Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NGC 7008 or the "fetus" nebula

While waiting for Jupiter to get higher in the sky last night, I used that time to experiment with some imaging of a planetary nebula in Cygnus. There is a LOT of cool gassy stuff around that area to explore.
This one is 2,800 light years away, so this is one of the closer objects than some of my other targets. Still hard to image well though. I'm not totally happy with the focus on this since I think I had a little of the dreaded and familiar LX200 "mirror flop" when I went vertical. But then again, I am my own worst critic as usual. NGC 7008 is called the "Fetus Nebula". Maybe because it kind of looks like the Star Child from 2001:A Space Odyssey?
As always, click images for full size.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jupiter hit seen from Renton backyard.

I got my chance last night to check out the view of the asteroid/comet (or spreading monoliths?) hit on Jupiter. Despite the 85+ degree temperature at midnight the skies were fairly stable and Jupiter wasn't looking too bad despite still being a little low in the sky. I took this image with the 12" Meade LX200 with a 2x barlow and the Vesta Pro webcam. It's a stack of a few hundred images, processed with Registax5, tweaked and fiddled with using The Gimp.
It's a little faint in my image, but the impact cloud can be seen in the shot. It seems that it will come around the planet and be centered in the view about 2 hours after the Great Red Spot passes.
I'm wondering how long this will be there before it dissipates?
(click the image to see an enlargement)

ISS across the sun.

Once again Thierry Legault has come up with another one of his stunning ISS/Shuttle images. This time it's the ISS with Endeavour parked at the station crossing the sun. The full solar array, shuttle wings and everything are visible against the sun. Way cool! Did I mention this is really totally cool? Yeah, very VERY nifty, awesome, cool!
Thierry is also one of the featured photographers in the new book that just came out this month by Robert Gendler - "Capturing the Stars: Astrophotography by the Masters."
I don' thave the book yet myself, but pawed through it at the bookstore. It's on my list of books that I must buy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

First peek from updated Hubble camera - Jupiter

I guess this chance was too good to go to waste, so testing on the Hubble camera was pushed aside to point the spacecraft at Jupiter. Unless you live in a cave, you probably know that Jupiter got smacked by a comet or an asteroid last week. This was discovered by an amateur astronomer (great job for us "little guys"!) in Australia. This chunk of stuff that hit Jupiter left a cloud of debris and smoke in the atmosphere that is easily seen in small scopes. (I'll give it a try this week from my backyard).
Scary thing is, if this was Earth, this could easily be an extinction type of thing for us. Good thing we have Jupiter out there sucking up stuff like a bit vacuum cleaner!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google moon Apollo tour

Google takes one giant leap ahead of Microsoft "Bing" once again. Ok, it's not another search engine war, but a feature in Google Earth software (the moon part) that is pretty nicely done. The Apollo sites are all marked and you can zoom in on the landing sites and see a 3d LM siting there as well as other goodies. I'm sure before long, the actual NASA images will be there, they have "almost live" images added to Google Mars all the time, so I'm sure this will also be a new feature.
If you zoom down to the Apollo 11 site, there is an animated audio tour by Andrew Chaikin and Buzz Aldrin with an animated landing, photos, sounds and other stuff.
Another good Google thing to totally get lost in and later realize that several hours have been be careful if you peek at this at work!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jupiter hit.

Jupiter is trying to steal some news from Apollo 11, and the Shuttle these days. It seems to have attracted something and got whacked by a comet or most likely a very large asteroid or rock. Not much known yet, but it definitely took a hit.(Photo by Anthony Wesley, Australia)

July 20 - Moon landing +40 years.

Where were you?
Me - I was just under 2 years old, staying with my grandparents since my parents were on a trip. They told grandma "make sure Tom watches the landing!". So I did see it, don't remember it, I was too busy drooling on my shirt and filling my diapers, but I can say that I was there!
I'll have to do a blog entry of my childhood sometime. I've been a huge Apollo fanatic since then.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

CNN and the 40th anniversary

I'm a little disgusted with CNN over the last few days. I just saw a second headline about the Apollo 11 anniversary which once again mentions, hoax, fake, and lies in the headline and article.
Hey CNN, can't you give this some more respect than that? Praise the landings and the amazing accomplishments we did 40 years ago, save the hoax busting for later. Sad thing is, I read the other day that about 1/4 of the 18 to 25 year olds believe the landings were staged. Arrrgh!! That's so very wrong, what is it with people these days? The LRO has smacked the hoaxers already, and over time, it will give those hoaxers a good firm beating as the lower altitude images of the landing sites come down.
Well, they did dump Miles O'Brien who was the best CNN science guy they had, so what can you expect from them now?

Walter Cronkite - "That's the way it is...."

Sadly with all the Apollo stuff this week, we lost Walter Cronkite just a few days before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. Walter always had something to say, but he was totally speechless after "Tranquility base here...the Eagle has landed"

Here is the original video, with the 1201 alarms, low fuel and Walter's famous "Whew! Boy!"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Apollo 11 photo essay - The Big Picture.

The Big Picture has a photo essay the other day, just getting around to sharing that now. Great photos as always.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Apollo 11 and other sites seen from LRO - finally!

Here is the first views of the Apollo landing sites, including Apollo 11 of course, seen since the astronauts left the surface many years ago.
These are just the first peek, they will get 2 or 3 times better as the LRO's orbit is lowered. It's still working it's orbit down to it's final altitude.
Can we call the moon landing hoax busted now!?
Hey Bart Sibrel, bend over, and get ready for your much deserved whacking!

STS-127 finally up after 6 tries....

Endeavour is safely in orbit as of yesterday and chasing down the ISS. I saw both fly over my house tonight. First the ISS, then about 10 minutes behind, the shuttle came over too. I would have tried some telescope images but they were North of the house and I have a couple of big trees there, and if you have ever tried to move a polar mounted scope on a wedge in a north position by hand, it's a frustrating endeavour (sorry!).
Chunks of ice and/or foam tore off the tank and gave the black tiles a good wack before the SRBs dropped off. Several white spots are seen where the black surface had been chipped away. More on this later as the tiles are insepected.

Here is the launch seen in HD. (look for the chunks flinging about 1:46 into the flight)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Build your own DKSY Apollo computer!

You can find anything on the internet. Now you can even recreate the Apollo landings in the comfort of your own home. Imagine if you had one of these while you were playing "moon lander" in the backyard with your cardboard box LM that you crawled out of and walked slowly around the backyard with a bucket on your head.
Software engineer John Pultorak spent 4 years building a fully functional replica of the computer. Would you like your own 1202 alarm? Here you go! Remember, despite the overload errors, Eagle still landed safely on the moon. Now days, we would get a "blue screen of death" and crash into the moon while waiting for the computer to reboot, ask you if you want safe mode or normal boot, then finally start up again. But then this computer was very simple (not if you see the plans for this thing though) and would never even boot DOS 5.0.
Full plans are availible for a free download below.

Restored video from first moonwalk.

No, these aren't the mysterious "lost videos" that were rumored to have been found a while back. These are just a few clips of an ongoing project to restore the old videos from 40 years ago. This should be done in September for the full moonwalk possibly.

On the topic of videos, Barnes and Noble bookstores has a special video released exclusively for the bookstores. It's produced by, and is the same great quality stuff as their other sets (which I have a growing collection of). I'll try to post a review once I get around to seeing it. I did peek briefly at it, ad all 3 cats left the room in terror when the 5.1 surround sound clip of the Saturn V launch fired up.

Unheard audio tapes from Apollo 11

I haven't listened to them all yet, but these are kind of fun. They are recordings of the Apollo 11 crew talking to themselves (not to Houston) while on the moon flight.
Just some more good stuff that is surfacing this week!
Be sure to click on the graphic on the left for an enlargement, it's on the right topic too.

Rare Interview with Apollo 11's Mike Collins.

Mike Collins has been doing pretty much the same thing as Neil Armstrong over the years - laying low. This interview has been all over the internet blog sites, but figure I would put it up also since this is Apollo 11 week. Mike is grumpy or lucky? Read on...

Q. Circling the lonely moon by yourself, the loneliest person in the universe, weren’t you lonely?

A. No.

“Far from feeling lonely or abandoned, I feel very much a part of what is taking place on the lunar surface. I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have. This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”

Q. Did you have the best seat on Apollo 11?

A. No.

“The cancellation of 014 also freed Borman-Stafford-Collins for reassignment, and reassigned we were, but not as a unit. Tom Stafford moved up a notch and acquired his own highly experienced crew, John Young and Gene Cernan; they became McDivitt’s back-up. Score one for Tom. Borman and Collins got promoted to prime crew of the third manned flight, picking up Bill Anders as our third member.

In the process, Collins also got ‘promoted’ from lunar module pilot to command module pilot, and lost right then and there his first chance to walk on the surface of the moon. The reason I had to move up was that Deke at that time had a firm rule that the command module pilot on all flights involving LM must have flown before in space, the idea being that he didn’t want any rookie in the CM by himself. Since Bill and Anders had not flown, I was it. Slowly it sunk in. No LM for me, no EVA, no fancy flying, no need to practice in helicopters anymore.”

Q. Were you happy with the seat you had?

A. Yes, absolutely. It was an honor.

Q. Has the space program helped young people become interested in careers in math and science? Don’t you tell kids to opt for these choices?

A. Yes and no. We definitely have a national problem in that kids seem to be going for money rather than what they consider ‘nerdy’ careers. Other countries are outstripping us in the quality and quantity of math and science grads, and this can only hurt in the long run. But a liberal arts education, particularly English, is a good entry point no matter what the later specialization. I usually talk up English.

Q. Turning to your flight, what is your strongest memory of Apollo 11?

A. Looking back at Earth from a great distance.

“I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified fa?ade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied.”

Small, shiny, serene, blue and white, FRAGILE.

Q. That was 40 years ago. Would it look the same today?

A. Yes, from the moon, but appearances can be deceiving. It’s certainly not serene, but definitely fragile, and growing more so.

When we flew to the moon, our population was 3 billion; today it has more than doubled and is headed for 8 billion, the experts say. I do not think this growth is sustainable or healthy. The loss of habitat, the trashing of oceans, the accumulation of waste products - this is no way to treat a planet.

Q. You are starting to sound a little grumpy. Are you grumpy?

A. At age 78, yes, in many ways. Some things about current society irritate me, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism.

Q. But aren’t you both?

A. Not me. Neither.

Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don’t count astronauts among them. We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do. In no way did we meet the criterion of the Congressional Medal of Honor: ‘above and beyond the call of duty.’

Celebrities? What nonsense, what an empty concept for a person to be, as my friend the great historian Daniel Boorstin put it, “known for his well-known-ness.” How many live-ins, how many trips to rehab, maybe–wow–you could even get arrested and then you would really be noticed. Don’t get me started.

Q. So, if I wanted to sum you up, I should say “grumpy?”

A. No, no, lucky! Usually, you find yourself either too young or too old to do what you really want, but consider: Neil Armstrong was born in 1930, Buzz Aldrin 1930, and Mike Collins 1930. We came along at exactly the right time. We survived hazardous careers and we were successful in them. But in my own case at least, it was 10 percent shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck. Put LUCKY on my tombstone.

Q. Okay, but getting back to the space program. What’s next?

A. I hope Mars. It was my favorite planet as a kid and still is. As celestial bodies go, the moon is not a particularly interesting place, but Mars is. It is the closest thing to a sister planet that we have found so far. I worry that at NASA’s creeping pace, with the emphasis on returning to the moon, Mars may be receding into the distance. That’s about all I have to say.

Q. I understand you have become a recluse.

A. I’m not sure that’s the word. I think of the Brown Recluse, the deadliest of spiders, and I have a suntan, so perhaps. Anyway, it’s true I’ve never enjoyed the spotlight, don’t know why, maybe it ties in with the celebrity thing.

Q. So, how do you spend your time?

A. Running, biking, swimming, fishing, painting, cooking, reading, worrying about the stock market, searching for a really good bottle of cabernet under ten dollars. Moderately busy.

Q. No TV?

A. A few nature programs, and the Washington Redskins, that’s about it.

Q. Do you feel you’ve gotten enough recognition for your accomplishments?

A. Lordy, yes, Oodles and oodles.

Q. Oodles?? But don’t you have any keen insights?

A. Oh yeah, a whole bunch, but I’m saving them for the 50th.

| Mike Collins' bio page on NASA |

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 16 + 40 years. Apollo 11 launches.

"Liftoff! We Have a Liftoff! 32 Minutes Past the Hour-Liftoff of Apollo 11."
-- Jack King 9:32am EDT on July 16, 1969

Space shuttle in your pocket.

I found another really cool thing that the iPod touch can do. You can now watch live streaming NASA TV if you to go this link - You have to go there with your iPhone/iPod touch. Then click the link and you'll have a rocket in your pocket!
I watched the STS-127 launch today, chipped tiles and the whole thing on my little iPod Touch. Sound and video was very good too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trailer parks on Mars?

Spirit rover despite being pretty much stuck ankle deep in the Mars soil, is still busy looking around at it's surroundings. Some new dust devil images have been released including one that is about 1,350 feet across! Despite the hugeness of this thing, due to the thin atmosphere, the rover isn't in any danger of being sucked away to the land of Oz and scary flying monkeys. It would most likely give the solar panels a good cleaning of the dust that falls on them. These devils are what have been keeping the rovers going with their occasional cleaning.
But if this was on Earth, and this was a tornado rather than a dust devil (big difference), you know this would be headed directly toward the nearest trailer park or farmhouse!
Click heels together "There's no place like Earth....there's no place like Earth..."

Monday, July 13, 2009

LRO camera web page.

No Apollo sites yet, but I found a web page for the LRO's camera. I figure this might be the place to see them first when they release the photos possibly.
I'm kind of wondering if JPL is holding out on us and waiting until July 20 to release the good stuff we all want to see? That would be a fitting tribute to Apollo 11's 40th anniversary wouldn't it?

Anak Krakatau and and the Dipper

If you follow my blog you know that I really like volcanoes. This photo came out yesterday in Astronomy Picture of the Day. Fantastic!

Anak Krakatau is the "Child of Krakatoa". Krakatoa if you haven't heard of it, blew away it's entire island, was heard nearly 3,000 miles away, and killed over 36,000 people from the resulting tsunami back in 1883 when it had it's biggest eruption. One of the biggest and nastiest volcanic eruptions in recorded history.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mercury model - only if you have a sharp knife and steady hands.

A friend sent me this link the other day to a site with a paper model of a Mercury spacecraft. I've made a few (I'll say very few) paper models. These are the model "kits" that you can download a .pdf file from the internet for free in many cases, print on card stock paper, then cut out and build. Seems easy, but not really. Try cutting out a detailed part that has to be creased at a 45 degree angle, then curved to fit around a rocket body. Nearly done cutting the part out on a sharp corner then - OOPS! - knife slips and you screw up the part and have to print a new one out. Been there, done that.
I'll stick with plastic with pre-shaped parts. I'll deal with the pain of gluing clear parts without getting glue fingerprints on the windows!

Saturday launch scrubbed, try again today.

The several times delayed STS-127 launch should hopefully launch today. Easy to see why they didn't go on Saturday. Shuttle can't fly in rain since the delicate thermal tiles could get damaged.
....and after Apollo 12 got hit by lightning twice during launch, lightning isn't a good thing either. Saved by Alan Bean hitting the "SCE to AUX" breaker on John Aaron's recommendation. I still need to get that on a license plate I think. Only a few would know what SCE2AUX would mean!
Anyway, Endeavor should go at 7:13pm EDT (or 4:13 pm Pacific).
(Photo by Gene Blevins)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Martian version of "Were's Waldo" (where did the lander splatter in 1999?)

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE site has a challenge posted to ask for help in solving a mystery of the lost spacecraft. Back in December 1999, the Mars Polar lander vanished when it was making it's final approach for landing on Mars. I remember it well, I was watching streaming video at work that day anxiously watching coverage to hear that he lander made it. A totally clueless coworker walked by and asked what I was looking at. "I'm watching the Mars landing, we almost have another lander on the surface!" I replied. He then said, "Are there people landing on Mars?". I bit my tongue, and gently said "No." Afterwards, I think I had to leave the building, go in the back alley and scream and kick stuff in my frustration with stupidity that I had just witnessed. Hopefully, as a Solar System Ambassador now, I can clear up some of this cluelessness - or at least I'm trying!
Anyway, JPL is asking for help. Download the photos and search for anything that looks like a pile of wreckage on the surface. Probably has ice on it, and maybe a parachute could be seen somewhere but this is still a mystery. The lander most likely had a problem where it though it was near the surface, but wasn't there yet, and dropped from the chute too soon and splattered all over the ground. I don't know if there is a reward for who finds it, maybe you get the crater named after you? If that is the case, someone needs to find it before Steven Colbert!

MLAS launch test.

MLAS - Max Launch Abort System was successfully tested in a simulated pad abort test at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island today. The stubby rocket launched a simulated crew module to an altitude of about a mile then separated to a parachute assisted landing in the ocean.
Strange looking test rocket. Look at the video how this thing comes apart into a bunch of smaller parts. Kind of reminds me of one of those Russian dolls that have smaller dolls inside each other!

| NASA site |

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fly along with LRO

There's a video out that shows the moon as a video from the LRO obiter now. No Apollo stuff yet though, still waiting for the infamous hoax to get whacked....

| LRO Blog site |

Not quite space related, but we all love the Blue Angels.

The topic diverts slightly, but it's my blog so I write what I want!
I came across this little video in one of my many aviation related email lists that I'm on. It's such a fine view from the Blue Angles taken by some very lucky guy with a camera. Not sure if he barfed, but I'm sure he did and came out with a full bag (or lap?) and a smile on his face afterwards!

| Click on the video for full size |

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New images from Phoenix.

Been a while since Phoenix died. It's cold corpse is probably frozen at the Martian tundra now, I hope we'll see some recent images of it from MRO one of these days.
A few new photos and some evidence of climate cycles. Read the full article on the link below.

LRO - First light.

We should soon see our first views of the Apollo landing sites after many years. The first shots will be great, but the orbiter is still adjusting it's orbit to it's final low orbit. They will just get better.
Today the first closeup look a the moon from the LRO are in. Pretty darn cool (I think I just repeat myself all the time on this blog, but yeah.... way cool fantastic stuff!).

Here is one of them, it's about .87 miles across - and will get better as the spacecraft gets lower.