India’s Moon Landing

I was lucky enough to be able to watch this “live” yesterday. It didn’t take long to see that things went wrong. Lot’s of sadness there, and that is understandable.

Communications was lost when the lander was 2.1 km above the surface. It is unclear if in fact the lander actually crashed or not. In the end the lander is unusable either way, however if the lander did land successfully that would be better than a crash as far as the mission team is concerned.

Eventually the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will fly over the site and could possibly get a look with the LROC camera. We can hope.

ISS Views of Dorian

Hopefully everyone will be rid of Hurricane Dorian very shortly.

The damage to the Bahama’s was terrible; I can’t imagine what it must have been like.

Way to Go!

Congrats to Judith de Santiago who won the “under 18” ESA 3D printing competition! Very pleased to see. Thanks to J. Santiago and ESA for the image.

ESA: Judith de Santiago, winner of the under 18 category of ESA’s lunar 3D printing competition, with the printed version of her design: a dodecahedron (or 12-sided) plant pot.

While studying lunar base concepts ESA ran a competition, asking: what would you 3D print on the Moon, to make it feel like home?

Judith, a student from Madrid, Spain, proposed a pot for plants that would be cherished on a Moon base, incorporating symbols of Earth: “The blue curves of the bottom represent the waves of the sea, and the badge with a small plant located at the centre, inspired by Disney’s movie WALL·E, represents the Earth in general.”

Judith ensured her design was realistic by designing it in a 3D printing format.

“I first got interested in 3D printing two years ago when my high school got a new 3D printer,” Judith explains. “We were talking about future printers and what they have in mind to do with them such us using them for medical situations or maybe to build houses or even more! 

“I remember my first 3D prototype: that day I was learning how to draw in a new app and I told my father to choose a random item. That’s how I did a coke can, then I sent it to my tech teacher to print it for me and the result was amazing.

“Since then I’ve been learning how to use the different apps to create from basic figures to replace some broken pieces. Finally, I got a small 3D printer for my birthday so I could keep practicing.”

As a prize, Judith received this prototype version of her design BeeVeryCreative in Portugal, part of the URBAN consortium of companies overseeing ESA’s ‘Conceiving a Lunar Base Using 3D Printing Technologies’ project: “It is exactly as I imagined it to be – I was very excited to see it.”

The competition received more than a hundred entries from adults and children across the world with other ideas including a mobile lampshade to generate Earth-like colours, an hourglass filled with lunar dust, a glass model of Earth including realistic night lighting, proposals for statues and game boards – not to mention a few suggestions to print a 3D printer.

The adult category was won by visual artist Helen Schell from the UK, proposing a ‘magic Moon garden’, printed from recycled coloured plastics.

Space Weather Studies

As I’ve said for quite a while as our reliance on technology increases and indeed some areas are already quite reliant, the importance of space weather cannot be understated.

Just the other day I was having a conversation about this with a friend of mine and he had no idea space weather would affect him in the slightest. I’m not sure he believed me but it will.

So I am pleased to see NASA has selected three missions to study different aspects of space weather.


Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope (EUVST) Epsilon Mission
EUVST would aim to provide an answer to a fundamental question in solar physics: How does the interplay of solar material – a hot plasma – and magnetic fields drive solar activity and eruptions, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections? The mission would launch with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Solar-C mission, planned for 2025. EUVST would observe simultaneously, for the first time and over a wide range of the lower solar atmosphere, how magnetic fields and plasma interact. Those observations could help us learn more about how the two systems contribute to the dynamic atmosphere around the Sun. The principal investigator for EUVST is Clarence Korendyke at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

Aeronomy at Earth: Tools for Heliophysics Exploration and Research (AETHER)
AETHER would explore the ionosphere-thermosphere system and its response to geomagnetic storms. From a position aboard the International Space Station, it could gather observations of the ionosphere – the area of our atmosphere that overlaps with the lower regions of space. These observations would be complemented by ground observations of electrons in the same region. The mission would provide information on how the neutral, terrestrial-weather-driven thermosphere interacts with the ionosphere’s charged particles. Understanding how the neutral atmosphere affects the ions and vice versa is key to better understanding the complex space weather system surrounding our planet, which affects spacecraft and astronauts flying through it. The launch of AETHER would be no later than 2024. The principal investigator for AETHER is James Clemmons at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE)

EZIE would focus on an electric current known as the auroral electrojet, which circles through the atmosphere around 60 to 90 miles above Earth, near the poles. Using three SmallSats to measure magnetic fields, EZIE would observe the structure of electrojets and explore what causes them and how they evolve. Electrojets are part of a larger space weather system that can lead to oscillations in Earth’s magnetic fields, creating geomagnetic storms that can interfere with spacecraft and – at their most intense – utility grids on the ground. Knowing how electrojets form and grow could contribute to ultimately predicting such storms. EZIE would launch as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. EZIE also would launch no later than 2024. The principal investigator for EZIE is Jeng-Hwa Yee at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Hubble Looks at NGC 5307

ESA: This Picture of the Week from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 5307, a planetary nebula which lies about 10000 light years from Earth. It can be seen in the constellation Centaurus (The Centaur), which can be seen primarily in the southern hemisphere.  A planetary nebula is the final stage of a Sun-like star. As such, planetary nebulae allow us a glimpse into the future of our own Solar System. A star like our Sun will, at the end of its life, transform into a red giant. Stars are sustained by the nuclear fusion that occurs in their core, which creates energy. The nuclear fusion processes constantly try to rip the star apart. Only the gravity of the star prevents this from happening. 

At the end of the red giant phase of a star, these forces become unbalanced. Without enough energy created by fusion, the core of the star collapses in on itself, while the surface layers are ejected outward. After that, all that remains of the star is what we see here: glowing outer layers surrounding a white dwarf star, the remnants of the red giant star’s core. 

This isn’t the end of this star’s evolution though — those outer layers are still moving and cooling. In just a few thousand years they will have dissipated, and all that will be left to see is the dimly glowing white dwarf.

Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Wade et al.; CC BY 4.0

What’s Up for September

Along with the Aurora here’s what is going on in the September sky. I was only able to see a little of the aurora due to clouds, but it was there.

I think I jinxed myself as I had my camera and tripod ready to go. Oh well better luck next time.

As for the Hurricane, Dorian. All I can say is keep the Bahamas in your thoughts. The powerhouse of a storm has spent many hours now over the islands. The movement of the storm is only about a half a METER per second and winds are still 145 knots.

I’m going to jump on that ham radio and see if the bands have opened up enough to hear what is going on..

Hurricane Dorian Update

Hurricane Dorian is still moving west and is just about to cross onto the Bahama Islands.

Currently from the US National Hurricane Center:

9:30 AM EDT Sun Sep 1
Location: 26.5°N 76.6°W
Moving: W at 8 mph
Min pressure: 922 mb
Max sustained: 175 mph

That’s 282 Km/hr!

There is a video feed from Marsh Harbour Bahamas – how long it lasts is questionable though.

Movement of the storm while westerly at the moment is expected to take a northerly course over time unfortunately after languishing over the Bahamas. The change in course will send the storm north along the coast hopefully staying far enough off the coast to spare Florida the worst. The path of the storm could just as easily move more west and hit the Florida coast very hard. Fingers crossed for them.

The storm will cause havoc all along the southeastern US coast there is no doubt including and maybe especially North Carolina and even southern Virginia.

Hurricane Dorian

Here is a look at Hurricane Dorian on 29 August 2019. This storm had a central pressure of 948 mb with a sustained wind speed of 121 knots (224 kmh or 139 mph) according to the 06:00 ET / 10:00 UT update from the US National Hurricane Center. The storm is not expected to weaken as it makes its way to Florida.

The Bahamas are expected to be impacted by the storm tomorrow (Sunday) and Florida by Monday. The storm is expected to take a northern turn and possibly ride up the Florida coast or areas inland, neither of which bodes well.

The Kennedy Space Center region is more or less right in the path and the storm may weaken a little by the time it gets there (and that depends on the final track) it is still going to be very bad.

National Hurricane Center

Tropical Tidbits

BTW: I am still having a spot of bother on the publishing side as I”m not sure why things are not working properly. I’ll have it sorted shortly.

Atlas V Rocket Cam

United Launch Alliance just released this video from the recent AEHF-5 mission. Really good video – thanks ULA!

Deep Space Atomic Clock

Note: I seem to be having a spot of trouble with publishing so if there is a missing day you’ll know why. I’ve had a couple of misses after the last software update. I’ll get it sorted. Anyway. . .

Now this is a clock! Only off by a second every ten million years!

NASA: An atomic clock that could pave the way for autonomous deep space travel was successfully activated last week and is ready to begin its year-long tech demo, the mission team confirmed on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Launched in June, NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock is a critical step toward enabling spacecraft to safely navigate themselves in deep space rather than rely on the time-consuming process of receiving directions from Earth.

Developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the clock is the first timekeeper stable enough to map a spacecraft’s trajectory in deep space while being small enough to fly onboard the spacecraft. A more stable clock can operate farther from Earth, where it needs to work well for longer periods than satellites closer to home.

Atomic clocks, like those used in GPS satellites, are used to measure the distance between objects by timing how long it takes a signal to travel from Point A to Point B. For space exploration, atomic clocks must be extremely precise: an error of even one second means the difference between landing on a planet like Mars or missing it by hundreds of thousands of miles. Up to 50 times more stable than the atomic clocks on GPS satellites, the mercury-ion Deep Space Atomic Clock loses one second every 10 million years, as proven in controlled tests on Earth. Now it will test that accuracy in space.

Navigators currently use refrigerator-size atomic clocks on Earth to pinpoint a spacecraft’s location. Minutes to hours can go by as a signal is sent from Earth to the spacecraft before being returned to Earth, where it is used to create instructions that are then sent back to the spacecraft. A clock aboard a spacecraft would allow the spacecraft to calculate its own trajectory, instead of waiting for navigators on Earth to send that information. This advancement would free missions to travel farther and, eventually, carry humans safely to other planets.

“The goal of the space experiment is to put the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the context of an operating spacecraft — complete with the things that affect the stability and accuracy of a clock — and see if it performs at the level we think it will: with orders of magnitude more stability than existing space clocks,” said navigator Todd Ely, principal investigator of the project at JPL.

In coming months, the team will measure how well the clock keeps time down to the nanosecond. The results begin the countdown to a day when technology can safely help astronauts navigate themselves to other worlds.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock is hosted on a spacecraft provided by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems of Englewood, Colorado. It is sponsored by the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Space Communications and Navigations program within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. JPL manages the project.

Thanks to: NASA / Arielle Samuelson (JPL) and General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems