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The Daily Cosmos or Interesting Facts about the Universe

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The Daily Cosmos or Interesting Facts about the Universe

Cosmology
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Astronomy

Location: #science
Members: 58
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Cosmology - Astrophysics - Astronomy

 

Hubble Wallpaper - Awesome Hubble Images

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Comment by Michel on April 5, 2011 at 3:21pm

@A - This is really cool eye-candy! This needs to be added to the Videos.

@doone - Anybody can hide in these fields of clumpyness.

Comment by Adriana on April 5, 2011 at 2:11pm
Comment by Doone has Fremdschämen on April 3, 2011 at 4:39pm

An artist concept of a close-up view of Saturn's ring particles. The blue particles are composed mostly of ice and clump together to form elongated, curved aggregates, continually forming and dispersing. The space between the clumps is mostly empty. The largest individual particles shown are a few yards across. (Credit: Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Colorado
Comment by Doone has Fremdschämen on April 3, 2011 at 2:58pm
Cassini Sees Seasonal Rains Transform Titan's Surface
MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
CASSINI IMAGING CENTRAL LABORATORY FOR OPERATIONS (CICLOPS)
SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE, BOULDER, COLORADO
http://ciclops.org
media@ciclops.org

Joe Mason (720)974-5859
CICLOPS/Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Jia-Rui C. Cook (818)354-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Michael Buckley (240)228-7536
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

For Immediate Release: March 17, 2011

CASSINI SEES SEASONAL RAINS TRANSFORM TITAN'S SURFACE

As spring continues to unfold at Saturn, April showers on the planet's largest moon, Titan, have brought methane rain to its equatorial deserts, as revealed in images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This is the first time scientists have obtained current evidence of rain soaking Titan's surface at low latitudes.

Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini's cameras in late 2010, has apparently darkened the surface of the moon. The best explanation is these areas remained wet after methane rainstorms. The observations released today in the journal Science, combined with earlier results in Geophysical Research Letters last month, show the weather systems of Titan's thick atmosphere and the changes wrought on its surface are affected by the changing seasons.

"It's amazing to be watching such familiar activity as rainstorms and seasonal changes in weather patterns on a distant, icy satellite," said Elizabeth Turtle, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., and lead author of today's publication. "These observations are helping us to understand how Titan works as a system, as well as similar processes on our own planet."

The Saturn system experienced equinox, when the sun lies directly over a planet's equator and seasons change, in August 2009. (A full Saturn "year" is almost 30 Earth years.) Years of Cassini observations suggest Titan's global atmospheric circulation pattern responds to the changes in solar illumination, influenced by the atmosphere and the surface, as detailed in the Geophysical Research Letters paper. Cassini found the surface temperature responds more rapidly to sunlight changes than does the thick atmosphere. The changing circulation pattern produced clouds in Titan's equatorial region.

Clouds on Titan are formed of methane as part of an Earth-like cycle that uses methane instead of water. On Titan, methane fills lakes on the surface, saturates clouds in the atmosphere, and falls as rain. Though there is evidence that liquids have flowed on the surface at Titan's equator in the past, liquid hydrocarbons, such as methane and ethane, had only been observed on the surface in lakes at polar latitudes. The vast expanses of dunes that dominate Titan's equatorial regions require a predominantly arid climate. Scientists suspected that clouds might appear at Titan's equatorial latitudes as spring in the northern hemisphere progressed. But they were not sure if dry channels previously observed were cut by seasonal rains or remained from an earlier, wetter climate.

An arrow-shaped storm appeared in the equatorial regions on Sept. 27, 2010 -- the equivalent of early April in Titan's "year" -- and a broad band of clouds appeared the next month. As described in the Science paper, over the next few months, Cassini's imaging science subsystem captured short-lived surface changes visible in images of Titan's surface. A 193,000-square-mile (500,000-square-kilometer) region along the southern boundary of Titan's Belet dune field, as well as smaller areas nearby, had become darker. Scientists compared the imaging data to data obtained by other instruments and ruled out other possible causes for surface changes. They concluded this change in brightness is most likely the result of surface wetting by methane rain.

These observations suggest that recent weather on Titan is similar to that over Earth's tropics. In tropical regions, Earth receives its most direct sunlight, creating a band of rising parcels of air and rain clouds that encircle the planet.

"These outbreaks may be the Titan equivalent of what creates Earth's tropical rainforest climates, even though the delayed reaction to the change of seasons and the apparently sudden shift is more reminiscent of Earth's behavior over the tropical oceans than over tropical land areas," said Tony Del Genio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, a co-author and a member of the Cassini imaging team.

On Earth, the tropical bands of rain clouds shift slightly with the seasons but are present within the tropics year-round. On Titan, such extensive bands of clouds may only be prevalent in the tropics near the equinoxes and move to much higher latitudes as the planet approaches the solstices. The imaging team intends to watch whether Titan evolves in this fashion as the seasons progress from spring toward northern summer.

"It is patently clear that there is so much more to learn from Cassini about seasonal forcing of a complex surface-atmosphere system like Titan's and, in turn, how it is similar to, or differs from, the Earth's," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "We are eager to see what the rest of Cassini's Solstice Mission will bring."

Images and movies of these observations can be found at http://ciclops.org, http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini.
Comment by Michel on April 3, 2011 at 2:06pm
@Jaume - This could be construed as a fraudulent tourist brochure...
Comment by Jaume on April 3, 2011 at 1:34pm

Isn't there a glitch in this artistic rendition of Titan? According to Wikipedia, the inclination of Titan's orbit relative to Saturn's equator is close to nil. It's also true for the rings. Thus the rings either shouldn't be visible, or only as a straight thin line.

Comment by Michel on April 3, 2011 at 1:14pm
@doone - I can imagine the night sky view from a planet in the smaller galaxy...
Comment by Doone has Fremdschämen on April 3, 2011 at 11:44am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Giant Galaxy NGC 6872 
Image Credit: Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club, 
Travis Rector (Univ. Alaska), Ángel López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Obs./ Macquarie Univ.), Australian Gemini Office

Explanation: Over 400,000 light years across NGC 6872 is an enormous spiral galaxy, at least 4 times the size of our own, very large, Milky Way. About 200 million light-years distant, toward the southern constellation Pavo, the Peacock, the remarkable galaxy's stretched out shape is due to its ongoing gravitational interaction, likely leading to an eventual merger, with the nearby smaller galaxy IC 4970. IC 4970 is seen just below and right of the giant galaxy's core in this cosmic color portrait from the 8 meter Gemini South telescope in Chile. The idea to image this titanic galaxy collision comes from a winning contest essay submitted last year to the Gemini Observatory by the Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club. In addition to inspirational aspects and aesthetics, club members argued that a color image would be more than just a pretty picture. In their winning essay they noted that "If enough colour data is obtained in the image it may reveal easily accessible information about the different populations of stars, star formation, relative rate of star formation due to the interaction, and the extent of dust and gas present in these galaxies". (Editor's note:For Australian schools, 2011 contest information is here.)

Comment by Doone has Fremdschämen on April 1, 2011 at 8:57pm

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

It's Raining on Titan 
Illustration Credit & Copyright: David A. Hardy (AstroArt)

Explanation: It's been raining on Titan. In fact, it's likely been raining methane on Titan and that's not an April Fools' joke. The almost familiar scene depicted in this artist's vision of the surface of Saturn's largest moon looks across an eroding landscape into a stormy sky. That scenario is consistent with seasonal rain storms temporarily darkening Titan's surface along the moon's equatorial regions, as seen by instruments onboard the Cassini spacecraft. Of course on frigid Titan, with surface temperatures of about -290 degrees F (-180 degrees C), the cycle of evaporation, cloud formation, and rain involves liquid methane instead of water. Lightning could also be possible in Titan's thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere.

Comment by Doone has Fremdschämen on March 31, 2011 at 8:34pm

Rendering of ribbon. Scientists have isolated and resolved the mysterious "ribbon" of energy and particles discovered in the heliosphere -- the huge bubble that surrounds our solar system and protects us from galactic cosmic rays. (Credit: IBEX Science Team/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio/ESA
 
 
 

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