the jet stream

Cassini Spacecraft: Top Discoveries

Our Cassini spacecraft has been exploring Saturn, its stunning rings and its strange and beautiful moons for more than a decade.

Having expended almost every bit of the rocket propellant it carried to Saturn, operators are deliberately plunging Cassini into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons will remain pristine for future exploration – in particular, the ice-covered, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus, but also Titan, with its intriguing pre-biotic chemistry.

Let’s take a look back at some of Cassini’s top discoveries:  

Titan

Under its shroud of haze, Saturn’s planet-sized moon Titan hides dunes, mountains of water ice and rivers and seas of liquid methane. Of the hundreds of moons in our solar system, Titan is the only one with a dense atmosphere and large liquid reservoirs on its surface, making it in some ways more like a terrestrial planet.

Both Earth and Titan have nitrogen-dominated atmospheres – over 95% nitrogen in Titan’s case. However, unlike Earth, Titan has very little oxygen; the rest of the atmosphere is mostly methane and traced amounts of other gases, including ethane.

There are three large seas, all located close to the moon’s north pole, surrounded by numerous smaller lakes in the northern hemisphere. Just one large lake has been found in the southern hemisphere.

Enceladus

The moon Enceladus conceals a global ocean of salty liquid water beneath its icy surface. Some of that water even shoots out into space, creating an immense plume!

For decades, scientists didn’t know why Enceladus was the brightest world in the solar system, or how it related to Saturn’s E ring. Cassini found that both the fresh coating on its surface, and icy material in the E ring originate from vents connected to a global subsurface saltwater ocean that might host hydrothermal vents.

With its global ocean, unique chemistry and internal heat, Enceladus has become a promising lead in our search for worlds where life could exist.

Iapetus

Saturn’s two-toned moon Iapetus gets its odd coloring from reddish dust in its orbital path that is swept up and lands on the leading face of the moon.

The most unique, and perhaps most remarkable feature discovered on Iapetus in Cassini images is a topographic ridge that coincides almost exactly with the geographic equator. The physical origin of the ridge has yet to be explained…

It is not yet year whether the ridge is a mountain belt that has folded upward, or an extensional crack in the surface through which material from inside Iapetus erupted onto the surface and accumulated locally.

Saturn’s Rings

Saturn’s rings are made of countless particles of ice and dust, which Saturn’s moons push and tug, creating gaps and waves.

Scientists have never before studied the size, temperature, composition and distribution of Saturn’s rings from Saturn obit. Cassini has captured extraordinary ring-moon interactions, observed the lowest ring-temperature ever recorded at Saturn, discovered that the moon Enceladus is the source for Saturn’s E ring, and viewed the rings at equinox when sunlight strikes the rings edge-on, revealing never-before-seen ring features and details.

Cassini also studied features in Saturn’s rings called “spokes,” which can be longer than the diameter of Earth. Scientists think they’re made of thin icy particles that are lifted by an electrostatic charge and only last a few hours.  

Auroras

The powerful magnetic field that permeates Saturn is strange because it lines up with the planet’s poles. But just like Earth’s field, it all creates shimmering auroras.

Auroras on Saturn occur in a process similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights. Particles from the solar wind are channeled by Saturn’s magnetic field toward the planet’s poles, where they interact with electrically charged gas (plasma) in the upper atmosphere and emit light.  

Turbulent Atmosphere

Saturn’s turbulent atmosphere churns with immense storms and a striking, six-sided jet stream near its north pole.

Saturn’s north and south poles are also each beautifully (and violently) decorated by a colossal swirling storm. Cassini got an up-close look at the north polar storm and scientists found that the storm’s eye was about 50 times wider than an Earth hurricane’s eye.

Unlike the Earth hurricanes that are driven by warm ocean waters, Saturn’s polar vortexes aren’t actually hurricanes. They’re hurricane-like though, and even contain lightning. Cassini’s instruments have ‘heard’ lightning ever since entering Saturn orbit in 2004, in the form of radio waves. But it wasn’t until 2009 that Cassini’s cameras captured images of Saturnian lighting for the first time.

Cassini scientists assembled a short video of it, the first video of lightning discharging on a planet other than Earth.

Cassini’s adventure will end soon because it’s almost out of fuel. So to avoid possibly ever contaminating moons like Enceladus or Titan, on Sept. 15 it will intentionally dive into Saturn’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft is expected to lose radio contact with Earth within about one to two minutes after beginning its decent into Saturn’s upper atmosphere. But on the way down, before contact is lost, eight of Cassini’s 12 science instruments will be operating! More details on the spacecraft’s final decent can be found HERE.

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Me: MY BABYS FIT LIKE A DAY DREAM WALKING WITH HIS HEAD DOWN I’M THE ONE HE’S WALKING TOOOOOO SO CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT YEAH CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT TO MY BABY’S FLY LIKE A JET STREAM HIGH ABOVE THE WHOLE SCENE LOVES ME LIKE I’M BRAND NEW

Someone: aren’t you single?

Me: ……………….yes

PSA

Ok so I just wanted to make this post to give y'all a rundown for what’s happening in the south right now:


Currently there is a hurricane making landfall on the coast of Texas called Harvey. Harvey is a Category 4 hurricane that has winds exceeding 130 mph. Most Texans were unprepared for this hurricane because the only yesterday Harvey was a Category 1 hurricane and the day before that Harvey was just a Tropical Depression. Most Gas Stations are running out of gas if they haven’t already and most stores are empty of a lot of nonperishable items and water.


The last Category 4 Hurricane to hit Texas was Ike in September 2008. At the time, most of what is Galveston Island had been leveled with one or two houses still standing. Most of the area did not have power for about a week and some did not have power for over a month after. The city of Galveston itself had storm surge over 17 Ft (5.18 meters). In the Bolivar Peninsula, flood waters exceeded 12Ft (around 3 meters). Winds exceeded 110mph and the highest storm surge was recorded at 22 ft (6.8 meters). 195 people were killed in the storm in total (not just Texas) and the cost to repair was around $22 Billion.


We were lucky with Ike because the storm was relatively quick to move through the area. Harvey was previously expected to pass through Mexico as a Tropical Depression and continue out until the Pacific Ocean until a few days ago when it turned to the north. In addition because it is such a slow moving system (moving almost 10 mph), it allowed the system to strength over the warm Gulf waters. With Harvey we are not as lucky due to the weather we have been having previously. There is high pressures located over West Texas and one located to the north east, around northern Louisiana and Arkansas and a jet stream that runs behind both high pressure systems which are effectively going to box in Harvey causing him to stay over Texas until Wednesday.


If you want to help out with the relief fund in anyway by donation, please donate to the red cross by visiting redcross.org , calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-27677), Or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation or to the salvation army by visiting givesalvationarmy.org or calling 1-800-725-2769 . Other ways you can help are by volunteering or donating blood if possible.


Please keep Texas in your prayers and keep monitoring the situation. If possible please Signal Boost this post or post like it just so we can get word out.

I discovered something amazing today.

So, this may not be news to many of you, but humor me. 

This is insulin, administered subcutaneously through a high-pressure jet stream - no needle.

Guys, this is a goddamn hypospray. 

!!!!

When I saw this, I squeaked in the OR.

Side note that Anna does not normally squeak, as it’s an undignified sound. But it definitely happened, and I definitely got some strange looks. 

But a HYPOSPRAY.

The future has arrived. 

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Almost every day, we receive a message from a spacecraft more than 10.6 billion miles (about 17 billion km) away.

At that unimaginable distance, it takes the radio signal almost 16 hours to arrive. The spacecraft is Voyager 2, which launched 40 years ago this month. It’s still operating, sending back dispatches from the dark reaches well beyond the orbit of Pluto. Even now, scientists are still actively exploring the outer boundaries of the solar system using Voyager 2, decades after its “Grand Tour” of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune revealed their splendors like never before. This week, we recall 10 highlights from one of the most epic voyages in human history.

1. A Journey of 10 Billion Miles Begins With the First Step

Voyager 2 set out from Earth on Aug. 20, 1977. Even though it launched before its twin spacecraft, Voyager 1, it carried the ‘2’ moniker because mission planners knew its trajectory would bring it to Jupiter after Voyager 1’s arrival there.

2. The Grand Tour

Voyager 2’s trajectory was special because it took advantage of a rare orbital alignment to fly by all four gas giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. It was the first, and so far the only, spacecraft to carry out a close-up reconnaissance of Uranus and Neptune.

3. Not-So-Gentle Giant

Voyager 2 flew by Jupiter in April 1979, capturing striking images of the planet’s volcanic moon Io and its violent storms larger than the entire Earth.

4. Saturn’s Not the Only One

Jupiter has its own ring system, and Voyager 2 provided the first pictures.

5. An Ocean Under Ice

During its Jupiter encounter, Voyager 2 obtained close-up looks at Jupiter’s moon Europa, including linear cracks and other features which first led scientists to realize Europa probably hides a vast sea of liquid water beneath an icy shell, the first known world outside Earth that could have an ocean.

6. Ringworld, the Prequel

Voyager 2 zoomed through the Saturn system in August 1981. It saw hints of mysterious features that the Cassini mission would later reveal in stunning detail, including Enceladus, with its bright surface that suggested geologic activity, and Saturn’s intriguing hexagonal jet stream.

7. Swiftly by a Tilted Planet

In January 1984, Voyager offered humanity its first detailed look at the seventh planet, Uranus, the only one tilted on its side relative to the Sun. Voyager images revealed 11 new moons, including Juliet, Puck, Cressida, Rosalind and Ophelia. The moon Miranda presented a bizarre landscape that left scientists debating its origins for years. Voyager also captured views of the planet’s lacy rings, and found that it is the coldest in the solar system, at minus 353 degrees Fahrenheit (59 Kelvin).

8. In Neptune’s Blue Realm

After picking up a gravitational speed boost at each previous planetary encounter, by the time Voyager reached Neptune it shot through the entire system of Neptunian rings and moons in a matter of hours. Voyager saw a titanic storm in Neptune’s windy atmosphere, discovered new moons, and revealed active geysers erupting on Triton’s frigid surface.

9. Postcards From the Edge

Although their cameras are no longer functioning, other key scientific instruments on board both Voyager spacecraft are still collecting data. Voyager 1 is exploring the boundary between the Sun’s realm and interstellar space. Voyager 2 hasn’t traveled quite as far. In September 2007, it crossed the termination shock (where the speed of the solar wind of charged particles drops below the speed of sound) at a point about 84 Astronomical Units from the Sun (more than twice the distance to Pluto). See https://go.nasa.gov/2uwrndb

10. Ride Along

Voyager’s mission is far from over. Engineers estimate the spacecraft will have enough power to operate into the mid-2020s. You can ride along at www.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager, or by following @NASAVoyager on Twitter and by downloading our free 3-D space simulation software, Eyes on the Solar System at eyes.nasa.gov.

One more thing: Inspired by the messages of goodwill carried on Voyager’s Golden Record, you’re invited to send a short, uplifting message to Voyager and all that lies beyond it via social media. With input from the Voyager team and a public vote, one of these messages will be selected for us to beam into interstellar space on Sept. 5, 2017—the 40th anniversary of Voyager 1’s launch. Post your message on social media with the tag #MessageToVoyager by Aug 15. Details: www.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager/message/

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

It’s the time of year for summer break, swimming, and oh, yes storms. June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season on the Atlantic coast, but we’re not alone. Our neighboring planets have seen their fair share of volatile weather, too (like the Cassini spacecraft’s view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn’s north pole known as “the hexagon”). 

This week, we present 10 of the solar system’s greatest storms.

1. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

With tumultuous winds peaking at 400 mph, the Great Red Spot has been swirling wildly over Jupiter’s skies for at least 150 years and possibly much longer. People saw a big spot on Jupiter as early as the 1600s when they started stargazing through telescopes, though it’s unclear whether they were looking at a different storm. Today, scientists know the Great Red Spot has been there for a while, but what causes its swirl of reddish hues remains to be discovered. More >

2. Jupiter’s Little Red Spot

Despite its unofficial name, the Little Red Spot is about as wide as Earth. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. More >

3. Saturn’s Hexagon

The planet’s rings might get most of the glory, but another shape’s been competing for attention: the hexagon. This jet stream is home to a massive hurricane tightly centered on the north pole, with an eye about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Numerous small vortices spin clockwise while the hexagon and hurricane spin counterclockwise. The biggest of these vortices, seen near the lower right corner of the hexagon and appearing whitish, spans about 2,200 miles, approximately twice the size of the largest hurricane on Earth. More>

4. Monster Storm on Saturn 

A tempest erupted in 2010, extending approximately 9,000 miles north-south large enough to eventually eat its own tail before petering out. The storm raged for 200 days, making it the longest-lasting, planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. More >

5. Mars’ Dust Storm 

Better cover your eyes. Dust storms are a frequent guest on the Red Planet, but one dust storm in 2001 larger by far than any seen on Earth raised a cloud of dust that engulfed the entire planet for three months. As the Sun warmed the airborne dust, the upper atmospheric temperature rose by about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. More >

6. Neptune’s Great Dark Spot

Several large, dark spots on Neptune are similar to Jupiter’s hurricane-like storms. The largest spot, named the “Great Dark Spot” by its discoverers, contains a storm big enough for Earth to fit neatly inside. And, it looks to be an anticyclone similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. More >

7. Sun Twister 

Not to be confused with Earth’s tornadoes, a stalk-like prominence rose up above the Sun, then split into about four strands that twisted themselves into a knot and dispersed over a two-hour period. This close-up shows the effect is one of airy gracefulness. More >

8. Titan’s Arrow-shaped Storm 

The storm blew across the equatorial region of Titan, creating large effects in the form of dark and likely “wet” from liquid hydrocarbons areas on the surface of the moon. The part of the storm visible here measures 750 miles in length east-to-west. The wings of the storm that trail off to the northwest and southwest from the easternmost point of the storm are each 930 miles long. More >

9. Geomagnetic Storms

On March 9, 1989, a huge cloud of solar material exploded from the sun, twisting toward Earth. When this cloud of magnetized solar material called a coronal mass ejection reached our planet, it set off a chain of events in near-Earth space that ultimately knocked out an entire power grid area to the Canadian province Quebec for nine hours. More >

10. Super Typhoon Tip

Back on Earth, Typhoon Tip of 1979 remains the biggest storm to ever hit our planet, making landfall in Japan. The tropical cyclone saw sustained winds peak at 190 mph and the diameter of circulation spanned approximately 1,380 miles. Fortunately, we now have plans to better predict future storms on Earth. NASA recently launched a new fleet of hurricane-tracking satellites, known as the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will use the same GPS technology you and I use in our cars to measure wind speed and ultimately improve how to track and forecast hurricanes. More >

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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The shimmering colors visible in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image show off the remarkable complexity of the Twin Jet Nebula. The new image highlights the nebula’s shells and its knots of expanding gas in striking detail. Two iridescent lobes of material stretch outwards from a central star system. Within these lobes two huge jets of gas are streaming from the star system at speeds in excess of one million kilometers (621,400 miles) per hour.

Credit: NASA/ESA & Hubble

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