NASA’s Message-In-A-Bottle: The Interstellar Constellation


The picture above represents one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever done.

Here’s a short thought experiment and story:


Somewhere one day a person, who may or may not be somewhat like you, might be looking through their telescope.

They might see something strange, approaching the planet.

They contact the authorities.

A mission is conceived to rendezvous with the object.

Astronauts carefully seal the mysterious asteroid in a large container and bring it back to the planet for scientists to study.

The whole world would be tense, waiting for news to break of what this strange thing is.

Its enigmatic shape gives it away as almost certainly not being natural.

Finally a nervous person approaches the media and crowds outside the lab.

With a shaking hand the person wipes sweat from their brow. They look up briefly before speaking, as if half expecting something to be there.

The asteroid… is not from the solar system. It hurtled here at great speeds from a distant star.

It’s old. We’re not sure yet how old, but it’s clearly been a long time since it was home.

Inside the asteroid is a golden disc. We’ve managed to remove the disc. It has markings… and sounds etched into it.”

It was a little longer before the contents of the disc were deciphered. The scientists realized that the strange 14-branches of lines on the disc were binary. Yes or no. The simplest language in the universe, and a mathematical one.

A language that might be used to communicate with cosmic neighbors.

Across countless years and an unimaginable gulf of empty darkness, something was telling us, “Yes, yes, yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, no, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no…”

But yes to what? No to what?

The media exploded when an astronomer announced the binary series and the lengths of the branches corresponded exactly to the fingerprint-like beacons of 14 pulsars.

Around the world researchers mapped out where the center of the constellation should be, where the center of the 14 branches from their perspective night sky was.

They knew almost immediately but didn’t want to believe.

The star in the center of the constellation, the place where this message came from…

A news anchor looked into a camera, a somber look on their face:

“Astronomers have triangulated the location of the alien spacecraft. It came from a distant star which you can see in your telescopes. It’s the large red one.

It’s pretty to us but was a very different sort of star when this message was sent to us. Our space telescopes have confirmed that there’s a rocky planet in orbit around the star… there’s no atmosphere on it now as the star’s growth has boiled away any atmosphere there might have been.

Could those aliens still be alive somehow? Did they survive the incineration of their home?

As much as we ask these questions all we’ve got are the recordings they left on a sturdy golden record.

When played we hear strange sounds in an alien tongue. Deciphered, the recording reads,

“Hello, from the children of planet Earth…”

This story, believe it or not has already begun.

A few decades ago, NASA, working with Dr. Carl Sagan compiled a golden record to go aboard the Voyager spacecrafts. 

Voyager 1 launched from Earth in 1977. It left the solar system and entered interstellar space in 2013.

In 1 billion years, that golden record will still be readable and the sounds engraved thereon still readable.

NASA used the unique, lighthouse-like rhythms of specific pulsars to generate a map, a sort of interstellar constellation that, no matter where in the Milky Way you are, will always point to our Sun at the center.

It’s a beautiful message. For a billion years the sounds of children speaking across the universe will survive. For a billion years the sounds of a heartbeat of someone in love will be carried from star to star. 

That heartbeat, that love, will flow across the cosmos for a billion years.

For a billion years our interstellar message-in-a-bottle will drift among the current of starlight, perhaps until one day a person, who may or may not be somewhat like you, might look through their telescope and see a strange asteroid drifting towards their planet…

(Image credit: NASA)

Tropical Storm Bill From the International Space Station : NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, currently on a one-year mission to the International Space Station, took this photograph of Tropical Storm Bill in the Gulf of Mexico as it approached the coast of Texas, on June 15, 2015.

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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 July 5 

Zeta Oph: Runaway Star 

Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas, runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this stunning infrared portrait. In the false-color view, bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, lies near the center of the frame, moving toward the left at 24 kilometers per second. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty interstellar material and shaping the curved shock front. Around it are clouds of relatively undisturbed material. 

What set this star in motion? Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a binary star system, its companion star was more massive and hence shorter lived. When the companion exploded as a supernova catastrophically losing mass, Zeta Oph was flung out of the system. About 460 light-years away, Zeta Oph is 65,000 times more luminous than the Sun and would be one of the brighter stars in the sky if it weren’t surrounded by obscuring dust. The image spans about 1.5 degrees or 12 light-years at the estimated distance of Zeta Ophiuchi.

Zeta Oph: Runaway Star

(via APOD; Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Spitzer Space Telescope )

Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas, runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this stunning infrared portrait. In the false-color view, bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, lies near the center of the frame, moving toward the left at 24 kilometers per second. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty interstellar material and shaping the curved shock front. Around it are clouds of relatively undisturbed material. What set this star in motion? Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a binary star system, its companion star was more massive and hence shorter lived. When the companion exploded as a supernova catastrophically losing mass, Zeta Oph was flung out of the system. About 460 light-years away, Zeta Oph is 65,000 times more luminous than the Sun and would be one of the brighter stars in the sky if it weren’t surrounded by obscuring dust. The image spans about 1.5 degrees or 12 light-years at the estimated distance of Zeta Ophiuchi.

Pluto and Charon Surfaces in Living Color

This is the first movie created by New Horizons to reveal color surface features of Pluto and its largest moon Charon. “It’s a bit unusual to see so much surface detail at this distance,” said New Horizons co-investigator William McKinnon of the Geology and Geophysics Investigation Team, Washington University in Saint Louis. “What’s especially noteworthy is the level of detail in both bodies. It’s certainly whetting our appetite for what’s to come.”

The images were taken between June 23 and June 29, 2015, as New Horizons’ distance to Pluto decreased from a distance of 15 million to 11 million miles (24 million to 18 million kilometers). Six high-resolution black-and-white images from New Horizons’ LORRI instrument were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to produce the movie.


PLUTO YOU BEAUTIFUL WALNUT

My entire life I thought you would be blue :(

RUBʿ AL-KHALI FROM SPACE

Earlier we posted about Rubʿ al-Khali, aka the Empty Quarter; a desert in the southern Arabian Peninsula: http://on.fb.me/UYddKy. Rubʿ al-Khali covers about 650,000 square km (250,000 square miles) and lies mainly in southeastern Saudi Arabia, with some portions in Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. The desert was largely unexplored until recently; the first documented journeys made by Westerners were those of Bertram Thomas in 1931 and St. John Philby in 1932.

This image, captured by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard NASA’s Terra Earth-orbiting satellite, shows the sea of sand and sand dunes that makes up the Rubʿ al-Khali, from above. The image was acquired on December 2, 2005.

-TEL

http://on.fb.me/UYddKy
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1200.html
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

NASA’s New Horizons Enters “Safe Mode” After Communication Glitch

NASA’s New Horizons probe experienced an anomaly on Saturday that resulted in the temporary loss of communication with Earth and put the spacecraft into a protective “safe mode” just 10 days ahead of its historic flyby of Pluto.

Read more: http://www.penny4nasa.org/2015/07/05/new-horizons-enters-safe-mode-after-communications-glitch/

The 2015 fire season got off to an unusually early start in Canada when blazes broke out in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Alberta in late May. As the season has progressed, the air in western Canada—as well as large swaths of the United States—grew gray and hazy with smoke.

Beginning on June 28, a sharp trough in the jet stream sent a river of smoke streaming south into the United States. ByJune 29, smoke darkened the skies over much of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa.

On June 29, 2015, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of smoke from hundreds of wildfires in western Canada. Actively burning areas, detected by the thermal bands on MODIS, are outlined in red, while forests appear dark green. The image below shows shows a closer view of smoke and fires burning in northern Alberta near the Athabasca oil sands. While hundreds of fires are burning throughout Canada, some of the fires producing the most smoke are clustered in this area.

A combination of unusually warm temperatures, parched forests, lightning, and strong winds have fueled the outburst of fire. According to the Canadian government, 168 uncontrolled fires and 273 controlled fires were burning in Canada on June 29. More than than 1,300 people have had to evacuate their homes, and health officials have issued health warnings in several provinces because of the smoke.

  1. Further Reading
  2. NASA Earth Observatory (2015, February 4) High-Latitude Forest Fires Behave Differently in North America and Eurasia.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption and image cropping by Adam Voiland.

Instrument(s): Terra - MODIS

Congratulations to Team USA on winning the Women’s World Cup!

Did you know that the International Space Station spans almost an entire soccer field? The space station is the largest artificial satellite in orbit and can be seen by the naked eye when viewing the sky at the appropriate time. It weighs nearly 1,000,000 pounds and has more livable space than a typical six-bedroom house.

Image Credit: NASA

After Anomaly Scare, NASA’s Pluto Flyby Mission Plans Return To Normal Operations

NASA announced late Sunday EDT local time that mission controllers for its New Horizons spacecraft plan to return the probe to normal operations by July 7, or only a week in advance of its mission-crowning planned Pluto flyby.

The announcement followed a late July 4th acknowledgement that mission controllers and engineers that NASA had lost contact with the spacecraft for over an hour and twenty minutes and that the cause of the anomaly was “being worked.”

But NASA now reports that the $700 million nearly decade-old mission remains on track for its July 14 flyby. The space agency reports that an investigation into why the spacecraft lost contact and entered “safe mode” concludes that “no hardware or software default occurred on the spacecraft.”+

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New Horizons Plans July 7 Return to Normal Science Operations NASA’s New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto. The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter. Full story: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20150705

NASA missions monitor a waking black hole

NASA’s Swift satellite detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from the constellation Cygnus on June 15, just before 2:32 p.m. EDT. About 10 minutes later, the Japanese experiment on the International Space Station called the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) also picked up the flare.

The outburst came from V404 Cygni, a binary system located about 8,000 light-years away that contains a black hole. Every couple of decades the black hole fires up in an outburst of high-energy light, becoming an X-ray nova. Until the Swift detection, it had been slumbering since 1989.

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New Horizons Glitch Won’t Affect Pluto Flyby, NASA Says

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will be ready for its epic Pluto flyby next week despite a recent glitch, mission team members say.

New Horizons went into a precautionary “safe mode” on Saturday (July 4) after experiencing an anomaly, but the problem did not turn out to be serious. New Horizons’ handlers say the probe should be back to normal science operations by Tuesday (July 7), exactly one week before it performs the first-ever flyby of Pluto.

“The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter ‘safe mode’ on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft,” mission team members wrote in an update Sunday (July 5). “The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.”

Read more ~ Space.com