All posts by Tom

Preparing For Launch

A time-lapse of preparing the ESA Sentinel-2B for launch.  The launch was atop a Vega launcher, flight VV09, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, on 7 March 2017.


Globe At Night

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Kathryn Mersmann give us this new look at the Earth after dark showing what we humans are doing. While it is quite a sight, it does point out the light pollution as it exists today.

April is a great month for this kind of thing because it is time for Globe at Night. GAN is a GREAT project!! Visit the website and get the kids involved (teachers this is a grand class project!!). The process is really quite easy, you need no special equipment and everything you need to know is at the Globe at Night website and you can compare your findings with the rest of the world.

Tonight is “my night” to see this location stacks up. My old residence was pretty good, I had a limiting magnitude of about 6.0. I will let you know.

Go here for Globe at Night.

Have Fun!

Dark Matter Imaged?

Dark Matter map

Wow – great work!   I look foreword  to reading the paper!

From the University of Waterloo (including image):

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have been able to capture the first composite image of a dark matter bridge that connects galaxies together.

The composite image, which combines a number of individual images, confirms predictions that galaxies across the universe are tied together through a cosmic web connected by dark matter that has until now remained unobservable.

Dark matter, a mysterious substance that comprises around 25 per cent of the universe, doesn’t shine, absorb or reflect light. It has traditionally been largely undetectable, except through gravity.

“For decades, researchers have been predicting the existence of dark-matter filaments between galaxies that act like a web-like superstructure connecting galaxies together,” said Mike Hudson, a professor of astronomy at the University of Waterloo. “This image moves us beyond predictions to something we can see and measure.”

As part of their research, Hudson and co-author Seth Epps, a former master’s student at the University of Waterloo, used a technique called weak gravitational lensing. It’s an effect that causes the images of distant galaxies to warp slightly under the influence of an unseen mass such as a planet, a black hole, or in this case, dark matter. The effect was measured in images from a multi-year sky survey at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

They combined lensing images from more than 23,000 galaxy pairs located 4.5 billion light-years away to create a composite image or map that shows the presence of dark matter between the two galaxies. Results show the dark matter filament bridge is strongest between systems less than 40 million light-years apart.

“By using this technique, we’re not only to able to see that these dark matter filaments in the universe exist, we’re able to see the extent to which these filaments connect galaxies together,” said Epps.

Hudson and Epps’ research appears in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Solar Storms Can Drain Electrical Charge?

Well this is news!.  Sure I can believe a build up of electrical charge at he poles, during a solar storm.  That is what we are taught, but wait,  now research is showing the opposite happens as well??  How?

Trying not to give the press release away, I am in the recombination camp I think.  Mostly because the other scenario makes my head hurt — it seems so strange.   I can’t wait to read the paper!

The press release (and hat tip to author  Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team for a fun read):

New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth’s poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles. The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.

A team of researchers from Denmark, the United States and Canada made the discovery while studying a solar storm that reached Earth on Feb. 19, 2014. The storm was observed to affect the ionosphere in all of Earth’s northern latitudes. Its effects on Greenland were documented by a network of global navigation satellite system, or GNSS, stations as well as geomagnetic observatories and other resources. Attila Komjathy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, developed software to process the GNSS data and helped with the data processing. The results were published in the journal Radio Science.

Solar storms often include an eruption on the sun called a coronal mass ejection, or CME. This is a vast cloud of electrically charged particles hurled into space that disturbs the interplanetary magnetic field in our solar system. When these particles and the magnetic disturbances encounter Earth’s magnetic field, they interact in a series of complex physical processes, and trigger perturbations in the Earth’s magnetic field. Those perturbations are called geomagnetic storms. The interactions may cause unstable patches of excess electrons in the ionosphere, an atmospheric region starting about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth’s surface that already contains ions and electrons.

The 2014 geomagnetic storm was a result of two powerful Earth-directed CMEs. The storm initially produced patches of extra electrons in the ionosphere over northern Greenland, as usual. But just south of these patches, the scientists were surprised to find broad areas extending 300 to 600 miles (500 to 1,000 kilometers) where the electrons were “almost vacuumed out,” in the words of Per Hoeg of the National Space Research Institute at the Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby. These areas remained depleted of electrons for several days.

The electrons in the ionosphere normally reflect radio waves back to ground level, enabling long-distance radio communications. Both electron depletion and electron increases in this layer can possibly cause radio communications to fail, reduce the accuracy of GPS systems, damage satellites and harm electrical grids.

“We don’t know exactly what causes the depletion,” Komjathy said. “One possible explanation is that electrons are recombining with positively charged ions until there are no excess electrons. There could also be redistribution — electrons being displaced and pushed away from the region, not only horizontally but vertically.”

The paper is titled “Multiinstrument observations of a geomagnetic storm and its effects on the Arctic ionosphere: A case study of the 19 February 2014 storm.” Lead author Tibor Durgonics is a doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark. Richard Langley (University of New Brunswick, Canada) provided data sets and interpretation.

JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.

Image: NASA


NavCam View of Ceres

A very nice look at Ceres from Dawn’s NAVCAM. The bright spot in Occator Crater at the top of the image.

The Dawn spacecraft is moving to a new orbit 20,000 km / 12,400 miles above Ceres, this image was taken on 28 March 2017 at a distance of 48,300 km / 30,000 miles. Dawn should be in place by the end of the month.

From NASA:
Several familiar features can be identified: At the top, we see Occator Crater and its faculae (bright deposits identified as a mixture of sodium carbonate and other salts). Below center is the crater Urvara, and to the right of it, the larger crater Yalode (the third and second largest craters on Ceres, respectively). Large-scale faults called Samhain Catenae stretch from the Occator region toward the Yalode-Urvara region.

This map can be used to locate these and more features. (Link goes off-site, use your back button to return)



Coming Home – Replay

The replay:

The still image provided by NASA TV is the moment of touchdown. The image (and video) comes from the long range tracking camera.

What a ride that must be. Great video too, quite a parachute. I’ll put up a replay when it becomes available.

Currently I am waiting for reports on the crew.  Crew is doing just fine!  So all is well.

Losing a Blanket

Footage of the blanket that got away from astronauts this week.

After 173 days in space, Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos will depart the space station in a Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft at 0900 UT / 0400 EDT and land in Kazakhstan at 1220 UT / 0720 ET / 19:20 Kazakhstan time.

I will put a link in for the undocking coverage tomorrow morning.

Solar Flares Seen From SDO

We must be getting close to the bottom of the current sunspot cycle. So far in 2017 we’ve had 27 days with no sunspots and last year (2016) we had a total of 32. Hopefully this won’t be a repeat of 2009 when we had 260 spotless days – the HF ham bands were pretty quiet!

New Horizons Reaches Halfway Point

Click the image for a larger version. On 03 April 2017 New Horizon’s reached the halfway point in distance between Pluto and KBO MU69 and today 07 April 2017 at 21:24 UTC (or 5:24 p.m. ET) — New Horizons will also reach the halfway point in time between closest approaches to Pluto, which occurred at 7:48 a.m. ET on July 14, 2015, and MU69, predicted for 2 a.m. ET on New Year’s Day 2019.

New Horizons is traveling at 51,500 kmh / 32,000 mph. On 03 April the spacecraft had 782.45 million km / 486.2 million miles from where they think MU69 will be when they get there.

From NASA:
A KBO among the Stars: In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). This composite image is made from 45 of these 10-second exposures taken on Jan. 28, 2017. The yellow diamond marks the predicted location of MU69 on approach, but the KBO itself was too far from the spacecraft (544 million miles, or 877 million kilometers) even for LORRI’s telescopic “eye” to detect. New Horizons expects to start seeing MU69 with LORRI in September of 2018 — and the team will use these newly acquired images of the background field to help prepare for that search on approach. — Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Jupiter At Opposition

Jupiter is at opposition today so if you are thinking it is brighter than normal in the night sky you are correct! It will be around a magnitude -2.48 or so, grab a pair of binoculars and check it out you will be able to see the moons too. If have a telescope it is an excellent target. That’s what I am up to if the rains move away.

Image: NASA