Category Archives: General

Ice Giant Mission Concept Studied

.

Well this is interesting, there is hope of a mission at least. Just my personal opinion here, but I think there should have been one in the works before now. These missions are not cheap to be sure, they are however very rich in they return and not just for the scientists, the general public gains an enormous amount in these days of the internet and that translates to support the the agencies meaning not just NASA.

Will there be a mission coming out of NASA? Too soon to say for sure and all we know for sure they are looking
at the possibility. I say do it.

Here’s NASA — A NASA-led and NASA-sponsored study of potential future missions to the mysterious “ice giant” planets Uranus and Neptune has been released—the first in a series of mission studies NASA will conduct in support of the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey. The results of this and future studies will be used as the Decadal Survey deliberates on NASA’s planetary science priorities from 2022-2032. The study identifies the scientific questions an ice giant mission should address, and discusses various instruments, spacecraft, flight-paths and technologies that could be used.

“This study argues the importance of exploring at least one of these planets and its entire environment, which includes surprisingly dynamic icy moons, rings, and bizarre magnetic fields,” said Mark Hofstadter of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, one of the two co-chairs of the science team that produced the report. The European Space Agency (ESA) also participated in the study.
Continue reading

Europa’s Plumes – Update

Following up yesterdays post here is a pair of static images from Hubble.  Click the image for a larger view.

From NASA:

These composite images show a suspected plume of material erupting two years apart from the same location on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The images bolster evidence that the plumes are a real phenomenon, flaring up intermittently in the same region on the satellite. Both plumes, photographed in ultraviolet light by NASA’s Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter.

The newly imaged plume, shown at right, rises about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Europa’s frozen surface. The image was taken Feb. 22, 2016. The plume in the image at left, observed by Hubble on March 17, 2014, originates from the same location. It is estimated to be about 30 miles (50 kilometers) high. The snapshot of Europa, superimposed on the Hubble image, was assembled from data from NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter.

The plumes correspond to the location of an unusually warm spot on the moon’s icy crust, seen in the late 1990s by the Galileo spacecraft (see PIA21444 use back button to return.). Researchers speculate that this might be circumstantial evidence for water venting from the moon’s subsurface. The material could be associated with the global ocean that is believed to be present beneath the frozen crust.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Think Spring!

Spring is in the air and it just arrived in the Northern Hemisphere!  Yes, at 10:29 UTC / 06:29 EDT the Sun crossed the equator.  In reality the Sun’s rays fall directly on the equator in the journey north – see below (Thanks to timeanddate.com).

Naturally this means the Southern Hemisphere is heading into autumn and hopefully will slow down the tropical systems that have been going on.

Let me tell you Spring will be very welcome here after our recent snow storm of more than 76 cm / 30 inches.  Thankfully it was a very dry snow and settled quickly.

Here’s my poor car at one point:

 

 

 

 

Progress 66 to Launch

There will be a launch early tomorrow morning to the ISS.  The Progress 66 will launch from the  Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:58 UTC / 12:58 EST.

I do not know if the launch will be carried live by NASA, I am going to guess it is so there will be a live link up.  I’d put it up anyway for the arrival of the Space X Dragon also tomorrow morning.

BTW:  There will be some news coming out about a star apparently with SEVEN planets in the Goldilocks zone!!!  The details are embargoed until after tomorrow morning.

 

We’re At Perihelion!

Many people believe that the December solstice marks the point were the Earth’s orbit takes it closest to the sun.  It turns out the tilt of the Earth (and what determines day length) and where it is in orbit do not quite coincide.

sunperihelion

Today at 14:18 UTC the Earth reaches perihelion, the closest we get to the Sun in our orbit.

So happy perihelion everybody!!

TimeandDate.com

 

Here We Go Again

An almost spotless Sun and you just know 15 and 20 meter HF propagation is going down the tubes again.  Here’s hoping the bottom of the solar cycle does not last as long as the last time.

The peak of the solar cycle wasn’t much to write home about either, just my opinion.  Oh sure we had our good periods but all in all not so good.  Funny too because the “forecasts” were for the peak to be HUGE with off the chart solar storm etc.  Didn’t happen.  I know I watch closely being an Amateur Radio operator (one who LOVES 15 meter QRP CW).

sundiskblank

The original caption released with this SDO image:
This week the sun was hitting its lowest level of solar activity since 2011 (Nov. 14-18, 2016) as it gradually marches toward solar minimum. This activity is usually measured by sunspot count and over the past several days the sun has been almost spotless. The sun has a pendulum-like pattern of solar cycle of activity that extends over about an 11-year period. The last peak of activity was in early 2014. At this point in time, the sunspot numbers seem to be sliding downwards faster than expected, though the solar minimum level should not occur until 2021. No doubt more and larger sunspots will inevitably appear, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Credit: SDO/NASA

 

Pumpkin Shaped Stars

NASA’s Kepler and Swift missions have allowed astronomers to discover a group of rapidly spinning stars that produce X-rays at more than 100 times the peak levels ever seen from the sun. These stars spin so fast the equatorial region to bulges out and the polar regions to flatten, making them look more or less like a pumpkin. Hey it’s Halloween and scientists are typically a good natured lot.

Video

Preparing For Launch

Soyuz Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA along with their backups, Alexander Misurkin and Nikolai Tikhonov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei of NASA are the group comprising the crew of ISS Expedition 49-50.

The group are actively preparing for launch at the Soyuz MS-02 to the International Space Station on 19 October from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Video

Hurricane Matthew – KSC Update

It looks like Kennedy Space Center is right in the path of Matthew. Good luck!

Update from Kennedy Space Center at 19:17 UTC 15:17 EDT:
The wind conditions at Kennedy Space Center have dropped below 40 knots and preliminary damage assessments are under way. KSC is now in a “Weather Safe” condition as of 2 p.m. Friday. While there is damage to numerous facilities at KSC, it consists largely roof damage, window damage, water intrusion, damage to modular buildings and to building siding. There does not appear to be damage to flight hardware at this time. The Damage Assessment and Recovery team will undertake more detailed inspection on Saturday and will enter all facilities. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be closed on Saturday and will reopen on Sunday. Based on the damage assessment, the return to work status for KSC employees will be determined Saturday afternoon.

Video