Friday, July 22, 2011

Last shuttle re-entry, as seen from Space Station

Shuttle Atlantis' final return to Earth, as seen from the International Space Station. This picture comes from the NASA Image of the Day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hubble finds new moon orbiting Pluto

Mark Showalter (SETI Institute) just discovered a fourth moon orbiting Pluto, designated P4 for now. It is quite small, about 15 miles across, and its orbit resides between satellites Nix and Hydra. This discovery was quite accidental, because Showalter was observing the Pluto system to look for signs of any planetary rings there; see the Hubble website for more details. Since Pluto seems ripe with satellites, we might expect the New Horizons spacecraft, which flies by Pluto in 2015, to find even more tiny satellites.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dawn spacecraft to orbit Vesta tonight!

The Dawn spacecraft goes into orbit about the giant asteroid Vesta tonight, July 15, about 10pm Pacific time or 1am Eastern time July 16. See the Dawn website for more.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cassini monitors monstor storm on Saturn

Cassini snapped this picture of a monster storm on Saturn on Feb. 25, 2011. This storm started in December 2010, and has since wrapped itself all the way around the planet, spanning an area about 8 times that of the Earth's total surface. The thin dark band at the equator is Saturn's rings seen edge on, and the broader dark bands below are the shadows cast by the rings.

The image below is color coded to indicate the altitude of the various cloud layers in the storm. Blue, white, and yellow indicate clouds at higher altitudes, with green, red, and brown colors showing clouds that are deeper in this gas giant planet's atmosphere. Check the CICLOPS website for more information and Cassini images of Saturn.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dawn gets closer Vesta

The Dawn spacecraft's view of Vesta's rugged surface gets a little sharper as the spacecraft approaches this very large asteroid. Dawn is still 100,000 miles away from Vesta, but it arrives and goes into orbit about that giant asteroid soon on July 16! Meanwhile, keep an eye on the Dawn website for the latest images that will get more dramatic over time as the spacecraft nears.