First Lunar Eclipse of 2014

 

 

 

These photos were shot in south Baton Rouge on Tuesday morning at 2:45 am.  This eclipse marked the beginning of a tetrad, a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row. The next three total eclipses will be occurring on Oct. 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and the final occurring on Sept. 28, 2015.

 

ECL 1

 

The ‘ghosting’ is the rapid movement of the clouds during a 2 second exposure.

 

ECL 2

 

Below the moon is Spica, in the constellation Virgo, and Mars is further west(right) in the shots.

DSC_0271

 

I expect to have better photos after the next eclipse… weather permitting. Ha.

 

 

SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight and Grasshopper test

 

 

 

Mission: SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight

Launch Vehicle: Falcon

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Date: April 14, 4:58 p.m. EDT

 

NASA’s International Space Station resupply mission includes the legs for RobonautOPALS Lasercomm experiment and much more.  I think, however, the most exciting and dramatic portion of the flight is the possible test of  the ‘Grasshopper’ reusablility system.

Read the detailed story of the SpaceX Grasshopper  program.

Grasshopper Demonstration Flight

Reusability: The Key To Making Human Life Multi-Planetary

(SpaceX)

 

The launch will be webcast live, with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CT at spacex.com/webcast and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

For a detailed description of the mission timeline, overview and SpaceX go to the SpaceX press kit. This is a wonderful resource.

 

 

B A N G !

Cosmic Inflation now has the ‘smoking gun’.  

“The minuscule ripples in space-time are the last prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity to be verified. Until now, there has only been circumstantial evidence of their existence. The discovery also provides a deep connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics, another central pillar of physics.”(Stuart Clark)

Big_bang_theory_1795533g Elise Amendola/AP

 

Scientists, from left, Clem Pryke, Jamie Bock, Chao-Lin Kuo and John Kovac smile during a news conference at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., on March 17, 2014.

science-bigbangHandout/REUTERS

The measurements were taken using the BICEP2 instrument at the South Pole Telescope facility.  Now we wait as the scientific community deliberates these findings and maybe, just maybe, we have confirmed more of Einstein’s brilliance. 

Eurpoa…. here we come

“NASA plots daring flight to Jupiter’s watery moon”

Image

(Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

On March 4, 2014 Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, released a statement which includes, “In the coming year, we’ll build on our nation’s record of breathtaking and compelling scientific discoveries and achievements in space, with science missions that will reach far into our solar system, reveal unknown aspects of our universe and provide critical knowledge about our home planet.  It includes funding for missions to Mars and the formulation for a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.”

It looks as though we may finally go to a ‘local’ body that will hold many surprises and in astronomical distances Europa is so very close.

Europa is just begging us to visit and the Europa Clipper is one mission.

This artist’s impression of Europa makes the place look more exotic than Mars.

(Credit: Chris Weeks)

New Neighbors in Space

multi_transits_many_full_0[1]…715 new planets… orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much
like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than
Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. …To verify this bounty
of planets, a research team co-led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at
NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif…used a technique called
verification by multiplicity, which relies in part on the logic of probability.
…Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates.
Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified.
This method can be likened to the behavior we know of lions and lionesses. In
our imaginary savannah, the lions are the Kepler stars and the lionesses are the
planet candidates. The lionesses would sometimes be observed grouped together
whereas lions tend to roam on their own. If you see two lions it could be a lion
and a lioness or it could be two lions. But if more than two large felines are
gathered, then it is very likely to be a lion and his pride. Thus, through
multiplicity the lioness can be reliably identified in much the same way
multiple planet candidates can be found around the same star.

“Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then
thousands, of planet candidates –but they were only candidate worlds,” said
Lissauer. “We’ve now developed a process to verify multiple planet candidates in
bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable
bonanza of new worlds.”

…Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their

sun’s habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface

temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water.

…This latest discovery brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to
nearly 1,700. As we continue to reach toward the stars, each discovery brings us
one step closer to a more accurate understanding of our place in the galaxy.

The findings papers will be published March 10 in The Astrophysical Journal

and are available for download at:

http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/digital-press-kit-kepler-planet-bonanza.

SPLAT………. New Crater on Mars

pia17932_rayedcrater_esp_034285_1835

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

A dramatic, fresh impact crater dominates this image taken by the High
Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 19, 2013.  Researchers used HiRISE to examine
this site because the orbiter’s Context Camera had revealed a change in
appearance here between observations in July 2010 and May 2012, bracketing the
formation of the crater between those observations.(NASA)

 

 Observation Toolbox

Acquisition date: 19 November 2013 Local Mars time: 2:57 PM
Latitude (centered): 3.677° Longitude (East): 53.428°
Range to target site: 266.5 km (166.5 miles) Original image scale range: 26.7 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~80 cm across are resolved
Map projected scale: 25 cm/pixel and North is up Map projection: Equirectangular
Emission angle: 0.5° Phase angle: 45.7°
Solar incidence angle: 46°, with the Sun about 44° above the horizon Solar longitude: 51.4°, Northern Spring
For non-map projected products:
North azimuth: 97° Sub-solar azimuth: 29.3°
For map-projected products
North azimuth: 270° Sub solar azimuth: 203.5°

 

                                                        NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

 

ICE, ICE EVERYWHERE?

Image

An artist’s conception of the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Image Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

With the crazy winter weather warnings today in south Louisiana and even school cancellations for tomorrow, I thought it was an interesting time to find out that the dwarf planet Ceres has an icy surface also. With the help of the Herschel space observatory, scientists have detected an icy surface on the only dwarf planet that resides in the asteroid belt. It was previously suspected that ice existed on Ceres but it had not been conclusively detected until now. Plumes of water vapor are thought to shoot up from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly. This happens in the portion of the dwarf planet’s orbit that takes it closest to the sun. This is a surprise because, while comets are known to have water jets and plumes, objects in the asteroid belt are not. They also believe that if the ice in the interior of Ceres melted, there would be more fresh water than exists on all of Earth!

Ceres is smaller than a planet but, considering it’s the largest object in the asteroid belt, is obviously larger than an asteroid. When first discovered, Ceres was thought to be a comet, then a planet and of course at some point an asteroid. In 2006, The International Astronomical Union reclassified Ceres as a dwarf planet.

 

 

‘RABBIT’ SEEN ON MOON ….

chang_e3_FI_opening_serendipityThumb

LROC NAC view of the Chang’e 3 lander (large arrow) and rover (small arrow) just before sunset on their first day of lunar exploration. LROC NAC M1142582775R, image width 576 m, north is up [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

 

 

Chang’e 3 landed on Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) just east of a 450 m diameter impact crater on 14 December 2013. Soon after landing, a small rover named Yutu (or Jade Rabbit in English) was deployed and took its first tentative drive onto the airless regolith. At the time of the landing LRO’s orbit was far from the landing site so images of the landing were not possible. Ten days later on 24 December, LRO approached the landing site, and LROC was able to acquire a series of six LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image pairs during the next 36 hours (19 orbits). The highest resolution image was possible when LRO was nearly overhead on 25 December 03:52:49 UT (24 December 22:52:49 EST). At this time LRO was at an altitude of ~150 km above the site, and the pixel size was 150 cm.(NASA)

LROC before after Chang'e 3

 

More pictures and a full explanation courtesy of the LRO team and NASA here.

 

It’s Time to Look for Orion, the Mighty Hunter

ImageOrion, the hunter, is one of the most popular constellations in the night sky; so you may have already seen him this winter or in late fall. Throughout the year, no matter the season, when I am in schools with our Discovery Dome portable planetarium someone often asks me to point out Orion. The mighty hunter is also one of the largest and easiest constellations to find. Most people find it by locating the three stars that make up Orion’s “belt” which is an asterism or recognizable group of stars that are part of a constellation. The names of the three stars that make up Orion’s belt are Alnitak, Alnilam and Minatka. One of the brightest stars in the sky is on Orion’s right shoulder. It’s called Betelgeuse.

Orion’s belt is the only group of three stars that are spaced so evenly making them very easy to recognize. Once you have found the belt, the hunter easily pops into view especially when it is right overhead during the cold evenings of winter.

Besides being easy to spot, the constellation Orion is also where you will find one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky, the Orion Nebula. Count down to the third bright object in Orion’s sword and you will find not a star but the Orion Nebula. With binoculars focused on this object, you will find many stars rather than one.

So the next time you look for Orion in the night sky be sure to also take a look at the third object in his sword for the giant cloud of gas and dust that makes up this birthplace or stars and solar systems.

Image

The Orion Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Credit: NASA

 

The 9 Tallest Mountains In The Solar System

9 Tallest Mountains in the Solar System

Of course, when you think of the tallest mountain ever you’re going to probably think of Mount Everest with its peak of a little over 29,000 feet (5.5 miles).  But when you  look at Mt. Everest in comparison with some of the other mountains in our Solar System it won’t even make the list.  Let’s look at some of the Solar System’s tallest mountains as measured from the base to the peak.

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