NASA – Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.Continue reading “NASA Invites Public to Submit Names to Fly Aboard Next Mars Rover”
By Bob King
Skyandtelescope.com – April 22, 2015. Walk in the astronauts’ footsteps as you explore the places they visited in the heyday of Apollo program. Use these helpful maps to start you on your way.
We all love dark moonless skies, but let’s face it, the Moon’s out two weeks a month. How can you ignore it? You’ve doubtless observed craters and mountain ranges and probed for volcanic features like rills and domes. But here and there among the nooks and crannies, you’ll find six of the most remarkable locales on the Moon — the Apollo landing sites. They’re the only places where humanity has achieved one of its oldest dreams and “touched the stars”.
As you’re well aware, no telescope on Earth can see the leftover descent stages of the Apollo Lunar Modules or anything else Apollo-related. Not even the Hubble Space Telescope can discern evidence of the Apollo landings. The laws of optics define its limits.
Following are maps for pinpointing each Apollo location. South is up, and clicking on the images will link you to higher resolution versions. Time to strap on your boots and follow in the footsteps of the first people to walk on the Moon.
Hubble’s 94.5-inch mirror has a resolution of 0.024″ in ultraviolet light, which translates to 141 feet (43 meters) at the Moon’s distance. In visible light, it’s 0.05″, or closer to 300 feet. Given that the largest piece of equipment left on the Moon after each mission was the 17.9-foot-high by 14-foot-wide Lunar Module, you can see the problem.
Did I say problem? No problem for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which can dip as low as 31 miles (50 km) from the lunar surface, close enough to image each landing site in remarkable detail.
LRO’s orbital imagery and photos taken in situ by the Apollo astronauts will serve to illuminate our ramblings from one Apollo site to the next. All the landing sites lie on the near side of the Moon and were chosen to explore different geologic terrains. Astronauts bagged 842 pounds (382 kg) of Moon rocks, which represented everything from mare basalts to ancient highland rocks to impact-shattered rocks called breccias. Apollo 12 astronauts even found the first meteorite ever discovered on another world, the Bench Crater carbonaceous chondrite. – See more at:
With the Moon waxing this week and next, the advancing line of lunar sunrise will expose one site after another beginning with Apollo 17 in the Moon’s eastern hemisphere and finishing with Apollos 12 and 14 in the western. To see each locale, a 4-inch or larger telescope magnifying 75× or higher will get the job done. But the larger the scope and higher the power, the closer you’ll be able to pinpoint each landing site and better able to visualize the scene.
The base images for all the sites are photographs taken by the LRO. I encourage you to drop by the ACT-REACT QuickMap site, which features a zoomable lunar map of LRO photos that will practically take you down to the lunar surface. Click the “paper stack” icon and uncheck Sunlit Region to see a fully-illuminated Moon, no matter the current phase. Checking the Nomenclature box will bring up the names of craters, rills and many other features. More details about each of the LRO Apollo photos can be found here.
NASA Science – April 21, 2015: When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flies by Pluto this July, the spacecraft’s high-resolution cameras will spot many new landforms on the dwarf planet’s unexplored surface. There could be mountains, craters, rilles, valleys and, of course, the unknown.
They are all going to need names—and NASA wants you to help.
The public has until Friday, April 24 to help name new features on Pluto and its moons. The naming campaign was announced in March, and now it is being extended because of widespread interest.
The campaign not only expresses public interest in Pluto but also helps the busy New Horizons science team.
“[The team] will not have time to come up with names during the flyby,” explains Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “So it helps to have a ready-made library of names in advance to officially submit to the IAU.”
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Paris is the formal authority for naming celestial bodies. Submissions must follow a set of accepted themes and guidelines set out by the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.
Auroras Underfoot (signup)According to the IAU, Pluto is a “dwarf planet”—that is, a planetary-mass object orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity but is not a planet or satellite. Unlike planets, these bodies have not cleared the neighborhood around their orbits, and their paths sometimes cross with other, often similar, objects. There are currently five identified dwarf planets in our Solar System, each named after a God from Greek, Polynesian, or Roman mythologies. These five bodies are Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.
The names of features on the bodies in the Pluto system are related to mythology and the literature and history of exploration. Listed below are IAU-approved naming themes for Pluto and its largest moon Charon:
Pluto: Names for the Underworld from the world’s mythologies; gods, goddesses, and dwarfs associated with the Underworld; Heroes and other explorers of the Underworld; writers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt; and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Charon: Destinations and milestones of fictional space and other exploration; fictional and mythological vessels of space and other exploration; fictional and mythological voyagers, travelers and explorers.
A complete explanation of naming conventions may be found on the IAU website.
After the naming campaign concludes, NASA’s New Horizons team will sort through the names and submit its recommendations to the IAU. The IAU will decide whether and how the names will be used.
Ready to pick names? Members of the public from around the world, of all ages and walks of life, are allowed to participate. Learn more at http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons.
Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA