A Love(joy) Weekend.

At this weekends Riverside Astronomical Society’s star party, everything was about C/2014 Q2 or more affectionately known as comet Lovejoy (not to be confused with all the OTHER comet Lovejoy’s roaming the solar system).

So I naturally had to take an image or 10.  I must confess..after the first couple of comets, I was pretty much over them.  They all look essentially the same.  A dim greenish incandescent light bulb shooting through the sky.

I was actually looking forward to comet ISON, because I knew it wasn’t going to make it and the destruction would have been magnificent.  However, ISON didn’t play along and blew up in a blind spot where we couldn’t see it’s death.  That would have been fun science at the least.Rosetta was fun while it lasted…and the science was good (and may be great if Philae gets a tan).  But still, pretty boring to the average observer.Sliding Spring wasn’t a great event on Earth, but all the Mars probes had to play ‘Duck and Cover’ to avoid destruction.  A game they will have to play on an annual (Martian) basis.animation

But in the spirit of the weekend I present a gif of my photos.  So, there you have it.  My gratuitous images of a comet.  Happy Monday.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

MAVEN Finds Out Where All The Atmosphere Went On Mars.

Launched in 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is one of the little know spacecraft orbiting our red neighbor.

MAVEN at the Limb of Mars, Artist's Concept

MAVEN’s primary mission is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.  And, more importantly, where did the atmosphere and the water go?

File:Structure of the magnetosphere-en.svg

Although it doesn’t sound very exciting, the mission has ramifications for our planet.  Is what happened on Mars likely to happen to us?  Since I still like to breath, it is a pretty important question to answer.  However, because we have a greater mass, our atmosphere is more protected than Mars.

Although some people believe that Mars lost it’s atmosphere because it’s core isn’t spinning, that isn’t the case.  The core of Venus isn’t spinning and it has way too much atmosphere.  So, it is most likely due to the size of Mars and that it doesn’t have enough mass to keep an atmosphere for long periods of time.

It seems that the Sun is to blame for most of Mars atmosphere bleeding off into space.  Maven found that solar-wind particles in the ionosphere  hit molecules in the upper atmosphere, the interactions make the particles neutral and allow them to move into lower altitudes, past the shield of the ionosphere, then re-emerge as ions again.  This process is known as  ‘sputtering.’  Atoms are knocked away from the atmosphere due to impacts from energetic particles from the solar wind.

Now that MAVEN is fully operations, after doing a duck and cover for comet Sliding Spring, more answers will help us understand what we need to do to make Mars more habitable for future manned missions and potential colonization.

 

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

Duck And Cover For Martian Probes.

The comet Sliding Spring flew past Mars yesterday giving us our first view of a comet from a different planet.

Hubble Space Telescope picture of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as observed on March 11, 2014. At that time the comet was 353 million miles from Earth. When the glow of the coma is subtracted through image processing, which incorporates a smooth model of the coma's light distribution, Hubble resolves what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the nucleus in opposite directions. This means that only portions of the surface of the nucleus are presently active as they are warmed by sunlight, say researchers. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)

The images weren’t available in time for this post, but the Hubble image above shows how it looked earlier in the year.

Siding Spring went past Mars at 125,000mph (56km per second) and missing the planet by 86681 miles (139,500 km).  Earlier projections didn’t have enough data, so there was a possibility that the comet would actually hit Mars.

There are currently eight active spacecraft operating either on the surface, Opportunity and Curiosity, and . The orbiting Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Orbiter Mission and the newly arrive Indian MRO spacecraft.

http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/wspace?tbody=499&vbody=1001&month=10&day=19&year=2014&hour=00&minute=00&rfov=90&fovmul=-1&bfov=30&porbs=1&showsc=1&showac=1

The simulated image above from the JPL/NASA simulator at http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/ show all the orbiters hiding behind the planet.  Due to the close flyby, the comet is going to leave a lot of debris as it passes by.  Any dust or debris traveling at that speed can severely damage these craft, so everyone moved their craft to the far side of the planet to wait for the all clear.

Comet debris can last for a very long time so this is something that may become happen every Martian year.  We see the residue of comets regularly in the form of meteor showers.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman