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April 17th, 2015

Dawn Glimpses Ceres’ North Pole


After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10 from a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers), and they represent the highest-resolution views of Ceres to date.

Subsequent images of Ceres will show surface features at increasingly better resolution.

Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6, marking the first time a spacecraft has orbited a dwarf planet. Previously, the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012. Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.

Ceres, with an average diameter of about 590 miles (950 kilometers), is the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn has been using its ion propulsion system to maneuver to its first science orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on April 23. The spacecraft will remain at a distance of 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) from the dwarf planet until May 9. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.

Dawn’s mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgements, visit:

http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Source: NASA JPL Press Release 


April 13th, 2015

Galactic Gathering Gives Impressive Light Display


At this time of year, holiday parties often include festive lights. When galaxies get together, they also may be surrounded by a spectacular light show. That’s the case with NGC 2207 and IC 2163, which are located about 130 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major.

This pair of spiral galaxies has been caught in a grazing encounter. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 have hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years and have produced one of the most bountiful collections of super-bright X-ray lights known. These special objects — known as “ultraluminous X-ray sources” (ULXs) — have been found using data from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

This composite image of NGC 2207 and IC 2163 contains Chandra data in pink, optical-light data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope visible-light data in blue, white, orange and brown, and infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in red.

More information about the image is online at http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2014/ngc2207.

Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/STScI/JPL-Caltech


April 10th, 2015

Messier 106

Hubble view of M 106

Messier 106 (also known as NGC 4258) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. It was discovered by Pierre MĂ©chain in 1781. M106 is at a distance of about 22 to 25 million light-years away from Earth. It is also a Seyfert II galaxy. Due to x-rays and unusual emission lines detected, it is suspected that part of the galaxy is falling into a supermassive black hole in the center.[8] NGC 4217 is a possible companion galaxy of Messier 106.

 

Image credit: ESA


April 6th, 2015

Enhanced Color Caloris

The sprawling Caloris basin on Mercury is one of the solar system’s largest impact basins, created during the early history of the solar system by the impact of a large asteroid-sized body. The multi-featured, fractured basin spans about 1,500 kilometers in this enhanced color mosaic based on image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. Mercury’s youngest large impact basin, Caloris was subsequently filled in by lavas that appear orange in the mosaic. Craters made after the flooding have excavated material from beneath the surface lavas. Seen as contrasting blue hues, they likely offer a glimpse of the original basin floor material. Analysis of these craters suggests the thickness of the covering volcanic lava to be 2.5-3.5 kilometers. Orange splotches around the basin’s perimeter are thought to be volcanic vents.

 

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ. APL, Arizona State U., CIW

 


April 3rd, 2015

“Blood Moon” Total Lunar Eclipse on April 4

NASA predicts the shortest total eclipse of the Moon of the 21st century will happen on April 4th. The total eclipse will last less than five minutes and will be visible from western North America, eastern Asia, the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.

Why is the Moon red?

When the Earth eclipses a full Moon, the direct sunlight is blocked, but the sun’s rays still light up the moon. This light, however, has travelled through the Earth’s atmosphere first, and sometimes causes the totally eclipsed Moon to look red or brownish.

When can I see it?

Here are eclipse times in Universal Time. Check out Star Walk on your iPhone or Android to see the exact time of the lunar eclipse for your location.

Partial umbral eclipse begins: 10:16 Universal Time (UT)
Total eclipse begins: 11:58 UT
Greatest eclipse: 12:00 UT
Total eclipse ends: 12:03 UT
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 13:45 UT

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