All posts by Tom


“In this interview the Director General discusses the Space19+ proposal including his plans for space programmes to be carried out by the Agency beyond 2019, covering all aspects of space activities: science and exploration, applications, access to space, operations, research and development. The Space19+ plan also puts ESA in a world-leading position in the emerging field of space safety and security.” — ESA

A final update to the snow saga from the day before yesterday, I finished with the snow clean up from the storm we had. I had a few centimeters of new snow to get rid of, so out I went. I managed to get the vehicles cleaned off and moved around and I didn’t lose anything that I know of (LOL). I waited until the heat of the day, -18 C. As long as nothing freezes today, being a remarkably steady -27 C, I should be fine. As a matter of fact the forecast for tomorrow includes rain, that should be fun. When I get back from taking a friend for a post-operative check up I will spend some time trying to get some of the snow from the roof it’s a lot of snow and the rain will absorb and add weight.

NROL – 71 Launch Replay

Here’s a replay of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV with the NROL-71.

Yes, I missed the live-launch. Not by choice I assure you. My day went something like this:

I was rushing to complete all outside tasks completed as quickly as possible, the temperature was around -18 C / 5 F. I also decided to make certain my snow-thrower machine while I was grilling chicken – the last chore.

The machine stared fine and was ready for action. I was going to NEED that thing as the forecast was for 40 to 60 cm / 15 to 24 inches. Later after bringing in the chicken I realized I did not have the key to the snow-thrower. I layered up and went out to the show-thrower and the key was gone. They key must have fallen out of my pocket. So I ended up looking for the key all afternoon and much of that outside and involving the 27 meter long path of snow I was wading through to feed the wild birds. That was loads of fun, sifting through the snow that whole distance, mercifully the snow was very light.

No luck. At this point the radar was showing the snowfall was only about an hour from starting. So I hurry to town, nobody had a replacement. This key is just stamped metal, not like a house or automobile key, simple but needed. Anyway we called a neighbor who I knew had it plowed to see if I could get them to do mine as well. The lady called her son and he came over we talked and he left wanting to see what he had that could help. We lined up the plow guy and next thing you know the neighbor’s son was back and he was holding the very key I needed!!

Yesterday (Sunday) we started the day at -19 C / -3 F and I cleaned out my driveway and the one to my workshop early when we had about 30 cm on the ground and again near the end when our total was 46 cm.

One more time today and I will be caught up!

Super Moon Eclipse

Early tomorrow morning or tonight (depending on where you are), if you have decent skies you may be able to enjoy this eclipse.

The eclipse begins about 02:35 UTC. The images came from Wikipedia, pretty good.

Not sure if I will get to see it or not, depends on this storm. The image below was taken from my front door this morning. We have around 30 cm / 12 inches of new snow on the ground and it looks like there is another 30 to 50 cm on the way.

I need to get out and see if I can get some of it cleared away, it has warmed up to -18 C, I’ll wait a bit more but the wind is supposed to be bad so I don’t want to wait too long.

Oh and yes the roads are passable if one get to them.

Saturn Time

We now know how long a day is on Saturn, well more accurately than we did thanks to Cassini.

The image above, thanks to NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute comes from Mimas and Saturn of a couple years ago.

Here’s the story from NASA: Using new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, researchers believe they have solved a longstanding mystery of solar system science: the length of a day on Saturn. It’s 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.

The figure has eluded planetary scientists for decades, because the gas giant has no solid surface with landmarks to track as it rotates, and it has an unusual magnetic field that hides the planet’s rotation rate.

The answer, it turned out, was hidden in the rings.
Continue reading

JAXA Launches an Epsilon Rocket

According to JAXA, the launch put “seven different satellites into orbit from Uchinoura Space Center on Jan. 17, 2018. The payloads consisted of the RAPid Innovative payload demonstration Satellite-1 (RAPIS-1), developed by JAXA via consignment to Axelspace Co., Ltd. and six ultra-small satellites.”

Space Launch System Test

Impressive, almost a half-million gallons (US) of liquid Hydrogen.

NASA: The largest piece of structural test hardware for America’s new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Jan. 14, 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket’s core stage that is more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines. The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 215-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight.

Image Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin

Instrument Context Camera on Mars

Here’s a look at InSight’s seismometer on Mars, taken just yesterday. I believe he instrument was supposed to start taking data about now, but no updates to confirm that. Sooner or later we’ll hear something, I’m not even sure how much of the mission team is working – given the current state of things politically. I have a good feeling the mission team(s) are very anxious to get back to normal.

NASA — NASA’s InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC).

This image was acquired on January 15, 2019, Sol 48 of the InSight mission where the local mean solar time for the image exposures was 17:40:01.089 PM. Each ICC image has a field of view of 124 x 124 degrees.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

By the way, in an unrelated story, Hubble has resumed the use of the Wide Field Camera 3 after it went to a safe-mode state a few days ago. Apparently software detected voltage being out of range and prompted the event. After resetting certain circuits everything seemed to be operating at normal limits and the camera was put back into operation.

For a larger version of the Insight image above click here.

Titan Seen in Infrared

More excellence from Cassini. What a great value that mission was and to think there are a couple more planets out there that have only been visited during the Voyager missions.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Nantes/University of Arizona

From ESA (links from ESA included):    Saturn’s moon Titan is enveloped in a thick atmosphere, but through the infrared eyes of the international Cassini mission, the moon’s myriad surface features are revealed in this exquisite global mosaic.

Observing the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in visible light is difficult due to the globe-enshrouding hazethat envelops the moon. On 14 January 2005, the mystery as to what lay beneath the thick atmosphere was revealed as ESA’s Huygens probe – carried to Titan by Cassini – made the first successful landing on a world in the outer Solar System. During the two-and-a-half hour descent under parachute, features that looked remarkably like shore lines and river systems on Earth appeared from the haze. But rather than water, with surface temperatures of around –180ºC, the fluid involved here is methane, a simple organic compound that also contributes to the moon’s obscuring atmosphere.

Thanks to Cassini, which studied Saturn and its rings and moons for thirteen years, Titan was extensively mapped and analysed. One result is this stunning sequence of images created using data acquired by Cassini’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), whose infrared observations peered through Titan’s atmosphere, complementing the views obtained by Huygens during descent and on the surface. The maps combine data from the multitude of different observations made under a wide variety of illumination and viewing conditions over the course of the mission, stitched together in a seamless mosaic to provide the best representation of Titan’s surface to date.

The colours reflect variations in materials on the moon’s surface. For example, the moon’s equatorial dune fields appear a consistent brown colour, while bluish and purple hues may indicate materials enriched in water ice.

The image was first published in July 2018 – read more here about how the image was created, and enjoy a video featuring further stunning visuals here. The complete Cassini VIMS data archive of Saturn’s satellites is available here.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. The mission concluded in September 2017.

M 105

A very nice Hubble image of the Messier Object 105 or simply M 105.

A good telescope target not that it is all that bright or distinctive but it is in a nice region of the sky with plenty to look at.

The ESA caption: It might appear featureless and unexciting at first glance, but NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observations of this elliptical galaxy — known as Messier 105 — show that the stars near the galaxy’s centre are moving very rapidly. Astronomers have concluded that these stars are zooming around a supermassive black hole with an estimated mass of 200 million Suns! This black hole releases huge amounts of energy as it consumes matter falling into it and causing the centre to shine far brighter than its surroundings. This system is known as an active galactic nucleus.

Hubble also surprised astronomers by revealing a few young stars and clusters in Messer 105, which was thought to be a “dead” galaxy incapable of star formation. Messier 105 is now thought to form roughly one Sun-like star every 10 000 years. Star-forming activity has also been spotted in a vast ring of hydrogen gas encircling both Messier 105 and its closest neighbour, the lenticular galaxy NGC 3384.

Messier 105 was discovered in 1781, lies about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion), and is the brightest elliptical galaxy within the Leo I galaxy group.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Sarazin et al.