Tag Archives: moon

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted fresh rainfall on Saturn’s moon Titan

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted fresh rainfall on Saturn’s moon TitanNASA's Cassini orbiter has been dead for well over a year now, but its incredible discoveries continue to trickle in as researchers pore over data and images it collected while it was active.

Consequently, studies focused on the orbiter's findings continue to crop up on a regular basis, such as a recent study from University of Idaho in Moscow doctoral student Rajani Dhingra, who, along with her colleagues, found evidence of rainfall on the north pole of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in an image taken on June 7th, 2016. This indicates that summer had arrived on the moon's northern hemisphere later than climate models had predicted.

"The whole Titan community has been looking forward to seeing clouds and rains on Titan's north pole, indicating the start of the northern summer, but despite what the climate models had predicted, we weren't even seeing any clouds," said Dhingra, lead author of the study. "People called it the curious case of missing clouds."

Dhingra and her colleagues spotted a reflective feature near the north pole of Titan in the aforementioned image — a feature which covered approximately 46,332 square miles — which had never appeared before, and didn't appear when Cassini passed by again. Dhingra concluded that the reflective nature of the feature was due to sunlight reflecting off of a wet surface, which she believes was the result of a methane rainfall event.

This is the first time summer rainfall has ever been observed on Titan. While Earth experiences four seasons over the course of a year, a single season on Titan lasts seven Earth years. When Cassini reached Titan, clouds and rainfall were observed in the southern hemisphere, signaling a southern summer. Climate models predicted the rain would move to the northern hemisphere "leading up to the northern summer solstice in 2017," but the clouds still hadn't appeared by 2016. The images above should help reseachers understand why this was the case.

We want our model predictions to match our observations. This rainfall detection proves Cassini's climate follows the theoretical climate models we know of," Dhingra said. "Summer is happening. It was delayed, but it's happening. We will have to figure out what caused the delay, though."



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China's moon cotton experiment ends in freezing lunar night

China's moon cotton experiment ends in freezing lunar nightA cotton seedling that sprouted on the moon has been left to die as China’s historic lunar lander continues a freezing night-time nap that will last as long as two earth weeks, scientists said. The Chinese space agency announced earlier this week that the seed had germinated inside a special canister aboard the Chang’e-4 probe, after the spacecraft on January 3 made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon. The mini biosphere — which operated for over 212 hours — was shut down as planned on Saturday, said Chongqing University, which designed the experiment.



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China declares its Moon landing a success as it releases photos of the far side of the Moon

China declares its Moon landing a success as it releases photos of the far side of the MoonChina has plenty of reason to celebrate here in early 2019, and not just because it's a new year. The country's space agency, CNSA, successfully landed its Chang'e 4 lunar lander on the far side of the Moon and deployed a rover which scientists will use to study the surface.

It's a monumental achievement for China, which has been playing a bit of "catch up" in space exploration lately. Now, with its rover exploring the hidden side of the Moon for the first time, the country is declaring the mission a success, and it's shared some new images to boot.

"The No. 4 mission is the first mission of the fourth phase of China's lunar exploration project," CNSA said in a translated statement. "For the first time in human history, the spacecraft made a soft landing and patrol survey on the back of the moon, and for the first time realized the relay communication with the Earth on the back of the moon, and with many countries."

CNSA emphasized that the success of the mission was thanks to cooperation and contributions from many different countries, citing "significant international cooperation" a major reason for the mission's success. CNSA also published some new panorama and 360-degree images taken by the lander.

While China certainly has reason to celebrate the accomplishments thus far with the Chang'e 4 mission, the country still has months of scientific observation and study ahead of it before it can declare all of its objectives complete.

One of the most interesting experiments that CNSA will carry out is the observation of a "Lunar Micro Ecosystem" which was installed on the lander prior to its departure. A small module contains a self-sustaining ecosystems consisting of plants, soil, water, and silkworms. The enclosed unit will be used to study the effects of low gravity on an Earth-like ecosystem, but that will take some time.

The lander's mission is expected to stretch on for a full year, while the rover will have a shorter three-month mission. China's declaration of success obviously doesn't mean it's ready to wrap things up, but it's nice to know the country's space agency is happy with what it's accomplished thus far.



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Chinese rover 'Jade Rabbit' drives on far side of the moon

Chinese rover 'Jade Rabbit' drives on far side of the moonA Chinese lunar rover has driven on the far side of the moon, the national space agency announced on Friday, hailing the development as a “big step for the Chinese people”. The China National Space Administration released a photo taken by the lander showing tracks left by the rover as it departed the spacecraft, though it did not specify how far the rover travelled. Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.



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China Successfully Lands on Far Side of Moon

China Successfully Lands on Far Side of MoonChang'e 4 is a crucial success for the Chinese space program.



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Side of the moon you can't see 'is not dark, it's just far'

Side of the moon you can't see 'is not dark, it's just far'WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite the name of Pink Floyd's best-selling album, the side of the moon you can't see isn't always dark. But it is far.



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China lunar mission: probe makes historic landing on far side of moon

China lunar mission: probe makes historic landing on far side of moonA Chinese spacecraft has made the first successful landing ever on the far side of the moon, a mission seen as an important step as the country looks to push forward its space programme.  The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down at 10:26 am and relayed a photo of the "dark side" of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, the official China Central Television reported on Thursday. The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side – or the "dark side" – is never visible from Earth. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon, but none has landed on it. The landing "lifted the mysterious veil" from the far side of the moon, and "opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration", the broadcaster said.  China launched the Chang'e-4 probe earlier this month, carried by a Long March-3B rocket. It includes a lander and a rover to explore the surface of the moon. An image taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe after its landing Credit: AP "The far side of the moon is a rare quiet place that is free from interference of radio signals from Earth," mission spokesman Yu Guobin said, according to Xinhua. "This probe can fill the gap of low-frequency observation in radio astronomy and will provide important information for studying the origin of stars and nebula evolution." Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged. The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon. The near side (l) and far side (r) of the Moon show marked differences China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year. However, while China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the US Defence Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis. Apart from its civilian ambitions, Beijing has tested anti-satellite missiles and the US Congress has banned Nasa from bilateral cooperation with its Chinese counterpart due to security concerns. A simulated landing process of Chang'e-4 lunar probe is seen through the monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing Credit: AP The United States is so far the only country to have landed humans on the moon. US President Donald Trump said in 2017 he wants to return astronauts to the lunar surface and establish a foundation there for an eventual mission to Mars. It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered "dark side". No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat – China has been preparing for this moment for years. The first image of the moon's far side taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe Credit: Barcroft images A major challenge for such a mission was communicating with the robotic lander: as there is no direct "line of sight" for signals to the far side of the moon. As a solution, China in May blasted the Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") satellite into the moon's orbit, positioning it at a 'Lagrange point' so that it can relay data and commands between the lander and Earth. A Lagrange point is a location in space where the combined gravitational forces of two large bodies, such as Earth and the sun or Earth and the moon, equal the centrifugal force felt by a much smaller third body. The interaction of the forces creates a point of equilibrium where a spacecraft may be "parked" to make observations. In another extreme hurdle, during the lunar night – which lasts 14 Earth days – temperatures drop to as low as minus 173 degrees Celsius (minus 279 Fahrenheit). Long March-3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre Credit: Reuters During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F). The rover's instruments have to withstand those fluctuations and it has to generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night. The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power.  In 2013, Chang'e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. China plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples – the first time that will have been done since 1976.



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Kim Wants More Summits With Moon to Tackle Nuclear Issue

Kim Wants More Summits With Moon to Tackle Nuclear IssueThe North Korean leader sent Moon a personal letter of well wishes on Sunday, expressing a willingness to meet often in 2019 to advance peace talks and achieve “denuclearization on the Korean peninsula,” Moon spokesman Kim Eui-keum said. Moon thanked him for the letter, tweeting that the North Korean leader “again made clear” that he would act on his agreement with the U.S. and South Korea.



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China launches rover for first far side of the moon landing

China launches rover for first far side of the moon landingChina launched a rover early Saturday destined to land on the far side of the moon, a global first that would boost Beijing’s ambitions to become a space superpower, state media said. The Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — launched on a Long March 3B rocket from the southwestern Xichang launch centre at 2:23 am (1823 GMT), according to the official Xinhua news agency. The blast-off marked the start of a long journey to the far side of the moon for the Chang’e-4 mission, expected to land around the New Year to carry out experiments and survey the untrodden terrain.



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China launches probe to explore dark side of Moon – Xinhua

China launches probe to explore dark side of Moon - XinhuaChina on Saturday launched a first probe ever to explore the dark side of the Moon, marking another milestone in its ambitious space programme, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The probe, the Chang’e-4, is expected to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon, according to Xinhua. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the Moon, but none has landed on it.



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