Ride Along

Watch this! They (Airanespace) call it remarkable, I call that an understatement!  This is astounding is what it is.

One of the many really cool video showing up recently.

This from Arianespace:

Remarkable images from on-board cameras provide a detailed “ride-along” view of Arianespace’s Flight VS07, which orbited Europe’s Sentinel-1A from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

Recorded during the 23-minute mission on April 3, multiple cameras covered the action from final countdown to separation of the mission’s payload.

The Arianespace/European Space Agency/Roscosmos-copyrighted video begins with the pre-launch steps as seen from two cameras – mounted on opposite sides of the medium-lift launcher.

Looking down from the launcher’s upper portion, the opening sequence includes separation of umbilical connections for Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage, followed by the tilt-back of two umbilical masts. One of these masts provides fluids and electrical connections for the launcher’s Block I third stage, while the second mast services the Soyuz vehicle’s Block A core stage.

Soyuz’ engine ignition is clearly seen in the video with the startup sequence for the first stage’s four boosters and central core second-stage. This is followed by liftoff and the opening of four arms that supported the vehicle while on the pad – and which are opened by Soyuz’ upward movement.
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Solar Flare

An Solar Dynamics Observatory video (coming to us from NASA/Goddard of an M 6.5 solar flare. Not quite the strongest of flare classes but still pretty strong and had it been directed at Earth it certainly could have given us an aurora.

I doubt we will see any auroral activity from this event, however, a flare could re-occur from the area so one never knows for sure. Keep an eye to the sky, also these strong earthquakes can disrupt the geomagnetic field enough to cause an auroral event. Generally at my latitude these types are almost ghostlike.

One other noteworthy observation about this flare is it’s a mid-level flare. Generally when I see these mid-latitude sunspots and flares I know the peak of the solar cycle isn’t too far away.

Video source

Take the Plunge

Submit your guess!  Image: NASA

Submit your guess! Image: NASA

The LADEE spacecraft is coming to the end of it’s mission. The spacecraft is going to go out with a bang, literately, it is going to impact the surface of the moon.

You can be a part of end of the mission too. Go on, take the challenge!


First, read the short background below from NASA on what is going on.

Then just make your best guess and SUBMIT IT HERE.

The NASA link below will take you to the complete press release as I only included enough to get you going.

My entry is in, that certificate of success is as good as mine. . . or not. LOL.

Good luck and have fun.

From NASA:

When will it impact the lunar surface? NASA wants to hear your best guess!

LADEE mission managers expect the spacecraft will impact the moon’s surface on or before April 21. On April 11, ground controllers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will command LADEE to perform its final orbital maintenance maneuver prior to a total lunar eclipse on April 15, when Earth’s shadow passes over the moon. This eclipse, which will last approximately four hours, exposes the spacecraft to conditions just on the edge of what it was designed to survive.

This final maneuver will ensure that LADEE’s trajectory will impact the far side of the moon, which is not in view of Earth and away from any previous lunar mission landings. There are no plans to target a particular impact location on the lunar surface, and the exact date and time depends on several factors.

“The moon’s gravity field is so lumpy, and the terrain is so highly variable with crater ridges and valleys that frequent maneuvers are required or the LADEE spacecraft will impact the moon’s surface,” said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames. “Even if we perform all maneuvers perfectly, there’s still a chance LADEE could impact the moon sometime before April 21, which is when we expect LADEE’s orbit to naturally decay after using all the fuel onboard.”

Anyone is eligible to enter the “Take the Plunge: LADEE Impact Challenge.” Winners will be announced after impact and will be e-mailed a commemorative, personalized certificate from the LADEE program. The submissions deadline is 3 p.m. PDT Friday, April 11.

Curiosity’s Driving Map

So far.

Mars driving map. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Here’s a update to Curiosity’s journey on Mars. Looks to be something around 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). Just a guess, I’m sure the actual odometer reading is available on the website, except I couldn’t locate it after a moderate bit of searching.  The Where is Curiosity page has a lot of great stuff and would seem to be the best place to find it. I could try to sift through the archives and see if I can figure it out, that’s a lot of work, maybe I will look around some more first.

If anybody knows what the distance traveled (so far) is OR where to look, please let me know in the comments,  Just curious is all :mrgreen:

From NASA:

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from the “Bradbury Landing” location where it landed in August 2012 (the start of the line in upper right) to a major waypoint called “the Kimberley.” The rover reached the Kimberley with a 98-foot (30 meter) drive on the 589th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (April 1, 2014).

The Kimberley (formerly called “KMS-9″) was selected as a major waypoint for the mission because of the diversity of rock types distinguishable in orbital images, exposed close together at this location in a decipherable geological relationship to each other.

The base image for this map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. North is up. The dark ground south of the rover’s route has dunes of dark, wind-blown material at the foot of Mount Sharp. The scale bar at lower right represents one kilometer (0.62 mile).

Enceladus Ocean

Artist concept:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

A possible internal structure of Enceladus. Artist concept: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I love this! I know, it’s not “for sure positively” but close enough for me. I was in the “global ocean” camp, then I thought “why not” this seems perfectly reasonable.

I do have to take issue with the very last line of the ESA press release (included / linked below): “This experiment provides a crucial new piece of information towards understanding the formation of plumes on this intriguing moon,” says Nicolas Altobelli, ESA’s Cassini project scientist.  Yeah it does provide a piece, but seems like it brings up more questions than it answered. That’s awesome is what it is!

Here is the Enceladus image gallery from NASA.

The press release from ESA is excellent:

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus has an underground sea of liquid water, according to the international Cassini spacecraft.

Understanding the interior structure of 500 km-diameter Enceladus has been a top priority of the Cassini mission since plumes of ice and water vapour were discovered jetting from ‘tiger stripe’ fractures at the moon’s south pole in 2005.

Subsequent observations of the jets showed them to be relatively warm compared with other regions of the moon and to be salty – strong arguments for there being liquid water below the surface.

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Lunar Flows

Bright rock material (talus) flows in the lunar crater Dionysius. Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

This looks like flowing water, but no this is the moon.  Most of what we are looking at is material disturbed by the impact that created Dionysius, some if it is from other geologic processes.  This flow is on the eastern side of the crater (see the link above)

There is a large image and a detailed description of the scene at the LROC site.


X-1 Flare

The flare of 29 March from SDO. Click for larger. Image: SDO/NASA via SpaceRef

A pretty nice flare was emitted on 29 March 2014. The flare is an X-1 flare, think of the X class as the largest sized/intensity group of flares, other groups are named: M, C, B and A in decreasing size. The number adds a scale within the group. The X-1 is a smaller of the X group where an X-9 would be a monster flare. It would go something like this (in increasing size/intensity): M-7, M-8, M-9, X-1, X-2 and so on. Think of how earthquakes are scaled, it’s quite similar.

So this is a bigger flare, and by 02 April there should be a nice display of the Aurora at high latitudes (both poles) and possibly a sighting at mid-latitudes (where I am). Keep an eye to the sky if they are clear.

It is possible to have radio blackouts but not any the average person will notice. Ham radio operators might note a little degradation at HF frequencies.

The flare also caused some coronal dimming. The SDO captured a (really fast) video of the effect and Dean Pesnell posted it and a description at the SDO blog. Very cool!

Oppy’s Selfie

MER Rover Opportunity on Martian day 3609. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity gives us this “selfie”. Okay, so it’s the rover’s shadow, it still counts if you are on Mars because there’s no mirrors.

The image was taken on the 3,609th day on the surface of Mars! That would be 20 March 2014 here on Earth.

Here’s the press release – you can get larger versions at the link too:

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity caught its own silhouette in this late-afternoon image taken by the rover’s rear hazard avoidance camera. This camera is mounted low on the rover and has a wide-angle lens.
The image was taken looking eastward shortly before sunset on the 3,609th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars (March 20, 2014). The rover’s shadow falls across a slope called the McClure-Beverlin Escarpment on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, where Opportunity is investigating rock layers for evidence about ancient environments. The scene includes a glimpse into the distance across the 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater.