Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Hurricane Fred


Hurricane Fred over the Cape Verde Islands yesterday. Rare event for the islands, hope all is well there.

Q.  How often to I get to post a hurricane over the Cape Verde?

A. About as often as I do to post a link showing three major hurricanes in the Pacific at the same time — Wunderground link (hopefully it works!)

Image: NASA – Goddard

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New Exo-Planet Image

51EribScientists have discovered a “Jupiter-like” planet called 51 Eri b using the Gemini Planet Imager installed on the 8-meter telescope in Chile.

The discovery has been confirmed through observations at the Keck Observatory using the NIRC2 camera. The image above is an image of 51 Eri b as seen by the NIRC2 instrument on Keck Observatory’s Keck II telescope. The bright central star has been mostly removed by a mask to enable the confirmation of the exoplanet one million times fainter.

Here’s the Keck press release:
MAUNAKEA, Hawaii – A team of astronomers discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could serve as a decoder ring for understanding how planets formed around our sun. The W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii confirmed the discovery. The findings were headed by Bruce Macintosh, a professor of physics at Stanford University, and show the new planet, 51 Eridani b, is one million times fainter than its parent star and shows the strongest methane signature ever detected on an alien planet, which should yield additional clues as to how the planet formed. The results are published in the current issue of Science.

Continue reading

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Where is the New Horizons Data?

Don’t worry it is coming! The video helps explain it.

Another consideration is the first images were a priority case according to Applied Physics Laboratory’s Chris DeBoy. The remaining data is being prioritized and sent back, there is a great amount of data to send at a relatively slow rate, a single image could take an hour or two. The downloaded “raw” data is being collected and stored and reconstructed at a later date.

Plus the spacecraft does not transmit 24 hours a day and combine that with the 4.5 hour one-way radio travel time of a signal that is only 12 watts at best to start out with.

Estimates are that it will take 16 months to get all the data back from the seven instruments on board.


You can see which spacecraft are connected to the Deep Space Network here.

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MSG-4 First Image


Europe’s latest weather satellite has returned its first image.  Very nice although the image here does not do the original justice – click here and make the image full screen.

The short version of the ESA press release:
Today, the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) instrument on MSG-4 captured its first image of Earth. This demonstrates that Europe’s latest geostationary weather satellite, launched on 15 July, is performing well and is on its way to becoming fully operational when needed after six months of commissioning.

The European Space Agency (ESA) was responsible for the initial operations after launch (the so-called launch and early orbit phase) of MSG-4 and handed over the satellite to EUMETSAT on 26 July.

The first image is a joint achievement by ESA, EUMETSAT, and the European space industry. For its mandatory programmes, EUMETSAT relies on ESA for the development of new satellites and procuring the recurrent satellites like MSG-4. This cooperation model has made Europe a world leader in satellite meteorology by making best use of the two agencies’ expertise.

Here’s the long version.

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Lunar Transit


We see the International Space Station against the full moon during an  transit.  Click the image to see the full image  (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)  I have tried numerous times to get a shot of  ISS during transit and have never quite pulled it off,  something always foiled the effort.   I really appreciate the good ones.

NASA Image of the Day

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SETI Talks About Kepler 452b

Here is a great video about the newly announced Kepler 452b with SETI scientists: Douglas Caldwell, Jeffrey Coughlin, Joseph Twicken. and hosted by Seth Shostak.

The Hangout fills in a lot of the blanks from the news reports.  As I expected we don’t yet have a mass or density on this planet. Once we get at least a good estimate on these numbers for 452b then we will be able to make better guesses on its composition.

We have an estimate of the diameter so that’s a start, but it’s only one bit of the equation that defines the balance the must exist. If for example, 452b has the density of Earth, we might expect an atmosphere to be much different than we have, ranging up to perhaps even Neptune-like. On the other hand the mass could be much less and the weaker gravity could allow more of the lighter gasses to be lost to space.

I am bound to guess we are very close to finding a real Earth analog. It is astounding how quickly the search is progressing.


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