Juno in orbit about Jupiter

The Juno spacecraft is now in orbit about Jupiter. It was launched in 2011 and went into orbit yesterday. Here is the last picture Juno took before it went into orbit when it was 3.3 million miles away (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS):


Juno will orbit Jupiter for 20 months and then be sent down to the planet in February 2018.

Still hot

Another month, another record. The global temperature in April according to NASA (go here for the main page) was 1.11 degrees Celsius above the 19511980 average. No month on record, starting in 1880, was more than 1 degree above the average until October 2015; every month since then has been. 2014 broke the record for the highest average temperature, .75 degrees Celsius above average; 2015 broke that record, .87 degrees Celsius above average; so far 2016 is 1.18 degrees Celsius above average.

If you’re not a global warming denier, you might notice a trend (I first put together this graph here):


and you’ll notice this doesn’t even include this year yet. This really is quite scary.

You can see Mercury against the Sun, really

There was an eclipse of the Sun by Mercury yesterday (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls):

The planet Mercury is seen in silhouette, lower third of image, as it transits across the face of the sun Monday, May 9, 2016, as viewed from Boyertown, Pennsylvania.  Mercury passes between Earth and the sun only about 13 times a century, with the previous transit taking place in 2006.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

…umm ok, it’s not very impressive (you have to click on the image to even notice it) but really that’s Mercury there in the lower third (on the other hand, it does show how massive the Sun is).

Hot, hot, hot

This is actually getting a little scary:

This was not just another of the drumbeat of 10 straight broken monthly global heat records, triggered by a super El Nino and man-made global warming. February 2016 obliterated old marks by such a margin that it was the most above-normal month since meteorologists started keeping track in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The old record was set just last December and the last three months have been the most above-normal months on record, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden. And it’s not just NOAA. NASA, which uses different statistical techniques, as well as a University of Alabama Huntsville team and the private Remote Sensing System team, which measure using satellites, also said February 2016 had the biggest departure from normal on record.

2014 was the warmest year on record, until last year easily beat that record. If you look at the data from NASA here (go here for the site) you will notice that there was no month that was more than 1 degree Celsius above the mean for that month until October 2015, but each of the months since then have been above that threshold. Any one month or any one year doesn’t tell us much, so let’s look at the records since 1880:


If you don’t see an upward pattern in the last 40 or 50 years you must be willfully blind.

We don’t have to rely on NASA, here’s the NOAA (the full report is here):

  • The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 2.03°F (1.13°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2015 by 0.52°F (0.29°C). January and February were both record warm for their respective months.
  • The year-to-date globally-averaged land surface temperature was the highest for January–February in the 1880–2016 record at 3.51°F (1.95°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of 2002 by 0.74°F (0.41°C).
  • The year-to-date globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.49°F (0.83°C) above the 20th century average and the highest for January–February in the 1880–2016 record. This was the highest for January–February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.40°F (0.22°C).

By the way, the fact that the land is warming more than the ocean is one of the signatures showing the driver of the warming is human based. You can see a class on Global Warming starting here.

It’s snowing somewhere

It turns out that 2015 was the warmest year on record (which goes back to 1880) according to NASA and NOAA. And not only do we get:

Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.

we also note that 2015 easily broke the record set in 2014:

During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 136 years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.29°F (0.16°C) and marking the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century. This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken. Ten months had record high temperatures for their respective months during the year. The five highest monthly departures from average for any month on record all occurred during 2015.

After 2014 set the record climate deniers all quickly noted that it was barely above the previous record. I wonder what excuse they’ll use this year to say why this doesn’t show there’s global warming (obviously they’ll use the fact it was a El Nino year, but what else?)?

Note: It’s sad that I know most of the conservatives will continue to deny the existence (or at least the importance) of global warming despite this new data which pretty clearly shows it.

A moon emerging from a moon

Here’s a nice picture of one of Saturn’s moons (Enceladus) emerging from behind another one (Dione) or perhaps it’s starting to disappear behind it. Anyway there’s some moons (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute):


Lots of stars

I’m being lazy, so here a few pictures of stars (in the form of galaxies, taken by the Hubble; Credit: NASA):


This image shows the galaxy Messier 94, which lies in the small northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs, about 16 million light-years away. Within the bright ring around Messier 94 new stars are forming at a high rate and many young, bright stars are present within it – thanks to this, this feature is called a starburst ring. The cause of this peculiarly shaped star-forming region is likely a pressure wave going outwards from the galactic centre, compressing the gas and dust in the outer region. The compression of material means the gas starts to collapse into denser clouds. Inside these dense clouds, gravity pulls the gas and dust together until temperature and pressure are high enough for stars to be born.

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is of about the same mass and size as the Milky Way. It was first discovered by astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781, and added to Charles Messier’s famous catalogue of astronomical objects just four days later. The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. Messier 96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas is unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the galactic centre. Its arms are also asymmetrical, thought to have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96. This group, named the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies Messier 105 and Messier 95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter galaxies. It is the nearest group containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy (Messier 105).

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in a new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the centre of a sunflower. So the nickname for this cosmic object — the Sunflower Galaxy — is no coincidence. Discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1779, the galaxy later made it as the 63rd entry into fellow French astronomer Charles Messier’s famous catalogue, published in 1781. The two astronomers spotted the Sunflower Galaxy’s glow in the small, northern constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs). We now know this galaxy is about 27 million light-years away and belongs to the M51 Group — a group of galaxies, named after its brightest member, Messier 51, another spiral-shaped galaxy dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy. Galactic arms, sunflowers and whirlpools are only a few examples of nature’s apparent preference for spirals. For galaxies like Messier 63 the winding arms shine bright because of the presence of recently formed, blue–white giant stars, readily seen in this Hubble image.

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