Eclipse Season is Here

I remember my big (satellite) dish, a couple times a year the sun would line up perfectly with the dish and everything would be lost. The signals were still there of course but the sun overpowered them, the loss of signal was about a half hour I think (it’s a guess at this point, I have not looked it up).

You could hardly miss the Supermoon of the last couple of nights. I could read a newspaper by moon light. My pictures however, well a great white spot, lol.

NASA: The SDO spacecraft is in another eclipse season as of Feb. 6, 2019. This begins a several week period when the Earth briefly blocks SDO’s view of the Sun each day. In fact, because SDO orbits above the Mountain Time zone, the Earth passes between SDO and the Sun at about 7:20 UT (12:20 am MT) each orbit. Eclipses are due to SDO’s circular geosynchronous orbit some 22,000 miles above Earth. At the speed we are showing the frames, the eclipse is only a flicker. The still image shows that the edge of Earth, here about halfway across the Sun, looks quite rough due to the absorption of the 304 Å EUV light by our atmosphere.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Chang’e 4 on the Farside

The Chinese lander Chang’e 4 on the farside of the moon spotted by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC camera.

NASA; Chang’e 4, the second Chinese lunar lander, set down on a relatively small farside mare basalt deposit that is extensively mixed with highland ejecta from the nearby and relatively young Finsen crater (73 kilometer or 45 mile diameter). Scientists have long wanted to know the composition of farside basalts; are they significantly different from the nearside basalts? According to the China National Space Administration, Chang’e 4 instrumentation includes the visible near infrared spectrometer (VNIS) which takes measurements that can be used to address this question. This new information from the surface will provide important ground truth, while the combination of on-surface and orbital measurements provides synergy that will advance knowledge of the farside.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Mark Robinson
Arizona State University

Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


NASA – NASA has selected a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.

The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023. 

“I’m really excited about this new mission,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Not only does it expand the United States’ powerful fleet of space-based missions dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the universe, it is a critical part of a balanced science program that includes missions of various sizes.”

SPHEREx will survey the sky in optical as well as near-infrared light which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions. Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way.

“This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the first moments in the universe’s history. And we’ll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang?”

SPHEREx will survey hundreds of millions of galaxies near and far, some so distant their light has taken 10 billion years to reach Earth. In the Milky Way, the mission will search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life, as we know it – in stellar nurseries, regions where stars are born from gas and dust, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming.

Every six months, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky using technologies adapted from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft. The mission will create a map of the entire sky in 96 different color bands, far exceeding the color resolution of previous all-sky maps. It also will identify targets for more detailed study by future missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope.

NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program requested proposals for new missions in September 2016. Nine proposals were submitted, and two mission concepts were selected for further study in August 2017. After a detailed review by a panel of NASA and external scientists and engineers, NASA determined that the SPHEREx concept study offered the best science potential and most feasible development plan.

The mission’s principal investigator is James Bock of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Caltech will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to develop the mission payload. JPL will also manage the mission.

Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, will provide the SPHEREx spacecraft and mission integration. The Korea Astronomy & Space Science Institute in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, will contribute test equipment and science analysis.

NASA’s Explorer program, managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the agency’s oldest continuous program, designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the Astrophysics and Heliophysics programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

The program has launched more than 90 missions, beginning in 1958 with Explorer 1, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts. Another Explorer mission, the Cosmic Background Explorer, which launched in 1989, led to a Nobel Prize.

Image: NASA

New Born Star

Hubble Et al. – In this image, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the smoking gun of a newborn star, the Herbig–Haro objects numbered 7 to 11 (HH 7–11). These five objects, visible in blue in the top center of the image, lie within NGC 1333, a reflection nebula full of gas and dust found about a thousand light-years away from Earth.

Bright patches of nebulosity near newborn stars, Herbig-Haro objects like HH 7–11 are transient phenomena. Traveling away from the star that created them at a speed of up to about 150,000 miles per hour, they disappear into nothingness within a few tens of thousands of years. The young star that is the source of HH 7–11 is called SVS 13, and all five objects are moving away from SVS 13 toward the upper left. The current distance between HH 7 and SVS 13 is about 20,000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Herbig–Haro objects are formed when jets of ionized gas ejected by a young star collide with nearby clouds of gas and dust at high speeds. The Herbig-Haro objects visible in this image are no exception to this and were formed when the jets from the newborn star SVS 13 collided with the surrounding clouds. These collisions created the five brilliant clumps of light within the reflection nebula.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, K. Stapelfeldt

Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)


Space to Ground: Femtosatellites. A very good look at what is happening on the International Space Station.

What is a CubeSat?

I think CubeSats are brilliant, so much opportunity not the least of which is the many educational layers potentially involved.

Video: Canadian Space Agency

So Far So Good for JWST

This is the transport vehicle for the James Webb Space Telescope during the now completed acoustical and vibration testing phases. The transport vehicle includes a mobile clean-room and having worked in a clean-room I can tell you that’s not a small feat by itself.

The testing was a success because it did find an issue which was resolved. The testing process is described rater well in the following press release from NASA ( Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Gunn) :

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed another series of critical testing milestones on its march to the launch pad.

In recent acoustic and sine vibration tests, technicians and engineers exposed Webb’s spacecraft element to brutal dynamic mechanical environmental conditions to ensure it will endure the rigors of a rocket launch to space.

During liftoff, rockets generate extremely powerful vibrations and energetic sound waves that bounce off the ground and nearby buildings and impact the rocket as it makes its way skyward. Technicians and engineers aim to protect Webb from these intense sound waves and vibrations.

To simulate these conditions, flight components are intentionally punished with a long litany of tests throughout different facilities to identify potential issues on the ground. Webb was bombarded by powerful sound waves from massive speakers and then placed on an electrodynamic vibration table and strongly but precisely shaken. Together, these tests mimic the range of extreme shaking that spacecraft experience while riding a rocket to space.

“Webb’s launch vibration environment is similar to a pretty bumpy commercial airplane flight during turbulence,” said Paul Geithner, deputy project manager – technical, James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “And, its launch acoustic environment is about 10 times more sound pressure, 100 times more intense and four times louder than a rock concert.”

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