Launching a Dragon

In case you missed it, here’s yesterday’s Space X launch.

Part of the mission was to land the first stage successfully and according to Space X, the landing was good. A successful landing in this case is a vertical “soft” landing and telemetry indicated it looks like it did indeed transmitting for eight seconds after reaching the water and stopped transmitting when it tipped over horizontally — not all the data though. Last reports had ships heading to the location for the possible recovery of the first stage. The recovery effort is NOT expected to be successful, but who knows.

Nice look at the first stage separation and stage two engine starting up.



Artist's concept of Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size exp-planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone.  Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s concept of Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size exp-planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

NOTE There is a 40 percent chance of the Space X -3 mission today at 15:25 ET / 19:25 UTC.  

Big news! Kepler-186f is the FIRST rocky Earth-sized exo-planet found! I am hoping this is just the first of a new series of discovery.

Being in the habitable zone means there is a possibility first of an atmosphere. If there is an atmosphere the similar Earth size then it could be possible to have an atmosphere more like our own. At the very least Hydrogen and Helium should be lacking as it is here, because as you know both of those gases are made of small and light atoms; those atoms move fast and at Earth temperatures, that velocity exceeds Earth’s escape velocity. Planets like Jupiter and the other gas giants have more gravity and are colder so Hydrogen and Helium are retained.

Then of course that only after an atmosphere you have to have the rest of the pieces. Or Kepler-186f could be just a big rock.

We are a long way from knowing the details on Kepler-186f, but just finding a planet of Earth size and in the habitable zone is an excellent start!

Here’s the press release from NASA (great wallpaper too!):

The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet’s surface. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zones of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth.
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The Tadpole

The Tadpole and the Wriggler. Click for larger. Copyright NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS

I want to see the Goldfish. Ok I spent five minutes looking for it until I re-read the press release and the bit about it being just out of view. Larger and full-res versions availble at the link below.

BTW, I LOVE the title from ESA for selfish reasons. LOL.

From ESA Spaceinimages (The Tadpole and the Wriggler):

A bright blue tadpole appears to swim through the inky blackness of space. Known as IRAS 20324+4057 but dubbed “the Tadpole”, this clump of gas and dust has given birth to a bright protostar, one of the earliest steps in building a star.

There are actually multiple protostars within this tadpole’s ‘head’, but the glowing yellow one in this image is the most luminous and massive. When this protostar has gathered together enough mass from its surroundings, it will eventually emerge as a fully-fledged young star.

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Name the Mission

The final journey of Cassini. Image: NASA

The final journey of Cassini. Image: NASA

As hard as it seems, the Cassini spacecraft soon enough enter the final phase of its mission.

The new and final mission will begin in 2016 and promises to be incredible.

During this final phase the spacecrafts orbit will take it well above the north pole of Saturn, it will then plunge between the inner ring and the planet itself.

You can get the details of the final months of Cassini  here.

In the mean time the Cassini team is looking for a name to call the mission and YOU can help.

You can:
Pick a name from a list.
Submit a name of your own.

Cassini and Peggy

A small icy object named Peggy in the rings of Saturn.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A small icy object named Peggy in the rings of Saturn. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

An “object”, dubbed Peggy located at the edge of the rings seen here at the bottom is being described as a “Small Icy Object”; might it be a new moon forming? Maybe, although it’s not expected to grow any larger, Peggy gives a good look at how a moon could form. It’s all new to everybody because this has never been seen before – a common theme with the Cassini mission. An epic mission for sure.

Here’s the story at NASA.

Lunar Eclipse (Watch Live)

Great animation but a little on the large size. Patience. Image: Tomruen / Creative Commons

Tomorrow morning 15 April 2014 at 07:46 UTC / 03:46 EDT the moon will be at total eclipse. This will be the first of a Tetrad, four total lunar eclipses.

All of the tetrad eclipses will be visible from North America. With this particular eclipse portions of Western Europe and Africa will get to see a little bit at the start, for example the British Isles should get to see the moon enter the penumbral shadow at 04:54 UTC, just barely before the moon sets. As one travels west say viewers in France, Spain and western Africa should be able to see it for a little longer. The same can be said for eastern Asia except their opportunity will come briefly at the end of the eclipse.

Can you see it? Check the map.

As for me, well it is clouding up now and we are expected to get up to 5 cm of rain so I bet not.

You can watch live below at about 04:54 UTC / 12:54 EDT.

The Space X launch I mentioned earlier was scrubbed due to a helium leak, rescheduled for Friday.

Video streaming by Ustream

Ring around the Asteroid

Until now we thought only big things had rings, really big things like Saturn and Jupiter. Turns out rings can occur around much smaller objects, like the asteroid Chariklo.

Chariklo or more formally 10199 Chariklo is a minor planet orbiting beyond Saturn, in fact its orbit is such it gets out to the orbit of Uranus.

Chariklo is only about 248 to 258 km / 154 to 160 miles in diameter (plus or minus 18 km), it has not one but two ring named Oiapoque and Chuí. It is almost unbelievable the rings could be detected, especially since Charilko was found only relatively recently, in February of 1997 by James Scotti of Spacewatch.

NOTE: Not sure what is going on with the Space X launch scheduled for 20:58 UTC (4:58 EDT). The last I have heard is there is an 80 percent chance of launch (from KSC) due to weather. There will be a press conference in a little while, I hope to be back with more news then.

Space X update:  

Sounds like there are adding a “late load” to the spacecraft right now and are attempting to have things ready tomorrow.

Space X is go for launch.


Indian Ocean Storm

A pre-winter storm off the Australian coast on 29 march 2014. Click for larger. Image: International Space Station.

This was a “pre-winter” storm off the coast of southwestern Australia was photographed from the International Space Station while over the southeastern Indian Ocean (at about 45.6 deg south and 108.9 deg west) on March 29th. The clockwise cloud pattern is opposite for storms in the north. I don’t know what the scale of the image is but the strom looks pretty large.

You should go to the NASA page featuring this image and grab a copy for your desktop it looks AMAZING!

A Cosmic Gem

The diamond ring look of planetary nebula Abell 33. Click for larger. Credit: ESO

The ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chili gives is the nice look at the Planetary Nebula Abell 33.

Abell 33 is located in the constellation Hydra. You can look around the region with The Microsoft Research Worldwide Telescope – enjoy!

The description from the ESO is below, click here to look at and download a variety of desktop sized images too:

Most stars with masses similar to that of our Sun will end their lives as white dwarfs — small, very dense, and hot bodies that slowly cool down over billions of years. On the way to this final phase of their lives the stars throw their atmospheres out into the space and create planetary nebulae, colourful glowing clouds of gas surrounding the small, bright stellar relics.

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