All posts by Tom

ISS Bathroom Tour

An enlightening video presented by ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti aboard the ISS. I couldn’t help but think about the water logistics on a trip to Mars.

Samantha has great space hair too.  :mrgreen:


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The Bright Spots


Now we get our best look yet the “main” bright spots on Ceres. There are many of these bright spots on Ceres, these particular ones are what I would call the “main” spots. This is out best look yet at them.

Very interesting! It almost looks to me like that whole area has maybe not less cratering but the craters are quite eroded. It could be just the lighting too. What about those grooves?  They must be telling us something about the subsurface.

It’s like the closer we get to answering some of these questions the more questions we have to answer. The best kind of mission!

The image is from 13,600 km / 8,400 miles and part of a sequence taken on 04 May 2015.


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Serene Saturn


NASA’s title for the image was so good I had to use it. Looks can be a little deceiving because the atmosphere we are looking at is moving at 1,800 kmh / 1,100 mph.

Winds are driving storms you can see (click the image) that probably would be anything but serene, except for the fact the lack of a solid surface. The lack of a solid surface means no drag to slow down the winds which contribute to the speed. Saturn like Jupiter actually generates more heat internally than it receives from the Sun and this also contributes to the wind speed and convection to feed the storms.

You can see a moon in is image too, Mimas can be seen at about the one o’clock position just above the planet. Mimas was brightened by a factor of 2 so it would show up aside the brightness of Saturn.

Cassini to Saturn distance was about 2.5 million km / 1.6 million miles.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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ESA, France’s space agency CNES and the German aerospace centre DLR inaugurated the Airbus A310 ZERO-G refitted for altered gravity by running 12 scientific experiments this week.

The French company Novespace has conducted “parabolic flights” for more than 25 years. By flying the parabolic patterns at around 50 degrees up and down a brief period of weightlessness is created at the top of the curve. As the plane comes “over the top” forces on everything in the plane (people included) cancels out and weightlessness is achieved for a brief period.

We’ve all see the videos, what I seldom thought about is what happens at the bottom of the curve. When the plane “bottoms out” and starts climbing the forces on everything in the plane is about 2G.

This particular plane is new being acquired in 2014 replacing an Airbus A300. You won’t find many seats in the passenger area, you will find padded walls so people do not get hurt during the weight/weightless cycles, sick maybe, but not hurt.

Image: ESA

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Bright Spots of Ceres


The Dawn spacecraft took this image of Ceres on 04 May 2015 from 13,600 km / 8,400 miles. This image was taken as part of a sequence by the Framing camera.

The image shows a couple of the “mystery” bright spots. Still looks like ices, however it is too soon to tell. The resolution is improving and we just need to be patient and enjoy the great views coming our way.

For now we still get the fun of speculation. You will notice a dark spot next to the bright area in the center of the picture above the center line. It looks like a hole of some sort, but it could be artifact as there is another to the right and right on the center line, again difficult  to tell.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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Blue Sunset on Mars


The Curiosity rover took this picture of the Martian sunset. The image was taken on 15 April 2015 from Gale Crater.

The image was taken by the “left-eye” of Curiosity’s Mast Camera on the rovers 956th Martian day. The image has been processed to remove artifacts and was white-balanced. The image does a pretty good job of showing what we would see if we were on the planet and someday perhaps we will.

The Martian atmosphere has fine particles of dust that allow blue light to penetrate the atmosphere than longer wavelengths like yellows and reds which are scattered. This is unlike we see here on Earth where the scattering effect is alomost the other way around. The effect is also more pronounced at sunset than at mid-day. So on Mars blue sunsets are the norm.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Kids Can You Draw?

The CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite or CHEOPS set to launch in 2017 will measure the bulk density of exo-planets from the size of super-Earths to around Neptune already known to be in orbit around stars. The mission will accomplish this by using ultra-high precision photometry.

ESA is holding a fun contest open to kids ages 8 to 14 and the winners (around 3,000) will get their entries engraved on metal plaques that will fly on Cheops. Very cool.

The video gives the details also available below (and on the video site):
Continue reading

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What’s Up May 2015

I always appreciate being able to see Mercury and when it is visible all you have to do is look up, surprising how many people have never seen Mercury or at least recognized that’s what they are looking at.

You only need a pair of binoculars to see the four large moons of Jupiter and this time of year it’s comfortable enough to go out on successive nights and see the changes in orbital position.


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Ceres Latest Image


The Dawn spacecraft took a series of images between 24 and 26 April 2015.  The image above is the seventh in the series.   See the rest at NASA’s Ceres site.

None of the images shows the mystery bright spots so far. Still very interesting. I like the anaglyph (available here from NASA). Either way, have look at the central peaks in the triple craters in the center of the image. They look, well not as craggy as most , this image was taken from 8,400 miles and we are going to get much better looks into the craters as time goes on.

I don’t see too much in the way of “bright” rays from any of the craters so far which is quite interesting too.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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