hearts images below from another Malin built camera aboard NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor orbiter

Happy Valentines Day from Mars Global Surveyor (MGS)
This heart shaped pit on Mars is located on the east flank of the Alba Patera volcano in northern Tharsis. The pit was formed by collapse within a straight-walled trough known in geological terms as a graben. Graben are formed along fault lines by expansion of the bedrock terrain. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
10 Martian Hearts for Valentine’s Day.
Mesas and depressions from all across Mars. Images taken by Mars Global Surveyor from 2001 to 2004. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
Heart shaped landforms on Mars – or perhaps a box of chocolates !
Image taken by Mars Global Surveyor. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Moon Loves You

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Happy Valentines Day from everyone here at Universe Today, and the Moon, too. In 3-D, no less.

Thanks to Nathanial Burton-Bradford for sending us this image. He found it while searching through the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera’s data set. Check out Nathanial’s Flickr page for larger versions of this one, and more. See the image below in its proper orientation for viewing in 3-D:

A heart-shaped crater in the Galilae region on the Moon. Credit: ASA/GSFC/Arizona State University; 3-D by Nathanial Burton-Bradford.

For Valentine’s Day: Hearts in Space from Sixty Symbols

Yes, we humans excel at seeing patterns and shapes everywhere around us, including out in space. Here, the folks from Sixty Symbols (featuring my friend Astropixie a.k.a Amanda Bauer) celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing several heart-shaped astronomical. Also, as explained in the video, 20 years ago today — on February 14, 1990 — the Voyager 1 spacecraft took the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image, where it turned around and took a picture of Earth. From 6 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away Earth appeared as a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” as Carl Sagan phrased it. It truly is one of the most “romantic” images ever as it can’t help but evoke strong emotions by anyone who sees it. “That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives,” said Sagan.
Continue reading “For Valentine’s Day: Hearts in Space from Sixty Symbols”