Today’s Tidbits: October 16, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: October 16, 2017

Here are our tidbits for October 16, 2017:   SSB/ASEB workshop report on America’s Future in Civil Space, new results from Cassini, and a Ted-Ed video on asteroids.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

America’s Future in Civil Space

The Space Studies Board (SSB) and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine held a workshop in May 2017 on America’s Future in Civil Space.  A brief (8-page) workshop report is now available summarizing the discussion.

Workshop reports from the Academies are not allowed to offer findings or recommendations — that’s for study committees to do — but it was a really interesting discussion and this concise summary pulls it all together. []

Cassini Keeps on Giving

Ultraviolet auroral emissions at Saturn captured by Cassini on September 14, 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Colorado/ University of Liege-LPAP

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft may now be part of Saturn, having disintegrated into its atmosphere on September 15, but scientists continue to analyze the data it sent back.

More discoveries and images were released today at the Division on Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting of the American Astronomical Society, especially from those final “deep dive” orbits as it traversed the unexplored region between the bottom of the rings and the top of the atmosphere.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which managed the Cassini program, issued new auroral images taken the day before Cassini’s final plunge.  It also said Cassini’s electronic “nose”  — its Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer — “hit the jackpot, finding many surprises as it sniffed the gases” in that region.  Scientists knew that molecules from the rings are raining down on the atmosphere, but were surprised that the rain is more than just water.  There’s methane, too.   Read more at: []

Do You Know What “Asteroid” Means?

Screengrab from animated Carrie Nugent Ted-Ed video on asteroids.

Carrie Nugent has a very interesting Ted-Ed piece on YouTube about asteroids and how the first one, Ceres, was discovered by a priest, Guiseppe Piazzi, in 1801.

Watch the video [] to get the full story, but part of it is that he didn’t know what he had found, only that although it moved very differently, it looked like a star.

It was “star like” or “asteroid.”

Since then, more than 16,000 have been discovered and the number is growing all the time.  Scientists can predict where most of them will be at any given time for the next 80 years.  For the most studied asteroids, they can predict the orbits out to 800 years.

The animation on the video is cute and the narrative is understandable and informative.  Definitely worth the 5:05 minutes to watch.

NB: Ceres is really big for an asteroid and, in fact, was re-designated as a “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union in 2006 (joining Pluto, which previously had been designated as a planet, and others).  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Ceres in 2015 and is still there now.

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