Category Archives: General

The Kīlauea Volcano

I enjoyed this update on the eruption of the Kīlauea volcano from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

We are after all just another planet, and volcanism is part of the experience of being geologically active.


In North America the fireworks are the main event. Canada Day and the American Fourth of July; let me tell you now is a fun time to be there! hint: Canada, well Montreal (Quebec) has the BEST pizza, IMHO.

The firework display are not the only fireworks going on. The celestial fireworks are on a stupendous scale.

NASA – Like a July 4 fireworks display, a young, glittering collection of stars resembles an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust – the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603.

Appearing colorful and serene, this environment is anything but. Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds have blown out an enormous cavity in the gas and dust enveloping the cluster. Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time but differ in size, mass, temperature and color. The course of a star’s life is determined by its mass, so a cluster of a given age will contain stars in various stages of their lives, giving an opportunity for detailed analyses of stellar life cycles. NGC 3603 also contains some of the most massive stars known. These huge stars live fast and die young, burning through their hydrogen fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in supernova explosions.

Star clusters like NGC 3603 provide important clues to understanding the origin of massive star formation in the early, distant universe. Astronomers also use massive clusters to study distant starbursts that occur when galaxies collide, igniting a flurry of star formation. The proximity of NGC 3603 makes it an excellent lab for studying such distant and momentous events.

This Hubble Space Telescope image was captured in August 2009 and December 2009 with the Wide Field Camera 3 in both visible and infrared light, which trace the glow of sulfur, hydrogen, and iron.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O’Connell (University of Virginia), F. Paresce (National Institute for Astrophysics, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (Universities Space Research Association/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques

Or I should say Canadian Astronaut David Saint-Jacques. We don’t hear a lot about the Canadian space program, other than the incredible Canadarm but don’t think for a second the Canadian Space Agency is not busy, they sure are.

So let’s meet David Saint-Jacques.

Launch Reminder

First a reminder the TESS Mission will (maybe) launch later today.

Liftoff scheduled for 22:51 UTC today that’s 18:51 ET. Coverage to begin 15 minutes prior to launch.

So the image above is another instrument which will make its way to the International Space Station this summer. ECOSTRESS is one of those experiments that is none too soon considering longer termed space travel is not far away.

NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) arrives at Kennedy Space Center in preparation for launch to the space station this summer.

ECOSTRESS, a new instrument that will provide a unique, space-based measurement of how plants respond to changes in water availability has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin final preparations for launch to the International Space Station this summer aboard a cargo resupply mission.

ECOSTRESS left NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on April 6, 2018 by ground transport and arrived at Kennedy Space Center on April 9. 2018.

JPL built and manages the ECOSTRESS mission for NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. ECOSTRESS is sponsored by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program, managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Launch Reminder

Space X is going to launch a Dragon space-cargo ship to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 at Kennedy Space Center.

I’ll be back in a bit. My internet connection is on the repair list for today!

Tiangong Coming Down

Tiangong 1 a Chinese Space Station is coming down SOON! Like perhaps this weekend.

Current estimates are April 1st, 2018 14:00 UTC ± 16 hours for the station to re-enter the atmosphere. Where is a matter of atmospheric density, where and when the station drops enough to really feel the drag to the point of breaking apart and mostly burning up.

So the spacecraft has dropped to 180 km (as of last evening) and was losing about 0.35 km per orbit and that rate is increasing all the time too.

Update:  At 14:42 altitude has dropped to 176.48, that’s about  -0.37 km/hr.

The other thing I noticed by watching N2YO and the closest approach is on the upward swing and the point where perigee occurs has been slowly moving north as well.

Go to the N2YO page and watch the spacecraft orbit to see if you agree. The N2YO site has the latest on the Tiangong-1 journey and I highly recommend you check it out.

Image: via N2YO

Happy Equinox!

Spring is here – finally!  The equinox occurs at 16:15 UTC / 12:15 ET today.

The equinox is basically when the sun’s rays fall most directly on the equator during the Sun’s apparent motion to the north thanks to the Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt. This heralds longer days for the north and shorter in the south, inevitably the process will reverse in a few months.

The winter gave us our share of snow (and a bit more) and cold. In fact the past two mornings bottomed out at -19 C / -2 F. Now consider that a week ago Sunday I declared I was done with snow and winter. Temperatures at the time were reaching 10 C / 50 F and the snow was gone. There have been only TWO days since (the day after my declaration and yesterday) it has not snowed. Not just snowed but snowed enough to have to clean up almost every day. I went from nothing on the ground to 46 cm / 19 inches now. I heard of a weather service report of a place on a mountain not far from here that has gotten nearly 229 cm / 90 inches so far in March. So it could be worse I guess.

So far today no snow and we are only slightly below zero (in C about 25 F). Things are looking up and warmer weather should be close by.

Normally I preach about the “old wive’s tale” about being able to balance a hen’s egg on it’s big end.  I’m in such a good mood, grab some eggs, some kids and have at it!


Space Station about to Crash

The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is heading back to Earth. The problem is the station is apparently not under any ground control.

We know it is coming down, just not when exactly. The current estimate is centered on 03 April plus or minus one week.

The other piece we cannot predict yet is where.

We do know where it will not, the blue area on the map below from Aerospace Corp.

The yellow areas are said to be worst-case areas, also happen to be the nodes and the green obviously the orbital path. Watching the satellite on N2YO shows the southern node seems to be the lowest portion of the orbit from what I’ve seen. Eventually it will be slowed to the tipping point by atmospheric drag.

Mostly Tiangong-1 will break apart and burn up (should be spectacular) but there are pieces that WILL reach the surface.

Aerospace Corp – “When considering the worst-case location (yellow regions of the map) the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot. In the history of spaceflight, no known person has ever been harmed by reentering space debris. Only one person has ever been recorded as being hit by a piece of space debris and, fortunately, she was not injured.”


Track Tiangong-1