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Happy Birthday, Curiosity!

Video description

NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrated its Martian birthday on August 5 (PDT), the day that it landed on Mars. In honor of this special ocassion, engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center used the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to “sing” Happy Birthday to Curiosity.

You can help Curiosity celebrate its first birthday too by sending it a postcard, learning about landing on Mars and more.

Video transcript

My name is Florence Tan, I’m the SAM Electrical Lead Engineer, I work at Goddard Space Flight Center. SAM stands for Sample Analysis at Mars. It is an organic chemistry lab on the Curiosity rover, it is the most well-equipped chemistry lab that we’ve sent to Mars to date.

Curiosity landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. It was born on Mars that day, and so we consider that day as its birthday.

We’re here at the test bed lab where SAM was built. It is an identical unit to the unit on Mars, and we use this unit to test our experiments before it is transmitted to Mars.

SAM will be running some great science experiments on Mars, we will be analyzing some soil samples. To make the soil samples go down, we have to program it to vibrate at various frequencies. When we’re introducing a sample into SAM, it will go through a resonance and it will sound like this.

[ electronic tone ]

To commemorate SAM’s birthday and Curiosity’s birthday on Mars, we decided to play a little song. If there’s anyone listening on Mars on this special occasion, you will hear this.

[ Happy Birthday to You ]

It’s really neat, and it’s exciting! This is a first for NASA and for the world, and music brings us all together so this is fun!

It’s been a great year on Mars and I cannot wait to get to Mount Sharp next year. We’ve discovered so many new things, and there’s still lots more discoveries to come.

Image description: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this image of Earth and the moon from its perch in the Saturn system nearly 900 million miles away.
Pictures of Earth from the outer solar system are rare because from that distance, Earth appears very close to our sun. A camera’s sensitive detectors can be damaged by looking directly at the sun, just as a human being can damage his or her retina by doing the same. Cassini was able to take this image because the sun had temporarily moved behind Saturn from the spacecraft’s point of view and most of the light was blocked.
View more images of Earth from Cassini.
Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Image description: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this image of Earth and the moon from its perch in the Saturn system nearly 900 million miles away.

Pictures of Earth from the outer solar system are rare because from that distance, Earth appears very close to our sun. A camera’s sensitive detectors can be damaged by looking directly at the sun, just as a human being can damage his or her retina by doing the same. Cassini was able to take this image because the sun had temporarily moved behind Saturn from the spacecraft’s point of view and most of the light was blocked.

View more images of Earth from Cassini.

Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Image description: This is an animation of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), eight days after a record-setting solar flare sent a shower of charged particles towards Earth. From Earth, this glowing ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky. Image captured by NASA IMAGE satellite courtesy of NASA Space Place.

Image description: This is an animation of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), eight days after a record-setting solar flare sent a shower of charged particles towards Earth. From Earth, this glowing ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky.

Image captured by NASA IMAGE satellite courtesy of NASA Space Place.

Image description:

From the National Archives:

Did aliens land in Roswell, New Mexico, 66 years ago? We don’t have evidence of aliens, but we do have the schematics for a flying saucer.

This is a real report found recently in the National Archives by an archives technician processing 100 boxes of Air Force reports.

“What caught my eye was the icon of the saucer-looking shape,” he explains. The icon—a blue saucer over a red arrow—was in the corner of test flight reports and contracts with a Canadian company. And the strangest record of all? A drawing that Rhodes says “looked just like the flying saucer in the popular science fiction films made during those years.”

According to the report, the aircraft was designed to be a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) plane. It was meant to reach a top speed of Mach 4, with a ceiling of over 100,000 feet and a range of over 1,000 nautical miles.

Read the story of how our archives technician found these unique records, which inspired an article in Popular Mechanics.

What are Meteors and When Can You See Them?

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Image description: Perseid meteor shower. Photo from NASA.

These days, there’s a holiday for everything… Even meteors!

Each year, June 30 marks Meteor Day, a celebration of the celestial bodies that light up the night sky, colloquially known as shooting stars or falling stars. In essence, a meteor is debris from outer space that enters the Earth’s atmosphere, creating a streak of light visible to the naked eye. The average meteoroid is the size of a pebble, and 15,000 tons enter the Earth’s atmosphere per day. Only a few of those reach the surface, though, and they are then referred to as meteorites.

The first anecdotal account of a meteor shower dates back to 902 AD, an early sighting of the Leonid meteor shower, scientists believe. Chinese astronomers recalled the sighting - “stars fell like rain” - and reports continued centuries afterward. The Leonid meteor shower comes to this day, appearing especially brightly every 33 years.

More recently, a meteor was sighted in the skies near Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15. The Russian sighting was the largest reported meteor since 1908. Before hitting the Earth’s atmosphere, it measured 49 feet and had a mass of around 7,000 tons!

Meteors don’t only reach Earth, though - they also can have a lunar impact, meaning they collide with our moon. For the past 8 years, NASA has been monitoring meteoroids that hit the lunar surface, and on March 17, it observed the biggest explosion in the history of the program. It was described as “nearly ten times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before,” and for one second, NASA reports that the impact site flowed like a 4th magnitude star.

With a little luck, meteors are visible any night of the year, but they are most easily sighted during a meteor shower. Perhaps the best meteor shower, the Perseid meteor shower, is visible every August.

To learn more about what the month of June held in terms of celestial sightings, watch NASA’s video, “What’s Up for June 2013,” or visit their website.