History in the Making

Who will be the first passenger to go to the moon and back (hopefully)? SpaceX has signed a passenger and that person will be the first to ride the SpaceX BFR Mission to the Moon. The trip has been made by just 24 people in history.

We are about to find out who, when, and why! History in the making.

When? The SpaceX website says 18 Sept 2018 at 01:00 UT / 21:00 ET (on 17 Sept). However if one actually does the math using the little “timer to live” they give on the link, the start times are an hour BEFORE that.  It can be confusing, that’s why I will almost always use UTC and the prevailing US Eastern time, I figure people in the states and Canada will easily convert that to what ever timezone they are in.

I am going to err on the side of caution and publish an hour before hand (the 1 am time). The 21:00 ET / 01:00 UT time makes more sense because that is 18:00 PDT.

India Launches Two British Satellites

Coverage from India of the ISRO launch of two British Satellites, the NovaSAR-1 and SSTL S1-4 satellites into a 583 km Sun Synchronous Orbit from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota

I think India has shown it’s ability to provide commercial launch capabilities — excellent work.

By the way, speaking of commercial / private space services, one of the world’s leaders Space X is about to make a major announcement.

I Like a Good Mystery Now and Then

Image: NSO

UPDATE 2:  News reports say the Observatory is re-opening this week and the shut down was due to “criminal activity”. That’s about all we know for certain at the moment. I’d wager that unless what ever “criminal activity” means it better be big and made public because the conspiracy theory side of things is running amok as things stand now and ANYTHING less than “significant” will just feed that narrative.

There is a mystery in the United States astronomical community.

What is going on here? Hmmmm?

This from the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy:

AURA Addressing Security Issue at NSO Facility

September 14, 2018

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is addressing a security issue at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) facility at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and has decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure until further notice. All other NSO facilities are open and operating normally. AURA, which manages Sacramento Peak with funding from the National Science Foundation, is working with the proper authorities on this issue.


As with any “hush-hush” sort of thing rumors are sure to get going and really big things move the rumor-mill into full fledged conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories? Of course we have conspiracy theories, a bit of inappropriate language taints what could have been a great article it’s still pretty good, have a look.

There are a multitude of stories on this, I like the Daily Mail account.

Here is the FB page.

Sooner or later we’ll find out what happened, until then enjoy the mystery.

ICESat-2 Launching Today

NASA is launching a mission called ICESat=2 today. The ICESat-2 spacecraft has a single instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which will send 10,000 laser pulses a second to Earth’s surface and measure the height of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation. The time for the laser to return will determine the height, pretty straight forward even if technically challenging.

The launch will be from Vandenberg California so no tropical systems to get in the way.

Coverage starts at 12:10 UTC / 08:10 EDT / 05:46 PDT with the launch window opening up at 12:46 UTC / 08:46 EDT / 05:46 PDT.

Coverage is via NASA, the link below will go to NASA TV programming so will be active before hand.

Here is a replay from “VideoFromSpace”. I was a bit tardy about this, spent too much time looking around for information on the Solar Observatory closure – and I found nothing much.

Florence from the ISS

Florence is not as strong as it could have been, the problem with this is everybody thinks in terms of wind speed and sure 160 kmh (100 mph) is much-much better than 225 kmh (140 mph). No doubt about it but the BIG problem, apathy aside, is the water and the very slow motion of this storm, days of rain, flooding rains for days!

Apathy? Well yes, that happens when earlier reports were for those 225 kmh winds and then they are “only” 160, people could let down their guard — it’s very common.

People, please be careful around creeks and rivers and road washes. Seriously this is a very acute danger, BE CAREFUL! DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODING ROADS!

Ok, I’m off my soapbox.

The View from Vera Rubin Ridge

This is great! Click play and move around using the circle thing with the arrows on the upper left as the video.

Original caption: After snagging a new rock sample on August 9, 2018 (Sol 2137), NASA’s Curiosity rover surveyed its surroundings on Mars, producing a 360-degree panorama of its current location on Vera Rubin Ridge. The scene is presented with a color adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Two versions are included here: one with scale bars, and one without.

The panorama includes umber skies, darkened by a fading global dust storm. It also includes a rare view by the Mast Camera of the rover itself, revealing a thin layer of dust on Curiosity’s deck. In the foreground is the rover’s most recent drill target, named “Stoer” after a town in Scotland near where important discoveries about early life on Earth were made in lakebed sediments.

More information about Curiosity is online at http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

Florence – Big Trouble

International Space Station Astronaut Ricky Arnold shared this image of Hurricane Florence a couple of days ago (Sept. 10).  Credit: NASA

If you are in the in the warned areas of this very dangerous storm please be safe. I remember a storm named Hugo some years ago and Florence could be about as devastating – let’s hope not.

I have heard rain potential in some areas to exceed 45 cm plus the winds apparently could hinder drainage in the coastal areas.  That’s before, during and after dealing with winds around 225 kmh / 140 mph.

Some areas could feel the start of the storm later tonight and certainly by tomorrow morning.

Saturn at Opposition from Hubble

A beautiful image of Saturn and some of its moons from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI); CC BY 4.0

Original caption: \Cassini ended its 13-year mission at Saturn on 15 September 2017 when it plunged into the gas giant’s atmosphere, but the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is still keeping an eye on the ringed planet.

This is a composite image taken by Hubble on 6 June 2018 showing a fully-illuminated Saturn and its rings, along with six of its 62 known moons. The visible moons are (from left to right) Dione, Enceladus, Tethys, Janus, Epimetheus and Mimas (click here for an annotated version). Dione is the largest moon in the picture, with a diameter of 1123 km, compared to the smallest, oddly-shaped Epimetheus with a diameter around 116 km.

During Cassini’s mission, Enceladus was identified as one of the most intriguing moons, with the discovery of water vapour jets spewing from the surface implying the existence of a subsurface ocean. Icy moons with subsurface oceans could potentially offer the conditions to harbour life, and understanding their origins and properties are essential for furthering our knowledge of the Solar System. ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (Juice), due to launch in 2022, aims to continue this theme by studying Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

The Hubble image shown here was taken shortly before Saturn’s opposition on 27 June, when the Sun, Earth and Saturn were aligned so that the Sun fully illuminated Saturn as seen from Earth. Saturn’s closest approach to Earth occurs around the same time as opposition, which makes it appear brighter and larger and allows the planet to be imaged in greater detail.

In this image the planet’s rings are seen near their maximum tilt towards Earth. Towards the end of Cassini’s mission, the spacecraft made multiple dives through the gap between Saturn and its rings, gathering spectacular data in this previously unchartered territory.

The image also shows a hexagonal atmospheric feature around the north pole, with the remnants of a storm, seen as a string of bright clouds. The hexagon-shaped cloud phenomenon is a stable and persistent feature first seen by the Voyager 1 space probe when it flew past Saturn 1981. In a study published just last week, scientists using Cassini data collected between 2013 and 2017, as the planet approached northern summer, identified a hexagonal vortex above the cloud structure, showing there is still much to learn about the dynamics of Saturn’s atmosphere.

The Hubble observations making up this image were performed as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project, which uses Hubble to observe the outer planets to understand the dynamics and evolution of their complex atmospheres. This was the first time that Saturn was imaged as part of OPAL. This image was first published on 26 July.

A GoPro Balloon Ride

A fun video.

A couple of links were included in the video description on YouTube:

A blog post on the launch and,

How to Send Your GoPro to space.

Since it is rather mountainous around these parts I won’t be trying this for fear of never being able to get to the returned camera. I do highly recommend taking a look at how it was done, very interesting. Also note if you might want to try this be very sure to check the regulations where you live! No need to create a hazard or get yourself into trouble.

Thanks to “BloonStu” for the entertainment!

Note: There may be a SpaceX launch later today, I hope to have a live link it does happen.