Space X Launches Merah Putih

The Merah Putih is an Indonesian communications satellite and was put into a geostationary orbit from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The rocket 1st stage was a reused Block 5 first flown in May 2018 and it was as you will see (sort of) again landed on a drone ship.

The launch took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida USA.

The Horizon of Comet 67P/C-G

This image from the Rosetta spacecraft shows the horizon over Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  The image was taken on 06 August 2014 so this is a sort of anniversary image.  I always marvel at the boulders – gravity is pretty cool.

Here’s ESA’s caption:

On 6 August of 2014, after a decade of travelling through interplanetary space, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its final target: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). The mission was the first to successfully land on a comet when it sent the lander Philae down to the surface a few months later, while the orbiter studied 67P/C-G in detail before the mission’s end on 30 September 2016.

Over its lifetime Rosetta extensively mapped the comet’s surface, which has since been divided into 26 geological regions named after Ancient Egyptian deities. The entire comet has been likened to a duck in shape, with a small ‘head’ attached to a larger ‘body’.

This image shows a section of 67P/C-G as viewed by Rosetta’s high-resolution camera OSIRIS on 10 February 2016. Amateur astronomer Stuart Atkinson, from the UK, selected and processed this view from the OSIRIS image archive. It is a crop of a larger image that shows a slightly wider view of the comet’s ‘Bes’ region on body of the comet, which takes its name from the protective deity of households, children and mothers.

It shows the uneven, shadowed surface of the comet in detail; particularly prominent just to the right of centre is an upright feature surrounded by scattered depressions, rocky outcrops and debris.

Explore the full mission image archive yourself at and let us know what hidden treasures you find via @esascience.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA – CC BY SA 4.0; Acknowledgement: S Atkinson.

Spitzer Views the Remains of HBH3

HBH-3 is all that remains after a supernova explosion. Here’a a link to the full sized image at NASA.

Original caption from NASA: Thin, red veins of energized gas mark the location of the supernova remnant HBH 3 in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The puffy, white feature in the image is a portion of the star forming regions W3, W4 and W5. Infrared wavelengths of 3.6 microns have been mapped to blue, and 4.5 microns to red. The white color of the star-forming region is a combination of both wavelengths, while the HBH 3 filaments radiate only at the longer 4.5 micron wavelength.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC

A Bit of Asteroid Itokawa

Along with the likes of the Cassini and Rosetta missions we have the history making Hayabusa Mission. The mission actually returned a sample from the asteroid Itokawa and the mission at least for me showcases the resilience of the JAXA mission team (see the section “Changes in mission plan” in the provided link.

The image above was released yesterday 01 Aug 2018 by ESA.

Here’s the caption included in the release:

ESA: Seen on a microscopic support, this sharp-edged grain of rock is an extraterrestrial object – a tiny sample from the Itokawa asteroid, retrieved by Japan’s Hayabusa mission and now being tested by ESA researchers.

Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft was the world’s first mission to retrieve samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth. Beset by many problems, after a seven-year, six-billion-km odyssey Hayabusa returned around 1 500 precious asteroid grains to Earth.

Extremely precious, these Hayabusa grains have become the focus of scientific study around the world – and three of them are currently here, at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands.

Researcher Fabrice Cipriani is leading research into their static charging properties, to understand the consequences for the surface environments of asteroids.

NGC 6744 Seen By Hubble

Nice job Hubble!

The original caption: This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) shows a beautiful spiral galaxy called NGC 6744. At first glance, it resembles our Milky Way albeit larger, measuring more than 200,000 light-years across compared to a 100,000-light-year diameter for our home galaxy.

NGC 6744 is similar to our home galaxy in more ways than one. Like the Milky Way, NGC 6744 has a prominent central region packed with old yellow stars. Moving away from the galactic core, one can see parts of the dusty spiral arms painted in shades of pink and blue; while the blue sites are full of young star clusters, the pink ones are regions of active star formation, indicating that the galaxy is still very lively.

In 2005, a supernova named 2005at (not visible in this image) was discovered within NGC 6744, adding to the argument of this galaxy’s liveliness. SN 2005at is a Type Ic supernova, formed when a massive star collapses on itself and loses its hydrogen envelope.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgment: Judy Schmidt
Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)

FENIX The Little Boosters That Can

I love this idea!

ESA: Sometimes the key to innovation is staying simple. Italian tech company D-Orbit applied this principle to their winning product submitted to last year’s Space Exploration Masters.

The competition encourages ideas to solve some of the space industry’s main challenges while fostering products and services with commercial potential.

In the case of D-Orbit’s Fenix propulsion system, the idea was both simple and small. The pen-sized booster prototype, is just 10 cm long and 2 cm wide – allowing small satellites to work smarter and explore farther.

The 10 x 10 x 10 cm CubeSats are deployed directly into orbit from space. They currently have no propulsion system to change orbit or deorbit at the end of their missions. With the FENIX, CubeSats could be employed for longer missions farther out in space.

Each of the four boosters is packed with solid propellant that provides thrust which is triggered by a simple electrical ignition system. The boosters can be configured at each corner of the CubeSat or doubled up on either side. Thanks to their lightweight and compact size, they do not take up much instrument space.

With space exploration opening for business, technologies like Fenix have the potential to expand our horizons farther out in space. CubeSats can take on more sophisticated missions if they can manoeuvre in orbits – such as studying the Moon and asteroids from different angles.

In low Earth orbit, the boosters can deorbit the CubeSats at the end of their missions to help reduce space debris.

D-Orbit won a four-month ticket to test their prototype on the newly-installed ICE Cubes facility in the Columbus module of the International Space Station. The team will test the booster’s safe ignition mechanism inside an ICE cube experiment unit, without firing the actual propulsion system, to ensure that it works and is safe under space conditions.

Sensors and cameras will record the sparks, triggered by an electrical impulse, and the team can observe the testing anytime, anywhere, thanks to ICE Cubes dedicated control centre providing continuous remote access for users on ground. Fenix is set for launch to the Space Station by the end of next year.

Do you have an idea with commercial potential that could innovate space exploration? Submit it to the Space Exploration Masters challenge.

Image: ESA

Hubble’s View of Saturn

A beautiful look at Saturn not from Cassini but the Hubble Space Telescope. Any time I look at Saturn through a telescope I am struck at what a gem the planet is.

The caption (and image) from NASA, ESA, Amy Simon and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI): Saturn is by far the solar system’s most photogenic planet, and in this latest Hubble Space Telescope snapshot it is especially so because Saturn’s magnificent ring system is near its maximum tilt toward Earth (which was in 2017).

Hubble was used to observe the planet on June 6, 2018, when Saturn was only approximately 1.36 billion miles from Earth, nearly as close to us as it ever gets.

Saturn was photographed as it approached a June 27 opposition, when the planet is directly opposite to the Sun in the night sky and is at its yearly closest distance to the Earth. Though all of the gas giants boast rings, Saturn’s are the largest and most spectacular, stretching out eight times the radius of the planet.

Saturn’s stunning rings were first identified as a continuous disk around the planet by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens in 1655. 325 years later, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft flyby of Saturn resolved thousands of thin, fine ringlets. Data from NASA’s Cassini mission suggests the rings formed 200 million years ago, roughly around the time of the dinosaurs and Earth’s Jurassic period. The gravitational disintegration of one of Saturn’s small moons created myriad icy debris particles, and collisions today likely continually replenish the rings.

Visible in this Hubble image are the classic rings as recorded by early skywatchers. From the outside in are the A ring with the Encke Gap, the Cassini Division, the B ring, and the C ring with the Maxwell Gap.

Saturn’s appearance changes due to its seasons, caused by the planet’s 27-degree axial tilt. It is now summer in Saturn’s northern hemisphere and the atmosphere is more active. This may be responsible for a string of bright clouds visible near the northern polar region that are the remnants of a disintegrating storm. Small, mid-latitude puffs of clouds are also visible. Hubble’s view also resolves a hexagonal pattern around the north pole, a stable and persistent wind feature discovered during the Voyager flyby in 1981.

Saturn’s colors come from hydrocarbon hazes above the ammonia crystals in the upper cloud layers. Unseen lower-level clouds are either ammonium hydrosulfide or water. The planet’s banded structure is caused by the winds and the clouds at different altitudes.

This is the first image of Saturn taken as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system’s gas giant planets.