Journey Across the Surface of the Red Planet

This little rock looks like it has an interesting story to tell!

Opportunity is taking the human journey to the beginning of space and time to Mars every day
This little meteorite is telling planetary scientists studying Mars a few things

Opportunity is providing astronomers with a chance to study Mars up close

Astronomy News – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been travelling across the surface of the Red Planet looking at anything that interests scientists while making its way toward its main goal, Endeavour Crater. The latest object of study for planetary scientists playing with their toys is this meteorite NASA’s planetary scientists have affectionately named “Oilean Ruaidh”, which is also the Gaelic name of an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland. NASA planetary scientists first got a glimpse of this gem on September 16, 2010, which was the 2,363rd Martian day rover has spent on the surface of the Red Planet. The picture above was actually taken on September 24, 2010, using the panoramic camera on Opportunity, four days before Opportunity would continue its journey to Endeavour Crater, by travelling a distance of about 328 ft (100 meters).

The four days that planetary scientists spent looking at “Oilean Ruaidh” using the microscopic imager and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer of Opportunity to take a closer look at the texture and composition of this little meteorite revealed that it’s a nickel-iron meteorite. The image above is presented in a color close to the true color of the meteorite and combines component images taken through three Pancam filters admitting different wavelengths.

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

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Mankind’s Next Great Step into the Cosmos

The James Webb Space Telescope Takes Mankind to the Edge of Infinity

The James Webb Space Telescope Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time

The study of astronomy takes astronomers to places undreamed of in human consciousness

Astronomy News – Mankind’s Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time is about to voyage into unknown areas of the universe in search of answers to questions that were in the minds of the first-star gazers. Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe or is life abundant? Plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in 2014, or earlier in 2015, are still on target, and this telescope will allow mankind to delve into regions of the universe and look for answers to these questions and more technical questions. The largest telescope ever constructed by mankind, the James Webb Space Telescope is slowly beginning to take shape in three NASA space centers around the United States.

A combined effort between the Canadian space agencies, NASA, and the European Space Agency, the James Webb Space Telescope is designed to allow us to view the universe in ways never before experienced by humankind. Once launched into space the James Webb Space Telescope will maneuver into position orbiting the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sol system, L2. This position in the solar system is just one of five locations where the gravitational pull of the Earth is equal to Sol’s. At this remote location a service call by astronauts is definitely out of the question and budget limits of the program. The James Webb Space Telescope simply must work upon arriving on station at L2, without the possibility of servicing by astronauts.

The absolute need for the James Webb Telescope to operate without a hitch upon arriving on station, and the facts learned during the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, has convinced the designers and engineers working on the James Webb Space Telescope that a new testing program is needed to ensure every component in the James Webb Telescope works as designed, before being launched into orbit. Over in the gigantic thermal-vacuum test chamber of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas technicians are currently preparing to begin tests designed to test the entire optical train of the James Webb Space Telescope. They want to ensure the optical system of the telescope operates as a single unit in a vacuum and at the correct operating temperature for optimum performance of the optical systems. In January, engineers started testing six of the primary mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope, to ensure everything is as it should be. By the end of 2014 engineers should be nearing completion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s 18 mirror segments, and all flight instrumentation should be tested and ready to go.

These mirror segments are currently undergoing testing by NASA technicians

The James Webb Space Telescope will take mankind on the next leg of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Once on location at L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will fully deploy its 18 hexagonal, gold-coated mirror segments to form a primary mirror with an effective diameter of 6.6 meters (259 inches). This is a full 6 times the light-collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope, but the designers and engineers have also added systems driven by software that will analysis the incoming image, and allow astronomers to fine tune the view by controlling the mirrors overall shape.

Out orbiting L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will be far from problematic heat sources, and with a tennis-court sized sunshade shielding the telescope from Sol, the heat-sensitive instrumentation of the telescope will cool passively in the cold darkness of space and time, to the required operating temperature of -388 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 Celsius).

Astronomers believe the first stars created after the Big Bang possessed as much as 100 times Sol’s current mass, shine millions of times brighter than Sol, but only lived a few million years, before exploding in the first supernovae. The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of allowing mankind to Journey to within about 180 million years after the Big Bang if astronomers are correct, and possibly view the first moments of the universe in space terms. Astronomers will also use the James Webb Space Telescope to view celestial objects that have been exciting the human imagination since they were first discovered in the time of the first-star gazers. Astronomers are currently preparing for the beginning of the era of the James Webb Space Telescope. They’ll soon be proposing all kinds of Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time that will hopefully provide a few answers to these questions that have been exciting mankind since the first time a human looked upward into the night sky.

Thousands of people have contributed to the designing, engineering and eventual launch into orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope

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Water On, Water Off

Astronomers have found evidence to indicate there was once a lot of water on the surface of Mars
Where did all the water go? What water?

More evidence for the case for the presence of water on the Red Planet

Astronomy News – Planetary scientists taking a second look at a Mars outcropping first examined by NASA’s Spirit Mars Rover back in 2005 think there could be additional evidence for water on large areas of Mars. In specific, planetary scientists have found high concentrations of carbonate, a mineral that scientists have previously shown to originate in wet conditions that dissolves in acid. This leads planet scientists to the conclusion that ancient oceans on Mars couldn’t be acidic and could have been favorable environments for the evolution of life forms.

Water has been hard to find on Mars

This is hardly news as planet scientists have noted the presence of carbonates on the surface of Mars previously, and there could be all sorts of natural ways to produce the carbonates that we humans haven’t experienced, yet. Reports indicate that scientists are finding rock outcroppings with as much as 25 percent carbonate by weight. This is a far higher percentage of carbonate than previously recorded, though, and this data could indicate the presence of vast oceans on the surface of the Red Planet in the past, according to some scientists.

One group of planet scientists in Boulder, Colorado has been studying the possibility that oceans of water once existed on the Red Planet. Gaetano Di Achille and Brian Hynek have been taking a close look at 52 martian deltas and about 40,000 river valleys on Mars, using the combined data from a series of orbiting Mars missions, conducted over years. Their studies lead them to speculate that broad and deep expanses of water once covered up to one-third of the surface of Mars, 3.5 billion years ago.

This team of astronomers concluded that at least half the deltas and river valleys they studied likely marked the boundaries of an ancient sea. The geological features in question are all at the same relative elevation, which implies they were possibly connected to martian seas or large bodies of water, according to this team of scientists.

The volume of water scientist are talking about once existing on the Red Planet is around 30 million cubic kilometers of water, about 10 times less than the volume of water contained in Earth’s oceans. This study appeared online on June 13 in Nature Geoscience.

Astronomers are still looking for the water

John Carter and a team of scientists at the University of Paris, on the other hand, claim that the Red Planet certainly once had vast quantities of water, only not in the form of vast seas and oceans. This team found hydrated silicate minerals within craters in the northern lowlands of the Red Planet, a place where these minerals hadn’t previously been found. This fact, combined with previous indications of hydrated silicate minerals in Mars Southern Hemisphere, leads this team of scientists to conclude that Mars was changed on a global scale by liquid water around 4 billion years in the past. This group of astronomers used NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to look inside 91 impact craters where asteroids have exposed ancient marine material several kilometers beneath the surface of Mars. They found nine contained phyllosilicates or other hydrated silicates, minerals that scientists know form in wet environments.

The real question now is, where did all this water go? Future missions to the Red Planet will be looking for facts to help determine where all the water went or if it might still exist on Mars, in another form. They’ll also be taking a close look at river deltas, which could be excellent regions to search for evidence of past Martian life.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

 

 

 

 

 

Black Holes in Unusual Places

Black holes and humans have more in common than we first thought, we can both be a little off-center

Black holes are being found in unusual places
Large black holes like this one are found at the center of galaxy M31

Black holes are one of astronomy’s greatest mysteries

Astronomy News – Astronomers have discovered a rather unusual black hole –

Black holes are unusual celestial objects typically found at the center of galaxies, according to space scientists and astronomers, but space scientists at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands think they have found a black hole a little off-center. Astronomers typically find black holes by looking for strong x-ray sources near the places they think black holes should exist. Friction heats matter falling into a strong gravity source, such as a black hole, creating copious amounts of x-rays, which space scientists use to locate possible black holes. Astronomers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands believe they have found a black hole in a less typical location in one nondescript galaxy.

Black holes are unusual celestial objects typically found at the center of galaxies, according to space scientists and astronomers, but space scientists at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands think they have found a black hole a little off-center. Astronomers typically find black holes by looking for strong x-ray sources near the places they think black holes should exist. Friction heats matter falling into a strong gravity source, such as a black hole, creating copious amounts of x-rays, which space scientists use to locate possible black holes. Astronomers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands believe they have found a black hole in a less typical location in one nondescript galaxy.

The black hole in question appears to be located about 10,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy in question. What’s this 1-billion-solar-mass black hole doing so far from the center of the galaxy? Space scientists postulate, using the available facts, that large black holes, like the one in question, could be created during the collision of two smaller black holes. This would eject the bigger black hole out of the galaxy’s center at high-speed, space scientists believe, and could be one-way black holes could be relocated to another galactic address.

This black hole is slightly off-centre

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion