Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010

"All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace."
--- HAL-9000, 2010

Spirit in trouble.

Looks like our little Spirit Rover could be digging it's grave. The little guy has been trying to crawl out of the soft ground, but just getting deeper and more stuck. The gimpy right front wheel had started turning again much to everyone's surprise, not much, but it's doing a little bit. Not enough to get out of the sand pit. The solar panels aren't in a good angle to survive the next winter. Predictions are that the rover could be lost by May due to lower sun angles. There was talk of just digging it down on one side to tip it toward the sun, but we'll see.
This comes nearly on the 6th Earth year on Mars. Spirit bounced down in Gusev Crater back on January 24, 2004. That seems like a LONG time ago!
There was some talk recently about if the rover could use it's arm to pull itself out. Nope, can't work. The arm is way too weak. Kind of like that skinny kid in school that could never climb the rope (uh...that was me).
(see the rover squirm in the photo)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Nice satellite tracking web app.

Just came across this. Very nicely done web application for tracking satellites in 3D. I've only explored it a little so far, so there is probably a lot to discover. Tom Wagner has a page with a bunch of different 3D images created with this application. Cross your eyes and take a look!

Advent calendar December 25: Crab nebula

I didn't come up with a professional image this time, but figured I would go with an image I took on Christmas day at about 1:30 am. Skies cleared, thermometer was showing 22 degrees at the scope, moon was gone, and wrapping was done in the house so I couldn't get to bed anyway!
There are a lot of theories on what the "Christmas star" really was. Comet, supernova, planetary conjunction or something else explainable. The star that formed the M-1 Crab nebula blew up in 1054, isn't that fairly close to the right date? Anyway, here is what remains of that star that blew up 1,000 years ago....
(click image for full size as always)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent calendar December 24: Genesis

There isn't another photo that fits here. This will always be the best Christmas Eve photo.
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you."
--Bill Anders

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent calendar December 21: Winter Solstice

Winter starts today. Bad news if you don't like cold, dark weather, but very good news if you are a spring/summer person since the days are soon getting longer.
In Seattle sunset is 4:18pm at it's earliest. Go to work in the dark, return in the dark. Enough depressing stuff, so here is something cool.
Take a picture of the sun from the same place, same time, every day, and put the images together you'll get a figure-8 pattern in the sky (called an "analemma"). The lowest point is the winter solstice, and the highest point is the summer solstice (flip upside down for Australia).

UPDATE: Check out this page.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Way out and back again.

Ok, I think I've slacked on the advent calender thing, I guess I'll skip a day. There are just too many days until Christmas, but I've decided to do minimal shopping this year since it's just too painful to deal with. There are just too many men in the malls on December 24th that I just can't stand it.
So here is a video that I came across today that just made me fell small, and the need for Christmas shopping seemed even smaller after watching this. Starts over the Himalayas, flies backwards billions of light years, then back again to Earth. Did we stay the same age while everyone aged many generations like Einstein said? Oooh!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent calendar December 16: 80s video

Kind of a random item this time, but here is a familiar song from the 80s - if you are old enough to remember those fine years!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent calendar December 16: It's full of stars!

This image just came down from the Hubble yesterday, so nice I had to include it in the advent calendar. Pretty!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent calendar December 15: Bright Comet

In the winter of 2007, comet McNaught came into the local solar system. The comet made a close pass around the sun and left a huge tail behind it. The tail was easily visible in daylight if you knew where to look (too hazy at the time here in Seattle). The comet saved it's best show for when it passed to the Southern skies and down in Australia they got views like this.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent calendar December 14: Equinox Saturn

Probably my favorite shot of Saturn - at least until the next really cool one comes out. This was taken at the Equinox at Saturn when the rings were nearly edge-on to the sun, and leaving very little shadow on the planet. Yeah, I've shared this one before, but it's just so dark, spooky looking, and very awesome!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent calendar December 13: IR Horsehead

Here is a view of the Horsehead and Flame nebula never seen before. This is taken from the European Southern Observatory, down in South America. This is an Infrared view and covers about twice the area of the full moon.
I took a photo of the same area a couple nights ago with visible light. Obviously, South America has no atmosphere!
(click for full size on both images)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent calendar December 12: Push/pull storms

I really don't think I'm doing this advent calender quite right since I don't really have a theme of any sorts. Just random cool stuff that I can come up with. Oh well, it's my blog and I can do what I want!
So here is another random shot. Looking down instead of up for a change. This photo was from the NOAA 18 weather satellite back in April 2008. It was received from my basement satellite station. I just liked it since it has such a strange pattern of storms that day. They both seem to be sucking off each other and San Francisco area had some pretty ugly rainstorms that day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent calendar December 11: Hubble M42

Another favorite shot from Hubble. Orion Nebula M42.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent calendar December 10: Deep Space IR

What does empty space look like? A lot more than you think! This is the latest release of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image that was taken recently with the IR camera installed on the last servicing mission. This image is about the same location as the first famous image from a few years ago. This looks back to a point just 600 million years after the "Big Bang". Hubble is a time machine as well as a telescope!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The mysterious Norwegian spiral.

I first saw this photo this morning and thought "yeah, right...whatever" another stupid UFO bad Photoshop. Then reading closer, found that it was real and several other photos from all around the area showed up.
The Russians were in denial at first, but now it seems that a missile was launched from a submarine which had a bit of a malfunction and climbed while spinning. (Reminds me of my first try at a 2 stage model rocket years ago, flew just like this!). Seems that the tank ruptured spewing fuel out into space while spinning causing the big spiral pattern (see the videos).
The reason for the large size, in space there isn't the atmosphere to hold plumes in tight, so rocket exhaust plumes (or fuel leaks) will spread out a great distance without the restrictions of the atmosphere. Look at any NASA videos of rockets launching or even just this photo of a Saturn V plume, and remember that rocket is 363 feet tall- for scale of the plume.

Similar to this old photo of a Trident missile out of control, but today's got a lot higher!
| "Bad Astronomy" Phil has some good info |

Advent calendar December 9 : Saturn from Hubble

Probably one of my favorite images of Saturn from the Hubble Telescope. In Fall 2009, Saturn tipped it's rings directly toward Earth so they would nearly completely disappear since they are so thin. Unfortunately, when this happened in September it was pretty much out of view behind the sun, so we missed seeing them totally vanish. Saturn is back out the other side now and up in the early morning skies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent calendar December 8: Comet Holmes

I almost appeared like the Death Star suddenly showed up in the sky or even a new planet beamed in from a wormhole. That's no space station, that's a comet!
Comet Holmes is one of those short period comets that just kind of float around in the solar system not all that exciting and one of those that you can find if you try with a big scope. It usually may just look like a fuzzy star and not all that special. Holmes decided to put on a show in October 2007 and exploded into a huge bright ball earning it's place up there with Hale Bopp, Hayakutake, McNaught and other famous bright comets.
It looked like a bright yellow/green planet in the eastern sky when I first saw it in binoculars. Didn't need binoculars either, it was a new "star" in Perseus. It lasted until February until it dimmed back down to it's usual non-exciting self again.
My photo below was taken November 5, 2007 just over a week after it first brightened.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent calendar December 7: Apollo 17

On December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 launched on the last flight to the moon. Apollo 18 - 20 were canceled due to budget cuts (familiar story). I guess this is party good, otherwise there wouldn't be any Saturn Vs fully intact in museums to drool over. Apollo 17 was the longest manned lunar landing flight; longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities; largest lunar sample return, and longest time in lunar orbit.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

One small step for darker skies....

We all know that light pollution is one of the major factors that screws up our hobby, and view of the night skies that we used to see when we were kids. There was a test given to kids in a city once where a question was "what color is the night sky?", the kid that answered "pink!" was correct.
When I was a kid, I remember lying out in the backyard on summer nights in a sleeping bag on the back lawn, I'd sleep out there and often wake up when I rolled over on the slug on my pillow. Anyway, there was still a stripe of the Milky Way visible across the skies in Bellevue, WA back then. Now, it's just that familiar pink color between the 92 stars, the moon, and an occasional planet that can be still seen.
There is some good news, it seems that the city of Tumwater just passed an ordinance to reduce light pollution. Good for them! Skies are already darker down there, but this is a start. I'm hoping that the darkness creeps north to the Seattle area over time (white area with the "+" on the map on right).

Advent calendar December 6: Aries 1-X

Agree or disagree, this may be the only ride for the US astronauts when the shuttle's are grounded and tucked into museums.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent calendar December 5: Latest Hubble

This is the latest release from the newly improved Hubble space telescope. This is part of the Iris Nebula (or NGC 7023 for you techie types).
As always, click photo for full size.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Astronaut tour of the ISS.

Here is a video showing a lot of details of the whole inside of the International Space Station. Astronaut Michael Barratt, expedition 20 flight engineer, gives a 28 minute tour of the station through all the modules.
Unless you are the founder of Ubuntu Linux, created Microsoft Office, or maybe a popular circus, we will never get a chance to see this ourselves. Watch the video in HD to see all the stuff crammed in the corners of the space station.

Free 2010 ISS calendar - just download and print.

Looking for a way to get a free calendar for next year? NASA released the 2010 ISS calendar this week. Looks pretty nice, but will take a lot of black ink. So unless you want to burn up your cartridges at home printing this, sneak the print job at work! (Don't mention I suggested this, and do it at your own risk!)

From NASA web page:
2010 International Space Station Calendar

NASA is offering a 2010 calendar that describes the work being done on the International Space Station and gives information about the crews that have lived there. The calendar contains photographs taken from the space station and highlights historic NASA milestones and fun facts about the international construction project of unprecedented complexity that began in 1998. (Note: In order to print the document correctly, please select the two-sided print option in your printer dialog box)

Advent calendar December 4: Hubble M51

My favorite galaxy to try to image. I'm not sure how many hours I've spent trying to get the ultimate image of this galaxy, but I keep trying! Can't come anywhere near Hubble though.
(my latest attempt)
Hubble M51

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent calendar December 3: ISS from ground

"You can't see the space station, it's in space!" a comment of disbelief I have heard when I point out the ISS passing overhead. So wrong! Of course it can be seen, it's only about 250 miles straight up. The photo on the right is one of my attempts from my backyard. The photo was taken with a cheap $30 webcam off Ebay, and hand guiding the 12" LX200 scope.
The photo below (which still amazes me when I see it) was taken with a 25 inch telescope from the Clay Center observatory in Boston.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent calendar December 2: Saturn

Other blogs are doing an advent calendar thing for the days before Christmas. Big Picture is doing a good one with a daily Hubble shot. Seemed like a fun idea, so I'm starting a day late with mine. More fun than Christmas shopping too.
So here is my first image for the day leading to Christmas. An old crusty view of Saturn from Pioneer 11 in 1979 from a distance of about 2.8 million miles. Ha!
This was from a spacecraft that flew past the planet, but I can take better images from my backyard through light pollution, a gunky atmosphere, and approximately 800,000 million miles.