Category Archives: General

Arecibo Observatory Damage

The Arecibo Observatory was damaged, along with the rest of Puerto Rico, by Hurricane Maria.

The National Geographic is reporting everyone is safe and that’s excellent! Initial reports indicated significant damage including:

“Because of the storm, a 96-foot line feed antenna—which helps focus, receive, and transmit radio waves—broke in half and fell about 500 feet into the huge dish below, puncturing it in several places, says Pennsylvania State University’s Jim Breakall, who talked with Vazquez.

A fixture of the observatory since 1966, that line feed weighs about ten thousand pounds and is easily visible in images of the telescope as the pointy thing hanging off the platform. It was once used to detect mountains on the surface of Venus, and it is still crucial for studies of the part of Earth’s atmosphere called the ionosphere, says former observatory director Frank Drake, who is also my dad.”

Read the National Geographic release by Nadia Drake, it’s very good and we appreciate the news.

Video: News – Around The World

September Equinox is Here!

Today is the September Equinox, that point where the the plane of Earths center of the Sun. Spring in the southern hemisphere and Autumn in the north.

Equinox time is 20:02 UT / 16:02 ET.

I’m not a big fan of the September Equinox. Shorter and colder days ahead.

Hurricane Maria Hits Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has been run-over by a very powerful hurricane. Hurricane Maria hit the island head on with winds at 134 knots.

Reports are saying power is out everywhere and there is widespread damage.   This was a devastating hit.   Hopefully everyone on the island is safe.

No word yet on how the Arecibo Observatory made out.  The observatory made it through Irma, but that was a glancing blow.

Solar Storm = Aurora

If it is dark and your skies are clear you very well could see a nice aurora!

An “X-9.3” flare erupted from the Sun, yes, that’s a big one and the most powerful we’ve seen in quite some time although not exactly a direct impact we should get a glancing blow.

Aurora should be easily visible a little south of about 45 North and points north as well as and 45 South points south).  This map published by the US NOAA Space Weather Prediction Service sort of cuts off the southern hemisphere, but the aurora should visible there too.

I’ve been waiting a long time for this now and I have cloudy skies with rain during the entire period.

All that being said, the 20 meter ham band actually sounds pretty good.

Monster Storm – Irma

There is a monster storm coming into the Caribbean. The last time I used the term “monster storm” was Hurricane Katrina, I try not to use such types of adjectives unnecessarily – this is very serious.

This storm is Irma, and it is bearing down (1) on the Caribbean with incredible winds. Currently the storm has sustained winds of 160 knots / 185 mph! The storm ranks a category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. If you are in the path of Irma do what ever you need to ensure your safety!

The image above is from NOAA‘s GOES East satellite an almost perfectly formed Hurricane on 05 September 2017 at 1145 UTC / 0745 EDT. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

The US National Hurricane Center is issuing statements about this storm:
The key messages so far:
1. Irma is a potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane and will
bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to
portions of the northeastern Leeward Islands tonight and tomorrow.
These hazards will spread into the Virgin Islands and Puerto
Rico tomorrow. Preparations should be rushed to completion before
the arrival of tropical-storm force winds tomorrow morning in Virgin
Islands and Puerto Rico.

2. A hurricane warning is in effect for the northern coast of the
Dominican Republic, with hurricane watches for Haiti, the
southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. Irma is likely to
bring dangerous wind, storm surge, and rainfall to these areas from
Wednesday night through Friday.

3. Irma could directly affect the remainder of the Bahamas and Cuba
as an extremely dangerous major hurricane later this week. Residents
in these areas should monitor the progress of Irma and listen to
advice given by officials.

4. The chance of direct impacts from Irma beginning later this week
and this weekend from wind, storm surge, and rainfall continues to
increase in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula.
However, it is too soon to specify the timing and magnitude of these


INIT 05/2100Z 17.1N 59.8W 160 KT 185 MPH
12H 06/0600Z 17.6N 61.8W 155 KT 180 MPH
24H 06/1800Z 18.5N 64.6W 150 KT 175 MPH
36H 07/0600Z 19.5N 67.3W 145 KT 165 MPH
48H 07/1800Z 20.4N 70.1W 140 KT 160 MPH
72H 08/1800Z 21.6N 75.3W 135 KT 155 MPH
96H 09/1800Z 22.7N 79.3W 125 KT 145 MPH
120H 10/1800Z 24.4N 81.5W 120 KT 140 MPH

1. The use of “bearing down” in this context is apparently the correct spelling (ref. It just seems wrong somehow to me)

Mars and InSight

The launch of NASA’s next mission to Mars named Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) is going to be in 2018. The launch window opens on 05 May 2018.

The InSight mission is not a rover mission but what InSight lacks in mobility it makes up for with ambition by a lot.

After it lands successfully two solar panels will unfold like paper fans, the lander spans about 20 feet (6 meters). Within weeks after the landing InSight will use a robotic arm to place its two main instruments directly and permanently onto the Martian ground.

The two key instruments are pretty amazing. The first is a seismometer, supplied by France’s space agency, CNES, with collaboration from the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. Shielded from wind and with sensitivity fine enough to detect ground movements half the diameter of a hydrogen atom, it will record seismic waves from “marsquakes” or meteor impacts that reveal information about the planet’s interior layers.

The second is a heat probe, designed to hammer itself to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) or more and measure the amount of energy coming from the planet’s deep interior. The heat probe is supplied by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, with the self-hammering mechanism from Poland.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Infrared Jupiter

Be sure to click the image above for a larger view.

NASA – This composite, false-color infrared image of Jupiter reveals haze particles over a range of altitudes, as seen in reflected sunlight. It was taken using the Gemini North Telescope’s Near-InfraRed Imager (NIRI) on May 18, 2017, in collaboration with the investigation of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno mission. Juno completed its sixth close approach to Jupiter a few hours after this observation.

The multiple filters corresponding to each color used in the image cover wavelengths between 1.69 microns and 2.275 microns. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) appears as the brightest (white) region at these wavelengths, which are primarily sensitive to high-altitude clouds and hazes near and above the top of Jupiter’s convective region.

The GRS is one of the highest-altitude features in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Narrow spiral streaks that appear to lead into it or out of it from surrounding regions probably represent atmospheric features being stretched by the intense winds within the GRS, such as the hook-like structure on its western edge (left side). Some are being swept off its eastern edge (right side) and into an extensive wave-like flow pattern, and there is even a trace of flow from its northern edge.

Other features near the GRS include the dark block and dark oval to the south and the north of the eastern flow pattern, respectively, indicating a lower density of cloud and haze particles in those locations. Both are long-lived cyclonic circulations, rotating clockwise — in the opposite direction as the counterclockwise rotation of the GRS.

A prominent wave pattern is evident north of the equator, along with two bright ovals, which are anticyclones that appeared in January 2017. Both the wave pattern and the ovals may be associated with an impressive upsurge in stormy activity that has been observed in these latitudes this year. Another bright anticyclonic oval is seen further north. The Juno spacecraft may pass over these ovals, as well as the Great Red Spot, during its close approach to Jupiter on July 10, 2017, Pacific Time (July 11, Universal Time).

High hazes are evident over both polar regions with much spatial structure not previously been seen quite so clearly in ground-based images

The filters used for observations combined into this image admit infrared light centered on the following infrared wavelengths (and presented here in these colors): 1.69 microns (blue), 2.045 microns (cyan), 2.169 microns (green), 2.124 microns (yellow), and 2.275 microns (red).

The Gemini North Telescope is on Maunakea, Hawaii. The Gemini Observatory is a partnership of the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.
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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

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: