Adaptive Optics at the ESO

The new Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) at the European Southern Observatory is up and running. This image of the planetary nebula IC 4406 was one of the first-light images taken with the MUSE instrument combined with the AOF. The detail is amazing. You can get larger, desktop versions of this from the ESO — click here.

Located in the constellation Lupus the nebula is about 2000 light-years (or 600 parsecs) away.

No wonder the ESO is one of the premier observatories in the world.

Credit: ESO/J. Richard (CRAL

The story from the ESO:
The Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) is a long-term project on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to provide an adaptive optics system for the instruments on Unit Telescope 4 (UT4), the first of which is MUSE (the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) [1]. Adaptive optics works to compensate for the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere, enabling MUSE to obtain much sharper images and resulting in twice the contrast previously achievable. MUSE can now study even fainter objects in the Universe.
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What Is a Hoodoo?

This is a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view of hoodoos on Mars.  The image is part of a  larger image you can see here (links off-site)

I better let Candy Hansen (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona) explain:  On Mars, we often see inverted river channels preserved perched above the surrounding terrain because the sediment inside the river channel was stronger than its surroundings. This is common in the American Southwest in places where lava flowed down river channels and the surrounding sandstone subsequently eroded away leaving ridges in places that started as valleys.

There’s another example of high-standing columns protected by a strong cap rock, called “hoodoos.” Looking closer at our image, we see what looks like a crater and its rays of ejecta, preserved and slightly higher than the surrounding terrain, possibly due to a similar process.

Image:  NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


Eclipse From Space

I am amazed at the eclipse coverage! There is no doubt by far that this was the most observed eclipse in North American history, maybe the world. Just incredible, even the US television news-entertainment stations covered it.

I did want to share a couple more things about the eclipse before kind of giving it a rest,

First a look at the moon’s shadow as seen from the new GOES-16 satellite in this sort video:

Second, the image above was taken by Mark Rosengarten in Madras Oregon and posted on shows the corona beautifully. I looked at a weather station in Eugene Oregon (WUnderground – KOREUGEN63)reporting solar radiation and took a screen shot of the solar radiation at the time the image above was taken.

I clipped out the scale information, it is reported in watts per square meter (w/m2).

Lastly, I saw no difference in ham radio band conditions. We are going through a small rise in sunspot activity but nothing special so any changes would be difficult to be objectively certain about. The next eclipse here should prove differently. The next eclipse is on 08 April 2024 and the solar sunspot cycle will be on the rise improving HF radio conditions substantially.

Nice Eclipse!

I had fun trying to get pictures of the eclipse.  I decided not to use any of my telescopes, the 250 mm scope would have a much too small of a field of view to be of any use, the 80 mm scope would have been perfect if I was able to locate my solar filter.

So I ended up holding up one of the large filters I have and taking pictures with a Nikon Coolpix 830.  Worst camera ever.  Well maybe not ever, it does take decent daytime pictures for the most part.  No viewfinder and the lack of manual control makes it pretty much useless for anything like what I want to use it for though.

After a few attempts and getting more than a few curious looks from passing traffic, I managed to get a few shots.  I was a good deal north of the path of totality and this image was taken at the maximum eclipse I saw.

I want to fiddle around with some of the images to pull some color out if I can.

The other part of an eclipse I always notice but one hardly hears anything about is the color of the ambient light during the eclipse, it is different somehow. It’s like sunset without the long shadows.

After the eclipse was over I located that little filter too. It was right in the cabinet like it is supposed to be. It apparently was jostled and was under a different box of goodies.

Come on 2024, eclipse number 6 and my third total!!

Mars Express At Work

The Mars Express is still at work at Mars. The spacecraft was built built more quickly than any other comparable planetary mission at the time only taking 48 months. The Venus Express spacecraft took only 33 months to be built came a couple of years later and launched in 2005.

ESA – Perspective view looking into a 20 km-wide crater in the Thaumasia mountain range. The crater interior shows slumping of its crater walls, but a flat, smooth floor, relating to glacial processes.

The oblique perspective view was generated using data from the Mars Express high-resolution stereo camera stereo channels. This scene is part of the region imaged on 9 April 2017 during Mars Express orbit 16807.

The main image is centered on 281ºE/31ºS is below:

Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

TDRS-M Launch

NASA will be launching a tracking and data relay satellite from Cape Canaveral hopefully around 12:03 UTC / 08:03 ET.

NASA – TDRS-M, built by Boeing, will provide NASA’s Space Network the ability to support critical space communication into the mid-2020s, ensuring scientists, engineers and control room staff can readily access data for missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

Coverage starts at 11:30 UTC / 07:30 ET on NASA TV, there will be a live link here at 11:30 UTC if all goes as planned.

Currently the weather at the space center looks to be pleasant with air temperature about 25 C or so (~78 F). No rain in area. . . yet.