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September Equinox
Today is the September Equinox. You’ve probably already heard it a few times today; people running around proclaiming with utmost exuberance how today is the first day of Fall. In the Northern Hemisphere, the announcement is the harbinger of shorter days and dropping temperatures. But what is really going on today? When someone says today is the first day of Fall, what they really mean (whether they know it or not) is that today represents an equinox; specifically, the September Equinox.1 On Earth, an equinox is the point in its orbit around the Sun when both hemispheres are equally illuminated; our [...]
Fri, Sep 22, 2017
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What do you do when your 7 and 11 year-old children ask you if you have pets in space? ….you make them of course! pic.twitter.com/Ct0tdKPxQf — Randy Bresnik (@AstroKomrade) September 18, 2017 //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [...]
Wed, Sep 20, 2017
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Artist's rendition of a Shenzou spacecraft preparing to dock with Tiangong-1
Artist’s rendition of a Shenzou spacecraft preparing to dock with Tiangong-1 – Credit: China Manned Space Engineering In September of 2011, China launched its first prototype space station. Tiangong-1 (translated into English: “Heavenly Palace 1”), was in operation until March 2016. During its operational history, it received three of visits by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The unmanned Shenzou 8 docked with Tiangong-1 in November 2011, followed by two crewed missions: Shenzou 9 docked in June 2012, and Shenzou 10 in June 2013. China’s first two female astronauts participated in the crewed Shenzou missions to the space station: Liu Yang, [...]
Tue, Sep 19, 2017
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Approximate true-color image of Jupiter's great red spot
Approximate true-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson An approximately true color/contrast image processed from the image 61 raw framelets. This image should give a fairly good idea of what the Great Red Spot and surrounding areas would look like to human eyes from Juno’s position. The data used to create the above image come from the Juno spacecraft’s JunoCam. After the recent end to Cassini’s mission, Juno is currently the only orbiter exploring a planet in our outer solar system. [...]
Mon, Sep 18, 2017
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The ringed beauty, Saturn.
On September 15, 2017, Cassini’s extraordinary, decades-long mission ended. The discovery machine sent back its final transmissions before vaporizing within Saturn’s atmosphere. Its atoms now a part of the planet that it put into such sharp focus for us. It marked the end of an era. The past week has been bittersweet. I’ve spent many hours remembering and sharing some of my favorite Cassini images. I’ve only posted a small fraction of my favorites, and every time I hit the publish button I’d remember another image that I wish I had included. I could devote this entire blog to sharing images [...]
Sun, Sep 17, 2017
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Dione, Saturn, Rings, and Enceladus
We’ve all marveled over Cassini’s images of the Saturn system for more than a decade. Saturn is a truly dynamic place, surrounded by equally dynamic worlds. But Cassini’s images did more than just capture images of these distant places; it created art. Breathtaking ‘landscapes’, magnificent portraits, and photographs perfectly timed and framed. Cassini has all of the skill and talent of a master photographer, with special thanks to its imaging team back on Earth. Below are just a few of my favorite Cassini photos. Dione, Saturn, Rings, and Enceladus – Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI Saturn – Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Quintet of Moons – Credit: [...]
Thu, Sep 14, 2017
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Shadows cast on Saturn's A ring.
In the famous words of the 21st Century philosopher, Beyoncé, “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it”. In that case, the Universe must have really liked Saturn. While all of the gas giants in our solar system have rings, Saturn’s are by far the most prominent and celebrated. And while humans have been admiring Saturn’s rings for centuries (when Galileo first discovered them, he described them as Saturn’s ears), it was Cassini that brought them into razor-sharp focus. Shadows cast on Saturn’s A ring. – Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Several sets of shadows are cast onto the A ring [...]
Wed, Sep 13, 2017
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Huygens descent module and shield
When Cassini launched in 1997, it carried with it a special payload: a probe named Huygens that would penetrate the permanent haze of Saturn’s largest moon Titan, and reveal to us the shrouded world below. Huygens descent module and shield – Credit: ESA And what a world Titan is! It’s larger than Mercury, approaching the diameter of Mars (Titan: 5,150 km / Mars: 6,780 km). It has an atmosphere with superrotating winds, composed of 95 nitrogen and 5% methane. And it has an abundance of massive liquid methane lakes and rivers, as well as water ice and rocks of all sizes. A truly [...]
Tue, Sep 12, 2017
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Mimas, with prominent Herschel crater.
This week we’re celebrating the accomplishments of the Cassini spacecraft which, in just a few days, will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in its Grand Finale. Today, we take a look at just two of Saturn’s more than 60 moons: Mimas and Pan. Mimas: When it comes to Saturn’s moon Mimas, Cassini kept delivering surprise after surprise. First, there was a fantastic image showing us, in great detail, Mimas’s remarkable Herschel crater (Voyager 1 was the first to give us images of Herschel crater, but they paled in comparison to what Cassini revealed). Mimas, with prominent Herschel crater. – Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech Then again, maybe… But Cassini [...]
Mon, Sep 11, 2017
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The final chapter in a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery, Cassini’s Grand Finale is in many ways like a brand new mission. Twenty-two times, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will dive through the unexplored space between Saturn and its rings. What we learn from these ultra-close passes over the planet could be some of the most exciting revelations ever returned by the long-lived spacecraft. This animated video tells the story of Cassini’s final, daring assignment and looks back at what the mission has accomplished. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrGAQCq9BMU?rel=0] [...]
Sun, Sep 10, 2017
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