All posts by Tom

Join The Search

If you have not participated in Zooniverse before, give it a try. I do a couple of the projects and will be doing this one too.

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9

Here is a description from Zooniverse I got in an email:
In this project you’ll be searching through images from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, hunting for objects such as brown dwarfs and low-mass stars in our Solar System’s neighbourhood. You may find an object closer than Proxima Centauri (the closest star to the Sun) or even discover the Sun’s hypothesized ninth planet, which models suggest might appear in these images!

Daphnis Making Waves

Daphnis making waves in the rings of Saturn,  yes we saw this image a little while ago, NASA added more images to show more of the waves caused the gravity of the moon – a lot more.

Daphnis, one of Saturn’s ring-embedded moons, is featured in this view, kicking up waves as it orbits within the Keeler gap. The mosaic combines several images to show more waves in the gap edges than seen in a previously released image, PIA21056.

Daphnis is a small moon at 5 miles (8 kilometers) across, but its gravity is powerful enough to disrupt the tiny particles of the A ring that form the Keeler gap’s edge. As the moon moves through the Keeler gap, wave-like features are created in both the horizontal and vertical plane. For more about these vertical structures see PIA11654 and PIA11547.

Images like this provide scientists with a close-up view of the complicated interactions between a moon and the rings, as well as the interactions between the ring particles themselves, in the wake of the moon’s passage. Three wave crests of diminishing sizes trail Daphnis here. In each subsequent crest, the shape of the wave evolves, as the ring particles within the crests collide with one another.

Close examination of Daphnis’ immediate vicinity also reveals a faint, thin strand of ring material that almost appears to have been directly ripped out of the A ring by Daphnis.

The images in this mosaic were taken in visible light, using the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 17,000 miles (28,000 kilometers) from Daphnis and at a Sun-Daphnis-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 71 degrees. Image scale is 551 feet (168 meters) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

2017 BQ6

A very nice radar image of asteroid 2017 BQ6.

This composite of 11 images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 was generated with radar data collected using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert on Feb. 5, 2017, between 5:24 and 5:52 p.m. PST (8:24 to 8:52 p.m. EST / 1:24 to 1:52 UTC). The images have resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel. – NASA

This newly discovered asteroid passed 6.57 lunar distances from Earth at 06:35 UTC a couple days after this image was acquired. The asteroid has a diameter of 177 meters / 581 feet and will pass again in 2036 (but not quite as close).

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Tornado Damage at NASA

Here’s the update to the damage sustained by NASA’s Michoud facility in Louisiana.

By the way:
Hopefully everyone that was able to, had a chance to see the lunar eclipse. When the moon rose over the mountains to the east it was beautiful but very shortly after cirrus clouds moved in and more or less ruined the show. I’m not that sad about the clouds though, it brought the temperatures up from the minus 20 deg C it was to the minus 5 deg C it is now.

I am going to try and do a post early for Monday because we have been assured we can expect 30 cm / 12 inches of snow with strong winds Sunday into Monday.  I’m a bit concerned about having power.  I


The comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova makes a close approach to us here on Earth as it will this time around.  The distance between us is just 0.083 A.U or 12.4 million km or 7.7 million miles at close approach.  You’d think we could see it but no because the Sun is so much brighter.

45P/Honda can be seen before daylight in the eastern sky, but you will need a telescope or a good pair of binoculars and a nice dark sky.

The image above was taken on 09 January 2017 by Jean-Francois Soulier.

See the full image here.

Lunar Eclipse Tomorrow

There will be a penumbral lunar eclipse tomorrow night (10 Feb) beginning at 22:34 UTC / 17:34 EST.  The moon won’t turn orange or red like in a total eclipse.

Take a look at hermit eclipse for a fantastic explanation about eclipses, including how a penumbral eclipse happens.

Here’s a visibility chart  (I get the whole eclipse!!) you probably will need to click the image so it looks correct:


Tornado Strikes NASA Facility

NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility was damaged by a tornado yesterday shortly after noon local time. There were reports of one injury of unknown severity and building damage. Michoud is where components to the new Space Launch System (SLS); there was no damage to any of the components such as the hydrogen and oxygen fuel tanks.

A facility assessment is underway so we should know to was extent of the damage shortly.


A nice image of the Saturn moon Enceladus from Cassini. The thought of a global ocean with liquid water that far away is amazing.

From NASA:
Seen from outside, Enceladus appears to be like most of its sibling moons: cold, icy and inhospitable. But under that forbidding exterior may exist the very conditions needed for life.

Over the course of the Cassini mission, observations have shown that Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across) not only has watery jets sending icy grains into space; under its icy crust it also has a global ocean, and may have hydrothermal activity as well. Since scientists believe liquid water is a key ingredient for life, the implications for future missions searching for life elsewhere in our solar system could be significant.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Enceladus. North on Enceladus is up and rotated 6 degrees to the right. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 27, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 81,000 miles (130,000 kilometers) from Enceladus. Image scale is 2,566 feet (782 meters) per pixel.