All posts by Tom

Kilauea Eruption From NASA Satellite

The Kilauea volcano is getting plenty of news coverage and rightfully so.  Check out this link from KHON2 News featuring the 17th fissure to open.

The image above and the caption below is from NASA’s Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument.

Despite all of the science knowledge and the benefits potentially being derived from this eruption, I feel for the impacted residents. Be safe or e palekana (tranlation by Google Translate)

NASA: On May 3, 2018, a new eruption began at a fissure of the Kilauea volcano on the Island of Hawaii. Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world, having erupted almost continuously since 1983. Advancing lava and dangerous sulfur dioxide gas have forced thousands of residents in the neighborhood of Leilani Estates to evacuate. A number of homes have been destroyed, and no one can say how soon the eruption will abate and evacuees can return home.

On May 6, 2018, at approximately 11 a.m. local time, the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this view of the island as it passed overhead. Much of the island was shrouded by clouds, including the fissure on its eastern point. However, an eruption plume is visible streaming southwest over the ocean. The MISR instrument is unique in that it has nine cameras that view Earth at different angles: one pointing downward, four at various angles in the forward direction, and four in the backward direction. This image shows the view from one of MISR’s forward-pointing cameras (60 degrees), which shows the plume more distinctly than the near-vertical views.

The information from the images acquired at different view angles is used to calculate the height of the plume, results of which are superimposed on the right-hand image. The top of the plume near the fissure is at approximately 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) altitude, and the height of the plume decreases as it travels south and west. These relatively low altitudes mean that the ash and sulfur dioxide remained near the ground, which can cause health issues for people on the island downwind of the eruption. The “Ocean View” air quality monitor operated by the Clean Air Branch of the State of Hawaii Department of Health recorded a concentration of 18 μg/m3 of airborne particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter at 11 a.m. local time. This amount corresponds to an air quality rating of “moderate” and supports the MISR results indicating that ash was most likely present at ground level on this side of the island.

These data were acquired during Terra orbit 97780. The smoke plume height calculation was performed using the MISR INteractive eXplorer (MINX) software tool, which is publicly available at The MISR Plume Height Project maintains a database of global smoke plume heights, accessible at

The Next Mission for Alexander Gerst

Alexander Gerst will join US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev for a trip to the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-09. Gerst will take command of the space station.

Space X Launches Bangabandhu 1 — Replay

Space X delivers the first communications satellite for Bangladesh after a spectacular launch.

I trimmed down the intro but left the last 15 minutes prior to launch. Space X always includes a great amount of information about the launch payload and rocket and flight parameters – worth the watch.

Falcon 9 Block 5 to Fly Today

The Space X Falcon 9 “Block 5” is getting ready to take flight later today.

The Falcon 9 “Block 5” is the latest iteration of rockets  by Space X.  The Block 5 is an updated configuration of the Falcon 9 that will allow for easier re-usability.  It also aims to prevent an occurrence of an explosion like the 2016 explosion at Cape Canaveral, reportedly it involves the helium pressurization system.

Space X will be launching a French built satellite for Bangladesh called Bangabandhu Satellite-1.  This will Bangladesh’s first communications satellite.

Launch Date: 10 May 2018

Launch time is 20:12 UT / 16:12 ET (window opening)

Spaceport:  Kennedy Space Center

A live link will be up here at 19:50 / 15:50 ET

Image: Space X


Crossed Rings?

How do you get a ring pattern like this around Saturn? It does not seem to be possible but after reading the caption (below), I get it.

ESA –   At first glance, Saturn’s rings appear to be intersecting themselves in an impossible way. In actuality, this view from the international Cassini spacecraft shows the rings in front of the planet, upon which the shadow of the rings is cast. And because rings like the A ring and Cassini Division, which appear in the foreground, are not entirely opaque, the outline of Saturn and those ring shadows can be seen directly through the rings themselves.

Saturn’s rings have complex and detailed structures, many of which can be seen here. In some cases, the reasons for the gaps and ringlets are known: for example, 28 km wide moon Pan – seen here as a bright speck near the image centre – keeps open the Encke gap. But in other cases, the origins and natures of gaps and ringlets are less well understood.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 14º above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera on 11 February 2016, and highlighted in a release published 25 April 2016. The view was acquired at a distance of 1.9 million km from Pan and at a Sun–Pan–spacecraft angle of 85º. Image scale is 10 km/pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. The mission concluded in September 2017.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

MarCO Is On the Way

Here is an artist rendering of the Mars Cube One or MarCO. Actually two Cube Sats (MarCo A & B) were launched along with and ejected with the InSight Lander. All three are apparently well and on the way to Mars. YES! Cube Sats were a brilliant idea right from the start.

NASA / Andrew Good – JPL: NASA has received radio signals indicating that the first-ever CubeSats headed to deep space are alive and well. The first signal was received at 12:15 p.m. PST (3:15 p.m. EST) today; the second at 1:58 p.m. PST (4:58 p.m. EST). Engineers will now be performing a series of checks before both CubeSats enter their cruise to deep space.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, is a pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft that launched along with NASA’s InSight Mars lander at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California. InSight is a scientific mission that will probe the Red Planet’s deep interior for the first time; the name stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The twin MarCO CubeSats are on their own separate mission: rather than collecting science, they will follow the InSight lander on its cruise to Mars, testing out miniature spacecraft technology along the way.

Both were programmed to unfold their solar panels soon after launch, followed by several opportunities to radio back their health.

“Both MarCO-A and B say ‘Polo!’ It’s a sign that the little sats are alive and well,” said Andy Klesh, chief engineer for the MarCO mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which built the twin spacecraft.
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The Sun

Here is a look at the Sun taken yesterday by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Not much going on as you can see.

The bright area are associated with small sunspots, we just can’t see the spots yet. Notice the spots are near the equator, will we get to see the spots as they rotate into a more advantageous viewing position? Maybe or maybe not. We are nearing the bottom of the solar cycle and sometimes spots can last for a while and sometimes they can emerge and disappear quite rapidly.

At this stage of solar cycles we would expect to see sunspots emerge closer to the equator and in this image we see nothing towards the poles. Keep an eye on the sun and eventually we will see new spots forming at high latitudes both north and south. For now the spots are indeed coming into being at low lattitudes. Sun is said to be not very active.

Does a quiet or non-active sun mean there should be no auroras? Not at all, but displays may not be very regular except at the polar regions and we are not considering coronal holes and solar winds which do add to the fun.

What about radio propagation? Not good. Ham radio operators looking for DX are longing for more activity – I know!

Where are we in the cycle? Below is the progression of the cycle through March.

Images: SDO / NASA / SWPC

May Skies

Hubble’s Tonight’s Sky May 2018

If you have good skies you should be able to catch the peak of the Eta Aquarids. The best time to catch these bits of debris from Halley’s Comet is 06 May in the hours before daylight.