All posts by Tom

Europa Mission to Phase B

Good news! According to the following press release the Europa mission is moving along, oh it will be a good while before this off the ground, but this is a critical hurdle.

From NASA:

On Feb. 15, NASA’s Europa multiple-flyby mission successfully completed its Key Decision Point-B review. This NASA decision permits the mission to move forward into its preliminary design phase, known as “Phase B,” beginning on Feb. 27.

A highlight of Phase A was the selection and accommodation of 10 instruments being developed to study the scientific mysteries of Europa. The new mission phase is planned to continue through September 2018, and will result in the completion of a preliminary design for the mission’s systems and subsystems. Some testing of spacecraft components, including solar cells and science instrument detectors, has already been underway during Phase A, and this work is planned to continue into Phase B.

In addition, during Phase B subsystem vendors will be selected, as well as prototype hardware elements for the science instruments. Spacecraft subassemblies will be built and tested as well.

The Europa mission spacecraft is being planned for launch in the 2020s, arriving in the Jupiter system after a journey of several years. The spacecraft would orbit Jupiter as frequently as every two weeks, providing many opportunities for close flybys of Europa. The mission plan includes 40 to 45 flybys in the prime mission, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.

The life cycle of a NASA science mission includes several key phases. At each step, missions must successfully demonstrate that they have met the agency’s requirements in order to indicate readiness to move forward into the next phase. Phase B includes preliminary design work, while phases C and D include final design, spacecraft fabrication, assembly and testing, and launch.

Image: NASA

TRAPPIST-1

Using a collaboration of telescopes including TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope–South,  seven new exo-planets have been found. Yesterday I eluded to all of them in the Goldilocks zone, that is not true but THREE of them are and ALL of the planets are relatively Earth-sized!

The star TRAPPIST-1 is a dwarf star,  TRAPPIST-1 is only estimated to be only eight percent (8%) of our Sun, so it’s really small.

You will notice these planets are collectively very close to their parent star and that means very fast orbital periods, ranging from just a-(Earth)day-and-a-half for the closest planet (b) to only about 20 days for the most distant planet (h).   Since the parent star is smaller and cooler that means the Goldilocks zone is much different than our own is.  Click the graphic above to be able to see the data.

 

Busy Days for the ISS

Above is a NASA TV live feed Here’s the replay of the Progress 66 launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch time is 00:58 EST / 05:58 UTC. I do not know if this is actually going to be broadcast or not but the feed will be up just in case. The Progress is a cargo ship loaded with supplies for the ISS and crews.

Yes, the Space X Dragon is also a cargo ship loaded with supplies just launched and will be grappled by astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA using the robotic arm on the ISS. Grapple time is 04:30 EST / 09:30 UTC and IS going to be carried live by NASA so I’ll leave the feed up.

BUT WAIT – what about the Dragon grapple? There was an anomaly, Dragon’s onboard computers triggered the abort after recognizing an incorrect value in navigational data about the location of Dragon relative to the space station. Flight controllers immediately began planning for a second rendezvous attempt on Thursday, Feb. 23. — NASA. All does seem well with the spacecraft and there should be no problems with tomorrow’s grapple. The grapple will occur tomorrow morning at about 11:00 UTC / 6:00 EST..

The Progress will arrive at the ISS on 24 February 2017 at 08:34 UTC / 03:34 EST.

Progress 66 to Launch

There will be a launch early tomorrow morning to the ISS.  The Progress 66 will launch from the  Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:58 UTC / 12:58 EST.

I do not know if the launch will be carried live by NASA, I am going to guess it is so there will be a live link up.  I’d put it up anyway for the arrival of the Space X Dragon also tomorrow morning.

BTW:  There will be some news coming out about a star apparently with SEVEN planets in the Goldilocks zone!!!  The details are embargoed until after tomorrow morning.

 

Cresusa

Cassini took this image of the crater Creusa on the Saturn moon Dione on 26 November 2016 with a nice angle to show the crater nicely.

I changed the image a little to bring out some of the details, the original version can be seen here.

NASA’s caption:
When viewed from a distance with the sun directly behind Cassini, the larger, brighter craters really stand out on moons like Dione.

Among these larger craters, some leave bright ray patterns across the moon, calling attention to their existence and to the violence of their creation.

The rayed crater seen here on Dione (698 miles, or 1,123 kilometers across) is named Creusa. The rays are brighter material blasted out by the impact that formed the crater. Scientists can use the patterns of ejecta (like these rays), to help determine the order of geological events on a moon’s surface by examining which features lie on top of other features.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Dione. North on Dione is up and rotated 31 degrees to the right. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 26, 2016 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 727 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 350,000 miles (560,000 kilometers) from Dione. Image scale is 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) per pixel.

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

AG Carinae

 

Dazzling isn’t it? If the name AG Carinae rings a bell, it could be because of this famous star: Eta Carinae.

Thanks to: ESA/Hubble & NASA

ESA’s caption:

This luminous star, AG Carinae, is losing mass at a phenomenal rate. Its powerful winds reach up to seven million km/hour, and exert enormous pressure on the clouds of material already expelled by the star.

These incredible winds have already cleared a region immediately around the star, and sculpted the material further away into the pattern observed in this Hubble Space Telescope image.

AG Carinae is a rare breed of Luminous Blue Variable star that evolved from a star around 50 times the mass of our Sun. They show variable and unpredictable behaviour, experiencing periods of quiescence and outbursts alike. They are also some of the most luminous stars known: tens of thousands to several million times as luminous as the Sun.

It is worth noting that the bright glare at the centre of the image is not the star itself, which is tiny at this scale and hidden within the saturated region. The white cross is also not an astronomical phenomenon but rather an effect of the telescope.

AG Carinae lies 20 000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina. The image was taken with the Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, and was first released in September 2014.

Space X Replay

A NASA replay of the launch and mostly correct spelling today even with my dogs help.

I watched a post launch news conference and it seems all is well.

A bit of trivia: Recently I have been listening to an audio course concerning the “Physics of Time” and naturally the speed of light is a part of all that. Well during the launch I noticed that after just over a minute the Falcon 9’s Merlin engines propelled the Dragon to around one-millionth the speed of light (c). Orbital velocity is around c* 0.000025. Not exact? I know, do the math it’s fun!

CRS-10 Launch Coverage

BEAUTIFUL LAUNCH!  The landing of the first stage on solid ground was a success and fun to watch.  Ok pretty much everything was fun to watch.

I’ll leave the “live feed” up for replays they are sure to run and will post a YouTube version when it is available.

Speaking of YouTube, the live feed for YouTube and the Ustream versions differ slightly.  I watched the UStream version on the computer and the YouTube version on the television.  The UStream lagged about 20 seconds behind the YT version.  If you can get YT on your television watch the replays when available – wow.

 

Launch time correction!

Live coverage to begin at 13:30 UTC / 08:30 EST.

Launch is scheduled for 14:39 UTC / 09:30 EST.

SpaceX Launch Tomorrow

Image: March  2013 during Expedition 34 from NASA as the Dragon is grappled by the station’s robotic arm.

A Space X resupply mission, CRS-10 is scheduled for launch tomorrow.

Mission: CRS -10

 Description: science research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory in support of the Expedition 50 and 51 crew members

Rocket: Space X Falcon 9

Launch time:  14:39 UTC / 09:39 EST
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Pad 39A

Space X will attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage on land for the first time. I would think that would be much easier than a floating barge!