Radar Astronomy and Asteroids

2017bq6Astronomers use large radio telescopes as radar sets to look at nearby objects in space. These images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 are from data collected using the Goldstone Solar System Radar in the Mojave Desert. The images were taken on 7 February as the asteroid flew by about 2.5 million km from Earth. The asteroid is about 200 m across and has an unusually squared off shape.

Image Credit: NASA

Tire Tracks on Mars

These are tracks left by the Curiosity rover as it completed its first test drive on Mars on 22 August. The rover went forward about 4.5 m, rotated 120 degrees, and then backed up about 2.5 m. The rover is now roughly 6 m  from its landing site.

BTW, the landing site has been named Bradbury Landing after the late author of The Martian Chronicles.

This image was taken by one of Curiosity’s Hazard-Avoidance cameras. The camera has a fish-eye lens.

Image Credit: NASA

GALEX: Andromeda

The Andromeda Galaxy really is just next door as large galaxies go. It’s only about 2.5 million light-years away. So close and spanning some 260,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite’s telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in UV light. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images of Andromeda, the arms look more like rings in the GALEX ultraviolet view, dominated by hot, young, massive stars. The large Andromeda galaxy and our own Milky Way are the dominant members of the local galaxy group.

GALEX was scheduled to be decommissioned, but NASA has transferred operation of the satellite to California Institute of Technology. (CalTech runs JPL for NASA). CalTech will partner with other institutions to keep the satellite doing useful science.

Here’s another UV picture of Andromeda assembled from images taken by NASA’s Swift spacecraft.

Image Credit: NASA

The Asteriod Vesta

This full view of the giant asteroid Vesta was taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, as part of a rotation characterization sequence on July 24, 2011, at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). A rotation characterization sequence helps the scientists and engineers by giving an initial overview of the character of the surface as Vesta rotated underneath the spacecraft. This view of Vesta shows impact craters of various sizes and grooves parallel to the equator.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA