Space & Planetary Science: August 2009 Archives

JAXA's Lunar Jazz

Moonbell: Making The Moon Sing, OnOrbit

"According to this unusual website "Moonbell" that JAXA has set up "moonbell transforms the topography of the moon into sound". Once you click the open button, you see a small satellite or probe orbiting the Moon. As it passes over the varied topography of the moon (visualized in the upper right hand corner) music is played (also visualized - in the lower right hand corner). You can rotate the globe so as to focus your view on the probe's orbital path."

Chandrayaan-I Spacecraft Loses Radio Contact, ISRO

"Radio contact with Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was abruptly lost at 0130 Hrs (IST) on August 29, 2009. Deep Space Network at Byalalu near Bangalore received the data from Chandrayaan-I during the previous orbit upto 0025 Hrs (IST). Detailed review of the Telemetry data received from the spacecraft is in progress and health of the spacecraft subsystems is being analysed."

India loses communication with lunar satellite, AP

"The agency's monitoring unit near the southern city of Bangalore is no longer receiving data from the spacecraft, spokesman S. Satish told The Associated Press by telephone from Bangalore. The spacecraft had completed 312 days in orbit and orbited the moon more than 3,400 times."

LOIRP and LRO Confirm That Humans Walked on the Moon, LOIRP (with much larger image)

"Yesterday the LRO team released a new image of the Apollo 14 landing site. You can clearly make out the paths that the crew walked as well as the location of the Apollo 14 Antares Lunar Module Descent Stage. In June 2009 LOIRP issued its own view and analysis of this landing site - as seen by Lunar Orbiter III back in 1967. Comparing our high resolution image of the site with that taken by LRO clearly shows no feature where Antares' Descent Stage now stands. While the resolution of the Lunar Orbiter image (0.8 meters/pixel) would probably not reveal astronaut tracks in great detail, we're rather certain that it would have seen an object the size of Antares' Descent Stage. As such, we're pretty certain that the Apollo 14 mission landed on the Moon!"

LOIRP Releases Restored Lunar Orbiter IV Image of the Lunar South Pole

"This image of the Moon's south pole was taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on 16 May 1967 at 16:00:08 GMT. This image is identified as Frame 4094,high resolution subframe h1. Large craters visible in this image include Shackleton, Amundsen, and Scott."

Technoarchaeology: Finding The Right Image in a Room Full of Tapes

"Here at the LOIRP (Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Process) project there are two different phases of the image retrieval process that are distinct from each other. The second phase, the production of the vast majority of all the of the Lunar Orbiter images, will simply involve putting tapes on the tape drive machines, acquiring the data, and processing them into images. However, we're still in the first phase of the project where we need to search through tapes in a painstaking fashion just to find the images we are interested in downloading. Once we find what we are looking for, downloading is a snap and can be done in a matter of hours. Finding the images using a jumbled nomenclature and labeling system last used more than 40 years ago is part of what we call "Technoarchaeology"."

A New Look at an Old Image of The Moon's South Pole

"This image, LO-IV-179-H1, taken by Lunar Orbiter IV on May 24, 1967 at 16:19:23.809 GMT, shows a portion of the lunar south polar region.

The altitude of the spacecraft when this image was taken was 3,591.83 kilometers. The resolution of the image is 78.432 meters per pixel.

In addition to the Moon's south pole (shaded), craters visible in this image include Drygalski, Cabeus (with its two satellite craters Cabeus A and Cabeus B), Malapert, Haworth, and Shoemaker."

Germany may target the moon by 2015, UPI

"Such a mission would cost at least $2.2 billion, but Hintze said the money would be well-invested even as Germany is hit by the worst recession in decades. A mission to the moon would secure German aerospace and robotics expertise, create high-technology jobs and improve the country's scientific expertise, Hintze said. "The moon is of the highest importance when answering the question of how we guarantee the future of our own blue planet," he said, adding that a joint mission with other European nations or the United States would also be an option. In what seems to be a more visionary idea, the state secretary said the mission could help set up a base on the moon to thwart threats from space, for example an asteroid on a collision course with Earth."

Rover Tracks and Dust Devils on Mars As Seen From Orbit

"The high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned a dramatic oblique view of the Martian crater that a rover explored for two years. The new view of Victoria Crater shows layers on steep crater walls, difficult to see from straight overhead, plus wheel tracks left by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between September 2005 and August 2007. The orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera shot it at an angle comparable to looking at landscape from an airplane window. Some of the camera's earlier, less angled images of Victoria Crater aided the rover team in choosing safe routes for Opportunity and contributed to joint scientific studies."

Keith's note: Imagine what you could do with robots like this on the Moon or Mars ....

Video below

Lockheed Martin Donates Clean Room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"Lockheed Martin Corporation has donated the labor required to erect a class 10,000 clean room to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). This clean room will help protect our refurbished 1960's era Ampex FR-900 tape drives from the environment inside NASA Ames Research Park Building 596 aka "McMoons", which was originally constructed to house a McDonalds restaurant. In the 1960's these tape drives were operated in an old style computer room, with raised floors ultra-clean air, and constant air conditioning. Since our building's air conditioning system was sized for the heat of the kitchen and lots of customers, we are able to maintain the temperature to near optimum conditions. However, dust and dirt are still a problem with the finely tuned machine."

Extrasolar Planet Collision Sends Vaporized Rock and Hot Lava Flying (with video)

"NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence of a high-speed collision between two burgeoning planets around a young star. Astronomers say that two rocky bodies, one as least as big as our moon and the other at least as big as Mercury, slammed into each other within the last few thousand years or so -- not long ago by cosmic standards. The impact destroyed the smaller body, vaporizing huge amounts of rock and flinging massive plumes of hot lava into space. Spitzer's infrared detectors were able to pick up the signatures of the vaporized rock, along with pieces of refrozen lava, called tektites."

LOIRP Releases Enhanced Restored Version of Lunar Orbiter "Image of the Century" Plus Additional Subframes of Crater Copernicus

"This is a re-release of Life Magazine's "Image of the Century" from 1966. The performance of our hardware and software image processing methods has been significantly enhanced to remove some of the banding artifacts that are derived from imperfections in the spacecraft image scanning hardware. This image of Copernicus crater was taken from a spacecraft altitude of 45 km (27.1 miles) and is approximately 207.7 km (~125 miles) to the center of the image. An interesting aspect to this image is that with this oblique view, recent impacts of small craters have much more brightness than older craters of the same size. This suggests the value of oblique photography in doing crater aging studies as well as multispectral remote sensing of excavated materials from the craters."

NASA's Kepler Mission Spies Changing Phases in a Distant World

"NASA's new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope's extraordinary scientific capabilities. The discovery will be published Friday, Aug. 7, in the journal Science. The find is based on a relatively short 10 days of test data collected before the official start of science operations. Kepler was launched March 6, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The observation demonstrates the extremely high precision of the measurements made by the telescope, even before its calibration and data analysis software were finished. "As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene," said Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Detecting this planet's atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The planet hunt is on!"

LOIRP Releases Recovered Lunar Orbiter V Image of "Full Earth"

"This image of Earth was taken on 8 August 1967 at 09:05:11 GMT by the Lunar Orbiter V spacecraft in orbit around the Moon at an altitude of 5,872.85 km. This image has been described as being the first image ever taken of a "full Earth" from space. Lunar Orbiter V was launched on 1 August 1967 arrived in a nearly polar orbit on 5 August at 12:48 p.m. EDT. Images were taken between 6-19 August and were sent back to Earth on 27 August 1967. It is easy to make out a number of geographic features in this image. In addition, you can see that the detail of the clouds - especially over the Indian Ocean is much greater in this image. Further processing of this image should yield even greater detail."

Pluto Politics Left Behind, MSNBC

"The IAU is not Holy Mother Church, speaking ex cathedra," Mark Sykes, director of the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute and an advocate for Pluto's planethood, said in an e-mail sent as I was writing up "The Case for Pluto." "Theissue continues to be debated," Sykes observed. "Scientists continue to write papers where Pluto and other such objects are referred to and treated as planets, because the science being discussed (e.g., atmospheric processes, mantle convection, differentiation) are shared with objects like the Earth." Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Colorado-based Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, turned down an invitation to speak at the IAU's Rio meeting. "I'm not there because the IAU seems to have become irrelevant," he told me today via e-mail."

NASA Announces Briefing About Kepler's Early Science Results

"NASA will hold a media briefing on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. EDT, to discuss early science results of the Kepler mission. Kepler is the first spacecraft with the ability to find Earth-size planets orbiting stars like our sun in a zone where liquid water could exist. The televised briefing will be held in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. S.W., Washington."

Keith's note: According to multiple sources, Kepler has not found anything "new". However it has successfully detected at least one previously discovered substellar object circling another star. In other words, this amazing little spacecraft works! In addition, new candidate exoplanets have also been discovered but await confirmation by other telescopes. The results of Kepler's observations will appear in an article in this week's edition of Science magazine.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from August 2009.

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