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Webb telescope snaps thrilling images of Jupiter and hurtling asteroids – Mashable

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New images from the James Webb Space Telescope prove the humongous observatory in deep space isn’t just capable of seeing cosmic objects extremely far from home.

NASA released Webb’s first pictures taken in the solar system on Thursday, including Jupiter and zipping asteroids.

Engineers snapped these shots during earlier tests of the observatory’s instruments. The images demonstrate that Webb can see unprecedented detail, even on super bright and moving things close to Earth, while also picking up fainter objects. This success is owed to the telescope’s guidance sensors, which allow Webb to point, hold, and track with precision.

NASA officials considered including the nearby targets in the first batch of stunning deep space images but decided instead to take the more conservative approach, Klaus Pontoppidan, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said during a news conference on Tuesday.

“We didn’t want to have to count on the moving target observations working, with keeping things not too complicated,” he said. “As it actually turns out, we probably could have done it.”

The additional images came just two days after NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency presented the first full-color scientific images from Webb. The event kicked off the beginning of science operations for the $10 billion telescope. Astronomers anticipate Webb will unleash a golden age in our understanding of the universe.

Though the images of Jupiter appear more like the sepia-toned photos of the Wild West than the brilliant jewel tones seen Tuesday, that’s only because they weren’t processed in the same way, according to NASA. Instead, these were produced to emphasize specific features.

Like, Oh, hello, Europa! Nice to see ya there.

The James Webb Space Telescope photographs Jupiter and its moons Europa, Thebe, and Metis.
Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)
Jupiter's atmosphere and swirling clouds
The James Webb Space Telescope spies Europa’s shadow next to the Great Red Spot.
Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

One view from the telescope’s near-infrared camera shows clear bands around the gas giant planet, as well as the Great Red Spot, an enduring storm big enough to “swallow the Earth,” according to NASA. To the left of the spot is the shadow of Europa, one of Jupiter’s orbiting moons.

Other moons in these images include Thebe and Metis. All these details were captured with about one-minute exposures, the U.S. space agency said.

Scientists are relieved Webb aced the vision exam. This means it will take pictures of moons and rings not just of Jupiter, but of Saturn and Mars, too. Astronomers also look forward to investigating the vapor plumes spewing out of Europa and Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, places that could harbor oceans.

But the team also wanted to know how fast an object could move and still be observed by the telescope, which is critical for astronomers who want to study flying space rocks. To test Webb’s limits, engineers attempted to track an asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, 6481 Tenzing. They weren’t disappointed.

“We had a speed limit of 30 [milliarcseconds per second], which is as fast as Mars can get,” said Jane Rigby, a project scientist at NASA. “We actually broke through that. We managed to get a speed limit of 67, so we can track faster targets than we promised.”

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STEVE appears over Canada during 'surprise' solar storm – Livescience.com

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In the dark of Sunday night and Monday morning (Aug. 7 and 8), a surprise solar storm slammed into Earth, showering our planet in a rapid stream of charged particles from the sun. The resulting clash of solar and terrestrial particles in Earth‘s atmosphere caused stunning auroras to appear at much lower latitudes than usual — and, in southern Canada, triggered a surprise cameo from the mysterious sky phenomenon known as STEVE.

Alan Dyer, an astronomy writer and photographer based in southern Alberta, Canada, caught the wispy ribbons of green and violet light on camera as they shot through the sky.

“STEVE lasted about 40 minutes, appearing as the … aurora to the north subsided,” Dyer wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) on Aug. 8. “STEVE was ‘discovered’ here so he likes appearing here more than anywhere else!”

Related: Earliest documented aurora found in ancient Chinese text

As Dyer noted, the strange sky glow called STEVE was first described by citizen scientists and aurora hunters in northern Canada in 2017. STEVE is typically composed of an enormous ribbon of purplish light, which can hang in the sky for an hour or more, accompanied by a “picket fence” of green light that usually disappears within a few minutes. 

The glowing river of light may look like an aurora, but it’s actually a unique phenomenon that was considered “completely unknown” to science upon its discovery. Today, scientists have a slightly better idea of what’s going on. 

STEVE (short for “strong thermal velocity enhancement”) is a long, thin line of hot gas that slices through the sky for hundreds of miles. The hot air inside STEVE can blaze at more than 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius) and move roughly 500 times faster than the air on each side of it, satellite observations have shown.

Whereas the northern lights occur when charged solar particles bash into molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, STEVE appears much lower in the sky, in a region called the subauroral zone. That likely means solar particles aren’t directly responsible for STEVE, Live Science previously reported. However, STEVE almost always appears during solar storms like Sunday’s, showing up after the northern lights have already begun to fade.

One hypothesis suggests that STEVE is the result of a sudden burst of thermal and kinetic energy in the subauroral zone, somehow triggered by the clash of charged particles higher in the atmosphere during aurora-inducing solar storms. However, more research is needed to uncover the true secrets of STEVE. In the meantime, we can simply bask in its otherworldly glow and wave back at its twinkling green fingers.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Perseid meteor shower: when to catch it in Manitoba | CTV News – CTV News Winnipeg

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The peak of a spectacular space light show is expected to happen by the end of the week.

The Perseid meteor shower is expected to be at its best and brightest the night of Aug. 12 going into the morning of Aug. 13.

Scott Young, an astronomer at the Manitoba Museum, said this is an annual event that will produce dozens of shooting stars throughout the night.

“Every meteor is a piece of dust from outer space that is crashing into the earth at tremendous speed and basically vaporizing in a poof and a flash of light, and that it is what we see as a meteor,” he said. “On certain nights of the year, the earth in its orbit around the sun actually goes through a cloud of dust, sort of like an interplanetary dust bunny, essentially, and all that dust hits on the same night … and so we are basically crashing through the dust left behind by a comet.”

The cloud of dust was left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed by the earth in 1992. Since then, the meteor shower has reached its peak between Aug. 11 and 13.

For those who are looking to enjoy the meteor show, Young suggests people get away from city lights, especially this year as the shower also coincides with a full moon.

“The moon can wash out those fainter meteors, and also if you are in the city, city lights will also wash out those fainter meteors. If you want to see the best show, you want to go late Friday after midnight, into the early morning hours of Saturday.”

If people can’t see the shower that night, Young says not to worry as the Perseid meteor shower is already happening right now and will continue to the end of August. As long as people are away from bright lights, Young says they should be able to see some shooting stars.

He recommends going to places like Birds Hill Provincial Park to enjoy the shower, but noted if people can find a place that is away from direct light, whether that be a park within the City of Winnipeg, or even a person’s backyard, he suggests people will be able to see something.

Once the meteor shower is over, however, Young does have a cautionary tale to share.

“We get dozens calls of people seeing an interesting rock on the ground and thinking that they’ve found a meteorite. There are no meteorites that will fall and actually land on the ground from this shower. These are little pieces of dust and they completely vaporize in the atmosphere. You might find meteorites out there, but they are very, very rare and so don’t get all excited about every rock that you find after this. The odds are it’s a meteor-wrong and not a meteorite.”

Young said weather-permitting, the Manitoba Museum will livestream the shower on its social media channels.

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured two festive-looking nebulas – Tech Explorist

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The image shows NGC 248, about 60 light-years long and 20 light-years wide. They are two nebulas, situated to appear as one. The nebulas, together, are called NGC 248.

Initially discovered in 1834 by the astronomer Sir John Herschel, NGC 248 resides in the Small Magellanic Cloud, located approximately 200,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Tucana.

Small Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy that is a satellite of our Milky Way galaxy. The image is part of a study called Small Magellanic Cloud Investigation of Dust and Gas Evolution (SMIDGE).

The dwarf satellite galaxy contains several brilliant hydrogen nebulas, including NGC 248. Intense radiation from the brilliant central stars is heating hydrogen in each nebula, causing them to glow red.

The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Karin Sandstrom of the University of California, San Diego, said“The Small Magellanic Cloud has between a fifth and a tenth of the amount of heavy elements that the Milky Way does. Because it is so close, astronomers can study its dust in great detail and learn about what dust was like earlier in the history of the universe.”

“It is important for understanding the history of our galaxy, too. Most of the star formation happened earlier in the universe, at a time when there was a much lower percentage of heavy elements than there is now. Dust is a critical part of how a galaxy works, how it forms stars.”

The image is part of a study called Small Magellanic Cloud Investigation of Dust and Gas Evolution (SMIDGE). The data used in this image were taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in September 2015.

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