Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.


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Oppy’s Winter Home

The rover Opportunity will be spending the winter in the Marathon Valley on Mars.  This view from the rover shows Hinners point near the northern part of the valley.


The rover Opportunity (or Oppy for short) took this image on its 4,108th Martian day on the planet Mars!

From the NASA press release:

The summit takes its informal name as a tribute to Noel Hinners (1935-2014). For NASA’s Apollo program, Hinners played important roles in selection of landing sites on the moon and scientific training of astronauts. He then served as NASA associate administrator for space science, director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA chief scientist and associate deputy administrator of NASA. Subsequent to responsibility for the Viking Mars missions while at NASA, he spent the latter part of his career as vice president for flight systems at Lockheed Martin, where he had responsibility for the company’s roles in development and operation of NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, Phoenix Mars Lander, Stardust and Genesis missions.

Marathon Valley cuts generally east-west through the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The valley’s name refers to the distance Opportunity drove from its 2004 landing site to arrival at this location in 2014. The valley was a high-priority destination for the rover mission because observations from orbit detected clay minerals there.

Dark rocks on Hinners Point show a pattern dipping downward toward the interior of Endeavour, to the right from this viewing angle. The strong dip may have resulted from the violence of the impact event that excavated the crater.

Brighter rocks make up the valley floor. The reddish zones there may be areas where water has altered composition. Inspections by Opportunity have found compositions there are higher in silica and lower in iron than the typical composition of rocks on Endeavour’s rim.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

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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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