Cancel the Eulogy! ISON lives!

“Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated!” says comet ISON. Data gathered yesterday led astronomers to the unfortunate conclusion that ISON was broken up and vaporized as it grazed the Sun. However a new look at the images show a tiny piece of the comet has survived and is continuing on its journey back into the far reaches of space. Look for ISON in the upper left corner of this picture.


What does this mean? Will it still prove to be the comet of the century? We don’t know yet. Observing comets is exciting because we never truly know what they will do. ISON may still flare up in brightness to put on one final show before exiting the Solar System or it may fizzle out and be gone forever. Stay tuned!

Sun vs. ISON

Tomorrow, Thursday the 28th, as we prepare for Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) a cosmic drama is set to unfold. For months, astronomers have been observing Comet ISON approach the sun, now estimated to be less than a mile wide, wondering whether the comet will survive its close encounter and re-emerge from behind the sun to become visible to the naked eye through December. You can follow this drama on line. Between 12noon and 2.30 pm (CST) tomorrow, NASA will host a Google Hangout while all eyes on the sun will watch Comet ISON make its plunge, passing perilously close (within 730,000 miles) above the sun’s surface and accelerating to 150,000 mph. Will it survive? Break up? Evaporate? Join the Google hangout to keep track of ISON’s progress!

There is already one recent video posted of ISON coming into view of one of the extended-corona imagers from NASA’s STEREO spacecraft, seen on the STEREO website.
Discernible for most of November in binoculars, ISON is probably the most scrutinized comet ever by NASA, but from the beginning of its discovery it’s also been one of the most confusing, frustrating and unpredictable objects to observe over time. I’m still betting on ISON becoming the comet of a lifetime.


EurtheCast (pronounced ‘earthcast’), a Vancouver company, has launched aboard a Russian Progress 53 cargo ship two cameras that will continuously photograph the surface of Earth 24/7 and relay pictures in near-real time back to earth.



One of the instruments is a still camera with a five-meter resolution and takes pictures of a 40km swath as the ISS circles the globe. The other instrument is a video camera with a one-meter resolution and will take 150 videos a day. These videos will be approximately 90 seconds long and have a 4k resolution.

With your free EurtheCast account, you can have a real time alert sent to you about locations on earth you want to watch as the UrtheCast cameras capture new imagery and video of your favorite places.


So, stand by for some great views of our planet from a place few people have been lucky enough to enjoy.

ISS Celebrates 15 Years in Space- See if you can locate it while looking for Comet ISON


The connected Zarya and Unity modules after Unity was released from the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s cargo bay.

Fifteen years ago on  Nov. 20, 1998, the Roscosmos (the former Russian Space Agency) launched a Proton rocket that sent the Zarya module into space.  This was the first section of the International Space Station.  Two weeks later on Dec. 4, the United States launched the Unity module making the 2 modules a real international space station.

The ISS is now the third brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon.  If you know where and when to look you can easily see it without a telescope, and NASA’s Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston can tell you when and where.  Log onto to receive e-mail or text alerts a few hours before the ISS will be passing over your area.  If you sign up soon you might even be able to spot it while “comet hunting” during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Take a 360 Degree Virtual Tour of Space Shuttle Discovery


The people over at 360vr have a portion of their site dedicated to a 360 degree high resolution virtual tour of Space Shuttle Discovery.  360VR images are full 360 degree spherical panoramic pictures used in building Virtual Tour products.  The 360 degree images are captured using high resolution rotational cameras with ultra wide angle panoramic lenses.  This is the next best thing to actually going to see the Space Shuttle Discovery and sitting inside.

The images were shot at the Kennedy Space Center in  Cape Canaveral, Florida during its last mission, its final destination now being the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Click on this link to visit the 360VR Tour of Space Shuttle Discovery:  360 VR Flight Deck

Remembering JFK

Today we remember President John F Kennedy, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. He challenged our nation to achieve one of its greatest accomplishments: landing people on the Moon safely. President Kennedy’s vision for innovation, paired with the bravery of the astronauts who made the journey and the ingenuity of the engineers who built the spacecraft, paved the way for decades of space exploration. He continues to inspire us today to strive for excellence, to lead, and to never stop reaching for the stars…

NASA Develops Rock Climbing Robot


Last year NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory unveiled a device that would allow a spacecraft to latch itself on to passing comets and asteroids.  The success of this grip-like device, and the options it opened up, led them to further develop it into a robot that could scale rocky walls.  This four-legged robot called LIMUR IIB has four grippers, each with a 750 claws, and is strong enough to not only scale walls but can hold its grip while hanging upside down. Continue reading

This Morning’s Comet

For the first time in nearly a week, this morning’s pre-dawn sky was clear and so I stepped outside, away from street lights and spotted Comet ISON.  I used a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars, but there it was – a faint, diffused comet with a stubbly tail just above the eastern horizon tree line.  The bright gibbous moon overhead didn’t help with observing, but it was still worth getting up for.  And since I was already outside, I turned my binoculars on Jupiter and Mars, then the Orion Nebula, the Hyades star cluster and again back to Comet ISON just before dawn was braking. 

There’s been a lot of mixed reviews recently about Comet ISON; how it was becoming a naked-eye object and then how it might not survive intact after its closest approach to the sun, or perihelion, on the 28th (Thanksgiving).  If the comet breaks up as some predict it will, then this weekend, which is suppose to be clear, might be your last chance to see the comet.  But then again, it still could become the comet of the decade late December.  Fingers crossed.  

MAVEN: Countdown Has Begun


  MAVEN is scheduled to launch in approximately 1 hour.  If you are in Florida or South Georgia  today you may be able to catch a glimpse of the liftoff. There are some thick clouds over Cape      Canaveral Air Force base but the forecast is 60% favorable for launch during a two hour window.                                                                                                .

MAVEN, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, will study the upper Martian atmosphere to find out how the air on the red planet has changed over time. This discovery may help us understand when and how long Mars might have had an environment that could have supported microbial life in its ancient past.