Category Archives: General

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.

It’s Difficult to Get to Sun

Getting to the Sun or Mercury for that matter is not as easy as one might think. I looked around for an old explanation I wrote some years ago and then NASA put out this short video that fill the bill quite nicely.

In this case it is the Parker Solar Probe taking flight Saturday morning and much the same idea goes for the upcoming BepiColumbo mission to Mercury.

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.