Category Archives: Uncategorized

ANGEL Balloon Flight

It turns out you can guide a high altitude balloon back to a predetermined location with a controlled descent. At least that’s what NASA Glenn’s Rocket University team did on 04 November when they brought a balloon down from an altitude of 36.5 km / 22.7 miles over the New Mexico desert.

The ANGEL experiment demonstrated how the Airborne Systems, Inc. Guided Precision Aerial Delivery System (GPADS) can benefit planetary science balloon missions through a risk-reduction flight test for high altitude balloon operations allowing for faster and cheaper recovery. Additionally, the impact forces experienced on landing are reduced with GPADS versus conventional parachutes. ANGEL shows a greater range of space science able to be performed with more sensitive equipment, as payload survivability is increased due to the system’s unique ability to perform a flared, into-the-wind landing.

Good job! Hopefully this will lead to more frequent balloon science missions.

Curious Travels


Here is a map of Curiosity trek on its first 1,165 sols.  How time does fly by hardly seems like the rover has been on Mars since 2012.

The press release:

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from the location where it landed in August 2012 to its location in mid-November 2015, approaching examples of dunes in the “Bagnold Dunes” dune field.

The traverse line covers drives completed through the 1,165rd Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Nov. 15, 2015).

The base image for this map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. North is up. The dark ground south of the rover’s route is the Bagnold Dunes of dark, wind-blown material at the foot of Mount Sharp.

The scale bar at lower right represents two kilometers (1.2 miles). For broader-context images of the area, see PIA17355,PIA16064 and PIA16058.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about the Mars Science Laboratory mission and the mission’s Curiosity rover, visit and

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


Pluto’s Spinning Moons


New Horizons / NASA – The New Horizons mission also is shedding new light on Pluto’s fascinating system of moons, and their unusual properties. For example, nearly every other moon in the solar system — including Earth’s moon — is in synchronous rotation, keeping one face toward the planet. This is not the case for Pluto’s small moons.

Pluto’s small lunar satellites are spinning much faster, with Hydra — its most distant moon — rotating an unprecedented 89 times during a single lap around the planet. Scientists believe these spin rates may be variable because Charon exerts a strong torque that prevents each small moon from settling down into synchronous rotation.

Another oddity of Pluto’s moons: scientists expected the satellites would wobble, but not to such a degree.


Taurid Meteor Shower

Don’t forget to look for the Taurids meteor shower if you can. You could catch a few, it’s been cloudy since they started last week, actually before. November is the cloudiest month of the year around these parts.

Finding the radiant, the point where the meteors seem to come from is pretty easy. See this finders chart, a few hours after the sun goes down Taurus is in the eastern sky, it is always followed by the constellation Orion. If you can see Orion look a bit in front of and above him.

If you don’t happen to see any meteors, you can look for the star Aldebaran, in the finders chart it looks like any other star, but it isn’t. Aldebaran is a very bright orange colored star having used up hydrogen and is now burning helium (in reality there is some hydrogen fusion occurring in a shell around the helium core). It has a radius 44 times larger than our sun and is only 20 parsecs away (65 light years).

Very nice meteor catch on the Video!

Witch Head Nebula


The Witch Head Nebula is a fitting sight for Halloween.  The witch is a refection nebula created by light from the blue-white supergiant star Rigel in the constellation Orion.

As the name implies, this reflection nebula associated with the star Rigel looks suspiciously like a fairytale crone. Formally known as IC 2118 in the constellation Orion, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from the star. The color of this very blue nebula is caused not only by blue color of its star, but also because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. A similar physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue. — NASA

Image Credit: NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni


Asteroid 2015 TB145 Flyby

C3WKCH Large Asteroid closing in on Earth
C3WKCH Large Asteroid closing in on Earth

There is going to be a close flyby of Asteroid 2015 TB135 on 31 October.  The asteroid will be 1.3 lunar distances away.

Discovered on 10 October 2015 by a  Pan-STARRS I survey, asteroid 2015 TB145 has a diameter of about 320 meters and that makes it the largest asteroid to flyby since the flyby of an asteroid in July 2006 (2004 XP14).  We will need to see the radar data (and images) to be sure of the size.  Very high radar resolution is possible even up to 2 m/pixel is possible.

Be glad the asteroid is no threat, its velocity is 35 km/sec!


Marth Crater


I’ve been seeing a lot of advertising for the movie The Martian.  Looks pretty good, if I can find some time I might go see it.  Problem is I think I would like the read the book first and that often ruins the film.

The image above shows the apparent “real life” location for the movie. See the description from NASA:


In the best-selling novel “The Martian” and the movie based on it, stranded astronaut Mark Watney’s adventures take him to the rim of Mawrth Crater. This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the nature of this terrain.

The crater rim is not very distinct, and from the Martian surface it would be quite difficult to tell that you are even on the rim of a crater. The terrain is hummocky and rolling, punctuated by smaller impact craters and wind-blown drifts of sand or dust.

This view is one image product from HiRISE observation ESP_042252_1930, taken Aug. 1, 2015, at 12.6 degrees north latitude, 355.7 degrees east longitude.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the orbiter and collaborates with JPL to operate it.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona



What’s Up in October

A top ten list of things to see in October we can see with out anything but our eyes from Jane Houston Jones at JPL. A very good episode, quite fitting for the 100th episode

I wonder how many I can see from here. Surely not the green flash, never have seen that. The other nine should be possible. I will let you know.