Friday, April 30, 2010

First light from SDO.....and a little fuzz!

The SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) launched just a few days after the STS-130 launch that I was at in early February.  It's now operational and sending back HD video of the sun.  Pretty amazing video!
Notice how the plasma from the prominence seems to rain down on the surface and splash as it hits.
Notice that dark line just above the surface?   That isn't an alien spacecraft, giant space worm or's a piece of DUST possibly from some human technician who had a leak in his clean room bunny suit!
I can relate to that frustration since I very often suffer the same fate with my camera sensor when doing astrophotography.  I can just use my special cleaning fluid, very soft lens tissue and clean it up myself (carefully).  But the SDO is 22,000 miles up, unreachable, and not coming back down.  The dust will probably have to just be edited out unless the SDO guys have some tricks to shake it loose!

STS-131 Ascent highlights.

A little late since STS-131 is already back on the ground, but these videos are so well done it's worth a peek anyway.   I really like how the music is edited into the video, and you don't have to sit looking at the side of the ET for 2.5 minutes waiting to see the SRB separation.  
I look forward to these every launch now, just another thing to miss when the shuttles are done....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Final STS flight delayed until November....or later?

Problems with the payload being ready in time for the launch on July 29th, has pushed STS-134 past the original final flight in September.  But other issues due to temperature, sun angle, traffic jam with Soyuz (the Russians ALWAYS launch when they say they will) and of course money, may even push the final flight into 2011.  
From the looks of the "unofficial" crew photo on the left, the guys already look relaxed and will be waiting out the summer to fly.  But they may claim the honor of being the last shuttle mission now.  There is a crew of 6, so there is an empty seat.  I say offer that to John Young!   Wouldn't that be cool if John could start the shuttle program and be a participant on the last flight?  Just an idea.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Move over "Pillars of Creation" here is "Mystic Mountain"...

Oooh!  Hubble does it again.  Remember the old "Pillars of Creation" image that made the Hubble so famous?  Here is another one that I think will become another Hubble "icon" image.
Hubble's 20th anniversary image shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Discovery, you are cleared to buzz the country.

Monday would have been a great day for landing since we could have seen Discovery pass over North of Seattle early in the morning - and we did have clear enough skies.  Florida was cruddy, so both passes were waved off.  Tuesday another try at landing will happen, there are a few chances for Florida as well as Edwards AFB.  But once again we'll miss it in Seattle since we have 80% chance of gunk.
Anyway, the shuttle will kind of be doing a victory pass kind of like Top Gun's "we gotta buzz the tower Goose!" as the shuttle passes over many major US cities.
I'm sure there will be a lot of great photos once the flyby happens....just not from Seattle.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Boba Fett to the ISS!

 Not really, but they look similar.  The shuttle is done dropping off space station inhabitants (at least the human type),but today it was announced that "Robonaut" or R2 will be getting a ride to his (her?) permanent home on the ISS on the final shuttle mission, STS-133, in September.  The robot will live in the Destiny laboratory and eventually be let out to wander the station.  The robot is basically a head and torso with arms similar to a human.  I'm assuming it follows the rules of robotics and can never harm a human.  We all remember Ash from Alien when he went on a rampage on board the Nostromo.  We don't have Sigourney Weaver up there to discipline misbehaving robots!
I'm ok with R2 though, I'd hate to see what JAXA comes up with for a robot if they were assigned to provide the robot.  Those Japanese robots are quite disturbing!

Soichi in action...

 We have probably all seen Soichi Noguchi's photos on the internet over the last few months he has been on the station.  He has been making good use of the cupola window as a great photo platform.  See the photo on the left, it appears that the view is popular with the astronauts.  Look at all the greasy nose prints on the center window!
Midnight running! Galaxy Express 131, Discovery. on TwitpicI really liked this recent image that just came out today on his Twitter page. It's just a really cool time exposure taken on the night side.  Whoosh!

(click the images for full size)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One hazy night.

Last Friday night the clouds cleared enough for a peek.  It seems that we just never get all three good things at once much anymore.  Seeing, transparency and totally clear. 
Skies were nearly rock solid again the other night, the view of Saturn through the eyepiece was very sharp, but there was enough haze in the sky to lose a lot of sharpness in the image once I put a camera on the scope.  Transparency was lacking again with high haze in the sky.  Clear?  For the most part it was, but just not clear clear - if that is a term for totally nothing?

Below is M104 the Sombrero galaxy.  I haven't done much with this one since it's somewhat low in the sky and I guess the clear skies and good altitude for this one don't often line up.  This was just a quick peek at it using only 3 five minute exposures.  Tracking problems, since the stars are a little elongated. 

Familiar view of M51.  I'm going to suck this one dry of photons someday since it's one of my favorites and I'm always trying to get a good set of images of this one.  This was 6 five minute exposures.   Complaints about this one?  Focus could be a little tighter.  I'm never satisfied!   (click images to see full size)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

STS-130 Documentary (my launch!)

I came across this great little 30 minute documentary about the launch of STS-130 from the spectator's point of view.  I call this "my launch" since this is the one I was at on February 8.  I didn't meet any of these people that are interviewed, but it kind of represents those that I did meet.  There are a few that say "this is a waste of money with all the starving people"...blah, blah, blah.  I fortunately didn't come across any of those people, I would have turned and walked away from them, biting my tongue so I wouldn't say something horrible to them.  Fortunately, the people I met were just like the people in this video.  Great fun, and you were never lonely surrounded by thousands of excited "shuttle huggers"!
If you haven't seen a launch, this shows the spectator view nicely.

Space Shuttle Parking Lot: A Documentary About Humanity's Greatest Spectacle

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More sliding stuff on Mars.

Since the avalanches were first seen from MRO back in 2008, a closer watch on the cliffs has found even more avalanches.  Here is one from January 27, 2010.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Meanwhile on the other side of Mars...

Oppy keeps running, and running toward Endeavour crater off in the distance.   Little Oppy now has 12.58 miles on the odometer and keeps on going.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spirit finally sleeps....

April 1st it was determined that our tough little Spirit rover with her belly stuck on a rock has finally gone to sleep. Hopefully not dead, but just hibernating until the spring sunlight can warm and light her panels again to wake up. The rover will be in a hibernation mode where the computer will check every now and then for enough charge on the batteries to phone home. Right now, the batteries are too low to do anything but sleep, kind of like when you put your laptop in "hibernation" mode. You know that mode, you open the screen on your computer and you have to cycle the power again since Windows screws up and won't start properly? Ha!
Let's hope that Spirit's software does better than that.
She could be sleeping forever, but let's keep hope that the little rover will wake up again in a few months and show us the new views of Troy where she has become a "lander" rather than a "rover".
Sleep well Spirit, and we'll be listening for your call in spring......hopefully....*sniff*  :-(

The last self portrait taken of Spirit we'll see for a while (Actually this was from last summer, but it's a good one).
(Credit to Stu at Cumbrian Sky for the image)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A moment of fame - Amateur Astronomy Pic of the Day

Not as cool as getting posted on NASA's "Astronomy picture of the day" site (that is the one that all astronomers strive for!) but this is still fun to get something published on the front page of a site for a day.
No joke, April 1st is my day of fame on site. I looked up the ".fm" domain and it's in Micronesia, way out in the Pacific. Weird, but I guess with the internet who cares where your server is - unless you are Googling from China.