All posts by Tom

ISS Resupply Cargo Launch

The launch of Progress 65 a resupply mission to the ISS was beautiful.  Things went awry about the time for the third stage. Communications with the spacecraft was lost at 383 seconds into the flight – Don’t worry this was an autonomous flight, no people were aboard the spacecraft and the International Space Station has plenty of supplies.

ROSCOSMOS — “According to preliminary information, the contingency took place at an altitude of about 190 km over remote and unpopulated mountainous area of the Republic of Tyva. The most of cargo spacecraft fragments burned in the dense atmosphere. ” – link.

Here We Go Again

An almost spotless Sun and you just know 15 and 20 meter HF propagation is going down the tubes again.  Here’s hoping the bottom of the solar cycle does not last as long as the last time.

The peak of the solar cycle wasn’t much to write home about either, just my opinion.  Oh sure we had our good periods but all in all not so good.  Funny too because the “forecasts” were for the peak to be HUGE with off the chart solar storm etc.  Didn’t happen.  I know I watch closely being an Amateur Radio operator (one who LOVES 15 meter QRP CW).

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The original caption released with this SDO image:
This week the sun was hitting its lowest level of solar activity since 2011 (Nov. 14-18, 2016) as it gradually marches toward solar minimum. This activity is usually measured by sunspot count and over the past several days the sun has been almost spotless. The sun has a pendulum-like pattern of solar cycle of activity that extends over about an 11-year period. The last peak of activity was in early 2014. At this point in time, the sunspot numbers seem to be sliding downwards faster than expected, though the solar minimum level should not occur until 2021. No doubt more and larger sunspots will inevitably appear, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Credit: SDO/NASA

 

First Images from CaSSIS

WOW! This collection of high resolution images came from he Mars Camera, CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System) on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and are among the first to be released.

The CaSSIS was developed by a team from the University of Bern led by Prof. Nicolas Thomas from the Center of Space and Habitability

Video from ESA

Mimas and Saturn

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Be sure to check out our page on Mimas.

 

Saturn’s icy moon Mimas is dwarfed by the planet’s enormous rings.

Because Mimas (near lower left) appears tiny by comparison, it might seem that the rings would be far more massive, but this is not the case. Scientists think the rings are no more than a few times as massive as Mimas, or perhaps just a fraction of Mimas’ mass. Cassini is expected to determine the mass of Saturn’s rings to within just a few hundredths of Mimas’ mass as the mission winds down by tracking radio signals from the spacecraft as it flies close to the rings.

The rings, which are made of small, icy particles spread over a vast area, are extremely thin — generally no thicker than the height of a house. Thus, despite their giant proportions, the rings contain a surprisingly small amount of material.

Mimas is 246 miles (396 kilometers) wide.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 6 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 21, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 564,000 miles (907,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 31 degrees. Image scale is 34 miles (54 kilometers) per pixel.

Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Little Friend

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NASA’s caption:

A snapshot of the life cycle of stars has been captured where a stellar nursery is reflecting X-rays from a source powered by an object at the endpoint of its evolution. This discovery, described in our latest press release, provides a new way to study how stars form.

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This composite image shows X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (white) and radio data from the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (red and blue). The X-ray data reveal a bright X-ray source to the right known as Cygnus X-3, a system containing either a black hole or neutron star (a.k.a. a compact source) left behind after the death of a massive star. Within that bright source, the compact object is pulling material away from a massive companion star. Astronomers call such systems “X-ray binaries.”

In 2003, astronomers presented results using Chandra’s high-resolution vision in X-rays to identify a mysterious source of X-ray emission located very close to Cygnus X-3 on the sky (smaller white object to the upper left). The separation of these two sources is equivalent to the width of a penny about 800 feet away. A decade later, astronomers reported the new source is a cloud of gas and dust.  In astronomical terms, this cloud is rather small – about 0.7 light years in diameter or under the distance between the Sun and Pluto’s orbit.

Astronomers realized that this nearby cloud was acting as a mirror, reflecting some of the X-rays generated by Cygnus X-3 towards Earth. They nicknamed this object the “Little Friend” due to its close proximity to Cygnus X-3 on the sky and because it also demonstrated the same 4.8-hour variability in X-rays seen in the X-ray binary.

To determine the nature of the Little Friend, more information was needed. The researchers used the Submillimeter Array (SMA), a series of eight radio dishes atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, to discover the presence of molecules of carbon monoxide. This is an important clue that helped confirm previous suggestions that the Little Friend is a Bok globule, small, dense, very cold clouds where stars can form. The SMA data also reveal the presence of a jet or outflow within the Little Friend, an indication that a star has started to form inside. The blue portion shows a jet moving towards us and the red portion shows a jet moving away from us.

These results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and the paper is also available online. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA

Millennium Tower Sinking?

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The sinking of the Millennium Tower has already sunk over 400 mm / 16 inches. As you would expect this is causing quite a lot of problems, summed up nicely by the NY Times.

The Sentinel data is rather amazing in showing how isolated the worst of the phenomenon seems to be.

From ESA:

Data from the Sentinel-1 satellites acquired between 22 February 2015 and 20 September 2016 show that Millennium Tower in San Francisco is sinking by about 40 mm a year in the ‘line of sight’ – the direction that the satellite is ‘looking’ at the building. This translates into a vertical subsidence of almost 50 mm (almost two inches) a year, assuming no tilting. The coloured dots represent targets observed by the radar. The colour scale ranges from 40 mm a year away from radar (red) to 40 mm a year towards radar (blue). Green represents stable targets.

Here’s the full article from ESA.

Copyright:   Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015–16) / ESA SEOM INSARAP study / PPO.labs / Norut / NGU

Martian Ice

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The original caption from NASA:
This vertically exaggerated view shows scalloped depressions in Mars’ Utopia Planitia region, one of the area’s distinctive textures that prompted researchers to check for underground ice, using ground-penetrating radar aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

More than 600 overhead passes with the spacecraft’s Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument provided data for determining that about as much water as the volume of Lake Superior lies in a thick layer beneath a portion of Utopia Planitia.

These scalloped depressions on the surface are typically about 100 to 200 yards or meters wide. The foreground of this view covers ground about one mile (1.8 kilometers) across. The perspective view is based on a three-dimensional terrain model derived from a stereo pair of observations by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. One was taken on Dec. 25, 2006, the other on Feb. 2, 2007.

The vertical dimension is exaggerated fivefold in proportion to the horizontal dimensions, to make texture more apparent in what is a rather flat plain.

Similar scalloped depressions are found in portions of the Canadian Arctic, where they are indicative of ground ice.

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Diagonal striping on this map of a portion of the Utopia Planitia region on Mars indicates the area where a large subsurface deposit rich in water ice was assessed using the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The scale bar at lower right indicates 140 kilometers (76 miles). The violet vertical bars show depth to the bottom of the ice-rich deposit, as estimated from SHARAD passes overhead. Darkest violet indicates a depth of about 550 feet (about 170 meters). Palest violet indicates a depth of about 33 feet (10 meters). The value of 2.8 plus-or-minus 0.8 in the upper right corner denotes the dielectric constant, a property related to radar reflectivity. The value of 14,300 cubic kilometers is an estimate of the volume of water in the deposit. — NASA

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Rome/ASI/PSI/Univ. of Arizona

Prometheus

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Nice look at Prometheus from Cassini.

From Cassini/NASA:
Surface features are visible on Saturn’s moon Prometheus in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Most of Cassini’s images of Prometheus are too distant to resolve individual craters, making views like this a rare treat.

Saturn’s narrow F ring, which makes a diagonal line beginning at top center, appears bright and bold in some Cassini views, but not here. Since the sun is nearly behind Cassini in this image, most of the light hitting the F ring is being scattered away from the camera, making it appear dim. Light-scattering behavior like this is typical of rings comprised of small particles, such as the F ring.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 14 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 24, 2016..

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 226,000 miles (364,000 kilometers) from Prometheus and at a sun-Prometheus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 51 degrees. Image scale is 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) per pixel.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute