Category Archives: General


Kuiper and Asteroid belt objects compared. Credit: NASA via Space Ref


NASA produced this image as part of a televised event back on 25 August the same day New Horizons passed the orbit of Neptune and 25 years after the Neptune/Voyager encounter with Neptune in 1989.

Since Voyager we have made signifcant discoveries in the Kuiper Belt. The image shows objects from both the Kuiper and Asteroid Belts. The Asteroids include little Vesta that was examined in detail by Dawn up to the largest asteroid Ceres the asteroid where Dawn is heading to now. The Kuiper Belt objects include Pluto, the destination of New Horizons spacecraft and it’s getting very close.

NASA set the objects to scale to show how they compare to each other. I wanted to compare then to something more provincial, so if you click the image I have added the moon. I’m not saying it is exactly to scale, it is close enough to get the idea.

Have a look.

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Happy Birthday RAS

Mineral flow on the asteroid Vesta, from Feb 2014.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLAMPS/DLR/IDA via RAS
Mineral flow on the asteroid Vesta, from Feb 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLAMPS/DLR/IDA via RAS

There are a few things going on these days and among them:

The Dawn spacecraft is about to start Ceres approach imaging very soon – last I heard was tomorrow, 13 January 2015.

The image above was created by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, have used the multiwavelength filters on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft to create compositional maps of the surface of the asteroid Vesta. More about the image from RAS.

I found the image at the Royal Astronomical Society and as it happens as of today has been around 195 years. Here’s to many more!

At one time (link) “New Horizon’s Distant Encounter Operations” (approaching Pluto) were to begin today, I’m sure there is much to do before the “Closest Enounter Operations” being in just 30 days.

And finally at 06:00 EST / 11:00 UTC the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship should arrive at the International Space Station – I will be away briefly at that time and will update this a little later.

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Venus Atmosphere Has Holes

ESA’s Venus Express as opened a mystery. What are those holes in the night side of Venus?

Video source

BTW: We have been hit with a pretty sizable winter storm with up to 50 cm of wet snow in the area (30 cm right here) and almost all of it still clinging to trees. What will happen when the wind comes up is unknown. I can make power, hope the internet stays up!

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The Egg Nebula

A Hubble look at the Egg Nebula. Copyright Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: W. Sparks (STScI) & R. Sahai (JPL)
A Hubble look at the Egg Nebula. Copyright Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: W. Sparks (STScI) & R. Sahai (JPL)

Not a new image but always fun to look at is the Egg Nebula. I always think of ripples in a pond produced by tossing a pebble in and in a way it is. ars

Planetary nebulas have nothing much to do with planets, rather they are how stars like our own sun will end their active life cycles. Planetary nebulas are varied in how they present themselves but all are beautiful sights to see.

Treat yourself to a Planetary Nebula sampler.

From ESA Space in Images:

This colourful image shows a cosmic lighthouse known as the Egg Nebula, which lies around 3000 light-years from Earth. The image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, has captured a brief but dramatic phase in the life of a Sun-like star.

The Egg Nebula is a ‘preplanetary nebula’. These objects occur as a dying star’s hot remains briefly illuminates material it has expelled, lighting up the gas and dust that surrounds it.

These objects will one day develop into planetary nebulas which, despite the name, have nothing at all to do with planets. They gained their rather misleading title because when they were discovered in the 18th century they resembled planets in our Solar System when viewed through a telescope.

Although the dying star is hidden behind the thick dust lane that streaks down the centre of this image, it is revealed by the four lighthouse-like beams clearly visible through the veil of dust that lies beyond the central lane.

The light beams were able to penetrate the central dust lane due to paths carved out of the thick cloud by powerful jets of material expelled from the star, although the cause of these jets is not yet known.

The concentric rings seen in the less dense cloud surrounding the star are due to the star ejecting material at regular intervals – typically every hundred years – during a phase of the star’s evolution just prior to this preplanetary nebula phase. These dusty shells are not usually visible in these nebulas, but when they are it provides astronomers with a rare opportunity to study their formation and evolution.
Continue reading

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Mount Tavurvur

A nice video of Mount Tavurvur erupting in Papua New Guinea, I believe this is on the island of New Britain. Don’t be too tempted to close the ad banner that pops up, I missed the very start of the eruption doing that.

Check out the blast wave above the volcano too.

When I was looking at the different versions of this on YouTube there was already the doom predictions, because after all there is this volcano and the one in Iceland at the same time, it just has to mean something bad right?. Just so you know, volcanic eruptions aren’t really that uncommon and I wouldn’t assign any particular global doom to the fact these two just happen to be active at the same time.


Back to trying to get my iPod to see my Wifi.

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Comet Siding Spring’s Path

The orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring up to the close pass of Mars on 19 Oct 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring up to the close pass of Mars on 19 Oct 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I was looking all over for a graphic on the Mars encounter last Thursday and NASA published this on Friday. Great timing! So now I need to figure out if the comet might be visible with a telescope. Could be, the moon won’t be a factor and Mars should be visible for a time after sunset. I just need to upload the ephemeris for Siding Spring into Stellarium.

One thing I will be able to see (and so will you) on that night is Venus and Spica very close together — easy to see too. More about that later on.

NASA on the visit:

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.


The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle — estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across — could cause significant damage to a spacecraft.

Read the rest at NASA.

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