Search This Blog

Friday, 18 September 2015

Sunset on Pluto, a mighty odd mountain on Ceres, and much more...

Sunset on Pluto captured by New Horizons space probe:

Sunset on the planet Pluto. 'Nuff said.
Above: Sunset on Pluto. Original captured by New Horizons, colour added by Ian R of unmanned using New Horizons data.

The Solar system to scale:

A map of the solar system is a difficult thing to get right: If you want to show the planets to scale then their orbits will be much, much to small. If you show the orbits to scale the planets will be so small as to be invisible.

Spiderfab tech could enable gigantic space telescopes:
Above: CGI impression of a Spiderfab droid at work. Image courtesy of tethers unlimited.

Spiderfab is an idea from Tethers Unlimited that takes elf assembly in space to the next level: rather than launching massive, bulky spacecraft whole, send them up as raw components with a 'factory' smart enough to build those components into the finished product. It would certainly save space!Using this approach  space telescopes and solar sails hundreds of meters across could be constructed in space. Follow the link to the menu, then click each further link for Tethers Unlimited presentation, audio files, etc

SpaceX's 'Red Dragon ship could return a sample from Mars:

SpaceX likes to push the envelope it seems, and their plans for Mars are no exception.  They have A plan to land a heavily modified version of their Dragon space capsule on Mars, filled with the equipment needed to return a sample of Martian soil to Earth. The sample return mission is codenamed 'Red Dragon', and might take place in conjunction with a future Mars rover.
Follow the link to the menu, then click each further link for SpaceX's presentation, audio files, etc.
Above: Marathon valley on mars, courtesy of NASA/JPL.

Sun's magnetic field blows 600,000 km long cloud of plasma into space:

This stunning image of an immense cloud of plasma being blown into space by our sun was captured by astronomer Alan Friedman -the cloud could swallow many thousands of planet Earth, and is held aloft by the sun's powerful magnetic field.
Above: Plasma storm ahoy! Image courtesy of Alan Friedman

The lonely mountain of Ceres:

Different lonely mountain guys.
Dawn is settling into its high altitude mapping orbit, and we have got some of the best views yet of 'the lonely mountain'. This is a 6km tall, pyramid shaped, flat topped, isolated mountain at is growing out of the surface of Ceres.

Above: Cere's actual lonely mountain, a 3000 meter high monolith on an otherwise flat plain. Courtesy of NASA
On Earth mountains mainly grow through two mechanisms: They grow as volcanoes, or where continental plates are colliding. On the Moon they can also be formed by a massive asteroid strike. but nothing seems to fit the lonely mountain.

One theory being batted about a lot is that the mountain is a massive Pingo

Above: Yes, I can see that reference forming in your brain. No, it's not that Pingo. Although it'd be awesome if he did show up on Ceres...

Pingo's are hills formed by freeze thaw action. On Earth they never grow anything like this big, but under Ceres lower gravity one might grow to a monumental size. If this is a pingo it would give us some very interesting clues to the geology of Ceres- including that the ice may be undergoing  thawing.

Dawn has also been seeing evidence of landslides and slumps - some of them truly immense. The one shown below is 20 km across...

Above: A gigantic 'slump' feature on the edge of a Cerean crater. Courtesy of NASA.

No comments:

Post a Comment