Juno Update

The Juno spacecraft is about to make a close pass at Jupiter (19 Oct) and there was scheduled a engine burn in order to change the spacecraft’s orbit. The burn is not going to happen as scheduled.  There is an issue involving the engine being investigated and more time is needed for evaluation. The “burn” was going to change the orbital time from 53 to 14 days and of course it will remain at 53 days.


“Telemetry indicates that two helium check valves that play an important role in the firing of the spacecraft’s main engine did not operate as expected during a command sequence that was initiated yesterday,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The valves should have opened in a few seconds, but it took several minutes. We need to better understand this issue before moving forward with a burn of the main engine.”

The good part of the story is now the mission team is going to have ALL the Juno instruments active for the fly-by.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The complete press release is below.
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Fireball Sighting


No I did not see the fireball in the image which actually comes from NASA and the Astronomy Picture of the Day in 2009.

I picked this image because it is quite similar to the one I did see this morning (05:48 EDT). I was traveling north in a very foggy New England, and all of a sudden the fireball appeared in front of me. My sighting was about the same as this one although it did not have as much debris coming off it, not none, but not as much.

I of course reported the sighting to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) and I wanted to mention how easy they make reporting – very well done.

So my day started off great!

Orbital ATK CRS-5 Launch Retry


The launch delayed due to an Atlantic storm is on for later today. The Cygnus cargoship loaded with 5,100 lbs / 2,313 kg of materials for the ISS will hopefully launch at 19:40 EDT / 23:40 UTC.

I will try to post a live link about an hour or so before launch. If you miss the live launch, I’ll put up replay video.

The image shows the Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived on Oct. 2, 2016 at the Horizontal Integration Facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia – Credit: NASA

Orbital ATK CRS-5

There will be a launch of Orbital’s Antares rocket topped with the Cygnus cargo-spacecraft destined for the International Space Station.

Launch time: No earlier than tomorrow (17 Oct) AT 19:40 EDT / 26:40 UTC (17 Oct)

I will try to have a live link up about an hour before launch, barring any delays of course.

Current launch status: Postponed due to an Atlantic storm. (updated as necessary. Status is available at the Orbital ATK Launch Blog)

Launching from: Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad OA at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

People living in the US somewhere near the mid-Atlantic area can see Antares on the way up. The maps below from NASA show the angle of elevation too look and about how long after lift off it will take to be visible. Credit: Orbital ATK via NASA



Supermoons to End Year

Supermoons end the year 2016.

16 October – 14 November – 14 December are the dates and the November supermoon is notable because it is the closest the moon will be to Earth until 25 November 2034.

I will repost this in November and December a couple days before the full moons.


Preparing For Launch

Soyuz Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA along with their backups, Alexander Misurkin and Nikolai Tikhonov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei of NASA are the group comprising the crew of ISS Expedition 49-50.

The group are actively preparing for launch at the Soyuz MS-02 to the International Space Station on 19 October from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.


Hershel Looks at Orion


Click the image for the annotated version.

Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

The original caption:

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from the European Space Agency’s Hershel Space Observatory.

This immense nebula is the closest large region of star formation, situated about 1,500 light years away in the constellation of Orion. The parts that are easily observed in visible light, known alternatively as the Orion Nebula or Messier 42, correspond to the light blue regions. This is the glow from the warmest dust, illuminated by clusters of hot stars that have only recently been born in this chaotic region.

The red spine of material running from corner to corner reveals colder, denser filaments of dust and gas that are scattered throughout the Orion nebula. In visible light this would be a dark, opaque feature, hiding the reservoir of material from which stars have recently formed and will continue to form in the future.

Herschel data from the PACS instrument observations, at wavelengths of 100 and 160 microns, is displayed in blue and green, respectively, while SPIRE 250-micron data is shown in red.

Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+), overlaid in yellow, was isolated and mapped out from spectrographic data obtained by the HIFI instrument. A version without the inset is also available.

Herschel is a European Space Agency mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. While the observatory stopped making science observations in April 2013, after running out of liquid coolant as expected, scientists continue to analyze its data. NASA’s Herschel Project Office is based at JPL. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel’s three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of IPAC, supports the U.S. astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

A Planetary Nebula?


This doesn’t look like a typical planetary nebula it is.

From ESA:
The two spiral arms winding towards the bright centre might deceive you into thinking you are looking at a galaxy a bit like our Milky Way. But the object starring in this image is of a different nature: PK 329-02.2 is a ‘planetary nebula’ within our home galaxy.

Despite the name, this isn’t a planet either. Planetary nebula is a misnomer that came about because of how much nebulas resembled giant, gaseous planets when looked through a telescope in the 1700s. Rather, what we see in this image is the last breath of a dying star.

When stars like the Sun are nearing the end of their lives, they let go of their gaseous outermost layers. As these clouds of stellar material move away from the central star they can acquire irregular and complex shapes. This complexity is evident in the faint scattered gas you see at the centre of the image. But there is also beautiful symmetry in PK 329-02.2, as the two bright blue spiral arms perfectly align with the two stars at the centre of the nebula.

It may look like the spiral arms are connected, but it is the stars that are companions. They are part of a visual binary, though only the one at the upper right gave rise to the nebula. While the stars will continue to orbit each other for millions or billions of years, the nebula – and its spiral arms – will spread out from the centre and eventually fade away over the next few thousands of years.

This planetary nebula with spiral arms is also known as Menzel 2, after the US astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered it in the 1920s. It is located in Norma, a constellation in the Southern celestial hemisphere where you can also find Menzel 1 and 3, two ‘bipolar planetary nebulas’ (shaped like butterflies or hourglasses).

Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 captured this image, which was processed using green, blue, red and infrared filters. Astrophotography-enthusiast Serge Meunier entered a version of this image into the 2012 Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition.

Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Serge Meunier

Light on the Nightside


The shadow is getting shorter as Saturn nears the northern solstice. The moon is pretty easily seen at about 11:00.

NASA’s description:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft looks down at the rings of Saturn from above the planet’s nightside. The darkened globe of Saturn is seen here at lower right, along with the shadow it casts across the rings.

The image shows that even on the planet’s night side, the rings remain in sunlight, apart from the portion that lies within Saturn’s shadow. The rings also reflect sunlight back onto the night side of the planet, making it appear brighter than it would otherwise appear.

Saturn’s small moon Prometheus (53 miles or 86 kilometers across) is faintly visible as a speck near upper left. The shadow of Saturn was once long enough to stretch to the orbit of Prometheus. But as northern summer solstice approaches, Saturn’s shadow no longer reaches that far (see PIA20498). So Prometheus will not move into the darkness of the planet’s shadow until the march of the seasons again causes the shadow to lengthen.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 41 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Aug. 14, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 870,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 87 degrees. Image scale is 53 miles (86 kilometers) per pixel. Prometheus has been brightened by a factor of two to enhance its visibility.