Category Archives: Cool Stuff

A Bakers Dozen

Wow,very exciting! Congratulations to Einstein@home! The Astrophysical Journal presents 13 of 17 newly discovered pulsars found with the distributed computing project.

“Einstein@Home searched through 118 unidentified pulsar-like sources from the Fermi-LAT Catalog,” says Prof. Dr. Bruce Allen, director of Einstein@Home and director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover. “Colin has shown that 17 of these are indeed pulsars, and I would bet that many of the remaining 101 are also pulsars, but in binary systems, where we lack sensitivity. In the future, using improved methods, Einstein@Home is going to chase after those as well, and I am optimistic that we will find at least some of them.”

See the entire press release from

I’ve always been a fan of these distributed projects I participated in the SETI project for a long time and now am involved with a couple of the projects at Zooniverse.

Graphic: Einstein@home

Looking At Home

A beautiful sight and one that could be seen by humans in the not too distant future.  This image was taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and took a bit of processing, however I suspect at some point in a voyage to Mars the travelers would see this very sight.

I wonder if looking back at this from a craft heading to Mars, if second thoughts come to mind.


About the image from NASA

This composite image of Earth and its moon, as seen from Mars, combines the best Earth image with the best moon image from four sets of images acquired on Nov. 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Each was separately processed prior to combining them so that the moon is bright enough to see. The moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible at the same brightness scale as Earth. The combined view retains the correct sizes and positions of the two bodies relative to each other.

HiRISE takes images in three wavelength bands: infrared, red, and blue-green. These are displayed here as red, green, and blue, respectively. This is similar to Landsat images in which vegetation appears red. The reddish feature in the middle of the Earth image is Australia. Southeast Asia appears as the reddish area (due to vegetation) near the top; Antarctica is the bright blob at bottom-left. Other bright areas are clouds.

These images were acquired for calibration of HiRISE data, since the spectral reflectance of the Moon’s near side is very well known. When the component images were taken, Mars was about 127 million miles (205 million kilometers) from Earth. A previous HiRISE image of Earth and the moon is online at PIA10244.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Edit: the could – well debacle was fixed, tried to get “fancy” – fail lol.


Psyche: Journey to a Metal World from School of Earth & Space on Vimeo.

Psyche is a mission proposed by Arizona State University. It is named after 16 Psyche a very interesting minor planet in the asteroid belt.

Arizona State University (School of Earth and Space Exploration) has a very nice web-page outlining the mission and the asteroid – well worth the visit.

The big news is that Psyche HAS been selected as one of the two Discovery missions. The probable launch date is in 2023. Congratulations to ASU!

The other mission is called appropriately named Lucy and it involves what are called fossils of planetary formation, namely Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit.

Lucy Mission (pdf file).

The NASA announcement about the two missions with very good descriptions of both.

The 2016 Time Adjustment

I wonder if when the new year rang in if the countdown included the extra second that was added to the world clocks. Probably not and while it might not seem like much,  the time change is important to our view of the world thanks to our modern technology even if we don’t realize it.

We have added 27  “leap-seconds” to the clock since the practice started in 1972. Read more about adding leap-seconds.


From (mostly) NASA:   On Dec. 31, 2016, official clocks around the world added a leap second just before midnight Coordinated Universal Time — which corresponds to 6:59:59 p.m. EST. NASA missions also had to make the switch, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which watches the sun 24/7.

Clocks do this to keep in sync with Earth’s rotation, which gradually slows down over time. When the dinosaurs roamed Earth, for example, our globe took only 23 hours to make a complete rotation. In space, millisecond accuracy is crucial to understanding how satellites orbit.

“SDO moves about 1.9 miles every second,” said Dean Pesnell, the project scientist for SDO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “So does every other object in orbit near SDO. We all have to use the same time to make sure our collision avoidance programs are accurate. So we all add a leap second to the end of 2016, delaying 2017 by one second.”

The leap second is also key to making sure that SDO is in sync with the Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, used to label each of its images. SDO has a clock that counts the number of seconds since the beginning of the mission. To convert that count to UTC requires knowing just how many leap seconds have been added to Earth-bound clocks since the mission started. When the spacecraft wants to provide a time in UTC, it calls a software module that takes into consideration both the mission’s second count and the number of leap seconds — and then returns a time in UTC.

Credit: NASA/SDO

Greetings From Tiangong-2

Greetings from one space station to another.   Very nice.

This video was recorded inside the Chinese space station Tiangong-2 by astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. The Chinese astronauts returned to Earth after spending a month in orbit. A few hours before leaving the Chinese space station Tiangong-2, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Depending on your location you could see both Chinese satellites (Tiangong 1 and 2) and the International Space Station. The places I look for such information are below:

  1. Heavens Above
  2. or,
  3. N2YO

Video from ESA

Water Plumes on Europa?


Does Saturn’s moon Enceladus have an analog at Jupiter?  Hubble images of Europa seem to make this a possibility.

There’s a video too, a couple minutes long. Have a look.

Caption released with image:

This composite image shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o’clock position off the limb of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The plumes, photographed by NASA’s Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity allowed for the features — rising over 100 miles (160 kilometers) above Europa’s icy surface — to be discerned. The water is believed to come from a subsurface ocean on Europa. The Hubble data were taken on January 26, 2014. The image of Europa, superimposed on the Hubble data, is assembled from data from the Galileo and Voyager missions.
Credits: NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center

More from NASA detail here.