Wednesday, March 07, 2018

SOLAR PROBE PLUS Update: Send Your Name Towards the Sun!

An artist's concept of NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the Sun.

Send Your Name to the Sun Aboard Parker Solar Probe (Press Release)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — designed, built and managed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) — will launch in summer 2018 and travel to our star on a historic mission to “touch the Sun.” Now you can get on board and be a part of this voyage of extreme exploration.

NASA is giving everyone across the world the opportunity to submit their names for a journey to the Sun. Names will be added to a microchip that will fly aboard Parker Solar Probe as it makes its way from Earth to the Sun — the first mission to ever do so.

Along for the ride will be a revolutionary heat shield, which will protect the spacecraft from soaring temperatures as it plunges into the corona to get the first close-up view of Earth’s star.

Name submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here:

Parker Solar Probe’s scientific objectives include tracing the flow of energy and understanding the heating of the solar corona, and exploring what accelerates the solar wind. It will also help scientists understand in greater detail how the Sun affects the solar system and Earth.

“Parker Solar Probe is, quite literally, the fastest, hottest — and, to me, coolest — mission under the Sun,” said project scientist Nicola Fox, of APL. “This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we’ve not been able to understand.”

Originally dubbed Solar Probe Plus, the spacecraft was renamed Parker Solar Probe in May 2017, in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. Parker proposed the solar wind’s existence in his now famous 1958 paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual.

“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”

Source: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory


Send your name towards the Sun aboard NASA's Parker Solar Probe! The deadline is April 27, 2018.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Mamba Is Now an Oscar Winner...

Congrats to Kobe Bryant and animator Glen Keane after their film Dear Basketball won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short tonight! KB24 continues to be a champ...

Kobe Bryant and animator Glen Keane won the Best Animated Short Oscar for DEAR the 90th annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Japan's Hayabusa 2 Spacecraft Spots Its Asteroid Destination...

An animated GIF showing asteroid Ryugu moving through deep seen by JAXA's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft on February 26, 2018.An image of asteroid Ryugu that was taken by JAXA's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft on February 26, 2018.

Hayabusa 2 Has Detected Ryugu! (Press Release)

On February 26, 2018, Hayabusa 2 saw its destination—asteroid Ryugu—for the first time! The photographs were captured by the ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic) onboard the spacecraft. Images were taken between noon JST on February 26th and 9:00 AM the following morning, with about 300 shots taken in total. Data for nine of these images were transmitted from the spacecraft on February 27th, allowing us to confirm that Ryugu had indeed been seen. The animation shows these nine consecutive frames.

Ryugu's brightness from Hayabusa 2 is about magnitude 9, which would be impossible to see with the naked eye but visible with the ONC-T. Looking at the image above, you can see how the position of the surrounding stars relative to Ryugu appears to change as Hayabusa 2 moves towards the asteroid. The distance between Ryugu and Hayabusa 2 when the images were taken is about 1.3 million km. Ryugu as seen from Hayabusa 2 is in the direction of the constellation Pisces.

Ryugu was photographed when the Sun, Hayabusa 2 and Ryugu were almost in a line. This configuration can be seen in the figure below, which shows a snapshot of the header from the Hayabusa 2 website on February 26, 2018, which continuously updates to show the position of Hayabusa 2. If you were to stand on Ryugu, Hayabusa 2 would be seen in the direction of the Sun.

Hayabusa 2 is currently using its ion engine to make adjustments to its course. This makes it difficult to alter the orientation of the spacecraft. However, at the alignment shown below, the ONC-T camera can image Ryugu without needing to make significant changes to the spacecraft's orientation. This made February 26th the perfect time to try and capture Ryugu's image with the ONC-T. From the data, Ryugu was observed to be exactly at the expected location based on Hayabusa 2's estimated position. This tells us that Hayabusa 2 is flying on the planned course.

"Now that we see Ryugu, the Hayabusa 2 project has shifted to the final preparation stage for arrival at the asteroid. There are no problems with the route towards Ryugu or the performance of the spacecraft, and we will be proceeding with maximum thrust," explains Project Manager, Yuichi Tsuda.

The remaining images will be transmitted back to Earth from the spacecraft and allow us to further confirm the asteroid and spacecraft location. Although we can currently see Ryugu only as a point, it is very exciting for the whole project team to catch sight of the destination! The ONC-T was developed under collaboration between JAXA, the University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, The University of Aizu, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency


The distance between JAXA's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft and asteroid Ryugu, as of February 26, 2018.