SPACE LAUNCH REMINDER
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton NASA.GOV.
DATELINE September 20, 2014 — 2:14 a.m. Eastern
Mission: SpaceX 4 Commercial Resupply Services flight with ISS-RapidScat
. Description: Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., SpaceX-4 will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. It will also carry the ISS-RapidScat instrument, a replacement for NASA’s QuikScat Earth satellite to monitor ocean winds for climate research, weather predictions, and hurricane monitoring.
More ISS-RapidScat news below.
DATELINE: September 25, 2014 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern Mission: Expedition 41 Launch to the International Space Station. Description: Soyuz 40 will take Barry Wilmore, Elena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev will launch on Soyuz 40 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
For the full schedule of launch and docking coverage, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
Follow NASA astronauts via Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/NASA_Astronauts
Expedition 42 Crew Portrait
The Crew are preparing for lift off later in the week. September 25, 2014 – 4:25 p.m
Expedition 42 crew members take a break from training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to pose for a crew portrait. Pictured on the front row are NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore (left), commander; and Terry Virts, flight engineer. Pictured from the left (back row) are Russian cosmonauts Elena Serova, Alexander Samoukutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, all flight engineers. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Stafford
MYSTERIOUS ‘MAGIC ISLAND’ APPEARS ON SATURN MOON
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Source: Cornell University By Blaine Friedlander June.2014.
Astronomers have discovered a bright, mysterious geologic object – where one never existed – on Cassini mission radar images of Ligeia Mare, the second-largest sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. Scientifically speaking, this spot is considered a “transient feature,” but the astronomers have playfully dubbed it “Magic Island.”
This may be the first observation of dynamic, geological processes in Titan’s northern hemisphere. “This discovery tells us that the liquids in Titan’s northern hemisphere are not simply stagnant and unchanging, but rather that changes do occur,” said Jason Hofgartner, a Cornell graduate student in the field of planetary sciences, and the paper’s lead author. To see the video log on to http://www.cornell.edu/video/mysterious-magic-island-appears-on-saturn-moon.
Now, you see it. Now you don’t
And now you don’t see it again. Astronomers have discovered a bright, mysterious geologic object – where one never existed – on Cassini mission radar images of Ligeia Mare, the second-largest sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. Scientifically speaking, this spot is considered a “transient feature,” but the astronomers have playfully dubbed it “Magic Island.”
Reporting in the journal Nature Geoscience June 22, the scientists say this may be the first observation of dynamic, geological processes in Titan’s northern hemisphere. “This discovery tells us that the liquids in Titan’s northern hemisphere are not simply stagnant and unchanging, but rather that changes do occur,” said Jason Hofgartner, a Cornell graduate student in the field of planetary sciences, and the paper’s lead author. “We don’t know precisely what caused this ‘magic island’ to appear, but we’d like to study it further.”
Titan, the largest of Saturn’s 62 known moons, is a world of lakes and seas. The moon – smaller than our own planet – bears close resemblance to watery Earth, with wind and rain driving the creation of strikingly familiar landscapes. Under its thick, hazy nitrogen-methane atmosphere, astronomers have found mountains, dunes and lakes. But in lieu of water, liquid methane and ethane flow through riverlike channels into seas the size of Earth’s Great Lakes.
To discover this geologic feature, the astronomers relied on an old technique – flipping. The Cassini spacecraft sent data on July 10, 2013, to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology for image processing. Within a few days, Hofgartner and his colleagues flipped between older Titan images and the newly processed pictures for any hint of change. This is a long-standing method used to discover asteroids, comets and other worlds. “With flipping, the human eye is pretty good at detecting change,” said Hofgartner.
Prior to the July 2013 observation, that region of Ligeia Mare had been completely devoid of features (including waves).
Titan’s seasons change on a longer time scale than Earth’s. The moon’s northern hemisphere is transitioning from the vernal equinox, or spring (August 2009), to summer solstice, or summer (May 2017). The astronomers think the strange feature may result from changing seasons
- Northern hemisphere winds may be kicking up and forming waves on Ligeia Mare. The radar imaging system might see the waves as a kind of “ghost” island.
- Gases may push out from the sea floor of Ligeia Mare, rising to the surface as bubbles.
- Sunken solids formed by a wintry freeze could become buoyant with the onset of the late Titan spring warmer temperatures.
- Ligeia Mare has suspended solids, which are neither sunken nor floating, but act like silt in a terrestrial delta.
“Likely, several different processes – such as wind, rain and tides – might affect the methane and ethane lakes on Titan. We want to see the similarities and differences from geological processes that occur here on Earth,” Hofgartner said. “Ultimately, it will help us to understand better our own liquid environments here on the Earth.”
In addition to Hofgartner, Cornell authors include: Alex Hayes, assistant professor of planetary sciences; Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences; and Phil Nicholson, professor of astronomy. A portion of the research was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, under a contract with NASA.
‘HOT JUPITERS’ PROVOKE THEIR OWN HOST SUNS TO WOBBLE
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Sept11.2014. Source: Cornell University By Blaine Friedlander
“Hot Jupiters,” those large, gaseous planets outside our solar system, can make their suns wobble after they wend their way through their own solar systems.
These large, gaseous exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) can make their suns wobble after they wend their way through their own solar systems to snuggle up against their suns, according to new Cornell research published in Science, Sept. 12.
“Although the planet’s mass is only one-thousandth of the mass of the sun, the stars in these other solar systems are being affected by these planets and making the stars themselves act in a crazy way,” said Dong Lai, Cornell professor of astronomy and senior author on the research, “Chaotic Dynamics of Stellar Spin in Binaries and the Production of Misaligned Hot Jupiters.” Physics graduate student Natalia I. Storch (lead author) and astronomy graduate student Kassandra R. Anderson are co-authors.
In our solar system, the sun’s rotational axis is approximately aligned with the orbital axis of all the planets. The orbital axis is perpendicular to the flat plane in which the planets revolve around the sun. In solar systems with hot Jupiters, recent observations have revealed that the orbital axis of these planets is misaligned with the rotational axis of their host star. In the last few years, astronomers have been puzzled by spin-orbit misalignment between the star and the planets.
Roasting like marshmallows on an open fire, hot Jupiters – large gaseous planets found throughout the universe in other solar systems – wander from distant places to orbit extraordinarily close to their own suns. So far as astronomers know, this only happens in binary star systems. Partner binary stars, some as far away as hundreds of astronomical units (an astronomical unit is 93 million miles, the distance between Earth and the sun), influence the giant Jupiter-like planets through gravity and cause them to falter into uncommon orbits; that, in turn, causes them to migrate inward close to their sun, Lai said.
“When exoplanets were first found in the 1990s, it was large planets like Jupiter that were discovered. It was surprising that such giant planets can be so close to the parent star,” Lai said. “Our own planet Mercury is very close to our sun. But these hot Jupiters are much closer to their suns than Mercury.”
By simulating the dynamics of these exotic planetary systems, the Cornell astronomers showed that when the Jupiter-like planet approaches its host star, the planet can force the star’s spin axis to precess (that is, change the orientation of their rotational axis), much like a wobbling, spinning top.
“Also, it can make the star’s spin axis change direction in a rather complex – or even a chaotic – way,” said Lai. “This provides a possible explanation to the observed spin-orbit misalignments and will be helpful for understanding the origin of these enigmatic planets.”
Lai noted that the chaotic variation of the star’s spin axis resembles other chaotic phenomena found in nature, such as weather and climate.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by NASA.
From left, astronomy professor Dong Lai and graduate students Natalia Storch and Kassandra Anderson have examined “hot Jupiters” to learn why these exoplanets make their own suns wobble. Jason Koski/University Photography