Cassini Spies Wave Rattling Jet Stream on Jupiter

New movies of Jupiter are the first to catch an invisible wave shaking up one of the giant planet’s jet streams, an interaction that also takes place in Earth’s atmosphere and influences the weather. The movies, made from images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it flew by Jupiter in 2000, are part of an in-depth study conducted by a team of scientists and amateur astronomers led by Amy Simon-Miller at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and published in the April 2012 issue of Icarus.

“This is the first time anyone has actually seen direct wave motion in one of Jupiter’s jet streams,” says Simon-Miller, the paper’s lead author. “And by comparing this type of interaction in Earth’s atmosphere to what happens on a planet as radically different as Jupiter, we can learn a lot about both planets.”

Like Earth, Jupiter has several fast-moving jet streams that circle the globe. Earth’s strongest and best known jet streams are those near the north and south poles; as these winds blow west to east, they take the scenic route, wandering north and south. What sets these jet streams on their meandering paths-and sometimes makes them blast Florida and other warm places with frigid air-are their encounters with slow-moving waves in Earth’s atmosphere, called Rossby waves.

In contrast, Jupiter’s jet streams “have always appeared to be straight and narrow,” says co-author John Rogers, who is the Jupiter Section Director of the British Astronomical Association, London, U.K., and one of the amateur astronomers involved in this study.

Rossby waves were identified on Jupiter about 20 years ago, in the northern hemisphere. Even so, the expected meandering winds could not be traced directly, and no evidence of them had been found in the southern hemisphere, which puzzled planetary scientists.

To get a more complete view, the team analyzed images taken by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and Cassini, as well as a decade’s worth of observations made by amateur astronomers and compiled by the JUPOS project.

The movies zoom in on a single jet stream in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. A line of small, dark, v-shaped “chevrons” has formed along one edge of the jet stream and zips along west to east with the wind. Later, the well-ordered line starts to ripple, with each chevron moving up and down (north and south) in turn. And for the first time, it’s clear that Jupiter’s jet streams, like Earth’s, wander off course.

“That’s the signature of the Rossby wave,” says David Choi, the postdoctoral fellow at NASA Goddard who strung together about a hundred Cassini images to make each time-lapse movie. “The chevrons in the fast-moving jet stream interact with the slower-moving Rossby wave, and that’s when we see the chevrons oscillate.”

The team’s analysis also reveals that the chevrons are tied to a different type of wave in Jupiter’s atmosphere, called a gravity inertia wave. Earth also has gravity inertia waves, and under proper conditions, these can be seen in repeating cloud patterns.

“A planet’s atmosphere is a lot like the string of an instrument,” says co-author Michael D. Allison of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. “If you pluck the string, it can resonate at different frequencies, which we hear as different notes. In the same way, an atmosphere can resonate with different modes, which is why we find different kinds of waves.”

Characterizing these waves should offer important clues to the layering of the deep atmosphere of Jupiter, which has so far been inaccessible to remote sensing, Allison adds.

Crucial to the study was the complementary information that the team was able to retrieve from the detailed spacecraft images and the more complete visual record provided by amateur astronomers. For example, the high resolution of the spacecraft images made it possible to establish the top speed of the jet stream’s wind, and then the amateur astronomers involved in the study looked through the ground-based images to find variations in the wind speed.

The team also relied on images that amateur astronomers had been gathering of a large, transient storm called the South Equatorial Disturbance. This visual record dates back to 1999, when members of the community spotted the most recent recurrence of the storm just south of Jupiter’s equator. Analysis of these images revealed the dynamics of this storm and its impact on the chevrons. The team now thinks this storm, together with the Great Red Spot, accounts for many of the differences noted between the jet streams and Rossby waves on the two sides of Jupiter’s equator.

“We are just starting to investigate the long-term behavior of this alien atmosphere,” says co-author Gianluigi Adamoli, an amateur astronomer in Italy. “Understanding the emerging analogies between Earth and Jupiter, as well as the obviously profound differences, helps us learn fundamentally what an atmosphere is and how it can behave.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

For information about Cassini, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Source: NASA/JPL

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Reference:

Simon-Miller, A., Rogers, J., Gierasch, P., Choi, D., Allison, M., Adamoli, G., & Mettig, H. (2012). Longitudinal variation and waves in Jupiter’s south equatorial wind jet Icarus, 218 (2), 817-830 DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.01.022

ResearchBlogging.org

New Report: The Damaging Effects of Research Misconduct

New report examines the distinct costs caused by the rise in plagiarism, falsified research and other scholarly misconduct

Turnitin, creators of iThenticate and the leader in plagiarism prevention, today announced the release of a new report titled, “True Costs of Research Misconduct.” The report explores the reasons for the dramatic rise in research misconduct over the past decade and defines four distinct categories of damages caused by research misconduct—individual, brand, capital and human.

To download this free report, visit: http://www.ithenticate.com/research-misconduct-report.

“Research misconduct often creates a ripple effect of costly damages that impacts organizations and the general public—ranging from lawsuits to revoked PhDs to misdiagnosis,” said Chris Cross, general manager of iThenticate. “This report calls attention to the importance of establishing preventative measures that will contain a growing and concerning problem.”

Due to the growth of the researcher population and a growing pressure to ‘publish or perish,’ more researchers have taken to cutting corners, resulting in falsified research, fraudulent data, paraphrasing, duplication and blatant plagiarism. Publishers are responding by retracting published research, and implementing more stringent editorial processes and technology solutions.

“If a journal were to be discovered publishing erroneous material, people might think twice about the reputation of that journal,” said Benson Honig, a journal editor at Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. “Checking articles through iThenticate prior to submission can protect a journal’s reputation and ensure that only top-quality work is being published.”

iThenticate helps publishers, researchers and organizations reduce all types of misconduct by comparing manuscripts against the world’s largest comparison database—which is comprised of more than 20 billion web pages, and more than 116 million content items, including 30 million published research articles from 283 leading science, technical and medical (STM) publishers.

For more information, please visit www.ithenticate.com.

About Turnitin and iThenticate

Turnitin is the world’s leading provider of web-based solutions for plagiarism prevention. The company’s products include Turnitin, used by educators worldwide to check students’ papers for originality, to enable web-based peer review and for digital grading of student work. Turnitin’s iThenticate solution enables publishers, research facilities, government agencies, financial institutions, legal firms and now authors and researchers to reliably check submitted materials for originality before publication. The company’s solutions check millions of documents each month and are used in over 100 countries. Turnitin is headquartered in Oakland, CA with an international office located in Newcastle, United Kingdom. Turnitin is backed by Warburg Pincus. http://www.iparadigms.com and http://www.ithenticate.com.

All products and services mentioned in this document are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Source: Turnitin

Dawn Spacecraft Returns Amazing Results from Astroid Vesta

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dawn Mission Discussion (Click to Listen to Audio)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is quickly approaching the end of its 10 week mission to study the asteroid Vesta.The spacecraft has been using a framed camera to return the closest photos of an asteroid ever seen. Vesta lies in the doughnut-like ring between Mars and Jupiter. Vesta is the second heaviest object in the asteroid belt. The images have shown many small craters some measuring 10 miles in diameter and up to 6 miles deep, small grooves and lineaments. Scientists hope that when the images have been further examined they will better understand the origins of the universe. Scientists have been most amazed at the discovery of a mountain three times taller than Mount Everest. Scientists have found that over half of the surface of Vesta is so cold and receives so little sunshine that ice could have survived there for billions of years (see image below).

Early examination of the information collected by Dawn including gravity mapping, gamma rays and neutron analysis along with the photos have led scientist to believe that the asteroid was formed by a large impact. Scientists feel that ice could be present beneath the surface at either pole. However, these poles see more sunlight than the equator. Temperatures at the pole are believed to hover near minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists are using the mission to explore the role water played in early planet and asteroid formation.

Reference:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/news/dawn20120125.html
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/gallery-index.html
http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

Image Credit: Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

5 Cool Ways to Contribute to Space Exploration Online

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to participate in and contribute to important space research while having fun at the same time. Whether you’re interested in searching for E.T. or want to help scientists better understand stars, there are innovative sites available today that let you contribute in multiple ways.

Here are 5 examples of exciting citizen science resources I’ve found that are worth checking out. Have a read and, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not jump in and get involved? Your help is needed more than ever. Read More →

Doctor Who: Worlds in Time – Official Launch

BBC Worldwide Digital Entertainment and Games today announced the official launch of Doctor Who: Worlds in Time (DoctorWhoWIT.com), the first-ever browser-based, free-to-play multiplayer online game based on the popular television series. Created in partnership with Three Rings, the award-winning developer of persistent online worlds Puzzle Pirates and Spiral Knights, the game transports fans and gamers alike on a journey throughout the boundless Doctor Who universe.

Doctor Who: Worlds in Time offers something for everyone, including an intriguing narrative for sci-fi followers and serious gamers and stimulating missions for game enthusiasts looking for a quick pick-up-and-play game. After preparing the TARDIS, players travel to various immersive worlds (including Ember, Mars and New New York) and work together to defend civilization against infamous villains (including the Weeping Angels, Cybermen, Daleks, Autons, Oods and Zygons) bent on creating chaos and destruction in the universe. Since the open preview launch in December 2011, the BBC and Three Rings have worked to make more Doctor Who environments available, as well as introduce additional virtual items and create deeply engaging communal features.

Worlds in Time offers players a multitude of elements and opportunities to socialize,” said Robert Nashak, Executive Vice President, BBC Worldwide Digital Entertainment and Games. “From introducing beloved characters and progressive storylines to presenting additional guild play, our goal is to become the largest Doctor Who community ever assembled, while also being an enjoyable experience for all players.”

While Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is free-to-play, ,players can enrich their gameplay and hasten their progress through the purchase of Chronons, which help them to customize their avatars, complete mini-games, build new contraptions and more.

“I have been a fan of Doctor Who since I was a child, so developing this game with BBC Worldwide is a dream come true,” said Daniel James, CEO of Three Rings Design, Inc. “Like the Doctor, we have our own mission, to provide Doctor Who fans an experience matched only by the wondrous TV series, and casual gamers a warm opportunity to discover the marvelous world for themselves. It’s exciting to see the Doctor Who universe come to life in such a unique way.”

Doctor Who, one of BBC Worldwide’s flagship brands, is the longest-running science fiction series in the world and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013. It’s the story of the Doctor, the mysterious traveller in time and space, who has saved the universe so many times. The Doctor is a Time Lord, one of a legendary race of powerful beings whose job it is to observe and record, but never interfere. 2011 was the biggest year ever for Doctor Who on BBC AMERICA with record ratings and mass critical acclaim. The series broadcasts in more than 70 million homes and On Demand across all major digital platforms.

Source: BBC Worldwide

Let’s Explore Solar Tornadoes

The sun has been experiencing its own tornadoes of late (what a sight that must be up close). The tornadoes consisting of super hot plasma are larger than the entire planet Earth! In fact, astronomers with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory believe the tornadoes are thousands of miles tall. They follow the sun’s magnetic field and scientists theorize that the magnetic field acts like a spring pushing the plasma upward and causing it to expand. Read More →

Trouble Ahead for Science Writers?

On Friday, Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, sent out the following open letter to members about a supposedly precarious situation arising in the already troubled book industry (letter below).  I’m posting about this on here because this could potentially affect those of you that write about science. Let me know what you think below.

For the record, I personally feel that this letter is self-serving and inaccurate in several areas. I completely disagree that eBooks (in particular Amazon’s discounting) were the cause of significant declines in the book industry – this was going on before then if memory serves well. The notion that they were the cause of Border’s failure is absurd and not worthy of a response. In any case, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions but would be remiss if I didn’t share my own. Make no mistake. I love books as much as anyone. The world is changing however. It’s time for publishers to figure out how to survive in the new economy or they need to get out of the way. I think if anything, authors today have more options than ever before – I for one consider that a good thing.

Letter from Scott Turow: Grim News

March 9, 2012. Dear member,

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format). Two years after it introduced the Kindle, Amazon continued to take losses on a deep list of e-book titles, undercutting hardcover sales of the most popular frontlist titles at its brick and mortar competitors.  Those losses paid huge dividends.  By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple’s model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time – it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon’s discounting destroy their physical distribution chain. Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores.  That’s why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple’s agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

Our concern about bookstores isn’t rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling.  Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online.  In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.  Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks.  A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers.  Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution.  While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes.  Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart. For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets. And publishers won’t risk capital where there’s no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Two years after the agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book market: its share has fallen from about 90% to roughly 60%. Customers are benefiting from the surprisingly innovative e-readers Barnes & Noble’s investments have delivered, including a tablet device that beat Amazon to the market by fully twelve months.  Brick-and-mortar bookstores are starting to compete through their partnership with Google, so loyal customers can buy e-books from them at the same price as they would from Amazon. Direct-selling authors have also benefited, as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition.

Let’s hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

This would be tragic for all of us who value books, and the culture they support.

Sincerely,

Scott Turow
President

The World’s Oldest Working Planetarium

Eise Eisinga by Willem Bartel van der Kooi (1827).

The people of Denmark were in a panic in 1774. They felt that the world was about to end because of an conjunction of the moon and planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. The theory was put forward in a book, by Reverend Eelco Alta, that this conjunction would cause the earth to be pushed out of its orbit and life as the people knew it would end.

Self-educated Eise Eisinga did not accept the theory. Setting about to explain to his fellow countrymen why the theory was wrong, he constructed a planetarium in his home. He hoped to have his model built in six months to stop the panic that was quickly overcoming Denmark.

He would work as a wool carder for his father by day and return to his home at night to spend many sleepless nights building his model. In all, he used over nine tons of oak wood to construct the model. The model took seven years to construct!

During those seven years, Eisinga paid careful attention to all details. In the model the earth takes a year to rotate around the sun, while Saturn takes 29 years. Simply amazing is the detail that Eisinga was able to construct into his model using 10,000 nails to carefully control the planet’s movements.

The pendulum powered model is still working today and visitors are invited to tour the modest home where the planetarium can be found. Visitors will be amazed at the model, the many old astronomical tools on display and the photos of early life in Denmark.

Reference:

Eise Eisinga Planetarium. (n.d.). Welcome. Retrieved February 24, 2012, from http://www.planetarium-friesland.nl/engels.html

Hans Lippershey – Telescope Maker

Hans Lippershey applied for the first patent for a refracting telescope in 1608. He was a Dutch spectacle maker. How Lippershey came up with the idea to invent the telescope we will never know for sure but I for one am grateful for his contribution to astronomy.

Some people claim that he was watching two children playing with the spectacles in his shop when the children discovered that stacking the spectacles together and looking through them enlarged the weather- vane that they were looking at. Others claim that Lippershey’s apprentice came up with the idea while working with the supplies in Lippershey’s shop. Still others claim that Lippershey simply applied for a patent on someone else’s idea. As with much of history, the truth will never be known. Read More →

Getting Started with Astrophotography

Capturing the beauty of the universe presents a serious challenge for even the most experienced photographer.  No matter how beautiful the finished photograph may be, it often pales in comparison to the real thing.  Taking high quality astronomical photographs requires not only excellent general photography skills, but a fine eye, attention to detail, and of course the right equipment. The good news: with a little practice and patience, anyone can learn how to capture celestial bodies in all their glory!

Astrophotography participants range from amateur astronomers taking photographs of the moon, planets, and stars to professional astronomers mapping and documenting the heavens.  Many amateur photographers strive to capture the beauty of the world they see around them. The surrounding sky certainly provides a wealth of photo opportunities. And thanks to technological advances, the cost of equipment have dropped significantly in recent years so this is a great hobby for even the tightest of budgets.

Stuff to Consider

One of the chief challenges of astrophotography is of course, the relative lack of light.  While some celestial objects such as the moon and stars are sufficiently visible to produce quality photographs using basic equipment, other heavenly bodies are simply too gar away to generate much light.  Therefore most astrophotography is dependent upon the use of time exposures to accumulate a sufficient amount of light required.  Those photographers who are unaccustomed to using long exposures will need to do some experimenting in order to find the perfect balance.

Other photographic techniques can also make astrophotography more rewarding.  For instance, most photographers will need to mount their camera to the focal point of their telescopes in order to get a clearer view of the heavens and an accurate representation of what they see when they peer through the glass.  Many quality telescopes come with a camera mount built in, and this is certainly a feature to look for when shopping for a new model.

Special film can also help to capture the stars, moon, etc.  Film photographers can use special emulsions designed for low light conditions, while digital photographers can look for special cameras designed to overcome the challenges of night photography.  When shopping for a new camera, astrophotography buffs should look for models capable of supporting very long exposure times and multiple exposures.  Successful astrophotography can require multiple exposures up to 20 or more, so this is a particularly important feature to look for.

Last but certainly not least, photographers with an eye to the heavens will want to look at the array of filters designed to make astrophotography more rewarding.  Filters designed to reduce fogging and other distortion can make a big difference in the look of the finished photograph.  There are many filters designed for use in astrophotography, and it is a good idea for photographers to test several models in order to find the most effective solution.

The challenges encountered when trying to capture the night sky can vary from place to place, and it is important to choose filters designed to address those issues.  Amateur astronomers in some parts of the country may be troubled by light pollution, while others may live in areas prone to haze, fog and other atmospheric conditions.  Finding a filter designed to address these common problems can make the night sky clearer, and photographing your part of the universe a great deal more enjoyable.

Are you a current astrophotography enthusiast? Feel free to share your tips and insights below!

Recommended Resources:

Image Credit: astrophotography-tonight.com