DAS FOCUS Newsletter_MARCH_2015

Vol. 60, No. 3, MARCH, 2015
Next Meeting – Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 at 8pm
at the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory
~ ~“Meeting Topic: VARIABLE STARS --
How the Study of These
Have Led to a Deeper Understanding of the Universe ~
presented by: Dr. Len Jensen, an amateur astronomer who has held several positions with the Delaware
Valley Amateur Astronomers and currently is Assistant Professor at the Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine
How much do you know about Delaware Trivia?
Odds are high that you know the Official State Bird is the
Blue Hen Chicken. You might have heard that the State
Tree is American Holly. But I”ll bet you didn’t know that
Delaware has an official State Star! Or that it has been
designated the “Delaware Diamond.” I didn’t. Here’s the
description from the State website...
On June 30, 2000, the Delaware Diamond, located
in the constellation of Ursa Major (Great Bear), with coordinates of right ascension 9h40m44s and declination
48°14’2”, was designated as Delaware’s State star. It is a
star of the 12th magnitude and is the first star on the
International Star Registry ever to be registered to an
American State. It can be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Twelve-year-old Amy Nerlinger of Wilmington
named the star through a contest sponsored by the Delaware Museum of Natural History in the summer of 1999.
Delaware Code Title 29 § 317.
If you’ve never heard of the International Star
Registry don’t miss the next DAS meeting. In addition to
a little more trivia you’ll hear a seriously interesting main
program by our guest speaker, Dr. Len Jensen. Be there!
Each issue of FOCUS is full of useful hyperlinks. Just click on any
graphic or telltale blue web address and your browser should take you
to additional linked web resources.
AP SIG Lunar Imaging at the Sawin on March 27 or 28
Public Nights Schedule at Mt. Cuba Observatory
2015 Annual Dinner Meeting May 17th!
Astro Images by Frank Colosimo
DAS Board Members-At-Large Elections
Astronomy Picture of the Day-Stars at the Galactic Center
“From the Observing Chair” Spring Ahead by Fred De Lucia
Sawin Certification Program
Astro-League Membership Fees
IMPORTANT Board Positions Need Members to Fill NOW!
Astro Images Sought by MCAO for Lobby Display
Page 2
Page 2
Page 3
Pages 4&5
Page 6
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Page 8
Page 8
Page 8
Star Parties, Upcoming Events and Activities
Rates for Astronomy Technology Today & Amateur Astronomy
Page 9
Page 9
“From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory”
Why Comets are Like Deep Fried Ice Cream
Hubble Captures Rare Triple Moon Conjunction
Dawn Gets Closer View of Ceres
Planck Mission Explores the History of our Universe
‘Pale Blue Dot’ Images Turn 25
Pages 10&11
Page 11
Page 12
Page 12
Page 13
“NASA Science News”
An Edge On Close Encounter with Jupiter
Mud Matters
Eastern U.S. in a Record Breaking Freezer
NASA Receives Proposals for New Planetary Science Mission
Chandra finds Member of Black Hole Family Tree
Page 14
Page 15
Page 16
Page 17
Page 18
“From The Goddard Space Flight Center”
NASA Measures Frigid Cloud Top Temps
NASA Team Develops New Ka-Band System
Texas Has New Big, Bright Webb STTARS
Webb Telescope Conversations with James Geithner
MAVEN Completes First Deep Dip Campaign
Bright Spot on Ceres has Dimmer Companion
SOHO Sees Something New Near the Sun
OSIRIS-REx Completes System Integration Review
Page 19
Page 20
Page 21
Pages 22&23
Page 24
Page 25
Page 26
Page 27
Sawin Observatory Reminder & DAS Loaner Equipment
Astro Photo of the Month & Website of the Month
Info on Club Special Interest Groups
Info on Memberships & Magazine Subscriptions
Contact Information for the DAS Board
“The Last Word” - FOCUS Editor Joe Neuberger
Page 28
Page 29
Page 30
Page 31
Page 32
Page 32
Saturn--Photo taken in June, 2012 at
ChesLen Preserve. “This image was taken from 2
movies I made with Fred’ De Lucia’s
Obsession DOB scope. I used Registax to stack
the 200 best frames of each movie and then I
stacked the result.”
Credit: Photo by DAS Member Rob Lancaster.
Observing with the Delaware Astronomical Society...
Astro-Photo Special Interest Group Meeting Set for Lunar
Imaging at the Sawin on the Weekend of March 27 / 28 by Bill Hanagan
The next meeting of the AP-SIG is tentatively
scheduled for March 27 or 28 at 8:00 PM at MCAO. If the
weather allows, we’ll pick one of these nights to head out to
the Sawin and image some of the features of the 1st quarter
moon. If you’re a beginner, this is a great opportunity to get
started in astrophotography. If the weather isn’t accommodating, we’ll meet inside as usual. The specific date will be
announced a day or two ahead of the meeting via the DAS
Yahoo Group email, so we can take advantage of the best
night weather-wise.
The Moon -- Photro
taken on October
20th, 2007 with a
Canon EOS 20D
camera by
DAS member and
AP SIG founder
Bill Hanagan
If you would like to capture one or more images of
the moon, be sure to bring along your own SLR and
matching T-ring, along with a remote shutter release. For
those who are new to astrophotography, a T-ring takes the
place of a lens on an SLR and receives a “T-Adapter”,
which in its simplest form is just a 2” or 1.25” tube that fits
into a telescope focuser. I’ll have a 2” T-adapter and I’ll
also have a 2x Big Barlow and 4x Powermate on hand for
added magnification when needed.
updates on programs planned. Interested individuals or
groups can apply by letter or call 654-6407 (preferably
between the hours of 9 and 11 am, Monday through
Friday) to the Observatory to obtain reservations for these
“Public Nights”.
Greg Weaver
The Mt. Cuba
Observatory Public
Nights continue year
round! In addition to
learning about many
aspects of the heavens,
you’ll have a chance to
visit and view our all-digital full-dome planetarium. You can pick
up a schedule when you next come to a meeting or get the
latest updated version off the website at: http://
MountCuba.org. Programs are presented on Monday
nights at 8pm. Please check the website for full details and
The Public Nights schedule for 2015 follows:
23 Mar. Scott Jackson
The 24 inch Herr Telescope (Greg Weaver)
DAS 2015 Dinner Meeting is May 19th
After the great success of the 2014 Dinner Meeting, we will be holding this year's meeting in a similar
fashion! To register visit the DAS website at http://delastro.org/16-event-reports/98-dinnermeeting.
The date is Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 and the price will remain $20 per person!
We will hold it once again at the beautiful Ashland Nature Center. A map can be found here:
The speaker and topic will be announced soon...
The Menu:
Bread & butter
Arugula & watermelon salad
Main course, served with beans & rice and asparagus
Carne Adovada (New Mexican Citrus Pork), or
Chicken with Peruvian Sauce, or
Vegetarian option upon request
Latin Flan
Water & soda
Beer & wine by free will donation
Hot tea & coffee
The easiest way to register, is via PayPal on the DAS website page. Please select your main course
choice. Note, if you are registering more than one person, please add all meal choices to the cart prior
to checking out.
If you would prefer, you can mail a check along
with a note indicating your meal choices to:
Jeff Lawrence
DAS Treasurer
815 Leeds Lane
Newark, DE 19711
Join Us
At The
For Great Food, Speaker,
Awards and Comaraderie!
Images by Member Frank Colosimo
from His Blue Mountain Vista
Observatory at New Ringgold, PA
M63, NGC 5055, or the Sunflower Galaxy as it is known is a magnitude 8.6 spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici. It has an
apparent size of 12.3 arc minutes, and is estimated to be 37 million light years away. It is a great object to observe in the
late Winter/Spring.
Imaging data:
Date: Dec 29,2008 Jan 4,25 2009;
Location: New Ringgold PA;
Optics: Meade LX200r-14 at f/7.9 28llmm;
Mount: Paramount ME;
Camera/Filters: Apogee Alta U8300 FLI CFW-2-7 FLI Filters; Guiding: Orion Starshoot Autoguider in Orion ST-80;
Exposure: Luminance: 18x5 minutes binned 2x2, R:8x5 min G:9x5 min B:9x8 min all binned 3x3 for a total of 4.1 hours;
Processing: Image acquisition using CCD Autopilot. Initial processing was done using Maxim DL with subsequent
processing using Photoshop.
Markarian’s Chain is a line up of galaxies located in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. It is called a chain because when viewed
by us, the galaxies appear to lie along a curvy line. It was named after the Armenian astrophysicist, B. E. Markarian.
Member galaxies include M84 (NGC 4374), M86 (NGC 4406), NGC 4477, NGC 4473, NGC 4461, NGC 4458, NGC 4438
and NGC 4435. At least seven galaxies in the chain appear to move coherently, although others appear to be superposed
by chance.
Imaging data: Date: Jan 2015; Location: New Ringgold PA; Optics: Takahashi FSQ106ED 530 mm focal length; Mount:
Paramount MX; Camera: SBIG STL 11000; Guiding: self guided; Exposure: Luminance 16x10 min for a total of 2.7 hrs;
Processing: Image acquisition using CCD Autopilot. Initial processing was done using Maxim DL with subsequent processing with Photoshop.
Leo I is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the
constellation Leo. It lies around 820,000 lightyears distant and is a member of our Local
Group of galaxies. It is thought to be one of
the most distant satellites of the Milky Way
galaxy. It was not discovered until 1950 by
Albert George Wilson. It lies close to bright
Regulus and that plus its low surface brightness make it a real challenge to observe
visually. See if you can pick it out just above
Imaging Data: Date: Jan 2015; Location:
New Ringgold PA; Optics: Takahashi
FSQ106ED 530 mm focal length; Mount:
Paramount MX; Camera: SBIG STL 11000;
Guiding: self guided; Exposure: Luminance
10x5 min, R 5x5 min, G 6x5 min, B 6x5 min
for a total of 2.3 hrs; Processing: Image
acquisition using CCD Autopilot. Initial processing was done using Maxim DL with subsequent processing with Photoshop.
DAS Board Members At Large Elections
Fred De Lucia, DAS Elections Committee Chairperson
The terms for the three DAS Board Members At Large are expiring this year. Elections will take place in May via
the usual electronic voting method of the past several elections. Board Members At Large hold voting positions on the
DAS Board of Directors and, essentially, represent the interests of the general membership in all matters brought before
the Board for discussion. The terms are for two years and begin on July 1 of odd numbered years.
Eligible candidates must be in good standing (i.e. current in their dues) and at least 16 years of age. Candidates
will be announced at the April meeting at which time nominations will also be permitted to come from the floor.
Nominations from any member in good standing will be accepted for the slate. Members can nominate themselves.
Please, email me at fredworld@verizon.net or call me at 609-410-8943 with your nominations or your questions.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
from 2015 March 8
Stars at the Galactic Center
Image Credit: Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA -- http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html
Explanation: The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of
obscuring dust and gas. But in this stunning vista, the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared cameras, penetrate much of the
dust revealing the stars of the crowded galactic center region. A mosaic of many smaller snapshots, the detailed, falsecolor image shows older, cool stars in bluish hues. Reddish glowing dust clouds are associated with young, hot stars in
stellar nurseries. The very center of the Milky Way was only recently found capable of forming newborn stars. The galactic center lies some 26,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this picture spans
about 900 light-years.
Spring Ahead
By Fred De Lucia, DAS Observing Chair
Before beginning this article I checked the weather
forecasts for the upcoming Dark Window and it appears that
we’re in for a break. Above average temperatures beginning
on March 11 and clearing skies, just in time to welcome in the
March Dark Window. Hopefully, by the time you read this it
hasn’t changed and you’ll have seen a post or two for some
observing plans on the DAS Yahoo Group.
It’s hard for me to accept that it’s been over 4 months
since I had my 18” scope out for observing. The Trap Pond
State Park session with the Delmarva Stargazers on October
25 was my last time out. Spolier alert: I’m going to complain
about the weather. Last year at this time many were observing
the supernova in M82, the temperature during one of those
sessions was 15°F. It really didn’t seem so bad, but there’s a huge difference as you get into single digit temperatures and even more so on the minus side. Some of you may recall my talk a few years ago about an
aurora trip to Chena Hot Springs, Alaska and the -26°F night while watching an aurora, fortunately, the warm
lodge was only a short walk away for when the aurora faded. I’m no stranger to the cold and I know how to
prepare to make it bearable. But, although there have been a night or two of clear skies recently, the near zero
temperatures were too discouraging to get me out to take a long drive to a dark site. Consequently, I had to
experience my observing vicariously by reading the observing reports of some of my ChesMont buds posted on
their website. Yep! They were out in -7° (that’s no typo), I repeat, -7°F temperatures at a PA observing site near
Summit Mountain on February 20 and out again at the Blue Mountain Vista on February 23. BUT!! That was
then and this is now! The start of the March Dark Window looks promising.
On another uplifting thought, The Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) is on April 18 and 19, the weekend before our April meeting. Last year several of us from DAS had a great time browsing the floor full of
telescope equipment, catching some lectures and spending time with the horde of Solar telescopes outside
under clear afternoon skies for some thrilling views of our Sun. Warning: temptation reigns on that floor full of
equipment. There were several that I know (me included) that brought home an unexpected bargain. I wonder
what lies ahead for this year.
Back to observing plans before closing. Those Leo targets I outlined in last month’s column are still
doable, as well as our Oort cloud visitor, C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy, at magnitude 6.3 and 40° altitude as of this
writing, it’s still a prime time target for all sizes of amateur telescopes. For dedicated backyarders, Jupiter still
rides high at over 42 arc seconds of sky, plenty big for outstanding views of cloud structure under steady skies,
and its moons will occult and eclipse as the month wears on.
With Spring approaching, members should plan to get back to the Sawin. We have new eyepieces
waiting for first light and our 17.5” scope is waaayyy underutilized. Perhaps someone with a desire to peck
away at some Spring galaxies or is curious about what a larger scope can reveal in the more commonly observed globular clusters will plan to get it out. Maybe take it out to a dark sky site, like to the Delmarva Stargaze
XXI in May, which is set for the week before our dinner meeting.
I hope to see some, if not many, of you at a DAS star party or at the Sawin or on an observing field. I
wish clear, dark and steady skies to all.
Sawin Certification Program Fred De Lucia
The Sawin is the major centerpiece of DAS. In the past it was in use
much more often and by a number of members on every clear Friday night. It
has been largely underutilized for a number of reasons. One reason, I believe,
is that newer members or members who do not own a telescope might feel
intimidated by the equipment and the observatory’s layout. We hope to address
this by instituting the Sawin Certification Program. With the new upgrades
installed, its use will be more inviting and user friendly to both new and experienced members. Certified Key Holders of the Sawin have access to its use at
any time without supervision
The Program will consist of a minimum of 2 sessions, scheduled at the
Sawin, to obtain the necessary knowledge and experience in using the Sawin
equipment. These sessions will be supervised by a current Sawin Key Holder.
The first session, likely set for a weekend in the daylight (even if it’s cloudy), will familiarize learners with the
layout of the Sawin and overall operation, including opening the roof, uncovering and covering the telescopes, handling
eyepieces and pointing the telescopes, etc.
If the supervising Sawin Key Holder determines that progression during the first session is acceptable, then the
second session will be scheduled for a clear sky night session to address night time use of the equipment.
The Sawin Certification Program is for DAS members only who are in good standing and 16 years of age or older.
Participants in the program who are under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
For information or sign-up, please contact Greg Lee, DAS President at greglee288@gmail.com.
The DAS offers an optional membership in the Astronomical League (AL) at a discounted rate.
AL membership dues are $7.50 per year and are due on June 1 for all members.
Prorated discounts for new memberships starting mid-year are as follows:
April 16 - July 15: $7.50 per member
July 16 - Oct 15: $5.62 per member
Oct 16 - Jan 15: $3.75 per member
Jan 16 - April 15: $1.87 per member
Members should make their check out to DAS and mail it to the Treasurer whose information is below::
Jeff Lawrence
DAS Treasurer
815 Leeds Lane
Newark, DE 19711
Members are Needed to Step Up to Fill Important DAS Board Positions:
Education Chairperson and Observatory Chairperson
These important Club positions remain unfilled and important functions of our club have come to a virtual halt
because of it. If you would like to give a little more of yourself to this organizatioin, please contact President Greg Lee
at 302-762-5358 and explore with him what these positions entail. PLEASE give it some thought--your club needs YOU!
Call for DAS AstroImages for Display in Mt. Cuba Lobby
MCAO is asking for any DAS members to submit their astroimages for display in the Observatory. It would like to
display the club member’s talents and update some of the images currently on display in the lobby of
the Observatory.
Images will be displayed for up to a year and replaced as new images are submitted. Full credits to the imager will
be included. Please include all technical information with the image (date, telescope and camera used, exposure time,
image processing software, etc.). You may email digital images to the Mt. Cuba website. Photos may be sent to the
Observatory or brought to a DAS meeting.
The Observatory looks forward to displaying your beautiful images! Contact Greg at mtcuba@physics.udel.edu.
Star Parties, Upcoming Events and Activities
March 17, 2015 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
DAS Monthly Meeting
Topic: Variable Stars presented by Dr. Len Jensen, amateur astronomer, former president, vice president, observing chair, member at large and secretary of Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers and
currently Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine; DAS Board meeting at 7PM, all are welcome. General meeting at 8PM.
March 19, 2015 - March 22, 2015
Delmarva Stargazers Mirror Making Seminar-http://www.delmarvastargazers.org/
Delmarva Star Gazers will host the 15th Mid-Atlantic Mirror Making Seminar March 19 through
March 22, 2015, at the Mallard Lodge, Smyrna, DE.
March 28, 2015 7:15 pm - 9:15 pm
Bellevue State Park Introduction to the Night Sky
Bellevue State Park offers an evening of stargazing as DAS shows constellations and gives an
introduction to observing the night sky. Equipment will be available, or you may bring your own. Redfiltered lights only please. No fee for this program.
Call the Park to pre-register 302-761-6963. Meet in the Hunter Barn parking lot
April 16, 2015 - April 17, 2015
NEIAC - Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference
Devoted to all aspects of Astronomical Imaging, this two-day event hosts workshops & lectures
by prominent professional & amateur astro-imagers.
April 18, 2015 - April 19, 2015
NEAF - Northeast Astronomy Forum
World’s Largest Astronomy Expo - Bringing you the Universe in two exciting event-packed days.
NEAF is renowned worldwide as the ultimate astronomy experience. Nowhere else can you find so
much in one place or at one time.
April 21, 2015 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
DAS Monthly Meeting
Topic: Needle in a Haystack: The Search for 1A Supernova by Dr. Steve Walters, IEEE Fellow and
author of CCDWare, The Ultimate Image Session Planning Solution. http://www.ccdware.com/
DAS Board meeting at 7PM, all are welcome. General meeting at 8PM.
See the full line-up of events on the DAS’ website EVENTS CALENDAR at
DAS Now has a Discount Subscription Rate for Astronomy
Technology Today Magazine and Amateur Astronomy Magazine
Astronomy Technology Today: Members can subscribe directly on-line and then in the appropriate box enter the club’s
discount code which is: DAS. During the order process, members simply enter the discount code and they will receive the discounted rate at checkout. Print subscribers also have unlimited access to all current and past digital issues at no
additional cost. Normal print subscriptions are $18 per year. The club rate is $14 per year.
The magazine is issued bi-monthly. https://www.astronomytechnologytoday.com/
Amateur Astronomy Magazine: DAS members must print, fill out and mail the form found in the “Files” section of
our Yahoo email list website.
The magazine is issued quarterly. http://www.amateurastronomy.com/index.htm.
Why Comets Are Like Deep Fried Ice Cream
--Studying comet composition helps explain how early Earth
may have received water and organics.
--New research used "Himalaya," an icebox-like instrument.
AsThe experiments
tronomers tinkering
began with amorwith ice and organics
phous, or porous, ice
in the lab may have
-- the proposed
discovered why
composition of the
comets are encased in
chilliest of comets
a hard, outer crust.
and icy moons. In this
Using an
state, water vapor
icebox-like instrument
molecules are flashnicknamed Himalaya,
frozen at extremely
the researchers show
cold temperatures of
that fluffy ice on the
around 30 Kelvin
surface of a comet
(minus 243 degrees
would crystalize and
Celsius, or minus 405
harden as the comet
degrees Fahrenheit),
heads toward the sun
sort of like Han Solo
and warms up. As the
in the Star Wars
water-ice crystals form,
movie "The Empire
becoming denser and
Strikes Back." Disormore ordered, other
derly states are
molecules containing
preserved: Water
carbon would be
molecules are
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta
expelled to the comet's spacecraft. The mission's Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the haphazardly mixed
surface. The result is a comet's surface is hard. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
with other molecules,
http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image esa_rosetta_navcam_20150121_mosaic-1024x969.jpg
crunchy comet crust
such as the organics,
sprinkled with organic dust.
and remain frozen in that state. Amorphous ice is like
"A comet is like deep fried ice cream," said Murthy
cotton candy, explains Gudipati: light and fluffy and filled
Gudipati of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, with pockets of space.
California, corresponding author of a recent study appearOn Earth, all ice is in the
ing in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. "The crust is
crystalline form. It's not cold enough
made of crystalline ice, while the interior is colder and more to form amorphous ice on our planet.
porous. The organics are like a final layer of chocolate on top."
Even a handful of loose snow is in the
The lead author of the study is Antti Lignell, a
crystalline form, but contains much
postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technolsmaller ice crystals than those in snowogy in Pasadena, who formerly worked with Gudipati at JPL. flakes.
Researchers already knew that comets have soft
Gudipati and Lignell used
interiors and seemingly hard crusts. NASA's Deep Impact
their Himalaya cryostat instrument to
and the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft both slowly warm their amorphous ice
inspected comets up close, finding evidence of soft, porous mixtures from 30 Kelvin to 150 Kelvin Researchers at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
interiors. Last November, Rosetta's Philae probe bounced
(minus 123 degrees Celsius, or minus in Pasadena, California,
to a landing on the surface of 67P/Churyumov190 degrees Fahrenheit), mimicking use a cryostat instruGerasimenko, confirming that comets have a hard surface.
conditions a comet would experience ment, nicknamed
The black, soot-like coats of comets, made up of organic
as it journeys toward the sun. The ice "Himalaya," to study the
icy conditions under
molecules and dust, had also been seen before by the
had been infused with a type of organics, which comets form.
Deep Impact mission.
called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Image Credit: NASA/JPLBut the exact composition of comet crust -- and
or PAHs, which are seen everywhere Caltech
how it forms -- remains unclear.
in deep space.
In the new study, researchers turned to labs on
The results came as a surprise.
Earth to put together a model of crystallizing comet crust.
"The PAHs stuck together (Continued on Page 11)
February 10, 2015:
Hubble Captures Rare Triple-Moon Conjunction
For images
off a string of action
and more information
snapshots like a sports
about the Hubble
photographer at a
Space Telescope, visit:
NASCAR race,
NASA's Hubble Space
news/2015/05 or
Telescope captured
the rare occurrence of
three of Jupiter's
largest moons racing
For additional informaacross the banded
tion, contact:
face of the gas-giant
planet: Europa,
Ray Villard
Callisto, and Io.
Space Telescope
These soScience Institute,
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
called Galilean moons,
Baltimore, Md, and
named after the 17th
Rob Gutro
century scientist Galileo Galilei, who discovered them with
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
a telescope, complete orbits around Jupiter with durations
ranging from 2 days to 17 days. They can commonly be
seen transiting the face of Jupiter and casting shadows
onto its cloud tops. However, seeing three moons transiting
the face of Jupiter at the same time is rare, occurring only
once or twice a decade.
Why Comets Are Like
The Hubble image shows the beginning of the
event, which took place on January 24, 2015. From left to
Deep Fried Ice Cream (Continued from Page 10)
right, the moons Callisto and Io are above Jupiter's cloud
and were expelled from the ice host as it crystallized. This
tops. The shadows from Europa, Callisto, and Io are strung
may be the first observation of molecules clustering
out from left to right. Europa is not visible in this image.
together due to a phase transition of ice, and this certainly
Near the end of the event, approximately 42 minutes
has many important consequences for the chemistry and
later (right-side image) Europa has entered the frame at lower physics of ice," said Lignell.
left. Slower-moving Callisto is above and to the right of
With PAHs kicked out of the ice mixtures, the water
Europa. Fastest-moving Io is approaching the eastern limb of
molecules had room to link up and form the more tightly
the planet; its shadow is no longer visible on Jupiter. Europa's
packed structures of crystalline ice.
shadow is toward the left side of the image, and Callisto's
"What we saw in the lab -- a crystalline comet crust
shadow to the right. The moons' orbital velocities are proporwith organics on top -- matches what has been suggested
tionally slower with increasing distance from the planet.
from observations in space," said Gudipati. Deep fried ice
Missing from the sequence is Ganymede, one of the
cream is really the perfect analogy, because the interior of
four Galilean moons that was outside Hubble's field of view
the comets should still be very cold and contain the more
and too far from Jupiter to be part of this conjunction.
porous, amorphous ice."
The moons in these photos have distinctive colors.
The composition of comets is important to underThe ancient cratered surface of Callisto is brownish; the
standing how they might have delivered water and organics
smooth icy surface of Europa is yellow-white; and the volcato our nascent, bubbling-hot Earth. New results from the
nic, sulfur-dioxide surface of Io is orange. The apparent
Rosetta mission show that asteroids may have been the
“fuzziness” of some of the shadows depends on the moons’
primary carriers of life's ingredients; however, the debate is
distances from Jupiter. The farther away a moon is from the
ongoing and comets may have played a role. For Gudipati,
planet, the softer the shadow, because the shadow is more
comets are capsules containing clues not only to our
spread out across the disk.
planet's history but to the birth of our entire solar system.
The images were taken with Hubble's Wide Field
He said, "It's beautiful to think about how far we
Camera 3 in visible light.
have come in our understanding of comets. Future misThe Hubble Space Telescope is a project of internasions designed to bring cold samples of comets back to
tional cooperation between NASA and the European Space
Earth could allow us to fully unravel their secrets."
Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with
Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope
contributions from its member states and NASA. JPL, a
Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasascience operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the
dena, manages the U.S. contribution of the Rosetta misAssociation of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in
sion for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
Washington, D.C.
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
February 5, 2015:
NASA's Dawn spacecraft, on approach to
dwarf planet Ceres, has acquired its latest and closest-yet
snapshot of this mysterious world.
February 5, 2015
At a resolution of 8.5 miles (14 kilometers) per
pixel, the pictures represent the sharpest images to date
of Ceres.
After the spacecraft arrives and enters into orbit
around the dwarf planet, it will study the intriguing world in
great detail. Ceres, with a diameter of 590 miles (950
kilometers), is the largest object in the main asteroid belt,
located between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the
directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA
is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital
This animation showcases a series of images NASA's Dawn spacecraft
Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the
took on approach to Ceres on Feb. 4, 2015 at a distance of about
spacecraft. JPL is managed for NASA by the California
90,000 miles (145,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet. Image Credit:
Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The framing cameras
were provided by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System
Research, Gottingen, Germany, with significant contributions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering,
Braunschweig. The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer was provided by the Italian Space Agency and the Italian
National Institute for Astrophysics, built by Selex ES, and is managed and operated by the Italian Institute for Space
Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome. The gamma ray and neutron detector was built by Los Alamos National Laboratory,
New Mexico, and is operated by the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.
For more information about Dawn, visit: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.
--Milky Way Untangled. A new, dynamic portrait of our Milky Way
galaxy shows a frenzy of gas, charged particles and dust. The
main composite image comes from the European Space Agency's
Planck mission, in which NASA plays an important role. It is
constructed from observations made at microwave and millimeter
wavelengths of light, which are longer than what we see with our
eyes.The various components making up the main image are shown
below it:
-- Dust Glow (upper left). The red colors making up this map show
light coming from the thermal glow of dust throughout our galaxy.
The dust is cold, only about 20 degrees above absolute zero (20 Kelvin).
-- Carbon Monoxide Gas (upper right). Yellow shows carbon monoxide gas, which is concentrated along the plane of our Milky Way
in the densest clouds of gas and dust that are churning out new stars.
-- Careening Particles (lower left). The green shows a kind of
radiation known as free-free. This occurs when isolated electrons
and protons careen past one another in a series of near collisions,
slowing down but continuing on their own way (the name free-free
comes from the fact that the particles start out alone and end up
alone). The free-free signatures are associated with hot, ionized
gas near massive stars.
-- Captured in Magnetic Fields (lower right). Blue indicates a type
of radiation called synchrotron, which occurs when fast-moving
electrons, spit out of supernovas and other energetic phenomena,
are captured in the galaxy’s magnetic field, spiraling along them
near the speed of light.
Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech
'Pale Blue Dot' Images Turn 25
February 13, 2015 Valentine's Day is special for NASA's Voyager mission. It was on Feb. 14, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our
solar system and snapped the first-ever pictures of the planets from its perch at that time beyond Neptune.
This "family portrait" captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1's unique vantage point. A few key
members did not make it in: Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim.
Taking these images was not part of the original plan, but the late Carl Sagan, a member of the Voyager imaging team at the time, had the
idea of pointing the spacecraft back toward its home for a last look. The title of his 1994 book, "Pale Blue Dot," refers to the image of Earth in
this series.
"Twenty-five years ago, Voyager 1 looked back toward Earth and saw a 'pale blue dot,' " an image that continues to inspire wonderment
about the spot we call home," said Ed Stone, project scientist for the Voyager mission, based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
The image of Earth contains scattered light that resembles a beam of sunlight, which is an artifact of the camera itself that makes the tiny
Earth appear even more dramatic. Voyager 1 was 40 astronomical units from the sun at this moment. One astronomical unit is 93 million miles, or
150 million kilometers.
These family portrait images are the last that Voyager 1, which launched in 1977, returned to Earth. Mission specialists subsequently
turned the camera off so that the computer controlling it could be repurposed. The spacecraft is still operating, but no longer has the capability to
take images.
"After taking these images in 1990, we began our interstellar mission. We had no idea how long the spacecraft would last," Stone said.
Today, Voyager 1, at a distance of 130 astronomical units, is the farthest human-made object from Earth, and it still regularly communicates with our planet. In August 2012, the spacecraft entered interstellar space – the space between the stars -- and has been delivering data about
this uncharted territory ever since. Its twin, Voyager 2, also launched in 1977, is also journeying toward interstellar space.
Voyager 1 is more than three times farther from Earth than it was on Valentine's Day 25 years ago. Today, Earth would appear about 10
times dimmer from Voyager's vantage point.
Sagan wrote in his "Pale Blue Dot" book: "That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you
ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. … There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than
this distant image of our tiny world."
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, built and operates the twin Voyager spacecraft. The Voyagers Interstellar Mission
is a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about Voyager, visit: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov
An Edge-On Close Encounter with Jupiter
events. For inEvstance, on Feb. 5th,
ery 13 months, Earth
volcanic Io cast its
and Jupiter have a
shadow on Mercuryclose encounter.
sized Ganymede,
Astronomers call it
Jupiter's largest
an "opposition"
moon. On Feb. 7th,
because Jupiter is
icy Europa, home to
opposite the Sun in
what may be the
the sky. Our solar
solar system's
system’s largest gas
largest underground
planet rises in the
ocean, cast its
east at sunset, and
shadow on Io.
soars overhead at
Events like these will
midnight, shining
continue, off and on,
brighter than any star
until July 2015.
in the night sky.
During the
This year's
appariopposition of Jupiter
occured on Feb. 6th.
observers managed
It wasn't an ordinary
to obtain the first
close encounter with
Earth (approximately Efrain Morales Rivera of Aquadilla, Puerto Rico, photographed multiple shadows transiting the resolved time-lapse
face of Jupiter on Jan. 24th. A full-sized version of his image matches each shadow to a
videos of mutual
640 million kilomemoon. View at: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2015/04feb_jupiter/
phenomena. Experiters), but in Feb.
satellites ducking in
2015, Jupiter was edge on to the Sun.
in partial and
In a rare coincidence, Jupiter's opposition on Feb.
across the face
6th coincided almost perfectly with its equinox on Feb. 5th
a long way in
when the Sun crossed Jupiter's equatorial plane. It is an
be expected
edge-on apparition of the giant planet that sets the stage for a
remarkable series of events. For the next couple of months,
You don't have to be an experienced astronomer to
backyard sky watchers can see the moons of Jupiter executexperience Jupiter's
ing a complex series of
opposition. Anyone
mutual eclipses and transits.
can see the bright
The eclipses
planet rising in the
have already started.
east at sunset. It
On Jan. 24th, for
outshines by far
example, three of
anything else in its
Jupiter's moon's, Io,
patch of sky. Point a
Europa, and Callisto,
small telescope at
cast their inky-black
the bright light and,
shadows on Jupiter's
voila!--there are
swirling cloudtops.
Jupiter's cloud belts
The "triple shadow
and storms, and the
transit" happened
pinprick lights of the
while Jupiter was high
Galilean satellites
in the sky over North
circling the gas giant
America, and many
backyard astronomers
Try it. 640
watched the event.
As Earth
won't seem so far
crosses the plane of
away at all.
Jupiter's equator in the
weeks and months
Author | Production editor:
ahead, there will be
Dr. Tony Phillips,
many mutual
Feb 6, 2015:
A new ScienceCast video explores the importance of moist soils in the Earth system
Water may be the most influential substance on Earth. It covers more than 70% of our planet's surface,
plays a key role in weather and climate, and nurtures life itself. Earth's deep oceans are unique in the solar system, and
their globe-spanning majesty, as seen from space, is a testament to the primacy of "H2O."
Oceans, however, are just the most eye-catching repositories of water. The substance can be found in lesser
amounts in almost every nook and cranny of the planet, and researchers know it is important to keep track of water
For example … in mud.
Believe it or not, NASA has just launched a satellite that can track water in the muddy slosh under your feet, as
well as other forms of water in the ground. The name of the mission is SMAP—short for "Soil Moisture Active Passive."
The satellite left Earth on Jan. 31st, rocketing into the sky onboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
There's more to soil moisture than mud, of course. “With data from SMAP, scientists and decision makers around
the world will be better equipped to understand how Earth works as a system,” says Christine Bonniksen, SMAP program
executive at NASA headquarters. "It will show us the down-to-Earth impacts of soil moisture, from floods and drought to
weather and crop yield forecasts."
SMAP senses soil moisture using an extraordinary mesh antenna; a large six-meter, mesh reflector antenna will
deploy like a pop-up tent and spin, lasso-style, at approximately14 revolutions per minute. Thru this antenna, both the
radar actively pinging the ground below with microwaves and the passive radiometer listening to the earth’s emissions,
can gauge the moisture in soils along the satellite's ground track. Circling Earth in a 426-mile altitude, near-polar orbit,
SMAP will be able to produce high resolution "moisture maps" every three days.
Water in the soil can exist in many forms. As it orbits, SMAP will be able to detect whether the ground within its 3
kilometer wide "footprint" is frozen or thawed. This capability, which is unique to SMAP, will assist scientists in determining
the growing season length and how much carbon plants are removing from the atmosphere each year, thus improving our
current understanding of global warming.
Additionally, SMAP will enhance our ability to respond to weather-related catastrophes by contributing to flood
prediction and drought monitoring.
“Soils are like sponges,” explains Erika Podest, a scientist on the SMAP team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They can hold a certain amount of water. If we know the amount of water in the soils and we know that there’s a big
rainstorm coming, for example, and that the soils are near saturation, then we can predict that that area might be at risk
for flooding.”
Clearly, mud does a lot more than just lie underfoot. The data gathered by the SMAP mission will be invaluable
both within and beyond the science lab.
Says Podest confidently, "I think it has the potential to touch everyone’s life."
Feb 6, 2015:
Authors: Rachel Molina, Dr. Tony Phillips | Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA
NASA's Terra satellite captured this picture of snow across the eastern United States on Feb. 19 at 16:20 UTC (11:20 a.m. EST). Image
Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/unitedstates.a2015050.1620.1km.jpg
NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of the snow-covered eastern U.S. that looks like the states
have been sitting in a freezer. In addition to the snow cover, Arctic and Siberian air masses have settled in over the
Eastern U.S. triggering many record low temperatures in many states.
On Feb. 19 at 16:40 UTC (11:40 a.m. EST), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
instrument that flies aboard NASA's Terra satellite captured a picture of the snowy landscape. The snow cover combined
with the frosty air mass made the eastern U.S. feel like the inside of a freezer. The MODIS image was created at NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
On the morning of Feb. 20, NOAA's Weather Prediction Center (WPC) noted, "There were widespread subzero
overnight lows Thursday night (Feb. 19) extending from Illinois to western Virginia, and numerous record lows were set.
Bitterly-cold arctic air is setting numerous temperature records across the eastern U.S. and will keep temperatures well
below normal on Friday (Feb. 20)."
In Baltimore, Maryland, a low temperature of 1F broke the record low for coldest morning recorded at the
Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington-International Airport.
In Louisville, Kentucky, temperatures dropped to -6F, breaking the old record low of 0F, according to meteorologist Brian Goode of WAVE-TV. Meanwhile, Richmond Kentucky bottomed out at a frigid -32F.
In North Carolina, a record low temperature was set at Charlotte where the overnight temperature bottomed out
at 7F breaking the old record of 13F in 1896. In Asheville, temperatures dropped to just 4F breaking the old record of 10F
in 1979. Temperature records for Asheville extend back to 1876.
Several records were also broken in Georgia, according to Matt Daniel, a meteorologist at WMAZ-TV, Macon
Georgia, who cited data from the National Weather Service. Daniel said that Macon set a new record low when the
temperature dropped to 18F, beating the previous record of 21F set in 1958. Athens broke a new record low, too dropping
to 14F and beating the old record of 18F set in 1958/1928.
NOAA's NPC noted that "Highs on Friday (Feb. 20) will struggle to get out of the teens from the Ohio Valley to the
Mid-Atlantic region. After Friday, temperatures are forecast to moderate and get closer to February averages as a storm
system approaches from the west."
Feb 20, 2015:
| Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA
Posted on February 24, 2015 by Stephen Clark
Artist’s concept of the InSight Mars lander, the next Discovery-class
NASA’s 13th Discovery program mission
mission set for launch in March 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
is set for launch in 2021. Credit: NASA
The proposals are in for a new NASA robotic mission for launch in 2021 to explore the solar system, and scientists have submitted
concepts for probes to the moon, planets, asteroids and comets for a chance to win $450 million in federal funding.
Scientists had to send in their proposals by Feb. 18 for consideration by NASA managers as the next mission in the space agency’s
Discovery program, a series of relatively low-cost, focused science probes aimed at exploring the solar system.
Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said Feb. 19 that the agency plans to select at least two finalists from the
proposals in May to receive $3 million federal grants for detailed concept studies. NASA should pick a single winner by September 2016, he told a
meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group.
“We’ll rapidly get down to making some announcements as soon as we can get through the evaluation,” Green said.
The mission must be ready for launch by the end of 2021, and must cost no more than $450 million, excluding the launcher, which NASA
pays from a separate account.
Up to one-third of the mission’s cost can come from international partners without counting against the $450 million cost cap.
The concept selected by NASA will become the 13th mission in the agency’s Discovery program, which started in the early 1990s and had
its first launch in 1996.
Discovery missions launched to date include the Mars Pathfinder rover mission, the NEAR Shoemaker probe that first orbited an asteroid,
and the Stardust project, which returned samples of comet and interstellar dust to Earth.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft currently orbiting Mercury, the planet-hunting Kepler telescope, and the Dawn mission now approaching
the dwarf planet Ceres were also developed and launched under the auspices of the Discovery program.
The 12th Discovery mission, the InSight Mars lander, is due for launch in March 2016 to touch down on the red planet and measure its
seismic activity.
The competition now underway will end with the selection of the 13th Discovery mission.
or mission
MMS, mission
provide unprecedented
on a phenomenon equipment
called magnetic
which the
hopes to infuse
the next
with new
offering updetail
with incentives
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happens throughout the universe and can accelerate particles up to nearly the speed of light. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Duberstein
deal forhttp://www.nasa.gov/content/mission_pages/mms/movie-on-the-mms-mission/#.VOdNoebF9Nc
principal investigators leading each proposal.
The government has offered to supply a deep space optical communications system to test new high-speed data links with Earth, giving
or MMS, mission. MMS
extra $30On
$450 NASA
million cost
if they
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four identical
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this fundaNASA stipulates
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must together
use solar power,
beyond Jupiter
the universe.
in November
came four years after the last opportunity for a low-cost planetary mission in 2010, which
ended with the
of observes
the InSight reconnection
Mars lander. directly in Earth's protective magnetic space environment,
the magnetosphere.
in proposed
this local,
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Green said NASABy
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stand reconnection
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about every 36 months. It’s not the
that we’d like,
but this is far healthier than it had been projected in the past.”
The New Frontiers program, which covers medium-cost interplanetary missions between low-cost Discovery projects and multibillion-dollar
4 meter
flagship missions,
begin theATLAS
process Vfor421
the selection
its next mission
in 2016,
said. Two Solid Rocket
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Launch asteroid
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the Discovery
allows March
for any solar system mission, the New Frontiers bids are limited to five missions:
Comet Surface Sample Return; Saturn Probes; Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return; Venus In-situ Explorer; Trojan Tour and Rendezvous.
February 24, 2015: A
In addition to
newly discovered
its mass, another
cosmic object may help
remarkable property of
provide answers to
NGC2276-3c is that it
some long-standing
has produced a
questions about how
powerful radio jet that
black holes evolve and
extends up to 2,000
influence their surroundlight years. The region
ings, according to a new
along the jet that
study using NASA’s
extends for about
Chandra X-ray
1,000 light years from
NGC2276-3c seems to
“In paleontolbe missing young
ogy, the discovery of
stars. This provides
certain fossils can help
evidence that the
scientists fill in the
IMBH may have had a
evolutionary gaps
strong influence on its
between different
environment, as the jet
dinosaurs,” said Mar
could have cleared out
Mezcua of the Harvarda cavity in the gas and
Smithsonian Center for
suppressed the
Astrophysics, who led
formation of new stars.
the study. “We do the
Further studies of the
same thing in asNGC2276-3c jet could
tronomy, but we often
provide insight into the
have to ‘dig’ up our
potentially large effects
discoveries in galaxies
that supermassive
that are millions of light
black hole seeds in the
years away.”
early universe have
The Intriguing A newly discovered object in the galaxy NGC 2276 may prove to be an important black hole that
had on their surroundobject, called NGC
helps fill in the evolutionary story of these exotic objects
.Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.Mezcua et al & NASA/CXC/INAF/A.Wolter
2776-3c is located in an
The location
arm of the apiral galaxy
of the IMBH in a spiral
NGC 2776, which is about 100 million light years from Earth. NGC2276-3c
arm of NGC 2276 raises other questions. Was it formed within the galaxy,
appears to be what astronomers call an “intermediate-mass black hole” (IMBH).
or did it come from the center of a dwarf galaxy that collided and merged
For many years, scientists have found conclusive evidence for
with NGC 2276 in the past?
smaller black holes that contain about five to thirty times the mass of the
This IMBH is one of eight ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) in
sun. There is also a lot of information about so-called supermassive
NGC 2276 studied by Anna Wolter of the National Institute for Astrophysics
holes that reside at the center of galaxies and weigh millions or even
(INAF) in Milan, Italy, and her colleagues. Hundreds of ULXs have been
billions times the sun’s mass.
detected in the last 30 years; however, the nature of these sources is still a
As their name suggests, IMBHs represent a class of black
matter of debate, with some thought to contain IMBHs. Chandra observaholes that fall in between these two well-established groups, with
tions show that one apparent ULX observed by ESA’s XMM-Newton is actually
masses in the range of a few hundred to a few hundred thousand solar
five separate ULXs, including NGC2276-3c. Wolter’s study concluded that about
masses. One reason that IMBHs are important is that they could be the
five to fifteen solar masses worth of stars are forming each year in NGC 2276.
seeds from which supermassive black holes formed in the early universe.
This high rate of star formation may have been triggered by a collision with a
“Astronomers have been looking very hard for these mediumdwarf galaxy, supporting the merger idea for the IMBH’s origin.
sized black holes,” said co-author Tim Roberts of the University of Durham in
The results from Mezcua and Wolter and their colleagues will
the UK. “There have been hints that they exist, but the IMBHs have been
appear in separate papers in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical
acting like a long-lost relative that isn’t interested in being found.”
Society. The Mezcua paper and Wolter paper are also available online.
To learn about NGC2276-3c, the researchers observed it at
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama,
almost the same time in X-rays with Chandra and in radio waves with the
manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
European Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network. The X-ray and Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge,
radio data, along with an observed relation between radio and X-ray
Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.
luminosities for sources powered by black holes, were used to estimate the
An interactive image, a podcast, and a video about these findings
black hole’s mass. A mass of about 50,000 times that of the sun was
are available at: http://chandra.si.edu.
obtained, placing it in the range of IMBHs
For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:
“We found that NGC2276-3c has traits similar to both stellar-mass http://www.nasa.gov/chandra.
black holes and supermassive black holes” said co-author Andrei Lobanov of CREDITS:
Janet Anderson; Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville,
the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. “In other
Ala.; 256-544-0034; janet.l.anderson@nasa.gov
words, this object helps tie the whole black hole family together.”
Megan Watzke; Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.;
617-496-7998; mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu
This false-colored infrared image from the AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite at 7:29 UTC (2:29 a.m. EST) shows
cloud top temp-eratures over New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire near 245K/-28C/-18F (greenish to blue shading)
.Image Credit: NASA JPL, Ed Olsen http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/airs-cold_snap.jpg
February 13, 2015:
Some of the coldest air of the 2014-2015 winter season was settling over the eastern two-thirds of the
U.S. on February 13, 2015. That Arctic air mass brought wind chills from below zero to the single numbers from the
Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. Despite the cold on the surface, infrared NASA satellite imagery revealed even colder temperatures in cloud tops associated with the air mass.
NOAA's GOES-East satellite provided a visible and infrared picture of the clouds associated with the Arctic air
mass, as they stretched from the eastern Dakotas to the Mid-Atlantic region. Underneath that cloudy blanket, surface
temperatures were far from warm. NOAA's National Weather Service noted on Feb. 13, "Dangerous wind chills will affect
areas from the mid-Atlantic to New England on Friday as some of the coldest air of the season combines with gusty
winds. Wind Chill Advisories, Watches and Warnings are in effect across the region."
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite gathered infrared
data on the high, cold cloud tops associated with the pool of cold Arctic air now sitting over the northeastern U.S. The
AIRS data were made into a false-colored infrared image at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
AIRS data revealed that cloud top temperatures over New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire (with a greenish to blue
shading in the image) showed temperatures about 245K/-28C/-18F. Cloud top temperatures over southern Pennsylvania
were near 250K/-23C/-9F.
Meanwhile, on the ground in New York City at 2 p.m. EST, Feb. 13, the air temperature was 19F/-7C, and the
wind chill was 9F/-13C. In Burlington, Vermont on the ground, the temperature was 4F/-16C, and the wind chill was -8F/22C and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the surface temperature was 23F/-5C with a wind chill near 9F/-13C.
So, although it's brutally cold on the surface, it's even colder in the clouds. Further, the data on those cloud
temperatures does not include a wind chill!
Credit: Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The radio frequency band that many NASA missions use to communicate with
spacecraft — S-band — is getting a bit crowded and noisy, and likely to get more
jammed as science missions demand higher and higher data rates.
A team of NASA technologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Maryland, just may have a solution, particularly for potential missions that plan
to operate in low-Earth orbit and have limited real estate to accommodate communications gear.
Under two different research and development projects, technologists Mae
Huang and Victor Marrero-Fontanez have collaborated to test and verify components of a
In this photo, Huang is holding a test
prototype end-to-end Ka-band space communications system, which promises signifiboard upon which her Ka-band/
cantly higher data rates — a whopping 2.4 gigabits of data per second (Gbps) — over
microwave design is mounted and
more traditional S-band systems, which theoretically could achieve data rates of 90
bonded. and Marrero-Fontanez is on
her right. Image Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk megabits of data per second (Mbps).
Huang is working with Goddard’s Jeffrey Jaso — a pioneer in Ka-Band communications — to develop a Ka-band
transmitter. Marrero-Fontanez, meanwhile, is designing Ka-band antennas to receive the Ka-band signals. Huang and
Marrero-Fontanez plan to assemble a prototype in 2015.
Huang also will be delivering an engineering test unit of her transmitter to a Goddard team that is considering the
technology’s use on the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). WFIRST, a next-generation observatory proposed for launch in the mid-2020s. WFIRST would carry out wide-field imaging and slitless spectroscopic surveys
of the near-infrared sky, with an emphasis on studying dark energy and exoplanets. Due to its heavy data-rate requirements, the project provided Huang with some funding to advance her technology, she said.
WFIRST isn’t the only mission looking for a compact, low-power, end-to-end system. Future Earth-observing
missions also are expected to generate higher and higher data rates that could overwhelm the S-band allocations that are
shared by space missions using NASA’s Near-Earth Network and Deep Space Network and Federal and commercial
“In a sense it’s like rush-hour traffic. When you start your morning commute, you may notice fewer cars, but
before you know it, you’re in stop-and-go traffic as more cars merge onto the highway. The world’s frequency bands are
beginning to look a lot like bumper-to-bumper traffic,” she said. “Cell phones, streaming video, and data communications
are all placing big strains on available bandwidth. Meanwhile, commercial businesses are putting pressure on the government to free up other bands, pushing more Federal operations into the S-band that NASA uses. Couple that with NASA’s
expected need to transmit and receive greater and greater amounts of mission data, something will have to give.”
Although NASA has had the Ka-band allocation for years and has used the frequency on past missions, the band
has remained underused for a variety of reasons, mainly because of limited technology development, perceived technical
challenges, among other things,” Marrero-Fontanez said. “However, NASA has always had a strong interest in using this
frequency allocation,” he added, particularly because it can significantly increase data throughput by a factor of more than
100 as compared with S-band.
Making the switchover to Ka-band is further complicated, Huang said, because technologists have few, if any,
options to buy Ka-band hardware and components from commercial vendors. “The design is challenging and Goddard
has past experience in developing reliable space hardware, and more specifically, reliable Ka-band hardware.”
To overcome those challenges, Huang received support from both NASA and Goddard to advance what she
believes is the bandwidth of the future for NASA communications in low-Earth orbit — at least until more advanced
techniques, such as laser or X-ray communications, become broadly available. “Those investments have certainly paid
off,” she said.
“Our technology achieves high data rates and includes several innovations,” Huang continued, adding that Jaso
deserves most of the credit for pioneering Goddard’s Ka-band technology. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched in
2010, used a first-generation Ka-band transmitter to deliver 300 Mbps using 2.5 watts of power. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009, contained a second-generation Ka-band unit that delivered three switchable rates from
57 to 228 Mbps.
In comparison, the Goddard team has tested and verified the current third-generation technology capable of
delivering 2400 Mbps (2.4 Gbps), with a higher transmitted power option of 10 watts. Instead of a fixed frequency, the
third-generation operates over the entire Ka-band downlink range with a tunable data rate while in operation. She has
started investigating the possibility of integrating data encoding as a core function of the Ka-band transmitter. “This is
something that has been an interest of some future missions,” she said.
“Missions will be interested in our technology not only because it provides a low-risk option, but because it can be
adopted without spending on non-recurring engineering. We’re compact, low mass, offer low-power requirements,” she
continued. “It really has great potential.”
Webb Conversations: Components, Structure
of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
February 12, 2015
This is the first installment in a four-part series of conversations with Paul Geithner, deputy project manager, technical, for the James
Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Maryland, about different aspects of the Webb.
The Webb telescope is a showcase for new technologies. Recently
Paul Geithner provided a closer look at the technologies on the observatory.
Q: The Webb telescope seems to have a lot of unique technologies on board. Can you explain what they are?
Paul: Sure. The Webb telescope features many novel technologies
that make it feasible. Among these are large, lightweight, deployable structures
and optics; software and mechanisms needed to control the segmented mirrors; and ultra-sensitive infrared light detectors. Webb is breaking the mold in
terms of its size; it will be the largest space telescope. The scale of its deploy
ment in space, and scope of its very cold, a.k.a. cryogenic, telescope and scientific instruments.
August 2013 James Webb Space Telescope
mural image. (Artist's impression.) Image
Credit: Northrop Grumman
Q: What are the four main parts of the Webb?
Paul: The Webb observatory has four main 'elements' –the telescope, the instrument module, the sunshield and
the spacecraft bus.
Q: After
is the
have to be
so large?
at Ellington
the and
was unloaded and readied for its route to NASA’s
Johnson Space Center in Houston. STTARS is a giant white shipping container with a very important cargo:
a test
of part
of thecomprised
telescope called
Pathfinder Backplane.
Paul: The telescope features
a model
of 18
hexagonal mirror segments that, when
Credit: NASA/Chris
combined, have aImage
6.5 meter
The mirror segments deploy, or unfold, and get aligned in space by
February 23, 2015:
A big, bright
now deep
in the heart of Texas. The Space Telescope Transporter for
from Earth.
The James
of mirrors.
Air RoadSize
and Sea
is aitgiant
a very the
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called the
mirrora test
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new NASAit video
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2015. telescope stangather
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detail Johnson
it can resolve.
is fairly on
by 5,
The Pathfinder
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To ensure
telescope willisoperate
at its frigid
dards, assome
of the newest
but 6.5
million miles out in space, it must complete cryogenic tests. The biggest cryogenic test occurs at Chamber A at Johnson, the same
a space1 telescope.
vacuum chamber where Apollo spacecraft were tested.
is the biggest
for space
that’s ever been built,” said Andrew Booth, pathfinder lead optical
three types
of mirrors
on the
engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
But itsNASA's
size means
special includes
to move ittertiary
halfway and
the country. Enter
a secondary,
Although the relatively
“The major
in mirrors
this transport
the size,”it's
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on the STTARS
small secondary
are isunique,
that has
the most
team.a “The
weighs 165,000
pounds. There
is a tremendous
of planning
going through this move.”
of components
to make the
The journey
began in mirror
a clean room
at Goddard.
The massive
entered therounded
clean room
on airso
a puck
the primary
the single
is perfectly
on an airbulges
hockey table.
lifted and
the mirror
into the container.
light source.
is thehoneycombed
third stop for
light coming
and is the
exited -theall
only fixedOnce
the system
of the
align to
it. were attached, and the whole thing was hooked up to a semitruck
engine. By
on its wayoffto the
Base Andrews
in the
– very, very
5 mph, the
light from
an object
off theattertiary
fine steering
walked alongside
the container
along in
its the
before entering
of thejourney.
the massive
it was loaded
into athe
military transport
the largest
in the
of the
will provide
of anycargo
obserU.S. fleet,
was designed
to carry tanks. The container slid inside with very little clearance on all sides.
by NASA.
“What’s so significant about this move is that this is the first payload for Webb leaving Goddard,” said Carpenter, who flew with the
to Houston.the
the flight unitmodule"
leaves Goddard,
be doing
move with
You mentioned
- what
of?the Integrated Science Instrument Module
(ISIM) and all four instruments and all 18 primary mirror segments, based off what we learned here. With this project, everything is so big and we
are doingPaul:
so many
process weinstruments'
are all working–cameras
long hours to
be spectrometers
sure everything is that
done "see"
right.” infrared light and record
the C-5of
at Ellingtonobjects.
airport in Houston,
the Pathfinder
was carefullytogether
unloaded make
and trucked
to Johnson.
In the
images and
The telescope
and instruments
up the
'cold half'
of the
coming weeks it will be prepared for a key cryogenic test that will help the team check out testing methods for the Webb telescope.
“We’ve got to test the test,” Booth said. “That’s why this pathfinder is so valuable because it will ensure the testing on the actual telescope
is accurate.”
Q: Why does the Webb need a "sunshield" and what does it do?
“The Pathfinder Backplane is a key step to the next phase of Webb testing,” said Bethany Selna, Optical Telescope Element and the
test lead.
”The Pathfinder
the ability
to test the full-scale
from the
sun byand
a tennis
structure with
optics atofcryogenic
then repeatpolymer
the tests with
the flight hardware.”
booms We
which are layers of bonded molecules that
Webb Space
is the scientific
successor and
to NASA’s
Hubble Space
It will (Continued
be the moston
make up The
the James
thin sheets,
with reflective
a protective
ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
Webb Conversations: Components, Structure of NASA’s
James Webb Space Telescope
This is the first installment in a four-part series of conversations with Paul Geithner, deputy project manager, technical, for the James
Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Maryland, about different aspects of the Webb.
The Webb telescope is a showcase for new technologies. Recently
Paul Geithner provided a closer look at the technologies on the observatory.
February 12, 2015:
Q: The Webb telescope seems to have a lot of unique technologies on board. Can you explain what they are?
Paul: Sure. The Webb telescope features many novel technologies
that make it feasible. Among these are large, lightweight, deployable structures
and optics; software and mechanisms needed to control the segmented
mirrors; and ultra-sensitive infrared light detectors. Webb is breaking the mold in terms of its size; it will be the largest
space telescope. The scale of its deployment in space, and scope of its very cold, a.k.a. cryogenic, telescope and scientific instruments.
August 2013 James Webb Space Telescope
mural image. (Artist's impression.)
Image Credit: Northrop Grumman
Q: What are the four main parts of the Webb?
Paul: The Webb observatory has four main 'elements' –the telescope, the instrument module, the sunshield and
the spacecraft bus.
Q: What is the primary mirror and why does it have to be so large?
Paul: The telescope features a primary mirror comprised of 18 individual hexagonal mirror segments that, when
combined, have a 6.5 meter (21.3-foot) diameter. The mirror segments deploy, or unfold, and get aligned in space by
commands from Earth. The telescope also includes three other types of mirrors.
Size matters when it comes to telescopes. The bigger the main mirror a telescope has, the more light it can
gather and the more sensitive it can be and the more detail it can resolve. Webb is fairly big by ground telescope standards, as some of the newest ground telescopes have bigger main mirrors, but 6.5 meters (21.3-foot) is absolutely huge
for a space telescope.
Q: What are the other three types of mirrors on the Webb?
Paul: NASA's Webb telescope includes a secondary, tertiary and fine-steering mirror. Although the relatively
small secondary and tertiary mirrors are unique, it's the expansive primary mirror that has the most complicated anatomy
with a number of components operating together to make the telescope work.
Unlike the primary mirror segments, the single secondary mirror is perfectly rounded and convex, so the reflective
surface bulges toward the light source. The tertiary mirror is the third stop for light coming into the telescope and is the
only fixed mirror in the system -- all of the other mirrors align to it.
The light from an object reflects off the primary mirror, the secondary mirror, and off the tertiary and fine steering
mirrors, before entering the science instruments in the back of the telescope.
All of the mirrors working together will provide Webb with the most advanced infrared vision of any space observatory ever launched by NASA.
Q: You mentioned the "instrument module" - what does that consist of?
Paul: Webb has four 'scientific instruments' –cameras and spectrometers that "see" infrared light and record
images and spectra of astronomical objects. The telescope mirrors and instruments together make up the 'cold half' of the
Q: Why does the Webb need a "sunshield" and what does it do?
Paul: The instruments are shaded from the sun by a tennis court-sized five-layer deployable sunshield. The
sunshield consists of deployable booms and gossamer polymer membranes, which are layers of bonded molecules that
make up the thin sheets, coated with reflective aluminum and a protective silicon coating. (Continued on the Following Page)
Webb Conversations:
(Continued from Preceeding Page)
Basically, it looks like a five-layered giant silver kite in space.
We need a sunshield to keep the telescope and instruments cold
because Webb is an infrared telescope, which means it sees infrared light.
Infrared light is light that is of slightly longer, or redder, wavelengths than visible
light. We cannot see it with our eyes but we can feel it as radiant heat.
For an infrared telescope to be as sensitive as possible, its optics and
scientific instruments need to be very cold so that their own heat does not blind
them to the faint infrared signals they are trying to observe from astronomical
Q: What does the spacecraft bus consist of?
The Webb telescope completes the gold coating
of its telescope mirrors with segment C1. A
microscopically thin layer of gold maximizes the
reflectivity of these mirrors to infrared light.
Image Credit: NASA/Ball Aerospace/Tinsley
Paul: The bus is the infrastructure of a spacecraft. All of the basic
infrastructure functions like control systems and communications, fuel tanks,
batteries, etc. are housed in it and it is bathed in perpetual sunshine on the
sunny side of the sunshield.
Q: Why is it important to build a satellite or space telescope in a clean room?
Paul: Contamination can affect a space telescope's performance. Different parts are vulnerable to different
things. The mirrors, detectors, and sunshield membranes are sensitive to contamination, the electronics are sensitive to
electrostatic discharge, some of the mechanisms and composite structures are sensitive to moisture. We build and
assemble Webb with great care in cleanrooms so as to minimize these risks to performance. The biggest mechanical
stress that the telescope's graphite-epoxy composite structure will see is actually the stress from shrinkage as it cools
Q: What benefit is it to have Webb's orbit (about 1 million miles) so far away from Earth?
Paul: Webb will be free of any distortions in astronomical signals caused by Earth's atmosphere, which distorts
and absorbs light, and even emits its own infrared light. Webb's combination of large optics, location in space, and cold
temperature will make it exquisitely sensitive and tremendously powerful.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Designed to be the most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb will observe the
most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around
distant stars. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space
For more information about the James Webb Space Telescope, visit
www.nasa.gov/webb or www.jwst.nasa.gov.
Rob Gutro, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Over 1000 people in
more than 17 countries
are developing the James
Webb Space Telescope.
Shown here are team
members in front of the
JWST full-scale model at
the Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
This image shows an artist
concept of NASA's Mars
Atmosphere and Volatile
Evolution (MAVEN) mission.
Image Credit: NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center
NASA’S Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) has completed the first of five deep-dip
maneuvers designed to gather measurements closer to the lower end of the Martian upper atmosphere.
“During normal science mapping, we make measurements between an altitude of about 150 km and 6,200 km
(93 miles and 3,853 miles) above the surface,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator at the University of
Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. “During the deep-dip campaigns, we lower the
lowest altitude in the orbit, known as periapsis, to about 125 km (78 miles) which allows us to take measurements
throughout the entire upper atmosphere.”
The 25 km (16 miles) altitude difference may not seem like much, but it allows scientists to make measurements
down to the top of the lower atmosphere. At these lower altitudes, the atmospheric densities are more than ten times what
they are at 150 km (93 miles).
“We are interested in the connections that run from the lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere and then to
escape to space,” said Jakosky. “We are measuring all of the relevant regions and the connections between them.”
The first deep dip campaign ran from Feb. 10 to 18. The first three days of this campaign were used to lower the
periapsis. Each of the five campaigns lasts for five days allowing the spacecraft to observe for roughly 20 orbits. Since
the planet rotates under the spacecraft, the 20 orbits allow sampling of different longitudes spaced around the planet,
providing close to global coverage.
This month’s deep dip maneuvers began when team engineers fired the rocket motors in three separate burns to
lower the periapsis. The engineers did not want to do one big burn, to ensure that they didn’t end up too deep in the
atmosphere. So, they “walked” the spacecraft down gently in several smaller steps.
“Although we changed the altitude of the spacecraft, we actually aimed at a certain atmospheric density,” said
Jakosky. “We wanted to go as deep as we can without putting the spacecraft or instruments at risk.”
Even though the atmosphere at these altitudes is very tenuous, it is thick enough to cause a noticeable drag on
the spacecraft. Going to too high an atmospheric density could cause too much drag and heating due to friction that
could damage spacecraft and instruments.
At the end of the campaign, two maneuvers were conducted to return MAVEN to normal science operation
altitudes. Science data returned from the deep dip will be analyzed over the coming weeks. The science team will combine the results with what the spacecraft has seen during its regular mapping to get a better picture of the entire atmosphere and of the processes affecting it.
One of the major goals of the MAVEN mission is to understand how gas from the atmosphere escapes to space,
and how this has affected the planet's climate history through time. In being lost to space, gas is removed from the top of
the upper atmosphere. But it is the thicker lower atmosphere that controls the climate. MAVEN is studying the entire
region from the top of the upper atmosphere all the way down to the lower atmosphere so that the connections between
these regions can be understood.
MAVEN is the first mission dedicated to studying the upper atmosphere of Mars. The spacecraft launched Nov.
18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. MAVEN successfully entered Mars’ orbit on Sept. 21, 2014.
MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach,
for the mission. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project and provided
two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations.
The University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory also provided four science instruments for the
mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network
support, as well as the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.
February 19, 2015
This image was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Feb 27, 2015:
to puzzle
as NASA's
gets will
closer to being
NOAA's planet
launches from
Cape Canaveral
Air Force
Station on
Feb. 11,
2015. DSCOVR
captured into orbit
latest images
from measurements
Dawn, takenofnearly
kilometers) from
more reliable
solar wind
to monitor
activity. Image
Ceres, reveal that
a bright
that stands
in previous
close to yet another bright area.
"Ceres' bright
spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin.
This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make
-20- geologic interpretations," said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of
California, Los Angeles.
Using its ion propulsion system, Dawn entered orbit around Ceres on March 6. As scientists receive better and
better views of the dwarf planet over the next 16 months, they hope to gain a deeper understanding of its origin and
evolution by studying its surface. The intriguing bright spots and other interesting features of this captivating world will
come into sharper focus.
"The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than
anything else on Ceres. This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us," said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the
framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen, Germany.
Dawn visited the giant asteroid Vesta from 2011 to 2012, delivering more than 30,000 images of the body along
with many other measurements, and providing insights about its composition and geological history. Vesta has an average diameter of 326 miles (525 kilometers), while Ceres has an average diameter of 590 miles (950 kilometers). Vesta
and Ceres are the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter.
More information:
Dawn's mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of
the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is
responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The
German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian
National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgements,
visit: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission.
For information about NASA's Dawn mission, visit: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.
A comet circles around the sun in this movie from ESA/NASA's SOHO. The comet is somewhat unusual
as it's not form any known family of comets. This is the 2,875th comet discovered by SOHO. Image Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/Hill
February 24, 2015:
An unusual comet skimmed past the sun on Feb 18-21, 2015, as captured by the European Space
Agency (ESA) and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.
This comet was interesting for two reasons. First it's what's called a non-group comet, meaning it's not part of any
known family of comets. Most comets seen by SOHO belong to the Kreutz family – all of which broke off from a single
giant comet many centuries ago.
The second reason it's interesting is because the vast majority of comets that come close enough to the sun to be
seen by SOHO do not survive the trip. Known as sungrazers, these comets usually evaporate in the intense sunlight. This
comet made it to within 2.2 million miles of the sun's surface – but survived the trip intact.
"There's a half-decent chance that ground observers might be able to detect it in the coming weeks," said Karl
Battams, a solar scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. "But it's also possible that events during its trip
around the sun will cause it to die fairly fast."
Since launching in 1995, SOHO has become the number one comet finder of all time -- this was comet discovery
number 2,875. However, SOHO sees non-group comets like this only a few times a year.
Watch the video to see the comet fly around the sun. Toward the end of the video, as the comet begins to develop
a tail, the sun releases an eruption of solar material, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, to add something more to
the scene.
For more on SOHO: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/soho/index.html
This week marked
the completion of an important step on
the path to spacecraft assembly, test,
and launch operations for the Origins
Spectral Interpretation Resource
Identification Security Regolith Explorer
or OSIRIS-REx mission.
The team met at the Lockheed
Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado
during the week of February 23, 2015
to review the plan for integrating all of
the systems on the spacecraft, such as
the scientific instrumentation, electrical
and communication systems, and
navigation systems. Successful
completion of this System Integration
Review means that the project can
proceed with assembling and testing
the spacecraft in preparations for
launch in September 2016. Assembly
and testing operations for the spacecraft are on track to begin next month
at the Lockheed Martin facilities in
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft
will travel to a near-Earth asteroid,
called Bennu, and bring at least a 2.1ounce sample back to Earth for study.
The mission will help scientists investigate
how planets formed and how life began,
as well as improve our understanding of
asteroids that could impact Earth.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will
provide overall mission management,
systems engineering and safety and
mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx.
Dante Lauretta is the mission's principal investigator at the University of
Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space
Systems in Denver will build the
spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third
mission in NASA's New Frontiers
Program. NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama,
manages New Frontiers for the
from Page 27)
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft core structure is successfully lowered and mated
to the hydrazine
agency's Science Mission Directorate
propellant tank and boat tail assembly at Lockheed Martin, Denver, Colo.Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
in Washington.
For more information about OSIRIS-REx visit: http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex and http://www.asteroidmission.org.
February 27, 2015:
FOCUS uses plenty of photos
in banners & elsewhere each issue, and
Click to
we want to use YOURS...not Hubble’s!!
Please forward photos to the FOCUS editor
and Stay Informed About EVERYTHING to
Joe Neuberger at JRNeuberger@gmail.com
do with Man’s Exploration of the Universe!
The DAS owns and maintains The Sawin Observatory on the grounds of the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory.
The Sawin Observatory houses the club’s equatorially mounted 12.5" reflecting telescope. The Sawin is also currently
home base for our 17.5" split-tube Dobsonian telescope.
DAS members can obtain a key for access to the Sawin Observatory by being checked out on these telescopes
and the use of the observatory. Naturally, all DAS members are invited to look through these telescopes during our
Member Star Parties (MSPs) at the Sawin. DAS members who are interested in becoming key holders of the Sawin
Observatory should contact Greg Lee to receive training in the use of the facility and the telescopes.
80 mm Celestron Refractor (on loan from Bill McKibben)
The club currently has on loan from our Secretary, Bill McKibben, an 80 mm Celestron Refractor with a
Nextar GOTO mount. Contact Bill McKibben if you would like to give this scope a try.
6” Orion Dobsonian Telescope
We have a 6" Orion Sky-Quest XT6 Dobsonian reflector, complete with eyepiece set, available for loan to members. You can keep the telescope out on loan for a month or more. However, we use this telescope heavily for outreach
star parties at the Woodside Farm Creamery, so if you have it on loan from April through October you may be asked to
bring it out to one or more of these events.
Meade 8” LX-10 Telescope
We also have an 8” Meade LX-10 Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope (SCT) available for loan. This telescope is
equipped with an equatorial wedge and is driven in Right-Ascension only. If you have any thoughts about buying a
telescope, especially an SCT, you are strongly advised to take this one out on loan so you can learn the advantages and
disadvantages of this design.
Barlowed Laser Collimator Toolset
Also available for loan to DAS members is Howie Glatter’s version of the Barlowed Laser Colimator. This is
actually made up of a set of three very nice tools: 1) a 1.25” Glatter laser collimator (which is useful on its own for collimating the secondary mirror); 2) a 1.25” “TuBlug”, which converts the straight beam laser collimator into a “Barlowed”
laser collimator, complete with a target screen that’s visible from the back end of your Newtonian telescope; and 3) an
Orion 2” to 1.25” centering adapter for use with 2” focusers.
Along with the center donut or triangle on your Newtonian primary mirror, a Barlowed laser collimator is a very
accurate and incredibly easy way to collimate your Newtonian or Dobsonian telescope. It may sound complicated, but
using the Barlowed laser collimator is incredibly quick and easy compared to earlier generations of collimation tools. As
one person noted “It’s one of the handiest and most useful tools the club has ever offered for loan to the membership!”
Obviously, no one DAS member can keep these collimation tools out on loan forever, but borrowing this set of tools is a
great way to become familiar with the new “Barlowed Laser Collimator” approach to collimation without having to buy the
tool set sight unseen.
If you’re interested in borrowing any of the club’s loaner telescopes or other items, please contact Bill Hanagan,
Jeff Lawrence, or Greg Lee at one of our monthly meetings.
Don Shedrick
This is a restricted e-mail service for use by DAS members
for DAS purposes. To use this site, go to http://groups.yahoo.com;
search for Delaware Astronomical Society; and click on the link that
comes up. To join, you must have a Yahoo ID and password; if you
don’t, you can register at this time by following Yahoo’s instructions.
You will then be allowed to “Join the group” upon clicking in that box.
You must then register for the DAS group and add your profile by
clicking on “add new profile” and completing the form
When adding or editing your profile, you will need to enter your actual
name in the “Real Name” box so you can be identified as a DAS
member so Don Shedrick can approve your application to join the DAS
group, and everyone will know to whom they are communicating.
Finally, specify your desired email address for
delivery of messages. Note: You may choose to not have your
name and email address displayed to any-one other than DAS
members who are members of the Yahoo DAS email group.
For more detailed instructions, go to the DAS
website under DAS Resource Links.
of the
Inside the Coma Cluster of Galaxies
Image Credit:
Hubble Heritage
D. Carter (LJMU)
et al. and the
Treasury Team:
Explanation: Almost every
object in the above
photograph is a galaxy. The
Coma Cluster of Galaxies
pictured above is one of the
densest clusters known - it
contains thousands of
galaxies. Each of these galaxies
houses billions of stars just as our own Milky Way
Galaxy does. Although
nearby when compared to
most other clusters, light
from the Coma Cluster still
takes hundreds of millions
of years to reach us. In fact, the Coma Cluster is so big it takes light millions of years just to go from one side to the other! The above mosaic of images of a
small portion of Coma was taken in unprecedented detail in 2006 by the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate how galaxies in rich clusters form and evolve.
Most galaxies in Coma and other clusters are ellipticals, although some imaged here are clearly spirals. The spiral galaxy on the upper left of the above
image can also be found as one of the bluer galaxies on the upper left of this wider field image. In the background thousands of unrelated galaxies are visible
far across the universe.
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Bill Hanagan
The DAS astro-photography special interest group (DAS
\ AP-SIG) meets monthly at Mt. Cuba and at our members’ homes. The AP SIG sometimes meets regardless of the weather, but some meetings are planned around specific
imaging demonstrations and are “Flex-Scheduled” using email on 1-2 day notice to synchronize with the weather. APSIG meetings are regularly announced via the DAS Yahoo Group as well as by email to AP-SIG members. See the
sidebar for a brief rundown on how to get started taking astro-photos. To join the AP-SIG, send me an email at
hanaganw@verizon.net with your name, address, and phone number and tell me that you want to join the AP-SIG.
AP-SIG meetings are informal and typically include the presentation of astrophotos taken by the members along
with an extended question and answer period. The topics discussed during our Q&A sessions have covered the entire
gamut of astrophotography, from how to get started with a minimum of equipment, to polar aligning your telescope, to the
fine points of using auto-guiders and post-processing digital images.
In addition, we often have special presentations on topics of particular interest at the time. For example, we’ve
had special presentation on the ways a telescope can be polar aligned, the nature of various noise sources in electronic
detectors including CCD cameras, how to make high dynamic range (HDR) photos, and how to photograph many different particular subjects, including: aurora, lunar eclipses, meteors, and the planets.
Even if you aren’t an AP-SIG member, you’re welcome to attend the AP-SIG meetings to learn more.
The next meeting of the AP-SIG is tentatively scheduled for March 27 or 28 at 8:00 PM at MCAO. If the weather
allows, we’ll pick one of these nights to head out to the Sawin and image some of the features of the 1st quarter moon.
Read more detail in the story on Page 2 of this issue of the FOCUS.
On How to Get Started in Astro-Photography
Bill Hanagan
You can get started in astrophotography with your current camera mounted on a tripod by taking wide field
photographs of meteor showers, conjunctions, constellations, and star trails. Mounting your camera “piggyback” on a
motorized telescope that tracks the movement of the stars allows you to photograph a few more subjects, mostly large
and bright nebulas and comets. At this level, some smaller subjects may benefit from the use of a telephoto lens. As you
move to progressively fainter and smaller subjects, the demands on your equipment will grow considerably. However, as
you improve your equipment, the number of subjects that you can photograph will also increase exponentially.
Joining the AP SIG is a great way to learn what equipment you’ll need to photograph the subjects that interest
you and to find out what specific equipment works well (or doesn’t work) before you spend your money.
Bill Hanagan
The DAS Amateur Telescope Making (ATM) Special Interest Group (SIG) is made up of DAS members who get
together to work on their own as well as club related telescope making projects. The ATM SIG meets at times and
locations appropriate for whatever projects are currently underway.
The general range of activities of the ATM SIG includes all manner of telescope making including Newtonian
mirror making, the testing of complete telescopes as well as individual optics, and the making of telescope accessories.
In the past, we’ve made several Newtonian telescope mirrors from scratch and completed some that members brought in
as works in progress, including one that was started in the mid-60’s! We’ve also made new telescope tubes, made
secondary mirror holders, tested numerous telescope objectives, manufactured spiders, and made many solar filters for
telescopes and binoculars. We recently completed the refiguring of the DAS 17.5” Newtonian mirror.
Anyone interested in joining the ATM SIG should email their name, address, and phone number to me at
FOCUS uses plenty of photos
in banners & elsewhere each issue, and
So how about you?? HAVE ANY
we want to use YOURS...not Hubble’s!!
PLEASE email to FOCUS editor
they can be found on the web if your photos reside there)
Photos need NOT be current.
· DAS membership dues are $30.00 per year and due on November 1 for all members.
- There is no need to renew membership until the treasurer contacts you during the membership renewal drive starting in mid-October.
New members joining at various times of the year may be eligible for a prorated dues amount.
- $20 when joining March-May
- $10 when joining June-August
- $30 for joining September-October through November 1 of the following year.
The DAS offers subscriptions to Sky & Telescope at a discounted rate of $32.95 per year.
Subscriptions to S&T will be processed by the club for the first subscription year only.
The publisher should then send renewal notices directly to the subscriber at the club rate of $32.95.
You may receive renewal offers for amounts other than $32.95. If so, check to see if they are special offers and how close you are
to your renewal date.
Your subscription expiration date should be displayed on the mailing label on your magazine.
If you are within 3 months of your renewal date and still have not received the correct renewal notice, please contact the publisher
and tell them you should receive the member rate.
The DAS offers subscriptions to Astronomy magazine at a discounted rate of $34.00 per year.
Subscriptions to Astronomy will be processed by the club for the first subscription year only.
Your subscription expiration date should be displayed on the mailing label on your magazine.
Renewals can be handled by all club members on the Astronomy.com website using the following steps:
a. go to www.astronomy.com
b. select the ‘customer service’ link in the upper right corner
c. select the ‘renew your subscriptions’ link
d. enter your customer number (found on the mailing label), postal code, and the renewal code of ‘RCLUB040’ and
click ‘continue’
e. follow the remaining steps from there.
Please review the membership and magazine information above carefully.
PLEASE fill out the membership form below completely.
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Please be sure to review the Membership and Magazine information above carefully.
Please make checks payable to DAS and forward to:
Jeff Lawrence, Treasurer, 815 Leeds Lane, Newark, DE 19711
Senior / Family Membership
Junior Membership (15 or under)
Sky & Telescope Magazine
Astronomy Magazine
Name_________________________________________________Email Adress________________________________
Street Address_________________________________________________Phone Number________o______________
For questions or concerns, contact Jeff Lawrence, DAS Treasurer at (302) 668-8277 or jef.law76@gmail.com
DAS CONTACTS Please call any of us with your concerns!
Board members:
Greg Lee -- 302-762-5358 or greglee288@gmail.com,
Vice-President: Rob Lancaster -- also, Program Chair & Future Web Site Development -- RLancaste@gmail.com
Bill McKibben, Secretary billmck21921@comcast.net
Jeff Lawrence jef.law76@gmail.com; (302) 668-8277also Sky & Telescope & Astronomy magazine issues
Board Members at Large:
Terry Lisansky terry@terry.cx
Glenn Bentley -- 610-869-0706 or gbentley@chesco.org
Bill Hanagan -- 302-239-0949 or hanaganw@verizon.net, also Astronomical Photography Special Interest
Group; Amateur Telescope Making Special Interest Group; By-Laws;Observatory and Equipment Improvements
Standing Chairs:
Joe Neuberger -- 302-723-2734 or JRNeuberger@gmail.com, also, FOCUS Newsletter article/photo contributions
Fred DeLucia -- 609-410-8943 or fredworld@verizon.net, also, Elections Chair and Awards Chair
Open Position (contact Pres. Greg Lee with questions)
Open Position (contact Pres. Greg Lee with questions)
Maria Lavalle and Sue Bebon
MCAO Web Page: www.MountCuba.org
DAS Web Page: www.DelAstro.org
Other Chairs:
Web Site Maintenance and Operation: Daniel Chester-- chester@udel.edu
Other Contacts:
Astronomical League Coordinator: Lynn King - klynnking@verizon.net
If you have questions, call any of the member representatives listed. Otherwise, just check the appropriate boxes and complete the form on the preceeding
page. Print it or cut it off and send it with your check to Jeff Lawrencet his address on
the form. The magazine prices are group rates to DAS members.
If you’re just joining us for the first time, THANK YOU VERY
MUCH, and WELCOME to the DAS! It’s GREAT to have you with us!
The Last
Word. . .
FOCUS editor
Joe Neuberger
I know I’m pushing it a bit,
But March for me means the onset of Spring.
The days won’t be many, But there’ll be some where I’ll be in the garden
working and some where I’ll be getting the telescope tuned up and doing
some viewing of the wonders above.
So join me in welcoming Spring 2015, FINALLY,
even if it is pushing it a bit!