Category Archives: General

Happy Solstice!

For me it is SUMMER! I hope it warms up and dries out some.

The Sun has reached the most northerly extent of the annual cycle of the seasons and will now begin the journey to the corresponding southernmost point.

In the north the daylight will begin to shorten and while it is called the start of summer. I hope so it has been quite cool and wet for many-many months.

In the south with regard to day / night cycles the opposite is true.

The time of the June Solstice is (or was) 15:54 UTC / 11:54 ET, today 21 June 2019.

Thanks to for the image.

Venus – Not Quite Our Twin

ESA: Appearances can be deceiving. This thick, cloud-rich atmosphere rains sulphuric acid and below lie not oceans but a baked and barren lava-strewn surface. Welcome to Venus.

The second planet from the Sun is often coined Earth’s ‘evil twin’ on account of it being almost the same size but instead plagued with a poisonous atmosphere of carbon dioxide and a sweltering 470ºC surface. Its high pressure and temperature is hot enough to melt lead and destroy the spacecraft that dare to land on it. Thanks to its dense atmosphere, it is even hotter than planet Mercury, which orbits closer to the Sun.

ESA’s Venus Express studied the planet from orbit between 2006 and 2014, providing the most in-depth studies of its atmospheric circulation to date. This false-colour image was taken in ultraviolet light with the Venus Monitoring Camera on 23 July 2007. It shows a view of the southern hemisphere from equator (right) to the pole (left) from a distance of 35 000 km from the surface of the planet.

Scientists think that Venus once looked a lot like Earth, but underwent an irreversible climate change that is often used as an extreme example of what happens in a runaway greenhouse effect.

The main source of heat in the Solar System is the Sun’s energy, which warms a planet’s surface up, and then the planet radiates energy back into space. An atmosphere traps some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat – the so-called greenhouse effect. It is a natural phenomenon that helps regulate a planet’s temperature. If it weren’t for greenhouse gases like water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone, Earth’s surface temperature would be about 30 degrees cooler than its present +15ºC average.

Over the past centuries, humans have altered this natural balance on Earth, strengthening the greenhouse effect since the dawn of industrial activity by contributing additional carbon dioxide along with nitrogen oxides, sulphates and other trace gases and dust and smoke particles into the air. The long-term effects on our planet include global warming, acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer. The consequences of a warming climate are far-reaching, potentially affecting fresh water resources, global food production and sea level, and triggering an increase in extreme-weather events.

There is no human activity on Venus, but studying its atmosphere provides a natural laboratory to better understand a runaway greenhouse effect. At some point in its history, Venus began trapping too much heat. It was once thought to host oceans like Earth, but the added heat turned water into steam, and in turn, additional water vapour in the atmosphere trapped more and more heat until entire oceans completely evaporated. Water vapour is still escaping from Venus’ atmosphere and into space today.

In the very long term – billions of years into the future – a ‘greenhouse Earth’ is an inevitable outcome at the hands of the aging Sun. Our once life-giving star will eventually swell and brighten, injecting enough heat into Earth’s delicate system that it will eventually become Venus’ true twin.

Read more here about the diverging histories of Venus, Earth and Mars and how studying our neighbour planets can teach us more about our own.


The Story of Robert Goddard

“The Story of Robert Goddard, Father of Modern Rocketry”

It is in memory of this brilliant scientist that NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was established on May 1, 1959. = NASA

It seems like I can remember a television documentary on Goddard but I can’t seem to find it (it was a long while back). If I can figure out what it was I’ll post a link, it was quite good.

GLOBE Observer

As I was missing my years long stint as a co-operative weather observer I was looking for a good citizen science project, one that is quick and simple and most of all meaningful. Why did I leave the weather observing behind? I had to move. Nowadays I am traveling around the region much more than I historically had and encounter a great variety of habitats so this looks to be right up my alley as they say.

I am considering contacting the weather service to see if I can resume observations at my new location, since they have to supply the equipment (because these are “official” measurements), I’m not sure that will be possible. Hopefully GLOBE will fill the void.

If you would like to participate in citizen science this is one way to do it.
I am all signed up and ready to go. The set up process was quick and simple. The app has the appearance of being well thought-out and easy to use. I will post a few updates as I get used to the system.

This from the GLOBE site: GLOBE Observer is an international network of citizen scientists and scientists working together to learn more about our shared environment and changing climate. To participate, just download the GLOBE Observer app and submit regular observations.

The GLOBE Observer Program currently accepts observations of Clouds, Mosquito Habitats, and Land Cover with planned expansion to other types of data in the future. Read the rest at GLOBE Observer

Cargo Launch Later Today

Later today (17 April) Northrop Grumman is scheduled to launch its Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station

Coverage begins at 20:15 UT / 16:15 ET

Launch at 20:46 UT / 16:46 ET

Happy Equinox!

For me it is the spring equinox and I will be happy to have the warmer temperatures we will (or should have) for the next few months.

I like to take the winter season in stride but I have to say this one seemed long and it was cold, much below average on both max and min temperatures. Plenty of snow too, but closer to average amounts it just never went away.

Those in the southern hemisphere this is the autumn equinox and shorter days are ahead.

The time of the equinox is 21:58 UTC / 17:58 EDT

The video is from the Kurdistan Planetarium

Happy Pi Day!

HAPPY Pi Day!!

Have a look at a Pi Day website. I bet you will want to spend some time there, it’s a fun site.

Stop back later for coverage of the Soyuz MS 12 launch to the International Space Station. Aboard the Soyuz is NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.

NASA TV coverage starts at 18:00 UT / 14:00 ET with launch time scheduled for 19:14 UT / 15:14 ET.


The Origin of the Moon

Ralf Jaumann, planetary geologist at the German Aerospace Centre, DLR, discusses the four theories that could explain the origin of the Earth-Moon system.

Personally I’m partial the impacting body theory.

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