All posts by Tom

Space X to Launch Zuma

I will try to have a live-link up for an expected launch of “Zuma” atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Launch time is expected to be between 01:00 UT and 03:00 UT (17 Nov 2017) / 20:00 ET and 22 ET (16 Nov 2017) from the Kennedy Space Center with back up slots 24 hours later if needed.

What is Zuma?  Zuma is a classified American government payload and to be honest I don’t want to know. LOL.

What I do want is for Space X to keep the telemetry on the first-stage all the way to landing back at Cape Canaveral which they probably will do so I can continue to chart the altitude/time profile.  Please?  Usually there is breaks in the published data.   Hey it is a very interesting graph plot — yes  I am a data geek.




A New Type of Explosion in Space Discovered

A great piece of work.

It strikes me as it always does: science research done collaboratively should serve as an excellent role model of what can be accomplished TO so many other unrelated (non-science) endeavors.

University of Southampton — An international team of astronomers, including a University of Southampton expert, has discovered a new type of explosion in a distant galaxy.
The explosion, called PS1-10adi, seems to prefer active galaxies that house supermassive black holes consuming the gas and material around them.

Using telescopes on La Palma and Hawaii, the team detected an explosion that was so energetic it must have originated from one of two sources: an extremely massive star – up to several hundred times more massive than our Sun – exploding as a supernova, or from a lower mass star that has been shredded by the ultra-strong gravitational forces close to the supermassive black hole.

The explosion – detailed in a study published in Nature Astronomy – occurred 2.4 billion years ago, but the enormous distance that light from the event had to travel to reach Earth meant it wasn’t observed by astronomers until 2010. The slow evolution of the explosion allowed scientists to monitor it for several years.
Dr Cosimo Inserra, of the University of Southampton, was involved in the analysis of data and helped identify the only two possible scenarios that could explain the event. He also tested the data using established physical supernova models to support the results.
He commented: “The discovery we made has revealed explosions capable of releasing an amount of energy ten times bigger than normal explosions.
“Our data show that events like this are not very unusual and challenge our knowledge of exploding and disrupting stars.
“At the same time, their existence provides us with important information about the extreme environment in the central, hidden, part of galaxies.”
Lead author Dr Erkki Kankare, of Queen’s University Belfast, added: “If these explosions are tidal disruption events – where a star gets sufficiently close to a supermassive black hole’s event horizon and is shredded by the strong gravitational forces – then its properties are such that it would be a brand new type of tidal disruption event.
“If they are supernova explosions then their properties are more extreme than we have ever observed before, and are likely connected to the central environments of the host galaxies.”
The international team included research institutes from Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Chile, and the US.

Artist concept via University of Southampton

Saturn’s C Ring

Cassini keeps on giving even after it became part of Saturn and the end of the epic mission.

Original caption from NASA:

Saturn’s C ring is home to a surprisingly rich array of structures and textures (see also PIA21618). Much of the structure seen in the outer portions of Saturn’s rings is the result of gravitational perturbations on ring particles by moons of Saturn.

Such interactions are called resonances. However, scientists are not clear as to the origin of the structures seen in this image which has captured an inner ring region sparsely populated with particles, making interactions between ring particles rare, and with few satellite resonances.

In this image, a bright and narrow ringlet located toward the outer edge of the C ring is flanked by two broader features called plateaus, each about 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide.

Plateaus are unique to the C ring. Cassini data indicates that the plateaus do not necessarily contain more ring material than the C ring at large, but the ring particles in the plateaus may be smaller, enhancing their brightness. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 53 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 14, 2017.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 117,000 miles (189,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 74 degrees. Image scale is 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) per pixel.

The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Will the JPSS Satellite Launch?

We will find out  at 12:47 UT / 07:47 ET / 01:47 PT. That is the launch time, other than some possible ground wind concerns the weather looks pretty good.

And the answer is NO.  It was NOT the ground winds that were the problem rather the upper winds.  They were talking about winds in the 120 + range at an altitude of 10 km while at ground level they were negligible .

From the discussion taking place between the forecasters and the launch control, it  sounded like the launch could be delayed for at least 48 hours and likely a bit longer than that.

Hitome Data

So there WAS data!  And to think I had written the mission off. Japan’s Hitomi mission launched on 17 February 2016 and there were only two short contacts with the spacecraft before communications was lost. What happened to the spacecraft is not known for certain but according to Japan’s space agency JAXA: “it is estimated that Hitomi separated to five pieces at about 10:42 a.m.”

From NASA — Before its brief mission ended unexpectedly in March 2016, Japan’s Hitomi X-ray observatory captured exceptional information about the motions of hot gas in the Perseus galaxy cluster. Now, thanks to unprecedented detail provided by an instrument developed jointly by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), scientists have been able to analyze more deeply the chemical make-up of this gas, providing new insights into the stellar explosions that formed most of these elements and cast them into space.

The Perseus cluster, located 240 million light-years away in its namesake constellation, is the brightest galaxy cluster in X-rays and among the most massive near Earth. It contains thousands of galaxies orbiting within a thin hot gas, all bound together by gravity. The gas averages 90 million degrees Fahrenheit (50 million degrees Celsius) and is the source of the cluster’s X-ray emission.

Using Hitomi’s high-resolution Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS) instrument, researchers observed the cluster between Feb. 25 and March 6, 2016, acquiring a total exposure of nearly 3.4 days. The SXS observed an unprecedented spectrum, revealing a landscape of X-ray peaks emitted from various chemical elements with a resolution some 30 times better than previously seen.
Continue reading

Arrival and Departure

We have both an arrival and departure today!

First the docking of the S.S. Gene Cernan cargo-spacecraft at the International Space Station (coverage) at 08:15 UT  / 03:15 ET and an hour later the launch of an American weather satellite the JPSS-1.

Missed the coverage?  NOTE: The JPSS launch has been scrubbed. Rescheduled for tomorrow morning, I will update the time.

Docking replay and I will replace this with a more concise version shortly:

Heads Up

In just a few hours at 08:15 UT / 03:15 ET NASA TV will carry coverage of the docking of the S.S. Gene Cernan cargo-spaceship to the International Space Station.

An hour later coverage begins on the attempted launch of an American weather satellite.  The satellite will be put into a polar orbit and as you can imagine is packed with the latest technology — have a look at the JPSS-1 mission here.

If all goes well coverage can be found here at 08:20 UT / 03:20 ET.

I know, for the North/South American east and points there to the west it might not be the most opportune time so with any luck replays will be available.

Rare Solar Filament Spotted

NASA — NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory came across an oddity that the spacecraft has rarely observed before: a dark filament encircling an active region (Oct. 29-31, 2017). Solar filaments are clouds of charged particles that float above the sun, tethered to it by magnetic forces. They are usually elongated and uneven strands. Only a handful of times before have we seen one shaped like a circle. The black area to the left of the brighter active region is a coronal hole, a magnetically open region of the sun. While it may have no major scientific value, it is noteworthy because of its rarity. The still was taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light.

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Orbital Launch Attempt 2 — REPLAY

Here is a replay (thanks to Space Videos) showing all the good bits as far as action goes.

This is the second attempt to get the cargo spacecraft in the air. Yesterday’s attempt was scrubbed due to an aircraft in the area.

I don’t know how they handle flight restrictions in an area for a launch. I looked yesterday (and this morning) for a temporary flight restriction for the area and did not see one, I’m sure there is I just don’t know the procedure.

Good luck again Orbital!

Wow! Great video of the pad during early ascent!

The Cygnus cargo ship “Gene Cernan” is on the way and all is proceeding perfectly.

I will leave this feed up for a while, next up is solar array deployment in about an hour (now 12:34 UT).

Orbital ATK CRS-8 Launch – SCRUBBED

UPDATE:  Launch time is 12:14 UT /  07:14 EST on 12 November 2017.

The image above shows the Orbital ATK Antares being rolled out to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A.  Antares will carry the company’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft with more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station when it gets off the ground.

Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

The launch SCRUBBED DUE TO AN AIRCRAFT IN THE AREA. What? Gee, I didn’t  guess that would happen.  Oh well, probably a 24 hour turn around. Pity though, the weather was perfect.

Will update later with a new date/time.  Today the  launch was scheduled for 12:37 UT / 07:37 EST;  I am going to guess if it goes tomorrow it will be around the same time.  We’ll see.