Space & Planetary Science: December 2009 Archives

Space head: Russia may send spacecraft to asteroid

"Without mentioning NASA findings, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," Perminov said."

99942 Apophis, Wikipedia

"On Friday, April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass Earth within the orbits of geosynchronous communication satellites. It will return for another close Earth approach in 2036."

NASA Refines Asteroid Apophis' Path Toward Earth

"Updated computational techniques and newly available data indicate the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million."

Keith's note: I certainly hope that Perminov gets some slightly better data before his people start to plan mission trajectories - a good place to start is to get the right year.

The Dance of Saturn's Moons

"Like sugar plum fairies in "The Nutcracker," the moons of Saturn performed a celestial ballet before the eyes of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. New movies frame the moons' silent dance against the majestic sweep of the planet's rings and show as many as four moons gliding around one another." More videos

ARC PAO: Asleep At The Wheel

Keith's note: Earlier this month the LOIRP - Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project did a live webcast from Building 596 at NASA Ames Research Park. The project's co-lead Dennis Wingo and myself were the prime participants. NASA ARC PAO put a terse web page online about the webcast at the last minute. In so doing they used a Lunar Orbiter image. The LOIRP is all about the retrieval and reprocessing of these images in higher resolution than was possible in the 1960s. So, what image (low res and hi res) did ARC PAO use on their webpage? They used a 40 year old blurry, muddy original image - not one of our new crisp ones. It has been two weeks. Either ARC APO is clueless as to what the LOIRP is doing just outside their gates or they are just lazy and do not care to get it right. Go figure.

Keith's update: ARC PAO has now added one of the restored images to this webpage.

Pandora Could Exist

Avatar's Moon Pandora Could Be Real, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"In the new blockbuster Avatar, humans visit the habitable - and inhabited - alien moon called Pandora. Life-bearing moons like Pandora or the Star Wars forest moon of Endor are a staple of science fiction. With NASA's Kepler mission showing the potential to detect Earth-sized objects, habitable moons may soon become science fact."

Characterizing Habitable Exo-Moons, astro-ph

"We discuss the possibility of screening the atmosphere of exomoons for habitability. We concentrate on Earth-like satellites of extrasolar giant planets (EGP) which orbit in the Habitable Zone of their host stars."

Waterworld Found

Waterworld Discovered Transiting a Nearby Star, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"Astronomers have announced that they have discovered a "super-Earth" orbiting a red dwarf star only 40 light-years from Earth. They found this nearby planet with a small fleet of ground-based telescopes no larger than those many amateur astronomers have in their backyards. Although the super-Earth is too hot to sustain life, the discovery shows that current, ground-based technologies are capable of finding almost-Earth-sized planets in warm, life-friendly orbits."

Lakes and Fog on Titan

Sun's Glint Reveals Lakes on Titan, JPL

"NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid on the part of the moon dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins."

Fog on Titan, Caltech

"Saturn's largest moon, Titan, looks to be the only place in the solar system--aside from our home planet, Earth--with copious quantities of liquid (largely, liquid methane and ethane) sitting on its surface. According to planetary astronomer Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Earth and Titan share yet another feature, which is inextricably linked with that surface liquid: common fog."

NASA Unveils Latest Results From Lunar Mission, Helps Prepare for Next Stage of Scientific Discovery

"NASA's current mission in orbit around the moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has been providing crucial insights about our nearest celestial neighbor since its launch in June. At a scientific meeting today, researchers unveiled the latest findings from three instruments of the powerful suite of seven aboard the satellite. LRO is expected to return more data about the moon than all previous orbital missions combined."

NASA Partners with Saudi Arabia on Moon and Asteroid Research

"NASA and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) have signed a joint statement that allows for collaboration in lunar and asteroid science research. The partnership recognizes the Saudi Lunar and Near-Earth Object Science Center as an affiliate partner with the NASA Lunar Science Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif."

WISE Launch A Success

NASA's WISE Eye on the Universe Begins All-Sky Survey Mission

"NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, lifted off over the Pacific Ocean this morning on its way to map the entire sky in infrared light. A Delta II rocket carrying the spacecraft launched at 9:09 a.m. EST from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket deposited WISE into a polar orbit 326 miles above Earth."

The Boulders of Copernicus

"This image represents a portion of the central uplift within the crater Copernicus. The image, LOV-152-H1, was taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 16 August 1967 at an altitude of 103 km. The spacecraft was looking straight down at the crater as it snapped this picture series. The resolution of this image is 2.2 meters/pixel. You can see the increase in contrast and resolution that LOIRP has attained when you compare the high resolution USGS image and the one obtained by LOIRP on 10 December 2009." High res images

Boulder Trails On The Moon

Keith's note: This image was taken on 21 November 1966 by Lunar Orbiter II at an altitude of 44 miles. The image is taken from frame 92, Framelet 445, and has resolution is 0.98 meters/pixel. As such the large boulder that has left a trail is around 6-7 meters in diameter. The image on the left shows the highest resolution image available online at LPI. On the right is the raw unproceesed image we retrieved this afternoon. While the large boulder's trail is seen in both images, the details of that trail and the rest of the boulder field are much sharper in our newly retrieved image. More information and hi res images

Keith's note: These images are taken from Lunar Orbiter II image LOII_092H1 Framelet 522. On the left is the highest resolution scanned version available online at LPI (or USGS). On the right is our partially processed version that we retrieved this morning. In addition to providing a much sharper image, note that our new image also allows contrast to be controlled such that features can seen in the areas that are darkened in the older image. More information and high res images.

Keith's note: Tonight we are testing out our newest Mac computer at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project located at NASA ARC. We'll be using this machine (8 processors and 10 TB of storage) to do near-real time processing of imagery once we have pulled it off of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes using our restored FR-900 tape drives. We hope to do a live webcast this coming Thursday so that you can look over our shoulders as we bring another image to light for the first time in more than 40 years.

As we were flying through a portion of one of the images we came across a boulder field. The image was taken by Lunar Orbiter II on 20 Nov 1966 at an altitude of 52.2 miles with a ground resolution of 1.14 meters/pixel. The framelet image shown here is approximately 220 meters across. You can clearly make out a number of boulders around 1 meter in size sitting on the surface.

Hi res images here.



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

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