Category Archives: Uncategorized


Ever notice how spacecraft destined to stay in orbit for some period of time always seem to have reflective foil around them? Ever wonder how that could possibly work?

You’re in luck!  ESA shows us the state-of-the-art in space insulation:


From ESA:
Blankets of multi-layer insulation (MLI) are used to cover satellite surfaces to help insulate them from orbital temperature extremes. These are the reason that satellites often look as though they’ve been covered in shiny Christmas wrapping.

MLI blankets are made up of multiple layers of very thin, metal-coated plastic film, with low-conducting ‘spacer’ material placed in-between such as silk, nylon or glass-fibre netting. Alternatively, MLI is sometimes deliberately crinkled to minimise any contact between layers.

In the airlessness of space, objects can be hot and cold at the same time, especially if one side is in sunshine and another is in shade. In such conditions, thermal radiation is the main driver of temperature change (rather than convection or conduction), and reflective MLI serves to minimise it.

Thermal control specialists aim to maintain the temperature of the satellite within set limits, to keep electronic and mechanical parts working optimally and to prevent any temperature-triggered structural distortion.

Placing MLI blankets on a satellite body is a skilled art in itself, with complex shapes needing to be created to fit around around edges or joints.

Credit: ESA–G. Porter

The Transit is Coming

Tomorrow the planet Mercury moves along the face of the sun in what is known as a transit and we can see it. The Mercury transits occur about every 13 years.

First – DO NOT EVER look at the sun without ADEQUATE eye protection!!!!!

If it is cloudy where you are, no worries, check back here tomorrow for links for on-line sources.  Today a couple of video’s.

The first from Physics World entitled, Guide to the transit of Mercury 2016:

and the second from Science@NASA, an updated version of the video I put up a week ago titled, ScienceCasts: The 2016 Transit of Mercury (updated):

Also here’s a pdf with great information from the US Naval Observatory.

Sentinel 1B Launch


If you happened by yesterday to watch the launch of Sentinel 1B you know it was postponed due to weather issues.

The good part about the delay is I will get to see the launch if it goes as planned today.

ESA was kind enough to indicate the launch times in a variety of time zones:

Delayed again.  These times are listed on the ESA site, but may not be current  (they don’t seem to be ).

  • 06:02:13 p.m., (Local time in French Guiana)
  • 05:02:13 p.m., (in Washington, D.C.)
  • 09:02:13 p.m., (UTC)
  • 11:02:13 p.m., (in Paris)
  • 00:02:13 a.m., (in Moscow) on April

Here is the link for the live coverage from ESA.

The image (copyright ESA–Manuel Pedoussaut, 2016) shows the Soyuz VS14 upper composite hoisted to the top of the service tower in preparation for launch.

The Heart of the Milky Way

Milky Way Nuclear Star Cluster

Hubble looks into the heart of the Milky Way.

From Hubblesite:
Hubble’s infrared vision pierced the dusty heart of our Milky Way galaxy to reveal more than half a million stars at its core. Except for a few blue, foreground stars, the stars are part of the Milky Way’s nuclear star cluster, the most massive and densest stellar cluster in our galaxy. Located 27,000 light-years away, this region is so packed with stars, it is equivalent to having a million suns crammed into the volume of space between us and our closest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away. At the very hub of our galaxy, this star cluster surrounds the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole, which is about 4 million times the mass of our sun.

The Center of the Milky Way


We are looking towards the center of our own galaxy.  The center is around 27,000 light-years away and an incredible number of stars can be seen in this wonderful Hubble image taken in the infrared.

This infrared image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the centre of the Milky Way, 27 000 light-years away from Earth. Using the infrared capabilities of Hubble, astronomers were able to peer through the dust which normally obscures the view of this interesting region. At the centre of this nuclear star cluster – and also in the centre of this image – the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is located.

Read more about this Hubble image in Journey to the centre of our galaxy — ESA

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Rover Opportunity Dust Streaks


Here’s a “selfie” of the little rover Opportunity and dust streaks on the solar panels.  Solar panels which are otherwise remarkably clean. This rover, Opportunity has set the bar to which all future rovers will be compared at least in terms of longevity. Opportunity has been on Mars over 4300 Sols and traveled more than 42 km / 26 miles.

Make me wonder what Oppy’s twin Spirit looks like.  Of course Spirit stopped functioning in 2010 after over 2500 Sols and a very successful mission. Perhaps the MRO can capture a picture of it down the road.

Here’s what NASA says about the image:
This image from the navigation camera on the mast of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows streaks of dust or sand on the vehicle’s rear solar panel after a series of drives during which the rover was pointed steeply uphill.

The image was taken on March 21, 2016, during the 4,322nd Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars. The rover’s location was on the north-facing slope of “Knudsen Ridge,” which forms part of the southern edge of “Marathon Valley.” During a forward, uphill drive on March 10 (Sol 4311), Opportunity’s tilt reached 32 degrees, the steepest ever for any rover on Mars. While the rover was so steeply tilted, accumulated dust on its deck was affected by vibrations from wheels slipping against the ground. Tilt in the same direction continued with two downhill drives in reverse between that ascent and when this images was taken.

Another Launch

Update: As of 21:45 UTC the odds of having conditions favorable for launch is 90 percent.

Check back for link for live coverage at 02:00 UTC 23 March 2016.


The window opens tomorrow for another launch. This launch will be the fifth resupply mission to the International Space Station for Orbital’s Cygnus cargo ship. The image shows the Cygnus encapsulated for flight at Launch Complex 41 at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Cygnus will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 11:05 p.m. EDT tomorrow – that is 03:05 UTC.

Cygnus will carry almost 7,500 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory to support dozens of science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 47 and 48.

The new experiments will inspire future scientists and explorers, with experiments such as an investigation that looks at the properties and behavior of regolith, or “soil” found on asteroids, comets, the moon, and other airless worlds; an instrument for the first-ever, space-based observations of the chemical composition of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere; a technology demonstration of an adhesive device that can stick on-command in the harsh environment of space; and, the second generation of a portable onboard 3-D printer, among others.

In the event the launch does not take place as scheduled for whatever reason, the next window is 23 March at 09:45 EDT (01:45 UTC on 24 March).

Image: NASA/Dimitrios Gerondidakis

Handing Over the Keys

Scott Kelly turns “the keys” to Tom Kopra. Kopra will assume the role of Station Commander when on the ISS Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov undocks from the space station on March 1. Both Kelly and Kornienko have spent an entire year and Volkov 340 days on the ISS.

Congratulations and welcome home!

Here’s a run down of the activities for later today:
Tuesday, March 1

4:15 p.m. — Farewell and hatch closure coverage; hatch closure scheduled at 4:40 p.m. (21:40 UTC)
7:45 p.m. — Undocking coverage; undocking scheduled at 8:05 p.m. (01:05 UTC 02 March)
10:15 p.m. — Deorbit burn and landing coverage; deorbit burn scheduled at 10:32 p.m., with landing at 11:25 p.m. (10:25 a.m. on March 2, Kazakhstan time) (04:25 UTC)