Category Archives: MYSTERIES OF UNIVERSE AND COSMOS

Chandrayaan-2 ; India’s Journey to the South Polar region of the moon

The Rs 978-crore unmanned Chandrayaan-2 mission (satellite cost Rs 603 crore, GSLV MK III cost Rs 375 crore) is expected to shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon — its South Polar region.

Chandrayaan-2’s landing module ‘Vikram’ will begin its final descent to pull off a historic soft landing on the lunar surface in the early hours of Saturday, as the Indian Space Research Organisation awaits with bated breath for the “terrifying moment”.

A successful landing will make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve a soft landing on the moon. But it will be the first to launch a mission to the unexplored lunar south pole.

Joined by about 60-70 high school students from across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present at the ISRO centre in Bengaluru to witness live the space feat, according to officials.

‘Vikram’ with rover ‘Pragyaan’ housed inside is scheduled for a powered-descent between 1 am and 2 am on September 7, followed by its touchdown between 1.30 am and 2.30 am. The lander is now in an orbit that would be about 35 km from the lunar surface at its nearest point from where it will begin its final descent.

ISRO has said Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft land the lander and rover in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of about 70 south. ISRO Chairman K Sivan said the proposed soft landing on the Moon was going to be a “terrifying” moment as the ISRO has not done it before, where as Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre was successfully carried out during the Chandrayaan-1 mission.

Explaining the landing manoeuvres, Sivan had said once the manoeuvre starts from about 30 km to land on the surface of the moon, it will take 15 minutes. “This 15 minutes travel of lander is new to ISRO. It is for the first time we are going to another body where there is no atmosphere and using the propulsion system we will have to break the velocity and bring the vehicle safely to soft land.

To achieve this we will have to balance between the gravity and thrust. So we have to modulate the thrust of the engine,” he had said. Following the landing, the rover ‘Pragyaan’ will roll out from ‘Vikram’ between 5.30 am and 6.30 am.

While, the ‘Pragyaan’ will carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days, the main orbiter will continue its mission for a year. The lander and rover carry country’s symbols on them, which will remain on the moon for long.

“The rover has six wheels (three each on both sides), the back two wheels- one has Ashoka Chakra on it and the other has ISRO emblem. Also, the ramp of the lander on which rover will come out and land on moon has Indian flag on it,” Sivan had earlier said.

The Rs 978 crore unmanned moon mission (satellite cost Rs 603 crore, GSLV MK III cost Rs 375 crore) is expected to shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon — its South Polar region.

Pointing out that Chandrayaan 2 was going to South Pole, a place where nobody else has gone, ISRO Chairman K Sivan had said, the entire scientific community of the nation and the globe were eagerly waiting for the mission.

According to ISRO, the lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the North Pole and there was a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it.

In addition, South Pole region had craters that are “cold traps” and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System. India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV MkIII-M1 had successfully launched the 3,840-kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into the earth’s orbit on July 22.

Chandrayaan-2 satellite began its journey towards the moon leaving the earth’s orbit in the dark hours on August 14, after a crucial manoeuvre called Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) that was carried out by ISRO to place the spacecraft on “Lunar Transfer Trajectory”.

The spacecraft successfully entered the lunar orbit on August 20 by performing Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) manoeuvre. On September 2, the lander ‘Vikram’ successfully separated from the orbiter, following which two de-orbiting manoeuvres were performed to bring the lander closer to the Moon.

The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Bylalu, near Bengaluru.

The orbiter carries eight scientific payloads for mapping the lunar surface and study the exosphere (outer atmosphere) of the Moon while the lander carries three scientific payloads to conduct surface and subsurface science experiments.

The rover carries two payloads to enhance the understanding of the lunar surface. The rover will be rowing on the moon on its own propulsion at the speed of one cm per second and will cover 500 metres in its lifetime.

According to ISRO, the mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface.

On the science front, the mission aims to further expand the knowledge about the moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere, leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the moon as reported by News 18.

Watch the live telecast here 👇

https://youtu.be/7iqNTeZAq-c

Chandrayaan 2 lunar landing: Isro loses contact with lander Vikram

Vikram, Chandrayaan 2’s lander, lost contact with Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) mission control centre just a few minutes before it had to soft-land on the lunar surface. After that the scientists went into a huddle and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was informed by ISRO Chairman K Sivan about the loss of communication. Scenes of heightened tension among the scientists could be seen in the mission control. The data is still being analysed by them to conclude what happened to the lander.

The lander performed as planned by Isro up to a point when it was 2.1 kilometres (km) above the Moon’s surface. This was in the fine-breaking phase of the descent process, in which the craft had to be brought down from a height of 5 km to about 400 metres. Before this, the descent operation started from the height of around 30 km.

In the first rough-breaking phase, the orbit was brought down from 30 km to 7.4 km in about 10 minutes. The velocity of Vikram was also bought down from 1,680 m per second to 146 m/sec during this phase. In the next absolute navigation (altitude control) phase, the orbit was further reduced to 5 km from 7.4 km and the velocity slowed even more. When communication was lost Vikram was still travelling at around 50 m/sec.

Vikram had successfully detached from the orbiter on September 2. The next day, the lander reduced its orbit to 100 km x 30 km and then all the systems were self-checked onboard for the subsequent three days.

Years of hard work and planning by Isro scientists and Chandrayaan 2’s 48-day journey from Earth to Moon finally had come down to the last few ‘minutes of terror’ that Vikram was seemingly not able to overcome. With this India would have become only the fourth country to have successfully soft-landed a human-made object on another planet or natural satellite after the United States, Russia and China.

A soft-landing protects the object from impact while a hard landing doesn’t. Soft-landing ensures that the object is able to carry out further experimentation on the target planet or satellite, mostly with the help of a rover vehicle.

Soft-landing on any planetary surface is complicated. Vikram was to use five thrusters — four at the corners and one at the centre to make its final descent. Maintaining the required velocity with such thrusters is difficult as a fine balance among them needs to be maintained. Then there is the issue of moon dust which could wreck the engines of the thrusters.

At the moment, Isro scientists are non committal about the fate of Vikram. It could have landed successfully despite losing communication because the landing process was programmed into the lander itself without being micromanaged by ground control. Else it could have crash landed on the lunar surface. The final conclusion can be drawn only after careful analysis.

With Vikram’s landing India would have become the only country to have landed a craft near the south pole of the Moon. The spot where Vikram was to land was a highland that rises between two craters called Manzinus C and Simpelius N. It’s about 600 km from the Moon’s south pole. A couple of hours after the landing Isro’s six-legged rover Pragyan was to roll out onto the lunar surface and start its exploration for the next 14 lunar days or one Earth day. It was to conduct experiments on chemistry, mineralogy and exosphere, especially collecting more evidence for the existence of water.

Exploration of this part of the Moon was very crucial to understand the characteristics of the satellite planet in full as all the other missions have conducted experiments and returned samples from regions closer to the equator. This was mainly because it is pretty difficult to land at the poles. To land at the poles the orbit of the lander has to remain at a 90-degree angle to the lunar surface.

This is not required in the equatorial regions where soft landings have been attempted before. Even there only 37 percent of attempted landings have been successful till date. Every correction in the orbit of Vikram to land near the south pole came with a penalty of wasted fuel which cannot be then used for other processes. But the lander carried 60-70 kg extra fuel for such exigencies. This fuel efficiency challenge could have been the point where Vikram could have faltered.

For Isro, the journey to the Moon has not been without delays and close shaves. The Chandrayaan 2 project has been delayed multiple times in the past year. The original launch date was in March 2018 which was later pushed to April and then to October to conduct further tests on the launch vehicle.

Further deliberations by the fourth comprehensive technical review meeting concluded that the mission’s components needed changes, especially in configuration and landing sequence. This pushed the launch date to the first half of 2019. In February 2019, the lander craft named Vikram suffered damage in both its legs during a routine test. After this setback ISRO reworked its systems and finally fixed July 15 as the launch date.

But just 56 minutes before the engines had to fire up, ISRO called off its launch due to a technical snag. The snag turned out to be a leak in the helium tank of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III M1 (GSLV Mk III M1). The entire process of identifying, analysing and fixing the leak took ISRO’s launch team only 24 hours after which they prepared for the launch, according to Sivan. The final launch took place on July 22 against a narrow window of only a few minutes.

Chandrayaan-2 orbiter healthy and safe in lunar orbit: ISRO official.

“Be courageous,” said the Prime Minister to the dejected scientistsafter ISRO chief K Sivan announced that contact with the lander had been lost at an altitude of 2.1 km from the moon’s surface. “What you have achieved is no mean achievement. Hope for the best. You have done a great service to the nation, science and humanity. Our journey will remain, I am with you, go ahead with courage.”

Rare are occasions when a nation awaits a moment as eagerly as this. On the ground, at the ISRO control centre, excitement and nervousness had mounted in the final countdown. Far away from the 24×7 TV noise, as messages started pouring in over social media praising the capabilities of ISRO, the Chandrayaan-2 mission control team was at work, quietly doing its job, oblivious to what was happening outside, focused on watching every signal coming from the spacecraft.

To decelerate after starting its descent, Vikram continuously fired its four thrusters in the direction of its movement. It travelled a total of almost 585 km in a parabolic path before losing contact. Before the touchdown, a few hundred kilometres from the ground, it was expected to hover over the surface, trying to ascertain whether there was a safe place to land.

As per ISRO official, Chandrayaan-2 orbiter healthy and safe in lunar orbit, hope we see much more success in coming years.

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Eclipse 2019 LIVE stream: Watch tonight’s lunar eclipse of the Moon live online

Stargazers tonight will be able to witness a special event, as the Half-Blood Thunder Moon takes place. Eagle-eyed viewers will also be able to see two planets this evening. These are Saturn and Jupiter and will be visible just to the right of the Moon as it rises.

What is a Half-Blood Thunder Moon?

A Half-Blood Thunder Moon combines two factors, a partial lunar eclipse, also known as a Half-Blood Moon and July’s Thunder Moon.

Each full Moon has different names according to the month it falls in, and the name for the Moon in July is Thunder Moon

The event can also be called Hay, Buck or Mead Moon.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explained on their website: “This full Moon [is] known as the Thunder Moon because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.”

The name Buck Moon also comes from nature, as July is around the time when new antlers begin to grow on bucks’ heads.

A partial lunar eclipse, also known as a half-blood Moon will take place this evening – when part of the Moon will be obscured.

During a partial lunar eclipse, only a section of the moon passes through Earth’s inner shadow or umbra.

A BEAUTIFUL eclipse of the Moon tonight promises to dazzle seasoned astronomers and amateur stargazers alike. Find out how you can watch the lunar eclipse live online today.

Tonight’s eclipse is the second and last lunar eclipse of the Moon this year. The eclipse comes hot on the heels of a total solar eclipse over South America on July 2 and a total lunar eclipse on January 21. Today’s eclipse, however, will be a partial eclipse of the Moon, meaning only a part of the glowing orb will vanish from sight. But with the eclipse coinciding with the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, the spectacle promises to be all the more exciting.

How to watch the lunar eclipse live online tonight?

The lunar eclipse is the breathtaking result of the Sun, the Earth and the Moon forming an almost perfect line.

As a result of this alignment, the Moon will enter the Earth’s shadow cast by the Sun’s warm glow.

When this happens later tonight, one side of the Moon will slowly darken until it vanishes

The eclipse will peak tonight around 10.30pm BST (9.30pm UTC) when the Moon is closest to the centre of Earth’s shadow.

Courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, the lunar eclipse will be broadcast online free of charge for all to enjoy.

Gianluca Masi, an astrophysicist and head of the Virtual Telescope Project, told Express.co.uk the live stream will kick off tonight at 9.30pm UK time (8.30pm UTC).

Dr Masi said: “Next July 16, 2019, the Virtual Telescope will share live the upcoming partial lunar eclipse, showing the eclipse Moon above the legendary skyline of Rome as reported by Express.co.Uk

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June 30, International Asteroid Day

Asteroid Day (also known as International Asteroid Day) is an annual global event which is held on the anniversary of the Siberian Tunguska event that took place on June 30, 1908, the most harmful known asteroid-related event on Earth in recent history.

The United Nations has proclaimed it be observed globally on June 30 every year in its resolution. Asteroid Day aims to raise awareness about asteroids and what can be done to protect the Earth, its families, communities, and future generations from a catastrophic event.

The Tunguska event:

The Tunguska event is the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Studies have yielded different estimates of the meteoroid’s size, on the order of 60 to 190 metres (200 to 620 feet), depending on whether the body was a comet or a denser asteroid.

Since the 1908 event, there have been an estimated 1,000 scholarly papers (most in Russian) published on the Tunguska explosion. In 2013, a team of researchers published analysis results of micro-samples from a peat bog near the center of the affected area showing fragments that may be of meteoritic origin.

Early estimates of the energy of the air burstrange from 10–15 megatons of TNT (42–63 petajoules) to 30 megatons of TNT (130 PJ), depending on the exact height of burst estimated when the scaling-laws from the effects of nuclear weapons are employed. However, modern supercomputer calculations that include the effect of the object’s momentum find that more of the energy was focused downward than would be the case from a nuclear explosion and estimate that the airburst had an energy range from 3 to 5 megatons of TNT (13 to 21 PJ). A newer finding suggests the explosive power may have been around 20–30 megatons.

The 15-megaton (Mt) estimate represents an energy about 1,000 times greater than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan—roughly equal to that of the United States’ Castle Bravo (15.2 Mt) ground-based thermonuclear detonation on 1 March 1954, and about one-third that of the Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba explosion on 30 October 1961 (which, at 50 Mt, is the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated).

It is estimated that the Tunguska explosion knocked down some 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 km2 (830 sq mi), and that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. An explosion of this magnitude would be capable of destroying a large metropolitan area, but, due to the remoteness of the location, no human fatalities were officially documented. Several reports have indicated that two people may have died in the event, but those deaths remain unofficial. The Tunguska event has helped to spark discussion of asteroid impact avoidance.

History behind the Day:

Asteroid Day was co-founded by filmmaker Grigorij Richters, B612 Foundation COO Danica Remy, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart and Brian May, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist.

Over 200 astronauts, scientists, technologists and artists, including Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Peter Gabriel, Jim Lovell, Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins, Alexei Leonov, Bill Anders, Kip Thorne, Lord Martin Rees, Chris Hadfield, Rusty Schweickart and Brian Cox co-signed the Asteroid Day Declaration.

Asteroid Day was officially launched on December 3, 2014. In February 2014, Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist for the rock band Queen, began working with Grigorij Richters, director of the film 51 Degrees North, the story of a fictional asteroid impact on London and the human condition resulting from such an event. May composed the music for the film. After screening the film at the 2014 Starmus Festival, Richters and May co-founded Asteroid Day in October 2014 which they officially announced during a press conference with Lord Martin Rees, Rusty Schweickart, Ed Lu, Thomas Jones, Ryan Watt and Bill Nye. The event was live streamed from the Science Museum in London, the California Academy of Sciences, New York and São Paulo.

On Asteroid Day 2017, minor planet 248750 (discoverer M. Dawson) was officially named Asteroidday by the International Astronomical Union.

More than 1M asteroids have the potential to impact Earth and through all the available telescopes worldwide, we have discovered only about one percent. The 100X Declaration calls for increasing the asteroid discovery rate to 100,000 (or 100x) per year within the next 10 years. “The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it became that the human race has been living on borrowed time,” remarked Brian May. “Asteroid Day and the 100X Declaration are ways for the public to contribute to an awareness of the Earth’s vulnerability and the realization that Asteroids hit Earth all the time.” Asteroid Day would the vehicle to garner public support to increase our knowledge of when asteroids might strike and how we can protect ourselves.”

The main three goals are:

1. Employ available technology to detect and track Near-Earth Asteroids that threaten human populations via governments and private and philanthropic organisations.

2. A rapid hundred-fold acceleration of the discovery and tracking of Near-Earth Asteroids to 100,000 per year within the next ten years.

3. Global adoption of Asteroid Day, heightening awareness of the asteroid hazard and our efforts to prevent impacts, on June 30 – With the United Nations recognition, this action item has been achieved.

In February 2016, Romanian astronaut Dumitru Prunariu and the Association of Space Explorers submitted a proposal to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations which was accepted by the subcommittee and in June 2016 the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space included the recommendation in its report. The report of the Committee was presented for approval to the United Nations General Assembly’s 71st session, which it approved on December 6, 2016.

In its resolution the United Nations declares “30 June International Asteroid Day to observe each year at the international level the anniversary of the Tunguska impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908 and to raise public awareness about the asteroid impact hazard.”


This color picture is made from images taken by the imaging system on NASA’s Galileo spacecraft about 14 minutes before its closest approach to asteroid 243 Ida on Aug. 28, 1993. The range from the spacecraft was about 10,500 kilometers (6,500 miles). The images used are from the sequence in which Ida’s moon was originally discovered; the moon is visible to the right of the asteroid.

About the Cover Photo :

Source: NASA
Published: July 12, 2018

Bennu and other asteroids represent building blocks of our solar system’s rocky planets.

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The wait is over, First ever black hole image released

Astronomers have taken the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy.

It measures 40 billion km across – three million times the size of the Earth – and has been described by scientists as “a monster”.

The first ever picture of a black hole: It’s surrounded by a halo of bright gas pulled in by the hole’s gravity

The black hole is 500 million trillion km away and was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world.

Details have been published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87.

Astronomers have suspected that the M87 galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its heart from false colour images such as this one. The dark centre is not a black hole but indicates that stars are densely packed and fast moving Image copyright : DR JEAN LORRE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

“What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,” he said.

“It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.”

The image shows an intensely bright “ring of fire”, as Prof Falcke describes it, surrounding a perfectly circular dark hole. The bright halo is caused by superheated gas falling into the hole. The light is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined – which is why it can be seen at such distance from Earth.

The edge of the dark circle at the centre is the point at which the gas enters the black hole, which is an object that has such a large gravitational pull, not even light can escape.

The eventual EHT array will have 12 widely spaced participating radio facilities, Via BBC

The image matches what theoretical physicists and indeed, Hollywood directors, imagined black holes would look like, according to Dr Ziri Younsi, of University College London – who is part of the collaboration.

“Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence,” he said.

“It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again.”

But having the first image will enable researchers to learn more about these mysterious objects. They will be keen to look out for ways in which the black hole departs from what’s expected in physics. No one really knows how the bright ring around the hole created. Even more intriguing is the question of what happens when an object falls into a black hole.

Let’s know some basics of Black hole.

What is a black hole?

A black hole is a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape its gravity

Despite the name, they are not empty but instead consist of a huge amount of matter packed densely into a small area

There is a region of space beyond the black hole called the event horizon. This is a “point of no return”, beyond which it is impossible to escape the gravitational effects of the black hole

Prof Falcke had the idea for the project when he was a PhD student in 1993. At the time, no one thought it was possible. But he was the first to realise that a certain type of radio emission would be generated close to and all around the black hole, which would be powerful enough to be detected by telescopes on Earth.

He also recalled reading a scientific paper from 1973 that suggested that because of their enormous gravity, black holes appear 2.5 times larger than they actually are.

These are the first eht findings Messier M87 – Black Hole, this is the first image of a Black Hole, from M87. The image you are looking at confirms the existence, of a supermasssive black hole, at the center of Messier 87, located 53.49 million light years. The orange glow, is a number of things, namely gas. But it now confirms that these black holes heat gases to such a hot temperature, that they can’t even form stars. We now have direct evidence, which would confirm that black holes impact on the shape of their host galaxy. From this image, we can also calculate the properties (Speed, length and so on) of the jets forming in this black hole, and we can also confirm that the theory of relativity has yet surpassed another important test.

These two previously unknown factors suddenly made the seemingly impossible, possible. After arguing his case for 20 years, Prof Falcke persuaded the European Research Council to fund the project. The National Science Foundation and agencies in East Asia then joined in to bankroll the project to the tune of more than £40m.

It is an investment that has been vindicated with the publication of the image. Prof Falcke told me that he felt that “it’s mission accomplished”.

How was it captured?

To capture this, the EHT Team used a process called Interferometry which links radio telescopes.

He said: “It has been a long journey, but this is what I wanted to see with my own eyes. I wanted to know is this real?”

No single telescope is powerful enough to image the black hole. So, in the biggest experiment of its kind, Prof Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is director of a project that set up a network of eight linked telescopes. Together, they form the Event Horizon Telescope and can be thought of as a planet-sized array of dishes.

Each is located high up at a variety of exotic sites, including on volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and in Antarctica.

A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards M87 and scanned its heart over a period of 10 days.

The information they gathered was too much to be sent across the internet. Instead, the data was stored on hundreds of hard drives which were flown to a central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn, Germany, to assemble the information. Prof Doeleman described the achievement as “an extraordinary scientific feat”.

“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” he said.

“Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes.” As reported by BBC.

Where is it?

At the center of the Messier 87 galaxy

The team is also imaging the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

How far is it?

53.49 Million Light Years.

Odd though it may sound, that is harder than getting an image from a distant galaxy, more than five light-years away. This is because, for some unknown reason, the “ring of fire” around the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is smaller and dimmer.

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Nasa spacecraft observes movement of water molecules on Moon 

Scientists, using an instrument aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), have observed water molecules moving around the dayside of the Moon.

A paper published in Geophysical Research Letters describes how Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) measurements of the sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the surface helped characterize lunar hydration changes over the course of a day.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has observed water molecules moving around the dayside of the Moon, a finding that may prove beneficial as the agency plans to put astronauts back on the lunar surface.

NASA’s LRO has spotted movement of water molecules around the moon’s dayside

Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) — the instrument aboard LRO — measured sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the Moon’s surface, which helped characterise lunar hydration changes over the course of a day, revealed the paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“The study is an important step in advancing the water story on the Moon and is a result of years of accumulated data from the LRO mission,” said John Keller, LRO deputy project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

This LRO image of the moon shows areas of potential frost. (Photo : NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio)

Until the last decade, scientists thought that the Moon was arid, with any water existing mainly as pockets of ice in permanently shaded craters near the poles.

More recently, they identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith.

But, the amount and locations were found to vary based on the time of day. The lunar water is more common at higher latitudes and tends to hop around as the surface heats up.

Scientists had hypothesised that hydrogen ions in the solar wind may be the source of most of the Moon’s surface water. As a result, when the Moon passes behind the Earth and is shielded from the solar wind, the “water spigot” should essentially turn off.

However, the water observed by LAMP does not decrease when the Moon is shielded by the Earth and the region influenced by its magnetic field, suggesting water builds up over time, rather than “raining” down directly from the solar wind.

“These results aid in understanding the lunar water cycle and will ultimately help us learn about accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future missions to the Moon,” said lead author Amanda Hendrix, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

“Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management; if these materials do not need to be launched from Earth, that makes these future missions more affordable,” Hendrix added.

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FarFarOut : Astronomers discover solar system’s most distant object

A new object has been discovered in the distant reaches of our solar system and given the name FarFarOut, according to a prominent astronomer.

At 140 times further away from the sun than our own planet is, the newly identified body – if its discovery is confirmed – will become the furthest known object in our solar system.

The current record holder – a dwarf planet at 120 times the Earth-sun distance – was named merely FarOutwhen it was spotted by the same team in December last year.

The latest discovery was made by Dr Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, who with his team is working on analysing astronomical data to track down a much mooted but as yet unspotted body known as Planet Nine, thought to have 10 times the mass of Earth.

The solar system’s most distant object is 140 times farther from the sun than Earth. Credits: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

The hypothetical Planet Nine, thought to be lurking in the distant Oort cloud, has been suggested as exerting a gravitational pull on objects in the depths of the solar system, including the recently discovered dwarf planet The Goblinand another object named Biden.

Sheppard said he made the discovery of FarFarOut when a lecture he was due to give on his team’s work was postponed and he went back to analysing his data.

“This is hot off the presses,” he said, giving his rescheduled lecture in Washington DC on Thursday. “Yesterday it snowed so I had nothing to do so I went looking through some of our data.”

He said FarFarOut was somewhat mysterious. “It is very faint; it is on the edge of our ability to detect it,” Sheppard said. “We don’t know anything about the orbit of this object, we just know it is far, far out.”

Sheppard said further observations were in the offing to shed more light on the find.

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Striking photos of Super Snow Moon February 2019

Stargazers will be treated to a trio of successive celestial events in 2019. The biggest and brightest full moon of 2019 lit up the skies last night. This Super Snow Moon was just one of three Supermoons to lift the late-night gloom this year.

Hope you all enjoyed the yesterday’s Super Moon (Feb 19, 2019) which is the largest super moon of the year 2019.

We’ve collected some best shots of this fantastic supermoon all around the world, and sharing those photos (With sources) in this post.

Let’s start with India… The first photo is from City of Bhopal, India (Photo by Sanjeev Gupta)

HONDURAS-ASTRONOMY-MOON A church’s cross is silhouetted against the “Supermoon” as seen from Tegucigalpa on February 19, 2019. Orlando SIERRA / AFP

Full Moon February 2019 Kazakhstan
The Çamlıca Mosque in Istanbul in front of the Snow Moon – named for the time of year at which it appears. Photograph: Erdem Şahin/EPA
Construction labourers work as the moon rises over a building site in Kolkata. This will be its brightest occurrence for seven years Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images
Atmosphere thai temple in dark time with full moon. Photo: AdobeStock
Spectacular Super Moon #Credits : Saravanan Manian #Location : Chennai, India
Supermoon from Perth. Taken by travel photographer, Shelly, from Where’s Shelly. Image credit: Twitter/@wheresshellyii
Super snoo moon, Poole Dorset, United Kingdom. Taken by Simon Treasure on Canon. Image credit: Twitter/@Simon_Treasure
Emirates Air Line cable cars are silhouetted against the backdrop of a ‘Super Snow Moon’ in Greenwich, London. Image credit: PA Wire/PA Images RTI
ARGENTINA-ASTRONOMY-MOON An Embraer 190-100IGW plane (registration LV-CKZ) of Aerolineas Argentinas, on a regular flight from Buenos Aires to the Argentine city of Bahia Blanca, passes in front of the “Supermoon” as seen from Buenos Aires on February 19, 2019. ALEJANDRO PAGNI / AFP
The supermoon between the statues of Alexander the Great (R) and Diogenes of Sinope. VALERIE GACHE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
VENEZUELA-SUPERMOON The super moon is photographed while rising behind El Avila hill on the sky of Caracas, Venezuela on February 19, 2019. YURI CORTEZ / AFP
A man walking along the Huntington Beach Pier is silhouetted against the setting Super Snow Moon. MARK RIGHTMIRE/MEDIANEWS GROUP/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES
Captured with a Canon 200D and a 75-300mm lens at full zoom, by Tyrone from Noble Media Solutions. Image credit: Facebook/Noble Media Solutions PTY
The Super Snow Moon rises behind the Empire State building in New York City. ATILGAN OZDIL/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Super moon at Singapore

Trish Minogue Collins wrote on February 19, 2019: “Moonrise behind the Stargazer sculpture in a field in Manorville, New York.” Credits EarthSky.org
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Greg Diesel Walck of Alexandria, Virginia, took this photo on February 19, 2019. He said: “As I was taking photos of the supermoon I got lucky and caught this plane speeding in front!”
Setting #SnowMoon over the Great South Bay, Long Island, New York, February 19, 2019, by Michael Busch.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steve Pond in East Grinstead, West Sussex, took this photo on February 19, 2019. He wrote: “Moonset with just over 2 hours to closest perigee for 2019.”
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Roy Bradfield in Sunderland, England, captured the moon as it was setting behind low clouds on February 19, 2019.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Tom Marsala in Menifee, California, captured this image on February 19, 2019. He told us: “I was collimating my new telescope and tested it on the full moon tonight. A beautiful sight indeed!”
Lynton Brown took this photo of the supermoon on February 18, 2019. He wrote: “On top of Radio tower 3WV Dooen Australia.”
Barbara Alsworth Fabian captured the super Snow Moon at Santa Barbara, California’s Shoreline Park at 5:38 p.m. on February 18, 2019.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | “The biggest full moon supermoon of 2019 over Meteora monastery at Greece,” wrote Aimilianos Gkekas. He captured this image on February 18, 2019.
Dr Ski in Valencia, Philippines wrote: “It’s probably just me, but I can’t tell the difference between tonight’s “super” full moon and any of the over 700 full moons I’ve seen over the short span of my existence on this planet. But with a reference, the difference becomes very obvious. February’s full moon at perigee of course means that apogee occurred during new moon. So I had to use January’s apogee moon for comparison. Both images are at 40X.” It’s true most people can’t discern the size difference between a supermoon and ordinary full moon, using the eye alone. Here’s one observer who thinks it’s possible.
Super Moon February 2019 Greenwich, London. Source AP
Super Moon February 2019 Frankfurt, Germany, Source: AP
Super Moon February 2019 Lisbon
Super Moon February 2019 Athens, Greece
Super Moon February 2019 Northeast England
Full Moon February 2019 Nicosia, Cyprus
Super Moon February 2019 Nicosia, Cyprus
The moon over Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The moon over Argentina. ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A man walking along the Huntington Beach Pier is silhouetted against the setting Super Snow Moon. MARK RIGHTMIRE/MEDIANEWS GROUP/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES
The Super Snow Moon rises behind lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City, as seen from Green Brook Township, New Jersey. GARY HERSHORN/GETTY IMAGES
The Super Snow Moon sets behind the Statue of Liberty as the sun rises in New York City. GARY HERSHORN/GETTY IMAGES
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Largest Super Moon of 2019, Full Snow Moon of February

As we witnessed the first super moon of 2019 in January, which is Super Blood Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse, we are going to have the second Super moon of the year on February 19th, the speciality of this super moon is that, it is the latgest super moon of the year 2019, when the moon comes within 221,681 miles of Earth.

An image of the moon taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is shown in two halves to illustrate the difference in the apparent size and brightness of the moon during a supermoon. The left half shows the apparent size of a supermoon (full moon at perigee), while the right half shows the apparent size and brightness of a micromoon (full moon at apogee). Credits: NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

What’s Super Moon :

The Moon doesn’t orbit in a perfect circle. Instead, it travels in an ellipse that brings the Moon closer to and farther from Earth in its orbit. The farthest point in this ellipse is called the apogee and is about 405,500 kilometers from Earth on average. Its closest point is the perigee, which is an average distance of about 363,300 kilometers from Earth. During every 27-day orbit around Earth, the Moon reaches both its apogee and perigee.

Full moons can occur at any point along the Moon’s elliptical path, but when a full moon occurs at or near the perigee, it looks slightly larger and brighter than a typical full moon. That’s what the term “supermoon” refers to.

In this super moon, our planet’s satellite appears 10 percent larger and almost 30 per cent brighter in the sky.

On February 19th, The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.

When it will appear as the largest ?

Around 15:53 UTC, the full moon will be closest to the earth. Which is 221,681 miles away from Earth.

Timings : 15:53 UTC

21:23 IST

What is Snow Moon ?

As Early Native American tribes kept track of seasons by giving names to each full moon, This full moon was known by these native tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year.

Full Hunger Moon ?

Since hunting is difficult due to Heavy snow fall, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon, since the harsh weather made hunting difficult.

Second of the Three super moons of 2019

This is also the second of three supermoons for 2019. The next one will take place on March 21, the same day as the Spring Equinox.

The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

Please spread the word.

You can read our post on January’s super blood wolf moon lunar eclipse at the below link.

Last ‘blood moon’ eclipse of the decade – Super Blood Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse January 2019

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NASA pays tribute to fallen heroes with day of Remembrance

Every year, NASA recognizes astronauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of spaceflight with an official Day of Remembrance. This year, it’s celebrated on February 7th.

Remembering Apollo 1

On Jan. 27, 1967, veteran space explorer Gus Grissom, first American spacewalker Ed White, and rookie Roger Chaffee were sitting on the platform for a pre-launch test when a flame broke out in their Apollo capsule.

The investigation into the fatal accident led to major design and engineering changes, making the Apollo spacecraft safer for the coming journeys to the moon

Apollo 1 Crew (l-r): Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White, Roger B. Chaffee , Image Credits : NASA

Remembering Challenger

On the morning of Jan. 28, 1986 Just 73 seconds after launch , a booster engine failed and caused the Shuttle Challenger to break apart, taking the lives of all seven crewmembers.

President Ronald Reagan eulogized the crew, quoting from the poem “High Flight”: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”

STS-51L Crew (l-r): Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe, Commander Francis R. Scobee, Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis, Mission Specialist Judith A. Resnik, Mission Specialist Ronald E. McNair. Image Credit: NASA

Remembering Columbia

The seven-member crew of the STS-107 mission was just 16 minutes from landing on the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, when Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle Columbia. A piece of foam, falling from the external tank during launch, had opened a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings, leading to the breakup of the orbiter upon re-entry.

Among those who died was India’s pride Kalpana Chawla who is still considered a shining beacon of hope for all Indian girls and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut.
Columbia, which had made the shuttle program’s first flight into space in 1981, lifted off for its 28th mission, STS-107, on Jan. 16, 2003. STS-107 was a flight dedicated to various experiments that required a microgravity environment. The crew comprised commander Rick Husband; pilot William McCool; mission specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark; and payload specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeliastronaut. As Columbia was reenteringEarth’s atmosphere, it broke apart overTexas at approximately 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time at an altitude of 60 km (40 miles), showering debris across southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana. The disintegration of the craft was recorded by television cameras and U.S. Air Forceradar. Its major components and the remains of the crew were recovered over the following month.

Addressing the nation, President Bush said, “mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.”

You can read our recent post on Columbia Space Tragedy on this following link.

16 Years for the Space Tragedy – Columbia Disaster

STS-107 Crew (l-r): Mission Specialist 1 David M. Brown, Commander Rick D. Husband, Mission Specialist 4 Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist 2 Kalpana Chawla, Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Pilot William C. McCool, Payload Specialist 1 Ilan Ramon, Image Credit: NASA

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16 Years for the Space Tragedy – Columbia Disaster

Remembering The Breakup of U.S. space shuttle orbiter Columbia. on Feb. 1, 2003, that claimed the lives of all seven astronauts on board just minutes before it was to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Among those who died was India’s pride Kalpana Chawla who is still considered a shining beacon of hope for all Indian girls and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut.

Columbia, which had made the shuttle program’s first flight into space in 1981, lifted off for its 28th mission, STS-107, on Jan. 16, 2003. STS-107 was a flight dedicated to various experiments that required a microgravity environment. The crew comprised commander Rick Husband; pilot William McCool; mission specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark; and payload specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeliastronaut. As Columbia was reenteringEarth’s atmosphere, it broke apart overTexas at approximately 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time at an altitude of 60 km (40 miles), showering debris across southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana. The disintegration of the craft was recorded by television cameras and U.S. Air Forceradar. Its major components and the remains of the crew were recovered over the following month.

The destruction of Columbia followed by almost exactly 17 years the loss ofChallenger in a launch accident on Jan. 28, 1986. Ironically, the cause of the Columbiacatastrophe soon was determined to be launch-related as well.

Films showed that a piece of insulating foam broke loose from the external propellant tank and struck the leading edge of the left wing approximately 81 seconds after liftoff. Bits of foam had detached in past missions without serious mishap, and, at the time of the Columbialaunch, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineers did not think that the foam carried enough momentum to cause significant damage.

In fact, as demonstrated in postaccident tests, the foam was capable of punching a large hole in the reinforced carbon-carbon insulation tiles that protected the shuttle’s nose and wing leading edges from the extreme heat of atmospheric reentry. Although some engineers had wanted ground-based cameras to take photos of the orbiting shuttle to look for damage, the request did not get to the right officials.

During Columbia’s atmospheric reentry, hot gases penetrated the damaged tile section and melted major structural elements of the wing, which eventually collapsed. Data from the vehicle showed rising temperatures within sections of the left wing as early as 8:52 am, although the crew knew of their situation for perhaps only a minute or so before vehicle breakup. Subsequent investigation by NASA and the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board uncovered a number of managerial shortcomings, in addition to the immediate technical reason (poor manufacturing control of tank insulation and other defects), that allowed the accident to happen.

The most palpable result of the accident was a grounding of the remaining threeshuttles—Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour(the last built to replace Challenger)—until NASA and its contractors could develop means to prevent similar accidents, which included kits for repairs in orbit.

Assembly of the International Space Station(ISS) in Earth orbit was suspended after theColumbia accident until shuttle flights could resume. Limited research on the ISS was conducted by rotating two-person crews launched in Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The shuttle did not return to space until the STS-114 mission, which launched on July 26, 2005.

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