Category Archives: Cool Stuff

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.

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.

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

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.




NASA’s JPL is studying a new concept in planetary exploration – windbots.

Windbots, designed to be buoyant in the atmosphere (like a balloon but not a balloon).

A windbot could potentially explore the thick atmospheres of planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
Check out details at JPL.

About the image:
An artist’s rendering shows a windbot bobbing through the skies of Jupiter, drawing energy from turbulent winds there. This notional windbot is portrayed as a polyhedron with sections that spin to absorb wind energy and create lift, although other potential configurations are being investigated. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech