Still waiting on better images from the Ultima Thule flyby on New Years Eve. Above is the best of just two images shared so far from the encounter. Below is a true-color attempt by Wildespace onunmannedspaceflight.com.
No matter where you live, there is likely to be a Yuri’s Night event coming up soon.
On the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic first human spaceflight on April 12, 1961, people gather around the world to celebrate humanity’s past, present and especially future of our collective exploration of the cosmos.
Check this link to see the schedule of events near you and even if you don’t attend any events, why not grab some Yuri’s Night merch at chopshopstore to show others you care about our future in space!
If you are familiar with Chop Shop’s Historic Robotic Spacecraft Series then their next three space exploration prints might also interest you. The new series is called Giant Leaps in Space and the focus is now on human spaceflight. This series will consist of three prints featuring Apollo 11 (already designed), The International Space Station (due Feb 21) and Vostock 1 (due Feb 28).
It is now funding on Kickstarter through to March 14 with rewards ranging from screen prints, more affordable archival digital prints, t-shirts and stickers.
Help support the creation of the first space based telescope dedicated to the observation of one star system: Centauri our closest celestial neighbor. Project Blue’s ultimate goal is to take the first visible light image of an Earth like planet outside of our own Solar System. The Kickstarter funding goal is 1 million, but I have been posting this image with the goal of 4 million becuase that pays for everything except getting the telescope launched.
The mission patch was designed by our sister site chopshopstore.com, well known for their Robotic Spacecraft Series of prints. They are also responsible for the official mission patch for The Planetary Society’s LightSail. As of now only the patch design is released to the campaign, but there are also plans for a more detailed limited edition screenprint for the campaign to be unveiled around November 28.
This week’s 99% Invisible is all about the ever worsening issue of space trash. If you haven’t heard of the show… this would be a great one to start with.
This first image was manipulated to reduce noise and increase contrast. What we see here is cometary dust particles moving in varied directions and lengths. Check out this animated GIF sent to me by Phil Stooke showing cometary dust moving around 67-P.
The closest star to our own is apparently going to be the center of a major announcement at the end of the month. Sorry to tell them, but the cat (if there is a cat) is already out of said bag. And — this is coming on the heels of the Breakthrough Initiatives announcement of Starshot, a nano-mission to the nearest star system within a generation. A group backed by Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan and Mark Zuckerberg.
On a related note, Chop Shop (our more commercial entity) just released their first design for Icarus Interstellar Build a Starship which happens to feature the Centauri System (that is Proxima upper right). Centauri is a triple star system with Beta Centauri in orbit around Alpha Centauri. Despite the graphic’s presentation… Proxima Centauri’s orbit (if there is one) is so long that they are not even sure if it actually orbits the two or if it is just locked into position trailing the two.
I still cannot believe Pluto has this much variance in it’s geology. I truly expected New Horizons to arrive and find something more like Dione. No disrespect intended to one of Saturn’s own, but you don’t want to travel nearly 10 years to uncover a frozen and cratered dirty snowball. Even while Hubble was hinting at something amazing before we finally arrived, I still expected to be underwhelmed.
New Horizons has revealed one of the most diverse bodies in our Solar System which presents an intriguing mystery. How does an object so far from the warmth of the sun, and too small to generate it’s own internal heat manage to create floating mountains, smooth icy plains and truly wild textures that we are used to seeing on small bodies orbiting too close to giant planets?
Even more exciting… we now know that size and distance may not matter as much as we had thought. All of the other Dwarf Planets in the Kuiper Belt may each be just as amazing as Pluto has been revealed to be. When do we start planning for a New Horizons 2 visit to Eris?
I have never seen anything like this. What we are seeing are many different kinds of materials in two image frames (mosaic by Emily Lakdawalla). The shiniest textures seen here are more than likely water ice, the darker material may be tholins (a theoretical substance predicted by Carl Sagan himself) and frozen carbon monoxide — but we don’t know for sure.
Thus far, Pluto is so unexpected and so many times more exotic than I would have ever guessed.
Shown above is an early best guess at Pluto’s actual colors. The “color” image that has saturated all forms of media is actually just a monochrome with the colors seen earlier in the mission laid over it. So that is really just an artificial duotone. Shown above is a gorgeous color image with best-guesses at Pluto’s true colors based upon chemical maps made by New Horizons.
The images coming back so far from Pluto look incredible. For the first time since Voyager uncovered exactly how exotic the moons of Jupiter really were — we are seeing things at Pluto that few saw coming. Some images show Pluto looking like a real-life version of a sci-fi illustration from the 1960s, with all kinds of lines, circles and spots of which we still know very little about.
Shown above is the Chop Shop Studio poster celebrating New Horizons at Pluto and is being updated almost every day when new images are released from the mission. This is the third update from July 11 data. The design along with two other missions is being crowd-funded on Kickstarter right now and you can still vote on which missions make the cut for posters #8 and #9.
This is the last visit of this kind for the forseeable future. Apart from a few of the other larger Kuiper Belt objects, this is the only planned exploration of a major body in our solar system left that has never been seen by human eyes before. Every planet, all the major moons and the most significant asteroids have all been revealed if not globally mapped. There would have to be a new mission planned to Eris, Makemake or to one of the other Kuipers to see something like this again. Even if a mission like that was approved, it would be years of development plus another 10 year slog before arriving at such distant targets.
It is worth noting that as soon as 2017, New Horizons is expected to make another flyby of a much smaller Kuiper Belt object and then again in 2019 — with a possibility of a third if one can be found. So even after Pluto is over… there will still be a few encores.
Planetary Society’s first ever Kickstarter is up and it is already sailing toward it’s goal. In just 24 hours they are halfway to reaching their 200K goal! This will fill the existing budget gap the Society is currently operating under and will make LightSail a fully funded before it’s first planned launch later this month.
There are now several white spots appearing on Ceres as Dawn makes it’s final approach to the dwarf planet. Any knee-jerk expectation say that there is merely a brighter material beneath the surface that was revealed by ancient impacts. Why the surface is darker and the underneath material is brighter (see Iapetus) would be a mystery… but perhaps they still may be related to the active geysers scientists have previously predicted due to data provided by The Herschel Infrared Space Observatory.
We shall soon see.
The Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres and has begun observations, including this first animation. Ceres is a dwarf planet that resides within the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter and is the last unexplored spherical body (that we know of) that resides within the orbit of Neptune.
Earlier observations by the Herschel Infrared Space Observatory have suggested the presence of water vapor in the form of plumes near the surface of Ceres. There is even the chance that this comparatively tiny body may somehow maintain a tenuous atmosphere. If any of this turns out to be the case, we currently have no models to suggest how geological activity could be generated on such a small world. We have known for a very long time that internal heating and geological activity is common on bodies whose mass is large enough to create their own internal furnaces (Earth, Venus and gas giants like Jupiter). More recently we have discovered smaller geologically active worlds that generate internal heat from tidal forces inflicted by their host planet and neighboring moons (Io, Enceladus, probably Triton). But we have never seen such a small isolated body such as Ceres manage to do anything but display ancient craters and fracturing from cataclysms dating back to the formation of the solar system.
Logic tells me to expect to see a grey cratered ball when Dawn goes into orbit around Ceres this Spring, but the experience of Voyager and Cassini tells me not to expect anything but the unexpected.
Also, what is that bright dot? It has been in every image of Ceres since Hubble started observations to support the coming encounter.
The poll is complete and the most popular robotic spacecraft in history have been selected. Thanks to the efforts by The Planetary Society. The top three missions selected here now represent the themes of our series of screen-printed posters celebrating the history of robotic space exploration. To support this effort please see our campaign page at Kickstarter.
The Voyager Program As we expected the Voyager Program came into the top spot with 507 votes (18.5%). The poster for this design is already complete and available for viewing on the campaign page.
Cassini / Huygens Cassini takes poster #2 with 432 votes (15.7%), effectively eclipsing it’s sister probe Galileo. This design is expected to be completed on or before October 23rd.
Mars Science Lab (aka Curiosity) The newest member of the robotic Martian community of surface rovers, Curiosity arrived in 2012 and has stolen the thunder of the previous Mars Exploration Rovers with 340 votes (12.4%). This design is expected to be completed on or before October 31st.
As for the rest of the list, here is how things all panned out:
- The Mars Exploration Rovers 189 (6.9%)
- Sputnik (Earth) 169 (6.2%)
- The Viking Program (Mars) 146 (5.3%)
- New Horizons (Pluto) 136 (5.0%)
- Rosetta (comet) 123 (4.5%)
- Galileo (Jupiter) 121 (4.4%)
- Venera (Venus) 67 (2.4%)
- Pioneers 10 & 11 (Jupiter & Saturn) 66 (2.4%)
- The Mariner Program (Mercury, Venus & Mars) 47 (1.7%)
- Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 40 (1.5%)
- Hayabusa (asteroid) 39 (1.4%)
- Mars Express39 (1.4%)
- Deep Impact / Epoxi (comet) 36 (1.3%)
- Stardust (comet) 26 (0.9%)
- Messenger (Mercury) 25 (0.9%)
- Maven (Mars) 22 (0.8%)
- Dawn (Vesta & Ceres) 22 (0.8%)
Should we reach our stretch goals, this would also make poster #4’s theme the Opportunity & Spirit rovers and poster #5’s surprising but historically honorable theme going to Sputnik.