December 1, 2012

Mercury Offers New Glimpse, While Jupiter Closes In

This weeks’ edition of Armchair Astronaut, we take a peak into another world, while also preparing ourselves for an up-close-and-personal view of one of the most famous storms in the Solar System.

Scientists announced earlier this week that NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has helped to discover water ice deposits and organic material on Mercury.

The find gives a glimpse into Mercury’s past, showing that the scorched planet has more to it than meets the eye.

Scientists believe the organic material and ice despots made their way onto the planet while riding comets and asteroids. These cosmic objects crashed into Mercury periodically, embedding the material in shadowed craters so they have a chance of survival on the planet.

Also in space news, NASA featured a few familiar faces in its latest Public Service Announcements. Star Trek’s Wil Wheaton and William Shatner read off some NASA script, telling the world how the U.S. space agency has made a difference in our modern society.

June Lockhart, famous for her sci-fi role in Lost in Space, also made a cameo in the videos. She read about how NASA’s contributions to improvements of life on Earth include technologies that were used in schools, homes, cars, computers and American industry.

RedOrbit also reported earlier this week about the changing seasons seen on Saturn’s moon Titan. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft helped scientists observe how the seasons on Titan develop.

The International Space Station will be adjusting its orbit to position its SOLAR instrument towards the sun. The European Space Agency’s SOLAR instrument will help gather measurements and record a complete rotation of the Sun, which takes about 25 days.

ISS will be moving its orbit, adjusting antennas for communication, and fix up other scientific experiments in the process.

Lastly, prepare yourselves for a dose of awesome as Jupiter closes in on its closest approach to Earth until 2021. On Sunday night, Jupiter will be giving backyard astronomers a great view of itself at about 378 million miles away.

For those who do not own a telescope, Slooh will be offering a live feed of the celestial event, showing details of Jupiter you would not be able to get with binoculars. The organization will be showing off blue deeper regions around the equator of Jupiter, the dark lighting-probe polar in detail, and the famous Great Red Spot storm.

The Red Spot is a violent storm wit high-speed winds that run in opposite directions along its top, and bottom most flanks. Jupiter’s close proximity will give planetary scientists a great view of the famous storm.

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