Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Interact Centaur


This is big! On 07 September ESA astronaut Andreas Mogenson will control the ESA Interact Centaur rover.

Mogenson was one of the three launched into space on the Soyuz yesterday.

The Interact rover is back here on Earth and you might wonder why a rover here on Earth is being controlled by an ISS crew member. This is no ordinary rover, it has haptic feedback, meaning that operators will gain the sense of feel and even the heft of an object.

Imagine what this could mean!

The idea is for astronauts aboard a spacecraft orbiting Mars to have that kind of control over a rover on the surface.

I bet the technology will be used before a manned Mars mission, this has the potential to be a game changer in robotic exploration.

Image: ESA

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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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