All posts by Tom

Vera Rubin Ridge

NASA – This view of “Vera Rubin Ridge” from the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows multiple sedimentary layers and fracture-filling deposits of minerals.

Buried layers of what is now a ridge became fractured, and the fractures were filled with mineral deposits precipitated from underground fluids that moved through the fractures.

ChemCam’s telescopic Remote Micro-Imager took the 10 component images of this mosaic on July 3, 2017, during the 1,745th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. The camera was about 377 feet (115 meters) away from the pictured portion of the ridge. The rover’s location at the time, shown in a Sol 1741 traverse map, was west of the place where it began its ascent up the ridge about two months later.

The scale bar at lower right indicates how wide a feature 9 inches (22.8 centimeters) in width would look in the middle portion of the scene.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES/CNRS/LANL/IRAP/IAS/LPGN

Return of the Dragon

UPDATE:  The Dragon is home and all is well.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo-ship was scheduled to leave the International Space Station this morning after delivering 2,900 kg / 6,400 lbs of supplies about a month ago.

The departure was scheduled for 08:47 UT / 04:47 ET today (17 Sept 2017) at the end of the Canadarm2 by Expedition 53 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) with the assistance of station Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA.

Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn. The spacecraft will splash down at about 14:16 UT 10:16 ET in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve Dragon and approximately 3,800 pounds of cargo. This will include science samples from human and animal research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities. The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

In the event of adverse weather conditions in the Pacific, the backup departure and splashdown date is Sept. 20.

With any luck we might get video of the re-entry.

Image: NASA

Earth from Space

ESA’s Sentinel-5P Project Manager Kevin McMullan and Sentinel-5P Mission Manager Claus Zehner join the show to tell us about their roles in the Sentinel-5P mission.

The Last Signals from Cassini

The end of mission activities for Cassini will be here with live commentary from JPL at 11:00 UT/7:00 ET.

Expected LOS is 12:00 UTC / 08:00 EDT

About the image (NASA) – ASA’s Cassini spacecraft gazed toward the northern hemisphere of Saturn to spy subtle, multi-hued bands in the clouds there.

This view looks toward the terminator — the dividing line between night and day — at lower left. The sun shines at low angles along this boundary, in places highlighting vertical structure in the clouds. Some vertical relief is apparent in this view, with higher clouds casting shadows over those at lower altitude.

Images taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural-color view. The images were acquired on Aug. 31, 2017, at a distance of approximately 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is about 4 miles (6 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Solar Flare Caught on iPhone

Pretty amazing, catching a solar flare on an iPhone! Not my phone to be sure and I’ve tried. Leave it to ESA, actually they got a lucky break in a way. I want to see the filter they used too!

ESA — A group of astronomers at ESA’s ESTEC were testing some solar observing equipment on 6 September and serendipitously captured a solar flare, which turned out to be one of the most powerful observed in the last decade.

The image shown here was taken with an iPhone through a special interference H-alpha filter (centred at the wavelength of hydrogen emission) mounted to a small dedicated solar telescope at 13:09:26 GMT. An X9.3 flare was observed to launch from the Sun by space telescopes at 12:02 GMT, meaning that this image was taken as the flare was in the gradual decay phase.

The flare is seen as the white cloudy feature with multiple ribbons towards the bottom right of the image. It appears as a lighter feature against the solar background average because of post-flare energy release visible in hydrogen emission from interconnected magnetic loops. North is up.

Image: ESA/T.Baumann/B.Foing/J.Zender

Launch Day

Expedition 53-54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 21:17 UT / 17:17 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 12 (03:17 Baikonur time on Sept. 13) aboard the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft.

Live coverage should start here at 20:30 UT / 16:30 EDT.

Apoapsis

On 12 September 2017 at 05:27 UT / 01:27 EDT the Cassini spacecraft reached apoapsis or the farthest point from Saturn it will reach. For Cassini apoapse was 1.3 million km / 800,000 miles.

Cassini is now headed right toward Saturn for the last time. The spacecraft will plunge into the Saturian atmosphere in just a few days, on 15 September 2017.

The signal from Cassini has to travel 83 minutes before reaching Earth. By the time we lose the signal from the spacecraft about 11:55 UT / 07:55 EDT on the 15th, the spacecraft will have already encountered Saturn. The time could change a little because of atmospheric drag during the final orbits.

If I calculated this correctly the “at Saturn” event time would be 10:32 UT / 06:32 EDT based on that original estimate.

Definition of Apoapsis vs. Apogee.

The image above of the moon Titan is one of the very last we will see from the mission and was taken on 10 September 2017.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute