All posts by Tom

ISS Cargo Ships


The cause for loss of the Space X cargo ship has not yet been released (other than an oxygen overpressure event) yet. There are other options in the short term for ISS resupply.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle, “Kounotori” (HTV5) is JAXA’s next cargo ship to deliver supplies to the ISS.

The Kounotori is an unmanned cargo ship capable of delivering six tons of supplies of all types to the International Space Station. The cargo ship will be launched by the H-IIB launch vehicle and can remain berthed to the ISS for about 45 days. The vehicle and will be loaded with waste material before departure and will burn up in the atmosphere.

Kounotori is being assembled at the Tanegashima Space Center in preparation for launch.

The scheduled launch date will be 16 August at around 10:01 p.m. Japan Standard Time (JST). If weather or other issues delay the launch there is a wide launch window stretching from 17 August to 30 September.

Launch will occur at Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center.

Image of JAXA’s HTV in flight. credit: JAXA et al.

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Not a Meteor


On 29 June a “bright event” was seen across several US Southeastern states at 05:29 UTC;  in fact there are more than 150 reports probably related to this event.   Early data suggests this object was not a meteor. NASA tracked the object with five cameras, the velocity was about 6.48 km/sec / 14,500 mph much too slow to be a meteor.

The image above shows that it broke up and this combined with the slow speed indicates a possible  re-entry of some type of space debris.

In a possible related event, earlier in the day at between 00:30 and 01:00 UTC an explosion was heard at my location, not just here but heard for miles. Police were apparently notified of smoke sighted in an area about 5 miles from here. If I can find out where exactly they were sent, I’m grabbing a magnet and going hunting!

The image above via NASA was taken near Rosman, North Carolina.

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The Moon Namaka


The moon Namaka was discovered 10 years ago by Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowitz et al.

Although the discovery occured on 30 June 2005, the discovery wasn’t announced until 29 November 2005.

Never heard of Namaka? You’re probably not alone. Namaka is a moon of the (dwarf) planet Haumea which it shares with another moon called Hiʻiaka. The Keck telescope image above shows the Haumea family – click for the annotated version.

The Haumea system is a long ways away. The semi-major axis is a little more than 43.2 AU puts it well beyond the orbit of Neptune (30 AU). Brown et al (and possibly Ortiz et al but that another story) discovered Haumea in December 2004.

The moon Namaka is an amazing find, it is so far away even the diameter is hard to pin down but it is somewhere between (probably) 85 km and 170 km.

Here are data points of  the Haumea family.  Oh, by the way the other moon,  Hiʻiaka was also discovered by Brown,  Trujillo and Rabinowitz et al.

“2003 EL61 Haumea, with moons” by CalTech, Mike Brown et al. – Keck Telescope, CalTech. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –


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Hubble’s View of NGC 6153


A nice (and timely) follow-up to a post last week talking a little about metallicity. This planetary nebula has no “common name” that I can find. Looks a bit like a Jellyfish to me.

Here’s ESA description:
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a planetary nebula named NGC 6153, located about 4,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). The faint blue haze across the frame shows what remains of a star like the sun after it has depleted most of its fuel. When this happens, the outer layers of the star are ejected, and get excited and ionized by the energetic ultraviolet light emitted by the bright hot core of the star, forming the nebula.

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Saturn’s Age Problem Solved?


There has been an ongoing discrepancy involving estimating the age of Saturn. Models that correctly predict Jupiter’s age of 4.5 billion-years-old can only get Saturn’s age to 2.5 billion-years. That’s 2 billion years off (or 2,000 million years if you prefer).

The press release from Sandia Labs is below, any press release mentioning metallic hydrogen at high pressures and helium rain has to be good!

From Sandia Labs:
Experiments at Sandia’s Z machine may help solve that problem when they verified an 80-year-old untested proposition that molecular hydrogen, normally an insulator, becomes metallic if squeezed by enough pressure. At that point, a lattice of hydrogen molecules would break up into individual hydrogen atoms, releasing free-floating electrons that could carry a current, physicists Eugene Wigner and Hilliard Huntington predicted in 1935.

“That long-ago prediction would explain Saturn’s temperature because when hydrogen metallizes and mixes with helium in a dense liquid, it can release helium rain,” said Sandia researcher Mike Desjarlais. Helium rain is an energy source that can alter the evolution of a planet.

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Space X CRS – 7 Launch

UPDATE:  There was an explosion about a minute into the flight.  Rocket and payload was completely destroyed.  Video and updates to follow.

Mission: SpaceX CRS 7 – Cargo ship to ISS

Spacecraft: Dragon cargo ship atop a Falcon 9 rocket

Current Status: Go

Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 40

Launch Date/Time: 28 June 2015 / 14:21 GMT (10:21 EDT)

Odds of Launch due to weather: 90 percent


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Exoplanet Wave Simulation

Following the Dark Matter Lab sim, here’s yet another simulation.

This simulation uses a NASA supercomputer to simulate a planet and debris disk around a neighbor star Beta Pictoris. We see the (exo) planetary motion drives spiral waves throughout the disk and this action increases collisions among the orbiting debris.

Astronomers Erika Nesvold (UMBC) and Marc Kuchner (NASA Goddard) essentially created a virtual Beta Pictoris in the computer and watched it evolve over millions of years. It is the first full 3-D model of a debris disk where scientists can watch the development of asymmetric features formed by planets, like warps and eccentric rings, and also track collisions among the particles at the same time.

See more at YouTube

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