This Week @ NASA


Good episode, well they all are. This one video had about four of the things I wanted to show a video of and couldn’t decide which.

One of these was the spacewalk when the helmet of Italy’s Luca Parmitano had water collecting in it during the spacewalk. Don’t worry he is fine, the walk was teminated, well you’ll see (or saw).

I got a look at what I think is one of those “Earth from Saturn” pictures. No I won’t put it up until it is released, mostly because I don’t know exactly what I am looking at in terms of “What is where”. Of course I made a guess! I’ll let you know if I was correct when the time comes. Besides, for all I know it was some sort of test image of a completely different area.

I REALLY can’t wait to see that MESSENGER image of Earth! By the way, NASA MESSENGER folks, a similar picture of Venus would be worth imaging too someday . . . . just saying.


The Heliotail


The what?

Combining three years from imagery from the IBEX spacecraft (Interstellar Boundry EXplorer) scientists have put together a boundry map of the twisted tail from our solar system called the heliotail.


GALEX Mission Ends


Messier 94, in ultraviolet light taken by GALEX. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s been 10 years already?? The mission isn’t just over, they switched it off – done.  The image, Messier 94,is located 14 to 17 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici.  M 94 also known as NGC 4736 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 22, 1781.

Here’s the exit press release from NASA:

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA has turned off its Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) after a decade of operations in which the venerable space telescope used its ultraviolet vision to study hundreds of millions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic time.

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Asteroid Grand Challenge


Among other topics on this episode is the Asteroid challenge, can we find all asteroid threats to Earth. There is also coverage of a memorial to Neil Armstrong.

On the asteroid topic: I get listings of newly discovered and re-discovered asteroids. I like to scan the listings looking at the semi-major axis “a”. We can quickly figure the period of the asteroid in years:

Period = The square root of the cube of the semi-major axis. Simple and quick on almost any calculator, you can even do it in Google. A period of one year means the asteroid has the same orbital period as the Earth, not necessarily the same orbit or anything like that, simple that if it is at let’s say Point X today, a year from now it will be pretty close to Point X again.

There have been some pretty good finds, a couple with orbital periods of better than 80 years. The other day I ran across one with a semi-major axis of 0.849 AU and that is an orbital period of 0.782…years or 285 days. When you see an orbital period of less than one, you know it has a period of less than a year so its orbit is contained inside of that of the Earth.

The asteroid 2010 NG1 does come by and gets kind of close to us on occasion but not terribly so. However a close approach to Venus does seem to be in the offing on 25 Feb 2014. It won’t hit or anything and I’m still trying to sort out how close but you can get an idea by looking at the JPL Orbital Diagram.


America’s First Woman in Space


Sunday we had the 50th anniversary of the first woman in space: Valentina Tereshkova. Today we have the 30th anniversary of America’s first woman in space: Sally Ride.

Sally Ride was a mission specialist aboard the Shuttle Challenger launching 30 years ago today June 18, 1983. Ride went to space a second time in 1984 again aboard the Challenger on mission STS 41G. She logged more than 343 hours in space.

Have a look at NASA’s bio on Sally.

Sally Ride succumbed to Pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.


Black Forest Fire

A MODIS image of the Black Forest Fire on June 12, 2013 from the Terra Satellite.  NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner

A MODIS image of the Black Forest Fire on June 12, 2013 from the Terra Satellite.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra Satellite provides a great planning tool for fighthing fires like this.

It sounds like the fire fighters are starting to get a handle of sorts on this one according to the Denver Post. I sure hope so.

From NASA click for the original and a larger image:

The Royal Gorge fire which began on June 11 has now consumed 3,100 acres. Twenty structures have been lost, however, the Royal Gorge Bridge is intact. This fire continues to burn west of Canon City in piñon and juniper forests.

“We have made good progress on the fire today without any accidents or injuries thanks in large part to our many partners”,” said Dennis Page, Incident Commander for the Royal Gorge Fire. “Crews from Canon City, Fremont County, and the State of Colorado are working alongside firefighters from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.”

Some challenges firefighters will face today (June 13) include a Red Flag Weather Warning (hot, dry conditions with winds), downed power lines, and active fire moving in stands of beetle killed trees.

The Black Forest fire started Tuesday, June 12, and has already grown to 8500 acres. It is located one mile west of Black Forest, CO in El Paso County. According to the El Paso Sheriff’s Office, 92 homes have already been declared a complete loss but others were seen burning even as that count was prepared for release. Since this fire is in what is essentially a residential area, the evacuation area is quite large.

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IRIS Mission

An image from the NASA / JAXA Hinode mission showing the lower atmosphere of the Sun the focus for the IRIS spacecraft.Credit: NASA&JAXA/Hinode

An image from the NASA / JAXA Hinode mission showing the lower atmosphere of the Sun the focus for the IRIS spacecraft.Credit: NASA&JAXA/Hinode

There is a so-called interface layer in the Sun’s atmosphere between the photoshphere and corona that is very difficult to study. Mostly this is due to the lack of tools and that is about to change with the The Interface Region Imaging Spectorgraph mission – IRIS.

The mission is going to trace the flow of energy and plasma through the chromoshpere and the transition region into the corona. We do know a fair amount about parts of the Sun’s atmosphere and lack knowlege in others. This interface region is such an area.

IRIS has the capability, along with the latest in 3D modeling to answer some fundamental questions and give insight into the understanding of energy transport into the corona and solar winds and perhaps give us enough knowledge to serve as a prototype for all stars.

The Interface Region Imaging Spectorgraph mission is set to launch on June 26, 2013 from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California.

Venus Launch


This is the first topographical map of Venus  and it was made in the Pioneer program.

It was 35 years ago on this day. The Pioneer Venus Orbiter was launched atop an Atlas-Centaur rocket. The launch kicked off the Pioneer project and was one of two components, the second of which launched in August of 1978.


After the May 20, 1978 launch the orbiter arrived at Venus and was placed into orbit on December 4, 1978. The oribiter was 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) across by 1.2 meters (3.49 feet) high and was packed with 17 experiments.

See here for details.

One of the products was the first topographical map of Venus shown at the top of the post.

The Pioneer Venus Orbiter provided data until 1992 when it entered and was destroyed by the atmosphere of Venus. It is worth mentioning that for the first ten years of operation and that includes building the spacecraft, the cost was 125 million dollars.

Pioneer project from Wikipedia
Pioneer project from NASA




The GROVER acronym stands for two things, Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research.

As the name suggest GROVER is headed to Greenland, on or about June 8th.

GROVER was developed in 2010 and 2011 by teams of students participating in summer engineering boot camps at Goddard. ROVER will be joined on the ice sheet in June by another robot, named Cool Robot, developed nearby at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., with funding from the National Science Foundation.

For more information visit NASA’s GROVER feature in their Looking at Earth site.

Another partnership between NASA and students that will be fun to follow as time goes on.