The Hubble Space Telescope is Still Down!
The Hubble Space Telescope remains in safe mode after its payload computer halted on June 13th. NASA engineers are continuing to diagnose the problem, which is looking like a memory read/write error. Anyone who has had a stick of RAM go bad in their PC know exactly what is happening. Over the next week, more tests will be performed to rule-out issues with specific pieces of hardware, and NASA may have to switch to backup systems.
I’m seeing a lot of “Repair the Hubble” posts – this IS possible, the Shuttle is not the only spacecraft that can service the Hubble. Astronaut Andrew Feustel told me that during the last Hubble servicing mission, he installed a bar on the bottom of the telescope – this bar can be latched onto by a robotic mission to either de-orbit, or boost the Hubble. I’ve not seen any plans by NASA, yet, to repair the Hubble, but it might be interesting to see if some private space industry could do it.
But if the Hubble was repaired, the mission would need to be extended, engineers would be needed to support it, and it would need continued funding… funding that could go to newer space telescopes and exploration missions. Think about it this way: how much sense would it make to fly from New York to Sydney to install brand new, top-of-the-line memory into your Mom’s old Windows 95 PC?
Jupiter and Saturn continue to appear in the southern morning sky all week; the Waning Gibbous Moon appears near Jupiter on June 30th.
Mercury returns to the in the eastern predawn sky at the end of June; it appears highest above the horizon on July 8th, and will vanish into the glare of the Sun around July 20th.
Venus and Mars appear in the western sky at dusk; the two planets continue to appear closer with each passing day, moving towards an exciting close conjunction on July 12th.
There will be a conjunction of Venus and the Beehive star cluster in the west-northwestern sky after sunset on July 2nd.
- The Moon is a Waning Gibbous – rising after sunset, visible high in the sky after midnight, and visible to the southwest after sunrise.
- The Third Quarter Moon occurs on July 1st – rising around midnight, and visible to the south after sunrise.
- After July 1st, the Moon will be a Waning Crescent – visible low to the east before sunrise.
If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2021 page – it will show you what the Moon looks like right now. If you click the image on that page, you will download a high-rez TIFF image annotated with the names of prominent features – helpful for logging your lunar observations!
The Sun has 3, count them 3 spots! Hah ha ha ha! *AHEM* Excuse me… my granddaughter has been watching Sesame Street when she’s been over here visiting.
The two nearby spots are blowing off C-class solar flares; SpaceWeather.com says: “NOAA analysts have modeled a CME that left the sun on June 27th. Their conclusion: “[It will] likely miss Earth. However, due to a moderate level of uncertainty, there is a possibility of weak influences from the flanking edge of the CME on July 1st.”
The Sun seen in 193 angstroms on June 28th
A LOT of coronal loop activity associated with the dual sunspot group – what’s interesting is the all the loop activity in the otherwise sunspot-free region above the active sunspot pair. The northern coronal hole remains open and huge, the southern hole remains diminished.
The Sun seen in 304 angstroms on June 28th
Moderate prominence activity around the Sun’s limb; AR2836 looks very angry.
You can view the Sun in near real-time, in multiple frequencies here: SDO-The Sun Now.
You can create your own time-lapse movies of the Sun here: AIA/HMI Browse Data.
You can browse all the SDO images of the Sun from 2010 to the present here: Browse SDO archive.
Solar Activity on Facebook – Run by Volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Pamela Shivak
Solar wind speed is 337.6 km/sec ▼, with a density of 6.7 protons/cm3 ▼ at 1251 UT.
Click here to see a near real-time animation of the corona and solar wind from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
- Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) discovered this month: 155, this year: 1287 (+9), all time: 26,123 (+11)
- Potentially hazardous asteroids: 2188 (+3) (updated 2021-06-29)
- Total Minor Planets discovered (NASA): 1,097,148 (+1,923)
- Total Minor Planets discovered (MPC): 1,086,655 (updated 2021-06-22)
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid||Date(UT)||Miss Distance||Velocity (km/s)||Diameter (m)|
|2021 MQ1||2021-Jun-29||16.9 LD||18||89|
|2021 MS||2021-Jun-30||19.9 LD||23.3||60|
|2010 XJ11||2021-Jul-01||4.1 LD||16.4||59|
|2021 GM4||2021-Jul-01||12.1 LD||6.3||150|
|2021 LE7||2021-Jul-02||10.9 LD||11.4||29|
|2021 LG3||2021-Jul-03||19.4 LD||8.6||83|
|2020 AD1||2021-Jul-04||2.8 LD||4.9||20|
|2021 MC||2021-Jul-06||3 LD||7.2||23|
|2019 AT6||2021-Jul-13||4.2 LD||5.1||11|
|2019 NB7||2021-Jul-17||15.2 LD||13.8||12|
|2014 BP43||2021-Jul-21||17 LD||8.5||18|
|2008 GO20||2021-Jul-24||12.8 LD||8.2||123|
|2020 BW12||2021-Jul-27||16.7 LD||9.8||21|
|2019 YM6||2021-Jul-31||17.9 LD||13.5||135|
|2020 PN1||2021-Aug-03||9.6 LD||4.6||30|
|2020 PP1||2021-Aug-03||13 LD||3.6||16|
|2012 BA35||2021-Aug-11||6.9 LD||4.2||62|
|2016 BQ||2021-Aug-14||4.4 LD||4.7||16|
|2016 AJ193||2021-Aug-21||8.9 LD||26.2||709|
|2019 UD4||2021-Aug-22||14.2 LD||5.5||85|
|2020 BC16||2021-Aug-24||15 LD||6.7||34|
|2011 UC292||2021-Aug-24||9 LD||8.5||98|
Find out how astronomers and planetary scientists find and keep track of asteroids
Lots of big names joining in #AsteroidDay presentations
Planetary Society article analyses mistakes, inaccuracies and hits of two famous 90s' blockbusters
On June 28, 2021, the NASA All Sky Fireball Network reported 5 fireballs!
Position of the planets & several spacecraft in the inner solar system on June 29th – the orbit of comet 67P is highlighted:
Position of the planets in the middle solar system – the orbit of asteroid 4 Vesta is highlighted:
Position of the planets in the outer solar system – the orbit of comet C/2014 UN271 is shown in red:
This comet has caused something of a stir in the astronomical community – it’s an Oort-cloud object, and it’s BIG: 100-200 km in size! Its closest approach to the Sun will be between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus in 2031; it will take ~4.5 million years to reach it aphelion.
I used SpaceEngine to visualize the comet’s orbit; I wanted to see the other end of its orbit, so I zoomed-out… and kept zooming, and kept zooming until nearby stars started to visibly move! One of those stars was Alpha Centauri – so I clicked on it, and looked back at the Sun. The orbit of comet C/2014 UN271 was HUGE in Alpha Centauri’s sky!
Solar System News:
International Space Station
International Space Station
HiRISE - Beautiful Mars
Note to self: This made me say “WOW!” without thinking about it.
NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter
NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover
Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3
See a list of current NASA missions here: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions?mission_status=current
ex·o·plan·et /ˈeksōˌplanət/, noun: a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun.
Data from the NASA Exoplanet Archive
* Confirmed Planets Discovered by TESS refers to the number planets that have been published in the refereed astronomical literature.
* TESS Project Candidates refers to the total number of transit-like events that appear to be astrophysical in origin, including false positives as identified by the TESS Project.
* TESS Project Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed refers to the number of TESS Project Candidates that have not yet been dispositioned as a Confirmed Planet or False Positive.
Adrian Bradley is a buddy, and president of the Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs.
SpaceWeather.com Realtime Aurora Gallery: https://spaceweathergallery.com/aurora_gallery.html
June is now Colorado’s Dark Sky Month!
- Visit an International Dark Sky Park: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/
- If you live in Michigan, visit the Michigan Dark Skies site: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/darkskies/
Neutron Star - Black Hole binary merger detected!
NASA Science Summer Events and Activities
Celebrate NASA-style with some sunny (aka Heliophysics) activities:
- Watch three years of the Sun (safely!) in three minutes in this guided tour with a NASA Sun expert.
- Observe the Sun just like NASA does—in many beautiful Jewel Box colors. Then color the sun yourself with this NASA coloring book, available in English and Spanish.
- Kids, visit the Space Place for games, crafts & activities about the Sun (Vea en Espanol!)
- Are there any sunspots today? Check out what the Sun looks like now (or in the recent past) using the Helioviewer (advanced version here). Didn’t find any sunspots? You can make your own with these sunspot cookies.
- How does the Sun impact the Earth? Chase some aurora and find out with the Aurorasaurus Citizen Science project (intro video here). Can’t see any aurora? Anyone can help by verifying some tweets!
Hubble Space Telescope – Helping see the Beauty of the Cosmos
Located in the constellation Hydra, this colorful, swirling spiral galaxy is known as M83. A “starburst” galaxy, M83 is considerably smaller than our own galaxy but is producing stars at a much faster rate. The pink clouds of hydrogen gas that dot the galaxy’s spiral arms are the nurseries where new stars are being born. The blue, grainy clumps mixed in with these star-forming regions are clusters of hot, young stars that have blown away the surrounding gas with their fierce ultraviolet radiation. Some of these young stars are only about a million years old. The yellow glow closer to the center of the galaxy comes from more mature stars that have lived for 100 million years or more.
Astronomers are using Hubble’s detailed examinations of M83 to investigate how stars form in clusters, how those clusters disperse over time, and how the stars eventually die, redistributing their contents into space for future generations of stars to build upon.
For example, astronomers — including Rupali Chandar of the University of Toledo, Brad Whitmore from the Space Telescope Science Institute, and their collaborators — have been scrutinizing Hubble’s high-resolution images in order to estimate the ages of star clusters in M83. This information reveals how many star clusters survive to old age and how many disband while their stars are still young. These studies suggest that star clusters form the same way throughout the galaxy. However, several research teams have found that more clusters are destroyed in the inner regions of M83 than the outer regions, indicating that environment may influence how long a cluster sticks together.
Volunteers inspected Hubble images of M83 to classify the cluster’s ages based on physical characteristics, providing more accurate age estimates than those generated by an automatic computer algorithm.
A citizen-science project entitled Star Date: M83 also enlisted the aid of the general public in analyzing the ages of the galaxy’s star clusters. Volunteers inspected Hubble images of M83 to classify the cluster’s ages based on physical characteristics, providing more accurate age estimates than those generated by an automatic computer algorithm.
As a consequence of producing lots of new stars, M83 is also rife with stellar death. In the past century, observers have witnessed six stellar explosions, called supernovae, in M83 — more than in almost any other known galaxy. Hubble has helped identify the remnants of these supernovae and hundreds of others in M83, including one from what appears to be a recent supernova not observed by anyone on Earth. Analyzing Hubble’s observations, a team led by William Blair of the Johns Hopkins University has found evidence that environment also affects how these catastrophic stellar deaths disperse the raw materials for new star formation into the galaxy. – NASA
Stay safe, be well, and look up!
Software Apps used for this post:
NASA Eyes on the Solar System: an immersive 3D solar system and space mission simulator – free for the PC /MAC. I maintain the unofficial NASA Eyes Facebook page.
SpaceEngine: a free 3D Universe Simulator for Windows. Steam version with VR support available.
Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. It’s a great tool for planning observing sessions. A web-based version of Stellarium is also available.