All posts by Tom

Fly Overs

There are two, first New Horizons over Pluto:

And second, a flyover of Charon:

NASA (via YouTube) – Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.

How To Get Observing Time

Observing time on the world-class observatories is limited and highly sought after by researchers.  It is not an easy undertaking, here’s a video about it’s done from the ESO.

The Great Red Spot!

Hey look at this! Yesterday I said the Juno images would be available on 14 July, well NASA came through early!

This is my rendition of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. You know, I do have Photoshop on another computer that is currently in storage. I should get it out and fire it up. In the mean time, I did this from the original located at JunoCam (it is the TAN SEASHORE link).

Click here for my version, of the complete image.


Click here for the original if you have trouble at the JunoCam site, which is doubtful.  Download it and see what you can do.

A Large Sunspot

AND a Juno update.  First take a look at this sunspot.  The spot is named AR2665 and it is huge.  Estimates are about 120,000 km / 74,560 miles from end to end and its a configuration that is not all that stable.  If this thing were to let off a flare, it could be an M-class and would be directed straight at us likely to produce vivid auroras at the least.

The image comes from the Solar Dynamics Observatory using the onboard Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) is one of three instruments aboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory(SDO) designed to study oscillations and the magnetic field at the solar surface. HMI observes the full solar disk at 6173 Å with a resolution of 1 arc second.


The Juno spacecraft successfully flew over the Great Red Spot of Jupiter at a distance of only 9,000 km / 5,600 miles. Images to be released on 14 July.

Image: NASA / SDO

Saturn Sunrise

Let’s see in the magnitude system each step is a difference of about 2.5 times so 100 x would be about 5 magnitudes. Trying to figure out what that would look like here, I should be able to.

Click the image for a nice large version of this Cassini image (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA — The light of a new day on Saturn illuminates the planet’s wavy cloud patterns and the smooth arcs of the vast rings.

The light has traveled around 80 minutes since it left the sun’s surface by the time it reaches Saturn. The illumination it provides is feeble; Earth gets 100 times the intensity since it’s roughly ten times closer to the sun. Yet compared to the deep blackness of space, everything at Saturn still shines bright in the sunlight, be it direct or reflected.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 10 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 25, 2017 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 939 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 762,000 miles (1.23 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 45 miles (73 kilometers) per pixel.

JUNO Flyby Day

The Juno spacecraft will make a flyby of Jupiter today and it is going to fly right over that iconic superstorm we all know as the Great Red Spot. The image above is NOT from the flyby or Juno, actually it is from the Cassini spacecraft from a distance of 10 million km during a flyby on the way to Saturn (29 December 2000).  If you click the image above you will give you the entire photo, I isolated the Great Red Spot  mostly because I love those white squiggly clouds below it.

Last time around the images came back rather quickly as memory serves, perhaps these will too.

NASA – Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the gas giant’s iconic, 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm. This will be humanity’s first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature — a storm monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years.

“Jupiter’s mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “This monumental storm has raged on the solar system’s biggest planet for centuries. Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special.”

The data collection of the Great Red Spot is part of Juno’s sixth science flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops. Perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s center) will be on Monday, July 10, at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno will be about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno will have covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers) and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will pass about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the Giant Red Spot clouds. All eight of the spacecraft’s instruments as well as its imager, JunoCam, will be on during the flyby.

On July 4 at 7:30 p.m. PDT (10:30 p.m. EDT), Juno will have logged exactly one year in Jupiter orbit. At the time, the spacecraft will have chalked up about 71 million miles (114.5 million kilometers) in orbit around the giant planet.

“The success of science collection at Jupiter is a testament to the dedication, creativity and technical abilities of the NASA-Juno team,” said Rick Nybakken, project manager for Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Each new orbit brings us closer to the heart of Jupiter’s radiation belt, but so far the spacecraft has weathered the storm of electrons surrounding Jupiter better than we could have ever imagined.”

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.

Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Solar Minimum Approaches

Yes the solar minimum approaches and ham radio operators around the world (including me) rejoice!

There is a Geomagnetic Storm watch out for today. The storm is a rather mild G1 event resulting from an increase in the solar wind due to an isolated, positive polarity coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS). Mild as it may be, there could still be auroras visible from possibly 45 degrees north and south onward to each of the poles, so if you have clear dark skies have a look.

More info at the US Space Weather Prediction Service

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has an excellent Solar Physics page about the sun spot cycle.