Category Archives: Uncategorized

The 15 Minute Mission


Does this look like fun or what? It does to me. What we are looking at is engineers putting the final touches on the MOSES-2 sounding rocket payload.

The rocket will be launched from the US White Sands Missle Range in New Mexico tomorrow – if all goes well.

The payload is called the Multi-Order Solar EUV Spectrograph, or MOSES-2. The instrument will take images of the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light. The flight will be quick, only 15 minutes but since the atomosphere blocks all extreme ultravoilet light, this is a good cost effective way of getting the job done.

The objective is to help answer one of the biggest mysteries in solar physics – why is the Sun’s atmosphere 1,000 times hotter than the surface? To help answer the question MOSES-2 will look at the transiition area where the photosphere becomes the corona.

Get more detail at the NASA Sounding Rocket Program page.

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Spitzer’s Calendar

The Spitzer Space Telescope released a very nice calendar to celebrate its 12th anniversary.


The digital calendar gives us highlights and the best infrared images for each of the 12 years in succession for every month in the calendar.

Get your calendar here.

Spitzer, which launched into space on August 25, 2003, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is still going strong. It continues to use its ultra-sensitive infrared vision to probe asteroids, comets, exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) and some of the farthest known galaxies. Recently, Spitzer helped discover the closest known rocky exoplanet to us, named HD219134b, at 21 light-years away.

In fact, Spitzer’s exoplanet studies continue to surprise the astronomy community. The telescope wasn’t originally designed to study exoplanets, but as luck — and some creative engineering — would have it, Spitzer has turned out to be a critical tool in the field, probing the climates and compositions of these exotic worlds. This pioneering work began in 2005, when Spitzer became the first telescope to detect light from an exoplanet. — Spitzer press release:

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Send Your Name


Want to put your name on a microchip and send it to Mars? Sure you do and you can but you need to do it by 08 September.

Don’t worry it’s simple and only takes a minute. All you need to do is submit your name to NASA here where it will be collected and put on a microchip aboard the InSight spacecraft.

Launch is scheduled for March 2016 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Arrival at Mars will be 28 Sept 2016.

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RGG 118


The dwarf galaxy RGG 118 located about 340 million light-years away has been found to have the distinction of having the “smallest supermassive black hole” at its core.

Basically the boundry of the supermassive black sizes has been cut down to a mere mass of 50,000 times our Sun. Pretty cool how scientists estimated the mass, check out the story below.

Continue reading

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Don’t Forget the Perseids!

The Perseid meteor shower is just about here! Named like all showers for the constellation they seem to come from, this is one of the best showers of the year and this time there is no problem with the moon washing things out.

The shower peaks on about 11 August and I would expect good meteor watching for the next few nights.

Why do I like the Perseids? Numbers of meteors.   I wouldn’t be surprised to see upwards of 60 or more per hour, just a wonderful show.

Every year is a little different, some more some less. It just depends on how much dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle we encounter. About the only time I’ve been disappointed is whey there have been clouds and the shower wasn’t visible at all.

How do you see them? It’s really never been a problem around here thanks to pretty dark skies, just look up towards the north and you will see them.

Finders charts (credit: Meteor Showers Online) Northern Hemisphere / Southern Hemisphere. has a nice piece on the showers too.

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It’s a Blue Moon

Tomorrow there will be a Blue Moon. The last one was in August 2012 and the next one is not until January 2018 but the cool thing is the one after that is just a few months later in March 2018.

Those dates are according to one definition. There are two, the second a only a little bit more complicated and arguably the correct version has the next Blue Moon not occurring until May 2016.

Have a look at both definitions. You will note I’m throwing caution to the wind and going with tomorrow.

And YES you CAN have a “blue moon” as you can see in this Science@NASA video:


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In June we saw a nice image of crater Odysseus a huge crater compared the the size of the Saturn moon Tethys – see here.

This image is from almost from the opposite direction and the impact crater seems a different color than the surrounding terrain.


Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

From the Cassini site (click for more image options):
With the expanded range of colors visible to Cassini’s cameras, differences in materials and their textures become apparent that are subtle or unseen in natural color views. Here, the giant impact basin Odysseus on Saturn’s moon Tethys stands out brightly from the rest of the illuminated icy crescent. This distinct coloration may result from differences in either the composition or structure of the terrain exposed by the giant impact. Odysseus (280 miles, or 450 kilometers, across) is one of the largest impact craters on Saturn’s icy moons, and may have significantly altered the geologic history of Tethys.

Tethys’ dark side (at right) is faintly illuminated by reflected light from Saturn.

Images taken using ultraviolet, green and infrared spectral filters were combined to create this color view. North on Tethys (660 miles or 1,062 kilometers across) is up in this view.

The view was acquired on May 9, 2015 at a distance of approximately 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) from Tethys. Image scale is 1.1 mile (1.8 kilometers) per pixel.

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