All posts by Tom

SpaceX Heavy – STP 2 Launch

According to SpaceX:

The primary launch window opens at 11:30 p.m. EDT, or 3:30 a.m. UTC on June 25, and closes at 3:30 a.m. EDT on June 25, or 7:30 a.m. UTC.

A backup launch window opens on June 25 at 11:30 p.m. EDT, or 3:30 a.m. UTC on June 26, and closes at 3:30 a.m. EDT on June 26, or 7:30 a.m. UTC.

Deployments will begin approximately 12 minutes after liftoff and end approximately 3 hours and 32 minutes after liftoff.

— Weather looks good.

Irregular Galaxy IC 10

ESA: This image shows an irregular galaxy named IC 10, a member of the Local Group — a collection/grouping of over 50 galaxies in/within our cosmic neighbourhood that includes the Milky Way.IC 10 is a remarkable object. It is the closest-known starburst galaxy to us, meaning that it is undergoing a furious bout of star formation fueled by ample supplies of cool hydrogen gas. This gas condenses and congeals into vast molecular clouds, which then form and condense into dense knots where pressures and temperatures reach a point sufficient to ignite nuclear fusion, thus giving rise to new generations of stars.  As an irregular galaxy, IC 10 lacks the majestic shape of spiral galaxies such as the Milky Way, or the rounded, ethereal appearance of elliptical galaxies. It is a faint object, despite its relative proximity to us — just 2.2 million light-years. In fact, IC 10 only became known to humankind in 1887, when American astronomer Lewis Swift spotted it during an observing campaign. The small galaxy remains difficult to study even today, because it is located along a line -of -sight which is chock-full of cosmic dust and stars.A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Nikolaus Sulzenauer, and went on to win tenth prize.

Image and description: NASA, ESA and F. Bauer; CC BY 4.0

Sounding Rocket Launch

Here is a sounding rocket launch on 20 June 2019 from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (US).

The very cool thing about this launch (as if the launch wasn’t enough) the payload is comprised of experiments from university and community college students!

The experiments were taken to suborbital altitude by a NASA NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket.

What a great time to be a student.

By the way, there will be another launch Monday night / Tuesday morning (depending on your location), not a sounding rocket but the mighty SpaceX Falcon Heavy. The launch will be from Kennedy Space Center and we all know weather in the area can delay launches. This launch is scheduled for 23:30 local time (04:30 UT) and will be spectacular if all goes as planned.

Happy Solstice!

For me it is SUMMER! I hope it warms up and dries out some.

The Sun has reached the most northerly extent of the annual cycle of the seasons and will now begin the journey to the corresponding southernmost point.

In the north the daylight will begin to shorten and while it is called the start of summer. I hope so it has been quite cool and wet for many-many months.

In the south with regard to day / night cycles the opposite is true.

The time of the June Solstice is (or was) 15:54 UTC / 11:54 ET, today 21 June 2019.

Thanks to for the image.

Arianespace VA248 Launch


Ariane will launch flight VA248 to deploy two satellites: T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C. Both spacecraft will be deployed to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Launch times from Arianespace:

Liftoff is planned on Thursday, June 20, 2019 as early as possible within the following launch window:

Between 2:43 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. El Segundo, California, USA time

Between 5:43 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Washington, D.C., USA time – Between 6:43 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Kourou, French Guiana time

Between 21:43 and 23:30 Universal Time (UTC) – Between 11:43 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. Paris, France time during the night of June 20 to 21.

Underwater with Aquarius

ESA: ESA astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti (top right) poses with her fellow NEEMO 23 crew outside the Aquarius underwater habitat, located roughly 10 km off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations takes place more than 18 metres below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. For nine days, astronauts, engineers, and scientists live and work underwater, testing new technologies for space.  

Samantha is commander of this year’s NEEMO expedition. Since 13 June, she and her fellow ‘aquanauts’ have been living and working underwater, venturing out of their habitat each day to explore their surroundings through underwater spacewalks.

During these ‘spacewalks’, they are testing prototypes for two ESA devices that will aid in lunar sampling and expedition activities in the future. Their feedback will help refine designs for eventual use during Moon missions. 

Last month, Samantha and fellow ESA astronaut Tim Peake prepared for the mission at ESA’s Neutral Buoyancy Facility, one of four immersion tanks of its kind, where they made a wet dry-run, of sorts, to refine the procedures and technology.

The NBF at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany, is regularly used to train astronauts for spacewalks from the International Space Station, but – by finetuning the negative buoyancy of the astronauts and the equipment they use – it can also be used to simulate the partial gravity of the Moon.

Aurora From Above

A beautiful image from the International Space Station. Here at mid- latitude the aurora is pretty rare these days; it is solar minimum after all.

If you happen to listen to short wave radio or are an amateur radio operator as I am, one of the hallmarks of an active aurora is the radio transmissions (notably the 20 meter ham band or in the area of 14 MHz) sound like they are in a bottom of a barrel. Really, check it out sometime. So I wonder how things are different from the other side of the aurora.

There are a number of sites to find out what is going on with space weather here’s one: Space Weather Prediction Center.

About the image from NASA: Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped this image of an aurora, saying: “Years ago at the South Pole, I looked up to the aurora for inspiration through the 6-month winter night. Now I know they’re just as awe inspiring from above.

Image Credit: NASA

Hope for the Mole

I’ve been patiently waiting for an update on the “Mole”, that probe on the InSight lander that was to be pounded into the Martian soil to take temperature data. There is a plan.

Solving the problem could be almost as exciting as any science result at this point. Hope it works, good luck!

Hubble Sees NGC 4051

Not quite what I was going to post, but I need the practice. It’s a good thing though. I’ll explain; but first about the image:

ESA: When massive stars die at the end of their short lives, they light up the cosmos with bright, explosive bursts of light and material known as supernovae. A supernova event is incredibly energetic and intensely luminous — so much so that it forms what looks like an especially bright new star that slowly fades away over time.

These exploding stars glow so incredibly brightly when they first form that they can be spotted from afar using telescopes such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The subject of this image, a spiral galaxy named NGC 4051 — about 45 million light-years from Earth — has hosted multiple supernovae in past years. The first was spotted in 1983 (SN 1983I), the second in 2003 (SN 2003ie), and the most recent in 2010 (SN 2010br). These explosive events were seen scattered throughout the centre and spiral arms of NGC 4051.

The SN 1983I and SN 2010br were both categorised as supernovae of type Ic. This type of supernova is produced by the core collapse of a massive star that has lost its outer layer of hydrogen and helium, either via winds or by mass transfer to a companion. Because of this, type Ic — and also type Ib — supernovae are sometimes referred to as stripped core-collapse supernovae.

This galaxy’s beautiful spiral structure can be seen well in this image, along with other intriguing objects (including an emission-line galaxy known as SDSS J120312.35+443045.1, visible as the bright smudge to the lower middle of the image, beneath the sweeping arm of NGC 4051).NGC 4501 sits in the southern part of a cluster of galaxies known as the Ursa Major I Cluster; this cluster is especially rich in spirals such as NGC 4051, and is a subset of the larger Virgo Supercluster, which also houses the Milky Way.

Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Crenshaw and O. Fox; CC BY 4.0

Practice? I finally was forced to retire my old laptop. Keyboard was coming off, there was a crack along the back of the screen and another along the bottom. Other than not being worth anything for image processing ability, it was a decent machine. So here I am with a new computer, that can work with graphics (I have a Juno image all queued up to have a go with). The thing is this computer has a different operating system than what i am used to. Things work, just differently.