Friday, August 28, 2009

Rings in space (or moon)

I saw this photo from the LRO orbiter and reminded me of some other rings.
The logo from the title of that very strange and kind of creepy Japanese horror movie. Or....will we see Kurt Russel emerge from the darkness and another time through this stargate?
How about the logo from the game that I get fragged in every time by teenagers who really should get outside, get a job, and buy a new game since they obviously have this one mastered. Yeah, that's one of my favorite X-box games - Halo of course!
No, actually the photo is of Erlanger crater on the north pole of the moon. LRO took this photo of the crater which the bottom of the crater may never see sunlight and always in the darkness of the shade from the crater rim. The interest in this is that there may be ice down there that may have never melted in the sun - a possible good location for water resources for future manned missions to the moon. Why bring fuel if you can dig it out of the surface?

STS-128 launches after 3 tries - Happy 25th to Discovery.

Almost exactly 25 years to the day Discovery first flew, STS-128 took off after the usual launch delays - weather and a suspected stuck hydrogen valve, which ended up not being stuck anyway. Hard to imagine that Discovery is 25 years old and still flying. Just a few more flights to go (7 at this point I think?) before they end up in museums. The United States manned program will be in big trouble after that. Several years until the Ares/Orion vehicle flies (hoping for a test flight in late October of the Ares 1-X). Budget concerns are very troubling for NASA also at this time.UPDATE: Congratulations to Ben for getting the photo on Astronomy Photo of the Day website.
(Photo: Ben Cooper)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2000 sols / 3 Martian years

A few days ago the little rover stuck in the sand, braving another dust storm, Spirit, just passed another milestone. Despite being stuck, it's still alive and doing ok. It just passed 2,000 sols (Martian days - 39 minutes longer than an Earth day) and also made it to 3 Martian years, about 668 sols. That comes out to about 5 Earth years. The rovers are well past their 90 day warranty, so I guess NASA did get suckered into the extended warranty plan, but not sure if they had to cash it in yet!
A nice poster has been created by James Canvin, words by Stuart Atkinson, and logo an enhancement by Glen Nagle. (Look closely for the dust devil!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Grounded again....

Shuttle stuck on the ground one more time. Last night it was weather, today it's a stuck hydrogen valve.
The shuttle can't fly in rain, since the rain will chip the tiles as it gets moving fast. Not like the old Saturn V beast that would launch in anything, get hit by lightning twice, flip the SCE to AUX breaker and keep going.
(Photo credit - Ben Cooper.
| Updates |

Monday, August 24, 2009

Colbert treadmill flies tonight

The COLBERT treadmill which raised a lot of fuss earlier will fly tonight on the shuttle on it's trip to the ISS. The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill was named after comedian Steven Colbert after his fans won the voting contest for naming one of the Space Station's new modules ("Tranquility" was the winner for that). NASA was kind of embarrassed about this, but did keep their promise and named the new treadmill after him. There as talk of him getting a potty named after him but that was poo pooed (yeah, bad!) and he got the treadmill.
| Shuttle launch updates |

UPDATE: Launch just scrubbed for tonight. Try again tomorrow at 1:10am EDT.

Hey Bart Sibrel, need any more proof?

Bart Sibrel is the biggest jerk of a moon hoax believer that I know of (other than Fox Network and their excrement of a show a few years back). I won't bother with a link for that rubbish or give any credit to Bart with a link (Google that yourself!).
Anyway, the LRO orbiter is still working it's way down to it's lower orbit around the moon. It's in a polar orbit so about once a month it will pass over the Apollo sites in it's path. So a few days ago, the latest image from Apollo 14's site has come back. Track from the MET (the cart thingy that Ed and Alan were pulling full of stuff) are easily visible in the image. While on the moon they were setting out to expolore Cone crater, but they got a little lost and weren't quite sure where the rim of the crater was. We now find out from the LRO that they got within only about 100 feet from the rim. Just a little further and they would have reached their goal! Bummer.
For you autograph collectors, this would really be a nice one to have signed by Ed Mitchell I think. I read on that he will sign for $50. Not a bad deal, I may have to get one of these myself, but I'll wait a bit to see how close the orbiter gets.
(click image for full size)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why the skies have been hazy at night....smoke!

Interesting photo taken from space just yesterday. Lots of forest fires around us spewing smoke all over the place. Easy to see that the skies are hazy despite being clear. Did get a view of the Cocoon nebula night before last.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The beast stands tall - Aries 1-X

The Ares rocket is fully stacked now. All 327 feet of it. This is the tallest rocket stacked in the high bay of the VAB since the Saturn V's were assembled there over 35 years ago. The shuttle isn't nearly this tall, and is just a fat stubby bundle of rockets.
The Ares 1-X is still planned to fly no sooner than October 31st on a short flight out into the Atlantic to test the escape system. Still many years before astronauts will ride this thing.

Opportunity seen from orbit - as well as "Block Island"

Emily at Planetary Society site posted a new image shot from above with the MRO orbiter. This image shows Opportunity scooting across the Martian dunes, as well as the "Block Island" meteorite. It says that the rover backtracked to check out the meteorite, so I'm wondering if it was discovered from orbit, then the rover went back to peek at it? Not sure about that, but pretty interesting if this was first seen from above.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ares 1-X stacking - the ship to nowhere?

The Ares 1-X which is supposed to do a test flight October 31 (at least that's that latest date), is nearly fully stacked. The rocket will be 327 feet tall when done, and will have a simulated crew capsule and escape rocket on top. The Saturn V in comparison was 363 feet tall. This is a big (or at least very tall) rocket.
Then reading on SpaceFlightNow, there is some pretty bleak news about funding for the manned space program. More talk about dumping the ISS in 2016 (wha??). Read more....

Mars Victoria Crater seen from a new angle.

Mars MRO sent home a new image of Victoria crater. This image is taken from a lower angle than many of the others that we have seen recently while Opportunity was carefully wandering around the rim. This photo is more of what you would see if you were flying past it in an airplane (so they say on the site). The walls around the crater show up really well in this image, and if you look closely on the left side, you can see the tracks the rover left while exploring. Opportunity is now about 4.2 km into it's 19 km trip to the monstrously huge Endeavour crater. (click photo for larger image)

Equinox on Saturn - rings gone!

Today is the day hat those who believe in the balancing eggs on end is possible (I'm not saying it isn't - I haven't tried!) could do it on Saturn if there was a surface to put your eggs on. Saturn is too close to the sun right now to get a really good peek at the ringless, ringed planet. Tomio Akutsu in the Philippines did get an image of it showing the rings missing though.
Cassini also send home some images showing only a very thin shadow on the planet.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Confirmed: Yep, it's another meteorite

Opportunity sniffed, poked, prodded and looked very closely at the rock on Mars and has determined that this is a meteorite. The meteorite now named "Block Island" is about the size of a watermelon (not the square Japanese type!) and has just been sitting there on the ground for who knows how long. It is a common iron/nickel meteorite. I once saw one similar sized to this one for sale at a star party swap meet. Whoever could afford it and take it home could have it! I forget the selling price on it, but it must have weighed almost 200 lbs. I wiggled it a bit, but couldn't lift it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why astronauts need so much training....

(Click on comic to enlarge)

Animated Jupiter impact site. has a great animated image on the site today showing the spreading of the Jupiter impact cloud. This was discovered several weeks ago by Anthony Wesley in Australia and has become known as the "Wesley impact site". Lucky guy!
German astronomer Hans Joerg Mettig has converted some of the best images into polar projections showing the movement and dispersion of the cloud. I'm not sure if these are the "best" of all the photos out or Wesley's excellent shots. Whatever they are, they make an impressive little animation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another very fine Lego shuttle.

Lego expert Ben Watson has created a really nice shuttle model out of Lego. Not sure how many parts he used, but sure is pretty!

Another meteorite on Mars?

Opportunity is on it's long path to the big crater about 12 miles away, but was stopped again by an interesting rock seen in it's path. Looks like another meteorite has been found just sitting on the ground like a discarded bottle. The arm will extend and take a sniff of the rock using the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to get composition measurements to confirm it's a meteorite.
This is probably fairly common on Mars since the big chunks would get through the thinner atmosphere and hit the ground more than it would here on Earth. Not even a discarded toolbag would make it safely down!
(click photo on right for red/green 3d)

Discovery on the pad....but late.

Easy to see why the shuttle was late getting to the pad. STS-128 is due to launch on August 25. The famous cargo this time will be the "Colbert" treadmill!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How about one more Earth view?

Another pretty interesting view of Earth from way out was released today. This time it's from the Indian spacecraft "Chandrayaan-1" which is currently in orbit around the moon. The image is blurry since the spacecraft's cameras are set to focus on the surface - about 60 miles below. That's like a nearsighted person trying to look at something far away, in this case approximately 250,000 miles away.

First view from GOES-14 - full Earth.

GOES-14 was launched into geosynchronous orbit on June 27. One month later on July 27, the first image is down from 22,240 miles out. The image was taken last Monday at 11am Seattle time - just when we were about to start out record breaking heat wave here in Seattle. You can clearly see us down there, surrounded by the Cascade volcanoes (white spots), and the long trails out in the Pacific ocean are actually contrails left by ships way out there.
Click on the image to see a very large image of the Earth. Lots of detail in the image down to .62 mile resolution.
| NASA info |

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekend sky objects.

Clear skies this weekend despite warm temperatures from the aftermath of our all time 103 (105 here at my house!) record temperature in Seattle. NEVER been this hot in recorded history. Basically, it sucked.
Nice and warm out for playing out late though, can't sleep in the heat very well anyway. Here are the latest images.
Jupiter - this is the 'boring' side of the planet right now, sure the Great Red Spot is a good viewing destination, but these days the imact site of the asteroid on the other side of the planet is the favorite target. This image is probaby one of my best of Jupiter.
M27 Dumbbell nebula. An easy target since it's fairly bright. Skies were lousy with a lot of smog from the stagnent air this week, and the moon was still up. Worked out well though. I didn't use a focal reducer on this on in hopes that my guiding was improved. Pretty close, but still slightly elongated stars - I'm my own worst critic as usual!
The Ring nebula (M57). This turned out really nice. One of those rare times that my autoguiding just worked like it should with minimal cussing!

(Click on the images to view full size)