Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. – Leo Tolstoy And Joy is Everywhere; It is in the Earth’s green covering of grass; In the blue serenity of the Sky; In the reckless exuberance of […]Geometry of Joy — Steve McCurry Curated
NASA has launched another rocket with a rover to Mars today. The Rover will land near a ‘delta’ to explore signs of previous life within a previous aqueous environment.
“If life ever did exist on Mars, this is the kind of place where that evidence would be preserved,” Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s planetary science division, says.
the crater is home to a 3.4 billion-year-old dried-up river delta. You can see its shape in the image above. This is an ideal place to look for signs of past life, Tanja Bosak, an MIT geobiologist working on the Perseverance mission, says.
In a river bed, “there are a lot of clay minerals, and as they settle, they can really just kind of smother anything organic, or they can even absorb organic molecules,” she says. That is: In the ancient dried clay of the delta, there may be microscopic fossils of microbial life, or geological patterns indicative of life.
Believe or not the Curiosity rover has been on the planet Mars for 2831 sols (2908 total days) since landing on August 6th, 2012. It is still operating!
Once in the delta, Perseverance will use its cameras and various chemical sensors to find the rocks most likely to contain this evidence. (One of the sensors is called SHERLOC, short for “Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals.”) Scientists here on Earth will analyze that data and choose several dozen samples for the rover to drill into. Then the samples will be stored in special tubes inside the rover where they’ll be undisturbed.
The most audacious plan, though, is to come. A future mission — whose date is not yet determined — called the Mars sample return will send a new rover to Mars to collect the samples from a drop-off point and then launch those back to Earth on a small rocket.
The most difficult 7 minutes will be when the rover attempts to land without damage on the Mars rocky surface.
Personally, landing rovers on the moon and Mars is a far better use of funds than landing people, as it provides us with good data. Like Hubble un-personned space research can benefit us all – giving us insights into other worlds, spaces and distances that are difficult to comprehend.
It helps to keep us grounded, in that we are very small specks within universe(s) and reminds us that our wars, squabbles and petty mindedness will ultimately destroy us and our planet.
My only worry about space exploration is that we are still competing for dominance in space ,rather than having global goals for a peaceful exploration together. There are still plenty of rich warmongers around…..
Better to listen to David Bowie -is there life on Mars?
Even while we extol the wonders of astronomy provided by Hubble, we can now get really excited by the promise of the new James Webb space telescope, to be launched in 2021.
Webb will examine young stars in the crowded Trapezium Cluster, an inner region of the Orion Nebula
The nearby Orion Nebula is home to a bustling stellar nursery called the Trapezium Cluster, where approximately a thousand very young stars are crammed into a space only 4 light-years across. These stars are around a million years old, which at first glance doesn’t seem very young. However, if our solar system were a middle-aged person, the stars in the Trapezium would be just three- or four-day-old babies. Astronomers using the Webb telescope will study this cluster to understand stars and their planetary systems in the very earliest stages.
A bustling stellar nursery in the picturesque Orion Nebula will be a subject of study for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2021. A team led by Mark McCaughrean, the Webb Interdisciplinary Scientist for Star Formation, will survey an inner region of the nebula called the Trapezium Cluster. This cluster is home to a thousand or so young stars, all crammed into a space only 4 light-years across — about the distance from our Sun to Alpha Centauri.
“That’s a location where there are many very young stars that are around a million years old,” explained McCaughrean, who is also the European Space Agency’s Senior Advisor for Science and Exploration. “A million years may not seem very young, but if our solar system were a middle-aged person, the stars in this cluster are just babies, three or four days old. So there are all sorts of interesting things going on with them that we don’t see in the older stars around us today. We’re very interested in understanding how stars and their planetary systems develop in the very earliest stages.”
Why the Orion Nebula? “Orion is the nearest region of massive star formation to the Sun,” said McCaughrean. “There are places closer to the Sun that have young, low-mass stars, but there are none closer that have both big stars and the very smallest objects.”
McCaughrean and his team will study three interesting phenomena in the Trapezium Cluster. First, they will survey the distribution of the masses of young objects in this cluster. Next, they will examine the very earliest phases of planet formation around the cluster’s young stars. Finally, the team will study the material many of the young stars are ejecting in jets and outflows. The observations are part of a Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO) program granted to McCaughrean because of his role as a Webb Interdisciplinary Scientist.
Sorting the Stars and Other Young Objects
Aside from examining the cluster’s young stars, the scientists will look at bodies with masses below stars, called brown dwarfs. These are objects that form like stars via the gravitational collapse of clouds of gas and dust, but because they don’t have enough material, they never develop the temperatures and the pressures at their centers needed to fuse hydrogen.
They will also investigate smaller objects, equivalent in mass to Jupiter or even Saturn. Called “free-floating, planetary-mass objects,” they are not in orbit around a star. It is an open question whether they form the way other planets do—by accreting gas and dust from a protoplanetary disk left over from star formation.
Did such an object originally form as a planet around a star, or did it form out of the same gas and dust that the stars formed from, on its own? McCaughrean and his team are trying to answer that question. “Can we find some kind of characteristics that these extremely low-mass objects exhibit to help us work out whether they formed in isolation, or rather were actually formed as planets in orbit around stars, and got kicked out in some kind of interaction?”
The scientists will use multicolor Webb images to find objects down to very low masses and then look at how many of these objects there are in different mass categories — for example, how many are like the Sun; how many are a tenth of the mass of the Sun; and how many are a hundredth of the mass of the Sun. They will also use Webb to analyze their atmospheres. This information will tell the researchers a lot about how these bodies must have formed and how they will evolve as they grow older.
Studying the Silhouettes
Some newborn stars in this nursery are encircled by disks of gas and dust that appear as silhouettes against the bright nebula. Astronomers believe that planets should be starting to form within these disks. McCaughrean and his team will use Webb’s high-resolution, infrared imaging to measure the sizes of these disks. By comparing them with visible images made with the Hubble Space Telescope, the team will learn about the dust’s composition, which will help them understand the very earliest phases of planet formation.
Surveying the Jets and Outflows
As young stars gather together material from the gas and dust that surround them, most also eject a fraction of that material back out again from their polar regions in jets and outflows. This process is an integral part of star formation. Because the Orion Nebula is home to many, many young stars, there are many jets and outflows in the region, both large and small. The team will use Webb to measure the fine structures in these outflows and determine their speeds, as well as assess their cumulative feedback on the surrounding star-forming clouds.
When stars are very young, they are surrounded by the gas and dust from which they are being made. The dust absorbs visible wavelength light and hides the stars behind an opaque screen. But long-wavelength light can penetrate the dust, and therefore even if astronomers are unable to see the stars in visible light, they are often still detectable in the infrared.
Also, when objects are young and still forming, they do not get particularly hot. This means they don’t glow brightly in visible wavelengths, but instead emit most of their light in the infrared. Infrared studies using ground-based telescopes have shown there to be many brown dwarfs in the Trapezium Cluster, but they have not been able to find young objects below the mass of about three Jupiters. There are two reasons for that.
First, the Earth’s atmosphere between the ground and the objects being studied glows brightly in the infrared. “In a way, it’s a bit like trying to do visible wavelength astronomy in the daytime,” explained McCaughrean. “You can see relatively bright things against that glow, but you can’t see very faint things. Webb will be above the Earth’s glowing atmosphere and make it possible.”
The second reason is that, unlike ground-based telescopes, Webb itself will be very cold. “Human beings are warm and glow in the infrared; ground-based telescopes also glow in the infrared,” said McCaughrean. “So, when you get to these cool, three-Jupiter-mass objects, almost all the light is coming out at quite long wavelengths where the telescope itself is glowing very brightly. In space, you can cool a telescope down to a point where it’s not glowing at all in those wavelengths. And that means all of a sudden you should be able to see all of these new, very faint, extremely low-mass young objects, things you will never see from the ground.”
Webb, a powerful, infrared space telescope, will thus be uniquely capable of studying these young stars, brown dwarfs, and free-floating planetary-mass objects, as well as their protoplanetary disks, jets, and outflows, in regions like the Orion Nebula.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
The Carnival of the Animals is a musical composition by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -Mahatma Gandhi A cat is a lion in a jungle of small bushes. – Indian Proverb All things […]Carnival of the Animals — Steve McCurry Curated
While we stare at our navels during lockdown, perhaps we can consider the wonders of space via our eye in the sky -the Hubble space telescope. It is 30 years since Hubble was launched, with a few teething problems and a few expensive upgrades, it has provided us with images from the edge of the known universe and explored the wonders of star formation and death as well as the mechanisms inside supermassive Black Holes.
HUBBLE SHOWCASES A VAST COSMIC UNDERSEA WORLD TEEMING WITH STARS
A colorful image resembling a cosmic version of an undersea world teeming with stars is being released to commemorate the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of viewing the wonders of space.
In the Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars.
Some of the stars in NGC 2014 are monsters. The nebula’s sparkling centerpiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun. The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material.
NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of unlocking the beauty and mystery of space by unveiling a stunning new portrait of a firestorm of starbirth in a neighboring galaxy.
In this Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because it resembles an undersea world.
Thirty years ago, on April 24, 1990, Hubble was carried aloft from the Kennedy Space Center aboard the space shuttle Discovery, along with a five-astronaut crew. Deployed into low-Earth orbit a day later, the telescope opened a new eye onto the cosmos that has been transformative for our civilization.
Hubble is revolutionizing modern astronomy, not only for scientists, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery. Hubble’s never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for Hubble’s top scientific achievements. Unlike any space telescope before it, Hubble made astronomy relevant, engaging, and accessible for people of all ages. The space telescope’s iconic imagery has redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.
“Hubble has given us stunning insights about the universe, from nearby planets to the farthest galaxies we have seen so far,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “It was revolutionary to launch such a large telescope 30 years ago, and this astronomy powerhouse is still delivering revolutionary science today. Its spectacular images have captured the imagination for decades, and will continue to inspire humanity for years to come.”
Unencumbered by Earth’s blurring atmosphere, the space observatory unveils the universe in unprecedented crystal-clear sharpness across a broad range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light.
Hubble’s top accomplishments include measuring the expansion and acceleration rate of the universe; finding that black holes are common among galaxies; characterizing the atmospheres of planets around other stars; monitoring weather changes on planets across our solar system; and looking back in time across 97% of the universe to chronicle the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies.
Hubble has yielded to date 1.4 million observations and provided data that astronomers around the world have used to write more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, making it the most prolific space observatory in history. Its archival data alone will fuel future astronomy research for generations to come.
Hubble’s longevity can be attributed to five space shuttle servicing missions, from 1993 to 2009, in which astronauts upgraded the telescope with advanced instruments, new electronics, and on-orbit repairs. The venerable observatory, with its suite of cameras and other instruments, is expected to stay operational through the 2020s, in synergy with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
The new space portrait is one of the most photogenic examples of the many turbulent stellar nurseries Hubble has observed during its 30-year lifetime. These regions are dominated by the glow of stars at least 10 times more massive than our Sun. The stellar inhabitants have short lives of only a few million years, compared to the 10-billion-year lifetime of our Sun.
The sparkling centerpiece of NGC 2014 is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun. The stars’ ultraviolet radiation heats the surrounding dense gas. The massive stars also unleash fierce winds of charged particles that blast away lower-density gas, forming the bubble-like structures seen on the right. The stars’ powerful stellar winds are pushing gas and dust to the denser left side of the nebula, where it is piling up, creating a series of dark ridges bathed in starlight.
The blue areas in NGC 2014 reveal the glow of oxygen, heated to nearly 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit (11,000 degrees Celsius) by the blast of ultraviolet light. The cooler, red gas indicates the presence of hydrogen and nitrogen.
By contrast, the seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material.
RELATED LINKS:NASA’s Hubble Portal
STScI’s Hubble 30th Anniversary Website
The Hubble Space Telescope: Three Decades of Discovery Video Montage (STScI)
NASA Goddard’s Hubble 30th Anniversary Feature and Narrated Video
NASA Goddard’s Narrated Hubble 30th Anniversary Video (HD Formats)
New York is the true capital of America. Every New Yorker knows it, and by God, we always shall. – Edward Rutherfurd If London is a watercolor, New York is an oil painting. – Peter Shaffer When you leave New York you ain’t going anywhere. – Jimmy Breslin More than anything else New […]New York: Tough, Resilient, Unbowed — Steve McCurry Curated
Most of us may not be feeling so positive about life at present – but David Hockney allows us a little respite through his ipad paintings.
Hockney wrote to the BBC and sent his gift of some paintings and his philosophical thoughts:
“We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it. This will in time be over and then what? What have we learned? I am 83 years old, I will die. The cause of death is birth.
“The only real things in life are food and love in that order, just like our little dog ruby. I really believe this and the source of art is love.
“I love life.”
“Why are my iPad drawings seen as a respite from the news? Well, they are obviously made by the hand depicting the renewal that is the spring in this part of the world.”
David Hockney and BBC 2020.
Serenity is the balance between good and bad, life and death, horrors and pleasures. Life is, as it were, defined by death. If there wasn’t death of things, then there wouldn’t be any life to celebrate. – Norman Davies Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. […]Serenity — Steve McCurry Curated
Conversation is food for the soul. – Mexican Proverb The character of a man is known from his conversations. – Menander, 342 – 292 BCE In my opinion, the most fruitful and natural play of the mind is in conversation. I find it sweeter than any other action in life; and if I were forced to […]Conversation: Food for the Soul — Steve McCurry Curated