All Wound Up

Here in the northern hemisphere low pressure systems have a counterclockwise rotation. This is a beautiful look at a storm that is well formed off the coast of California.

A strong storm system off the US west coast as see by NOAA’s GOES 15. Credit: NOAA/NASA.

The storm will move onshore tomorrow and is already bringing some much needed rain to the region which has been enduring drought conditions for a long time. I saw news accounts where some of the reservoirs are at only 20 percent capacity. Since Wednesday as much as 8.5 centimeters has fallen in the Los Angeles area, less than a centimeter than the region got all of last year! The rain will help, however flooding is occurring and it has been so dry and the area afflicted with forest fires, mudslides are almost inevitable.

In the mean time, on the other side of the Pacific. The NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory was launched.

A Japanese H-IIA rocket with the NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory onboard, is seen launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Japan. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched at 18:37 UTC Thursday, 27 February.

The spacecraft was launched from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan. The GPS system aboard the spacecraft is now active and the spacecraft is being readied for communications through the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. The GPM mission will help advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles.


A Clockwork Hubble


The Hubble team have been watching hundreds of individual stars in the the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) over the past seven years and have mapped out their movements. What they got for their “trouble” is a precise measurement of the rotation of the galaxy! This is a first too.

The answer? The LMC rotates once every 250 million years, about the same as our solar system does in the Milky Way.

Read the Full Story at

Ganymede Map

Map of Ganymede. Image Credit: USGS Astrogeology Science Ctr/Wheaton/ASU/NASA/JPL-Caltech

A group of scientists have produced the first global geologic map of Jupiter moon Ganymede. The scientists led by Geoffery Collins of Wheaton College combined the best images obtained during flybys conducted by NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft (1979) and Galileo orbiter (1995 to 2003) and is now published by the U. S. Geological Survey as a global map.

I downloaded the map from the USGS site. I clicked on the image at the site and wow what a nice job they did. The image above will make a lot more sense for you if you check out the links at the USGS page. I am heading over to get the database, that should be excellent.

Curiosity Looks Back Home

Curiosity looks back home. Click for an annotated verision. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU

The rover Curiosity got a look at home with the Mast Cam. The left camera was used for the image which was taken about 80 minutes after the Martian sunset. The Earth is the bright spot just left of center The moon is faintly visible too. Clicking the image will show an annotated versions.

You can click the JPL link below and select a larger version. They are large enough for you to see the moon just below the Earth. Makes a nice desktop too.

From JPL:

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth.
› See annotated versions

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How It’s Done

Just how do you apply the correct aerodynamic force to test a prototype Mars parachute that is too large for any wind tunnel?

Simple, you just gather up the right gear:

  • MH-60S Knighthawk Helicopter, 4000 ft Drop Altitude
  • 135,000 lb Sled
  • 100,000 lbf of Pull Thrust
  • 50,000 lb Tripod Structure
  • 2,000,000 lb Concrete Anchors
  • 300 hp Winch to Fish in Parachute

And with a kick butt tune, it’s go big or go home.

I suggest clicking the source link below and watch this full screen too.

Love it :mrgreen:


Great Timing

The LRO gets a picture of LADEE passing below. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Precision tracking is a better title, two spacecraft around the moon and on crossing orbits cross paths. One spacecraft (LRO) was about 9 km / 5.6 miles above the other (LADEE) and they manage a picture of the lower craft.

For me the fun thing these are two different missions with different teams and they had enough interaction to know this was coming, really this is good.

You can get somewhat of a better look by clicking here, I zoomed in on the LADEE and you can see the limitation in the way the LRO camera (LROC) takes a picture. Well limitation to catching another spacecraft passes by, as a lunar imager it is amazing.

Here is a link to an unannotated version of the image above.

LADEE is in an equatorial orbit (east-­to-­west) while LRO is in a polar orbit (south-­to-­north). The two spacecraft are occasionally very close and on Jan. 15, 2014, the two came within 5.6 miles (9 km) of each other. As LROC is a push-broom imager, it builds up an image one line at a time, so catching a target as small and fast as LADEE is tricky. Both spacecraft are orbiting the moon with velocities near 3,600 mph (1,600 meters per second), so timing and pointing of LRO must be nearly perfect to capture LADEE in an LROC image.

LADEE passed directly beneath the LRO orbit plane a few seconds before LRO crossed the LADEE orbit plane, meaning a straight down LROC image would have just missed LADEE. The LADEE and LRO teams worked out the solution: simply have LRO roll 34 degrees to the west so the LROC detector (one line) would be in the right place as LADEE passed beneath.
As planned at 8:11 p.m. EST on Jan. 14, 2014, LADEE entered LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) field of view for 1.35 milliseconds and a smeared image of LADEE was snapped. LADEE appears in four lines of the LROC image, and is distorted right­to­left. What can be seen in the LADEE pixels in the NAC image?

Here’s the press release

Supercritical Water

Fire and water do mix? Crew members aboard the ISS are conducting experiments that use water to help start a fire. I never would have guessed, but my water knowledge is more in the super-saturated dissolved gas realm.

There is an application too: “this fundamental physics investigation could have down-to-Earth benefits such as clean-burning municipal waste disposal and improved saltwater purification.”


M82 Supernova

A supernova is discovered in M82, by accident. Click for larger. Image via University of London

This is awesome! Imagine it, a demonstration to undergrads at the University of London leads to a discovery of a supernova – talk about luck!

Before we go to far M82 is:

  • Located in Ursa Major (aka: The Big Dipper)
  • Magnitude: 8.4 (easily visible with binoculars of better)
  • Distace (about): 3.5 Mega-parsecs / 12 Million light-years

Get more information about M82 at SEDS.

From the University of London:

Students and staff at UCL’s teaching observatory, the University of London Observatory, have spotted one of the closest supernovae to Earth in recent decades. At 19:20 GMT on 21 January, a team of students — Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde and Guy Pollack — assisted by Dr. Steve Fossey, spotted the exploding star in nearby galaxy Messier 82 (the Cigar Galaxy).

The discovery was a fluke — a 10 minute telescope workshop for undergraduate students that led to a global scramble to acquire confirming images and spectra of a supernova in one of the most unusual and interesting of our near-neighbor galaxies.

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