Sunday, March 28, 2010

Apollo 13 nearly 40 years ago.

The "Apollo 40's" keep coming.  Last summer we had the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, and coming up next month is the 40th anniversary of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13.  Some interesting items have recently appeared about this mission. First of all, with the big public release of the LRO images a couple weeks ago more of the old stuff is being found on the moon that the US and Russia flung up there to land, crash, or roll around on.  The third stage (S-IVB technically) of Apollo 13 impacted the moon (Something from Apollo 13 did make it to the surface!) to set off some seismic events for the equipment from Apollo 12 to measure.  That impact point has recently been found by LRO.
Then, to make the story even more interesting, it now seems that the astronauts would have made it back to Earth 5 weeks later if they didn't manage to get back to Earth. They would have been dead of course, but unlike the stories told in all the books, they wouldn't have been lost in space permanently but a little over a month later, the spacecraft would have collided with Earth and burned up.  A tidy cremation for the brave crew at least.  Fortunately, we all know the happy ending so this scenario never happened, but it's interesting to learn more details.  See Andrew Chaikin's video below for more. It's a little wide for my blog page so double click for the full size, see it in HD too!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mike Massimino for the next NASA public relations guy.

You gotta like Mike Massimino's videos.  He's a brilliantly smart guy (dummies can't be astronauts) but he has a fun way of showing the inner workings of the manned space program with his sense of humor and "simple" attitude.  He'll wander around with his camera at the different NASA facilities interviewing workers and astronauts asking them funny questions about what they are doing.  He shows the OPF and says "there's a spaceship in there!" like an exited space geek who has seen the shuttle's nest for the first time.  (Ok, I'll admit that I did think that myself, but I was too speechless knowing there was a spaceship in that building to utter much more than a shocked gasp or " box!").
I think if he doesn't get a chance to fly again, NASA should give him the job of mission commentator to replace the women that is always droning along with the bored monotone voice all the time.   NASA has been doing well Twittering, Facebook "friending", and other methods of trying to spark the public's interest in the program.  I think with Mike's comments during missions, NASA could give "Dancing with the Stars" a challenge for high ratings.  (When Buzz get's booed off the show I bet the popularity will drop - at least with the space geek crowd).

| See more of Mike's videos here |

Monday, March 22, 2010

A typical Seattle observing night.

Last Friday, we had some really nice weather just on the verge of the first day of spring.  The Clear Sky Chart was showing dark blue across the top with some clear skies, and nearly perfect seeing.  I find that web page is about 75% accurate - which is very good for this area! 
It ended up that we did have clear skies, a little hazy, and seeing wasn't as good as predicted, pretty bouncy images.  It was one of those times that when you focus on  a star, the best you can get is a fuzzy disk rather than sharp point.  So it ended up being a wide-field night instead.  I did mange a fairly good shot of the M81/82 group just off the dipper's scoop before high clouds rolled back in.
The photo above shows the scope still pointed at the galaxies, just before I gave up.  I could say that was an Aurora Borealis, but it was just light polluted clouds.  (Click the image for a larger view).
The other photo is the result of 9 exposures for a total of just under an hour of exposure time.  Click the image to see more details of the photo.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Soyuz re-entry seen from ISS.

Looooong trail of Soyuz re-entry. See the shadow over "lower"... on TwitpicAstronaut Soichi is having fun in the cupola again.   This time he captured the re-entry of Soyuz TMA-16 with his departing ISS friends - Jeff Williams and Max Suraev.  The flaming Soyuz kind of looks like a very high flying airplane contrail in the photo. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fist image of Saturn of the season.

The Saturn viewing season is here again.  The planet will be at opposition and up at sunset to sunrise all night long on March 21st.  Opposition is the date when a planet is in direct line (and opposite) of the sun from Earth - just a bit of trivia!
Skies last night were really nasty.  Haze, filth, light pollution, and just plain old gunk.  Wasn't going to do anything, but then looked up and saw that things were very solid an not twinkling at all.  Can't pass up a stable sky, so I opened the roof and took a few images of Saturn.  Nothing too fancy, but Cassini Division can just barely be seen.  I know the image could have been better without the sky crud.  Picky, picky, picky as usual!
Image is taken with the 12" at f/20 (2x barlow) and the Ebay webcam.  Stacked about 250 frames. (Click image to see bigger)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Twittering photos from space.

Seems that one of the big new fads in internet communications these days is Twitter.  I personally don't have an account, it just gets to the point that when you are on so many forums, pages, twits...etc.  It just takes so much time.  Ok, I'll admit that Facebook has been pretty cool for getting news from a lot of the space stuff that I follow, so it's actually a pretty good source for news and info.  I've got a lot of astronaut "friends" on FB and have even had some exchanges back and forth with Homer Hickam, so that is kind of fun! 
With the International Space Station's new full time internet access, astronauts up there have been using it to send nearly live info and images down to internet users (they don't have fast cable speeds up there, but they are probably doing better than dial-up!).  Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi has been making good use of the new cupola window that was installed on the station last month. He has been taking a lot of great photos through the window.  He then "Twitters" them to Earth for us all to enjoy.   See link below for a page full of his photos and good descriptions below them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another Martian avalanche spotted.

There is thoughts that changing weather in the springtime on Mars may trigger avalanches.  This photo was just released a few days ago, but it was actually imaged sometime last year from what I read about it.   Impressive to see things happening almost live on a planet millions of miles from us!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New site for Highlands Astro-shack Observatory.

I'll have to admit that I have been severely slacking on updating our observatory web page with new images.  It's just a bit of work when you have to create the images, document all the info on them, resize to a smaller (and faster download speed), then finally upload and rewrite the HTML code on the the correct page the photos will go.
It's to the point now that the web page has such old photos that I'm a little embarrassed to share it.  I have learned a lot in the few clear nights I get around here, and have much better photos to share now.  My hard drive is filling with "to be uploaded to site" photos that it's time for a change.

I'm making a new observatory page on the Zenfolio photo hosting site.  Easy to update, looks nice, and very little work needed to share the photos!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Little blue planet.

Some really nice, and very large images of our little blue rock taken from the Terra satellite.  Click the link below to see the full size.