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Places for OSIRIS-REx to Touch Asteroid Bennu

Posted by Specola • Posted on 12/23/2019 at 11:25AM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Where is the best place to collect a surface sample from asteroid Bennu? Launched in 2016, NASA sent the robotic Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) to investigate the 500-meter-across asteroid 101955 Bennu. After mapping the near-Earth asteroid's dark surface, OSIRIS-REx will next touch Bennu's surface in 2020 August to collect a surface sample. The featured 23-second time-lapse video shows four candidate locations for the touch, from which NASA chose just one earlier this month. NASA chose the Nightingale near Bennu's northern hemisphere as the primary touch-down spot because of its relative flatness, lack of boulders, and apparent abundance of fine-grained sand. Location Osprey is the backup. NASA plans to return soil samples from Bennu to Earth in 2023 for a detailed analysis. Free Presentation: APOD Editor to show best astronomy images of 2019 -- and the decade -- in NYC on January 3

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The Hyades Star Cluster

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/22/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It is the closest cluster of stars to the Sun. The Hyades open cluster is bright enough to have been remarked on even thousands of years ago, yet is not as bright or compact as the nearby Pleiades (M45) star cluster. Pictured here is a particularly deep image of the Hyades which has brings out vivid star colors and faint coincidental nebulas. The brightest star in the field is yellow Aldebaran, the eye of the bull toward the constellation of Taurus. Aldebaran, at 65 light-years away, is now known to be unrelated to the Hyades cluster, which lies about 150 light-years away. The central Hyades stars are spread out over about 15 light-years. Formed about 625 million years ago, the Hyades likely shares a common origin with the Beehive cluster (M44), a naked-eye open star cluster toward the constellation of Cancer, based on M44's motion through space and remarkably similar age.

Photo by Jose Mtanous

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Parker: Sounds of the Solar Wind

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/21/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What does the solar wind sound like? A wind of fast moving particles blows out from our Sun, and although space transmits sound poorly, particle impact and variable-field data from NASA's near-Sun Parker Solar Probe is being translated into sound. The disarming audio track of the featured video recounts several of these reverberations, including spooky-sounding Langmuir Waves (heard first), hurricane-sounding Whistler Mode Waves (heard next), and hard-to-describe Dispersive Chirping Waves (heard last). Also impressive is the video's time-lapse visual track which shows Parker's view to the side of its sun shield, and where the planets Earth, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus appear in succession, interspersed with bursts of powerful cosmic rays impacting the imager. The nature of the solar wind near Mercury is surprisingly different from near the Earth, and much study is underway to better understand the differences. Discovery + Outreach: Graduate student research position open for APOD

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Quadrantid Meteors through Orion

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/20/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why are these meteor trails nearly parallel? Because they were all shed by the same space rock and so can be traced back to the same direction on the sky: the radiant of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. This direction used to be toward the old constellation of Quadrans Muralis, hence the name Quadrantids, but when the International Astronomical Union formulated its list of modern constellations in 1922, this constellation did not make the list. Even though the meteors are now considered to originate from the recognized constellation of Bootes, the old name stuck. Regardless of the designation, every January the Earth moves through a dust stream and bits of this dust glow as meteors as they heat up in Earth's atmosphere. The featured image composite was taken on January 4 with a picturesque snowy Slovakian landscape in the foreground, and a deep-exposure sky prominently featuring the constellation Orion in the background. The red star Betelgeuse appears unusually dim -- its fading over the past few months is being tracked by astronomers. Teachers: APOD in the Classroom

Photo by Petr Horálek

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