Space scientists matched sizes of icy particles erupting from geysers with those in Saturn’s E ring to make discovery
Space news (June 30, 2015) – 237,378 km (147,500 miles) from Saturn
NASA space scientists using images provided by the Cassini spacecraft and computer simulations have created this collage showing long, sinuous, tendril-like streams of icy particles erupting from geysers on the surface of Enceladus’s southern polar region.
Space scientists studying the images believe these tendril-like structures originate from the geysers erupting on the surface of Saturn’s moon. Tendril-like structures they link directly to icy eruptions from certain sets of geysers on Enceladus’s surface, composed mainly of ice water particles, water vapor, and simple organic compounds.
“We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril-structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
Space scientists also see evidence of the appearance of icy tendrils changing over time in the images provided the NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. “It became clear to us that some features disappeared from one image to the next,” said John Weiss, an imaging team associate at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington.
NASA scientists think visible changes seen in the appearance of the icy tendrils over time is due to a cycle of tidal stresses squeezing and stretching the surface of Enceladus as it orbits Saturn. They also think that as tidal stresses increase the width of the erupting fractures on the surface expands, resulting in an increase in the icy eruptions observed.
Using this model space scientists using the Cassini spacecraft and other assets will now test their ideas and theories on the reasons for the changing appearance of icy tendrils erupting from cracks on the surface of Enceladus into Saturn’s E ring.
There is even more that can be extracted from the images, the scientists say. “As the supply lanes for Saturn’s E ring, the tendrils give us a way to ascertain how much mass is leaving Enceladus and making its way into Saturn orbit,” said Carolyn Porco, team leader for the imaging experiment and a coauthor on the paper. “So, another important step is to determine how much mass is involved, and thus, estimate how much longer the moon’s subsurface ocean may last.” An estimate of the lifetime of the ocean is important in understanding the evolution of Enceladus over long timescales.
The icy waters of Enceladus could contain the ingredients necessary for life to exist and space scientists are keen to have a closer look at this distant moon in the future. With icy plumes erupting into Saturn’s E-ring containing complex organic compounds, and tidal forces heating the surface of Enceladus, NASA scientists think this moon is one of the best and most likely places to search for extraterrestrial life in the solar system.
The mission of Cassini has been extended through to September 2017, so space scientists can take a closer look at Enceladus, Titan and the rings of Saturn. Next, on Cassini’s itinerary is a flyby of Titan on July 7, 2015, when it will be slightly less than 11, 000 km (7,000 miles) from the moon.
For more information on NASA’s Cassini Solstice Mission check here.
Space & Astronomy Wiki – the closest star to Earth –
Worshiped by every recorded human culture, the Sun – or Sol as the Romans called it – contains over 99.8 percent of the mass in the solar system, and is over a thousand times as massive.
Composed of 7.8 percent helium (He) and 92.1 percent hydrogen (H2) along with 0.1 percent oxygen and other elements, Sol looks solid in photographs, but its surface is a sea of hot 5,500 Celsius (10,000 degrees Fahrenheit) gas.
Called ‘Helios’ by the Greeks, the Sun is a stellar type G star called a main-sequence star but will change into a brighter, bigger and cooler red dwarf star around 5 billion years after its birth.
With a diameter over 100 times that of Earth at 1.4 million km (840,000 miles), the Sun is a common medium-sized yellow star you could fit over a million piles of earth inside.
Sitting at a distance of 149.6 million km (93 million miles) from our planet or 1 astronomical unit (AU), a distance which is used as a common measuring stick by astronomers viewing the solar system, the Sun transforms over 600 million tons of hydrogen into 596 tons of helium every second through nuclear fusion.
Dominating the gravity pool of the solar system, the mass of the Sun warps spacetime, which determines the orbits of the planets, and governs the movements of all mass bodies within the boundaries of the system.
June 30 Venus and Jupiter will appear as one big double star in the western sky once the Sun goes down
Space news (June 26, 2015) –
Amateur and professional astronomers are watching as Venus and Jupiter draw steadily closer and will appear to converge on June 30. The two brightest planets in the night sky, Venus and Jupiter have been moving toward convergence since the beginning of the month, which is the closest they’ll appear until August 2016.
Wind the clock back a few thousand years, there would probably be a festival or human sacrifice, in some cultures, about to occur in a few days time. Looking up at Venus and Jupiter as they move closer each night would have been an awe-inspiring and frightening sight, and certainly one an ancient culture would have noticed and worshiped in some way.
Venus and Jupiter are in fact over 800 million miles apart, they only appear closer in the night sky, because of their current positions in their orbits. Venus is currently overtaking or lapping Jupiter as it orbits the Sun, and on June 30 across North America, they’ll appear as one big double star in the night sky.
Viewers can view the convergence with the naked eye although binoculars or a small telescope certainly enhances the show. The best part is the show is viewable anywhere on the planet, check with local astronomers for the best time to view the convergence.
Just look to the West a few hours after sunset on June 30. People in Australia and the East wait until August 1 to see Venus and Jupiter converge, but this won’t diminish the show.
Your eyes will need a few minutes to adapt to light levels, but once the lights go down, you’ll be amazed by the brightness of the event. A stunning 0.33 of a degree apart at convergence, around 30 times closer than at the beginning of the month, Venus and Jupiter can be hidden behind your finger.
There’s nothing to be afraid of, these events don’t significantly increase gravitational forces, and aren’t harbingers of doom.
No need for the human sacrifice!
For more information on the convergence of Venus and Jupiter on June 30 check here.
Space & Astronomy Wiki – the constellations in the sky –
One of the first constellations in the night sky to be perceived the human eyes, Aquarius the Water Bearer was first recorded by Babylonian astronomers as “the Great One” on stones and official seals as early as the year 2000 BCE.
Located in the fourth quadrant between latitude 65-90, Aquarius the Water Bearer is the 10th largest constellation covering 980 square degrees of the night sky.
Found near Cetus (the whale), Pisces (the fish), Delphinus (the dolphin) and Eridanus (the river) on the Sea of the Southern sky, Aquarius the Water Bearer is best viewed in the evening sky in the Southern Hemisphere in spring and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.
Look high in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere sky early in October around 10 p.m. local time (11 p.m. local daylight saving time), or early in November around 8 p.m. local time, to best see Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Look for four bright stars outlining a person with an overflowing vessel pouring water in the form of faint stars into the mouth of the star Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus the Southern Fish.
This is Aquarius the Water Bearer!
You can learn more about the constellation Aquarius here.
Space & Astronomy Wiki – the planets in the solar system –
At an average distance of 0.72 AU from Sol, Venus is the second planet from the Sun, closest sister planet to Earth in size and mass, and the third densest planet in the solar system at an average density of 5.24 g/cm3.
The second-brightest object in the night sky, with the Moon being the brightest, at between magnitude -3.8 and -4.6, Venus was first recorded by Babylonian astronomers in the 17th century BC and is named after the Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty.
Called both the Evening Star and Morningstar, Venus is the second largest terrestrial planet in the solar system and the hottest planet with an average surface temperature of 462 degrees Celsius.
Composed of a crust, molten mantle, and core, the surface of Venus is totally obscured by dense clouds of carbon dioxide that trap heat very effectively, producing a runaway greenhouse effect.
Rotating very slowly on its axis, Venus rotates in the opposite direction to the other planets in the solar system, creating extremely long days and nights, and a west to east movement of the Sun across the sky.
Looking at the surface of Venus you see mountains, valleys, craters, and even evidence of previous volcanic activity. This is deceiving, though, because the geology of the surface of this planet is very different than that of Earth.
We’ll talk more about the surface geology, atmosphere and life history of Venus in future articles.
We all experience things differently, but we each witness wondrous things and gain knowledge about ourselves and the bigger universe we live in during our journey.
What does skywatcher or astronomer mean to you? People viewing the night sky and contemplating the meaning of the universe. We have created distinct categories that are listed below.
What kind of sky watcher or astronomer are you?
The professional skywatcher or astronomer earns a significant portion of their income from working in astronomy. They either teach the science in college or university or do space science research on a daily basis. Modern researchers work in individual science specialties like archaeoastronomy and astrometry, or on teams of space scientists planning current and future space missions and designing and engineering the latest spacecraft.
The amateur telescope maker and gadgeteer
This breed of skywatcher once composed a large percentage of astronomy hobbyists. They build amazing telescopes from scratch, grind mirrors, and haul their spaceship-to-the-stars to local star parties. Hands-on amateurs and inventive innovators, many are first time users and adopters of new astronomy technology. The amateur telescope maker and gadgeteer enjoy looking at telescopes as much as through one.
The amateur specialist astronomer
Amateur specialist skywatchers love to observe variable stars, track satellites across the sky, and spend days, weeks and even months hunting for comets. They provide useful scientific data that contributes to our understanding of the universe and enables the human journey to the stars.
The backyard skywatcher or astronomer
The backyard skywatcher thinks space is cool and many are quite knowledgeable concerning the latest astronomy news or book. They enjoy reading about space science and astronomy and a percentage own their own telescope.
The beginner skywatcher
The beginner can be of any age group and just joined the human journey to the beginning of space and time. They often come to the adventure with a relatively clean slate, so find everything exciting.
The astronomy photographer
Often a photographic artist of the highest ability, the astronomy photographer creates and shares astronomy photography techniques and stunning images of the cosmos. Having a vast array of astronomy photography skills and amazing patience, they often leave us sitting back and enjoying their work.
The science fiction fanatic
The science fiction fanatic loves astronomy because of concepts like wormholes, folding space, multiverses, and tachyons. Constantly looking for a door to another dimension or the next universe, they’re more at home in Star Trek, than the real human journey to the stars.
The space travel and planet colonization advocate
Often a romantic soul, the space travel, and planet colonization advocate can be a member of The Planetary Society and wants to colonize other worlds. They’re currently pushing for the colonization of Mars, traveling to nearby asteroids and the jovian moons, and actively push for funding for the human journey to the beginning of space and time.
The space nut or visionary
The space nut or visionary sends in letters ‘disproving’ relativity or offering a brilliant alternative theory. Often they believe NASA is covering up an eminent and world-ending asteroid strike and provide detailed math and physics to back up their claims. Convinced they know something the rest of us don’t, some could be right.
The imprisoned skywatcher
The imprisoned skywatcher has developed a deep curiosity about astronomy but lives in a light-polluted region of the world. They read all they can about space science and the human journey to the stars, but can’t enjoy the journey as they should.
The astronomy zealot
The astronomy zealot looks at the “Big Picture” and the most outrageous models of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Throw them a string theory or multiverse hypothesis and they swallow it whole. They’re cerebral, speculative and open-minded to anything, and often prefer a novel possibility over hard fact.
The spouses and friends
Spouses get invited to attend star parties, astronomy talks, and sightseeing tours through the solar system and beyond. Only partly enjoying and understanding the process and events, they learn to enjoy these moments, or just put up with it.
The Star Followers
Star navigators are mostly pilots, adventurers, and yachtsmen using the night sky to navigate the globe because they enjoy the hands on feeling of adventure in the ancient art of celestial navigation.
Following their passion and desire to explore, they’re the astronauts of the future, the true adventurers at the forefront of the human exploration of the solar system and beyond.
The enthusiastic human with no idea
The enthusiastic human with no idea about the human journey to the beginning of space and time is the majority of the human race. Unable to name or pinpoint the brightest star in the night sky, or the most common element in the universe, the cosmos just isn’t that interesting to them, so far.
No matter what kind of sky watcher or astronomer you’re, the wonder and mystery of the cosmos can create a passion to answers questions deep within the heart.
Questions generations of sky watchers and astronomers spent thousands of years looking up into the night sky trying to answer. Answers we have designed and engineered amazing spacecraft and telescopes to find during the modern age of space travel and astronomy we live today.
Welcome to the human journey to the beginning of space and time!
Editor and Chief
The human journey to the beginning of space and time
Space scientists think they have found a black hole family member they thought should exist; an intermediate-mass black hole
Space news (June 09, 2015) – 100 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Camelopardalis –
Mysterious celestial objects space scientists study to better understand the universe, black holes could hold the keys to unlocking the nature of reality. In fact, a celestial object just discovered may turn out to be the key to a long sought after question about how black holes evolve and alter the surrounding environment.
Space scientists conducting a study of ultraluminous x-ray sources (ULXs) looking for intermediate-mass black holes using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory believe they have found a candidate. An interesting object, called NGC 2276-3c, located in an arm of spiral galaxy NGC 2276, appears to have the right characteristics.
“Astronomers have been looking very hard for these medium-sized black holes,” said co-author Tim Roberts of the University of Durham in the UK. “There have been hints that they exist, but the IMBHs have been acting like a long-lost relative that isn’t interested in being found.”
Space scientists studying black holes have observed objects residing at the center of galaxies with masses millions and even billions of times that of the sun. They have also observed objects with characteristics of smaller black holes, with masses about five to thirty times that of the sun.
NGC 2276-3c is a middle-class black hole, with a mass about 50,000 times that of the sun, which could grow over the next few billions of years. In fact, space scientists think its home galaxy could at the moment be interacting with elliptical galaxy NGC 2300, which could account for its asymmetrical shape.
How did space scientists locate and study NGC 2276-3c? Researchers observed the object almost at the same time using both the Chandra X-ray Observatory and European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (VLBI). Using the X-ray and radio data obtained, along with known facts concerning the relationship between radio and X-ray luminosities for sources powered by black holes, they estimated the mass of the object to be around 50,000 solar masses. This puts the black hole in the range of mass expected for an IMBH.
“We found that NGC2276-3c has traits similar to both stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes,” said co-author Andrei Lobanov of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. “In other words, this object helps tie the whole black hole family together.”
During the study, space scientists also determined NGC 2276-3c has a characteristic seen in many supermassive black holes, a powerful radio jet extending up to 2,000 light years from the black hole. A region of the radio jet extending for about 1,000 light years, also seems to be missing young stars, which they think could mean the radio jet cleared out a cavity in the surrounding gas and prevented the formation of new stars. Powerful evidence to suggest IMBHs could alter their surrounding environments in amazing ways.
NGC 2276-3c’s location in the spiral arm of its home galaxy is also making space scientists ask questions. Was it formed in the galaxy, or did it come from the center of a dwarf galaxy that collided and merged with NGC 2276 in the past?
A recent study by a team of researchers led by Anna Wolter of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Milan, Italy seems to support the merger theory. It concluded that new stars are forming at the rate of about five to fifteen solar masses each year in NGC 2276. A high rate of new star formation they believe was possibly triggered by a possible collision with another galaxy in the past, which points to the formation of this IMBH during a merger between galaxies.
Now astronomers will do more research on NGC 2275-3c and the radio jet extending from it, in order to look for clues to the effects supermassive black hole seeds existing during the first days of the universe could have had on their surroundings.
You can learn more about NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory here.
Learn more about NASA’s space mission to the stars here.