#California, #Saturnnorthernpole; NASACassinispacecraft; #NatureCommunications; #northernpolarvortex; # LeighFletcher; #Saturn'snorthernhemisphere; #Saturn'ssouthernhemisphere; #CassiniProject; #PolarJetStream; #LindaSpilker
California (U.S.), Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): A surprising feature emerging at Saturn's northern pole as it nears summertime has been revealed by a new long-term study using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, published Sept. 3 in Nature Communications, media reports said.
Nature Communications, an open access journal that publishes high-quality research in biology, physics, chemistry, Earth sciences, and all related area, in its new study reports the first glimpses of a northern polar vortex forming high in the atmosphere, as Saturn's northern hemisphere approached summertime.
This warm vortex sits hundreds of miles above the clouds, in the stratosphere, and reveals an unexpected surprise.
"The edges of this newly-found vortex appear to be hexagonal, precisely matching a famous and bizarre hexagonal cloud pattern we see deeper down in Saturn's atmosphere," said Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester, lead author of the new study.
This warning of the appearance of a hexagonal-shaped high-altitude vortex similar to famous hexagon seen deeper down in Saturn's clouds is suggestive of the fact that what happens above may be influenced by the lower-altitude hexagon and that it could be a towering structure hundreds of miles in height.
During Cassini's arrival at the Saturnian system in 2004, it was summer in the southern hemisphere, while northern hemisphere was in the midst of winter.
The spacecraft spied a broad, warm high-altitude vortex at Saturn's southern pole but none at the planet's northern pole.
Majority of the planet's weather, including the pre-existing north polar hexagon are hosted by the Saturn's cloud levels was discovered by NASA's Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s and has been studied for decades.
The report also pointed that the phenomenon of a long-lasting wave potentially tied to Saturn's rotation was also seen on Earth in the Polar Jet Stream.
By using instruments including its Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) and by observing the the feature in multiple wavelengths -- from the ultraviolet to the infrared -- Cassini could reveal its properties in detail.
"The mystery and extent of the hexagon continue to grow, even after Cassini's 13 years in orbit around Saturn," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist. "I look forward to seeing other new discoveries that remain to be found in the Cassini data."
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#MilkyWay; #Perseidmeteors; #AlanDyer; #TheHomestretch; #RothneyAstrophysicalObservatory
Alberta, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): Last month, Saskatchewan had an opportunity to views the Milky Way, not to mention Perseid meteors, and now it is time for Albertans to look skyward as three planets and the Milky Way will be visible this month, media reports said.
“Now we have much more time to enjoy the Milky Way with the longer nights,” says a Calgary astronomy author and photographer Alan Dyer, adding we've now entered stargazing prime time as three planets and the Milky Way are visible in Alberta skies.
Alan Dyer (Left)/Facebook
Later this month, says Alan Dyer, gravitational waves will be front and centre at an upcoming Rothney Astrophysical Observatory.
He spoke with The Homestretch this week. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Why is this a good time for stargazing?
A: This is the time we look forward to. It's getting darker earlier. The nights are longer. It's cooler, yes, but no bugs and we hope no smoke for a while. The nights are clear and dry.
Q: What can we see this time of year?
A: The next couple of weeks are prime time for the Milky Way. Now we have much more time to enjoy the Milky Way with the longer nights. It's across the sky all night long, the centre of the galaxy is right to the southern sky then it goes all the way across the sky.
The spiral arms we live in stretching all the way across the sky right through the middle of three stars in a large triangle, called the summer triangle.
You've got to be out in the country to see it, though. You can't see it in the city. This weekend is the ideal time to see the Milky Way.
A 360° panorama of the August night sky and Milky Way over the Great Sandhills of western Saskatchewan. The Galactic Centre is at centre, with Mars bright to the east, left, of the Milky Way. Jupiter is just setting to the right. (All images © Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.com)
Q: The planets are aligning right now for some great stargazing, too, aren't they?
A: We've had a great array of planets in our sky all summer long and they are still there.
Jupiter is quite bright in the southwest in the early evening, 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. or so.
To the left, due south, is Saturn, right in the middle of the Milky Way in Sagittarius. If you can see the Milky Way, look at it through a telescope. You will see the rings wide open. It's fabulous.
Then to the left of Saturn — you can't miss it — bright in the southeastern skies is an orange Mars. It was really close about five weeks ago, but it is still close to the Earth and still very bright.
It's a beautiful sight to the naked eye but if you have a telescope, you will see the disc of Mars bigger than we have seen in it many years.
We have three planets across the sky right now.
A panorama of the scene during the July 2016 Milky Way Night at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, south of Calgary. People are set up with cameras, or just lie back and look at the stars, or enjoy the views through telescopes. (All images © Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.com)
Q: Is this a good time to see the northern lights?
A: You can, typically, around the equinoxes in March and the fall. We are coming up to that in a couple of weeks time. That is often when we get our best displays. The long-term forecast calls for maybe activity picking up next week, even perhaps this weekend.
If you go to the website, www.spaceweather.com, that will give you some warning something is on the way from the sun and we might see some northern lights in the next couple of weeks.
We are in a good position here in southern Alberta, but again, that is out in the country. You won't see that in the city unless it is a spectacular display.
A 150° panorama of the northern lights in a classic arc across the north, with curtains stretching up along magnetic field lines, from lower greens and yellows up to reds and magentas. (All images © Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.com)
Q: Where is the best place in Alberta to see the northern lights?
A: The further north you go, the better your chances. We can get spectacular displays down here, but they have got to be a pretty high level of activity.
Fort McMurray sells itself as an aurora-tourism destination. I am going up to Yellowknife on the weekend, where you are right underneath the aurora.
If you really want to chase the northern lights, that is the place to go. As far north as possible.
Q: Talk about the upcoming event at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory near Priddis, Alta.
A: That's your next opportunity to look through some telescopes supplied by the local astronomy club.
There is a public stargazing night, an open house, on September 15.
There will be a talk inside on the hot topic of gravitational waves but there will be telescopes outside to look at Jupiter, Saturn and Mars and the Milky Way.
A Perseid meteor streaks down the Milky Way over the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan, at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, a Dark Sky Preserve.
Q: How are gravitational waves a 'hot topic' these days?
A: There is tremendous research going on with these incredible facilities that can detect changes in the gravitational strength, incredibly minute changes, caused by the passing of gravitational waves.
It's something Albert Einstein predicted 100 years ago. He said we'd never be able to detect this. It's technically impossible but they have made it possible.
There have been some discoveries of gravitational waves from colliding black holes out in deep space. The talk at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory will be about that latest research, called multi-messenger astronomy. It's very, very exciting.
#Michael Freilich, # NASA
Washington, D.C., Sept 1 (Canadian-Media): Michael Freilich, leader of NASA’s work in earth science and climate change for 12 years, announced recently of his retirement early next year from the agency, media reports said.
Michael Freilich/Image: nasa.gov
Freilich, the director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters since 2006, announced he will retire from the agency in February 2019.
Freilich leads NASA’s mission to increase understanding of our home planet and help safeguard and improve lives for humanity’s future.
Ricky Rood, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who previously worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said, “There is no doubt that NASA’s Earth-observing satellite system is in better shape [now] than when Freilich came on board.”
“There is more innovation and more diligent attention to balancing budget, mission, and scientific outcomes. NASA made tough decisions, and that is what you want in a leader,” Rood said.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, said: “Words are not enough to express my deep appreciation for Mike Freilich’s dedication, creativity, and operational vision that has so positively impacted not only Earth science but also the broader NASA research community."
“Mike leaves an extraordinary legacy that will be remembered here at NASA and by future generations that will inhabit our planet,” said Zurbuchen.
Freilich's contribution include creation of a funding program for lower-budget “venture class” satellite missions awarded through competition, responsible for leading several stand-alone missions to the International Space Station, launching of NASA’s first constellation of Earth-observing CubeSats (small modular craft), and initiating a pilot program to purchase data from commercial satellite providers.
Prior to NASA, Freilich had worked as a geoscientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis where he did research on oceanic winds.
After his retirement, he said in a statement, “my wife and I plan to travel and explore the planet we committed to understand and protect.”
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)