Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Curiosity on Mars Has Short Circuit

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's premier on Mars science lab/rover Curiosity is undergoing diagnostic tests following a transient short circuit on February 27, 2015.

This raw-color view from Curiosity's Mastcam shows the rover's drill just after finishing a drilling operation at "Telegraph Peak" on Feb. 24, 2015. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
As a result the rover will remain stationary while these tests are done to see what caused the event and what the fix may be. The rover is not in any immediate distress.

Curiosity has been on Mars for over a year and is in the Gale Crater making her way along the slopes of Mount Sharp.

I'll let you know further developments.

Sky Guy in Soon To Be Snow Covered (AGAIN) VA

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

See Rosetta's SHADOW on Comet 67P

Hey Space Placers!

Been awhile since I posted anything on the amazing Rosetta mission, so check this out:

That rectangular black shape you see at the bottom of this pic is of the Rosetta SPACECRAFT. I really can't recall another mission where the spacecraft's shadow was recorded on the surface of the celestial body it was orbiting.

This remarkable pic shows the surface of Comet 67P as it appeared on Valentine's Day 2015.

Rosetta will be orbiting the comet while it gets closer and closer to the Sun. What a ring side seat we are going to have!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

RIP Mr. Nimoy-Live Long And Prosper Mr. Spock

Hey Space Placers!

I am a Trekkie dating back to the original 3-season TV show 'Star Trek' that aired on NBC 1966-69, I THINK on Monday nights. I NEVER missed an episode. It was such a groundbreaking series that was created by a former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) patrolman named Gene Roddenberry.

As a street officer in LA I am sure he saw plenty to give him reason to envision a better world for humanity and Star Trek was the result I believe of those images.  Star Trek dealt with racism, interracial mixing of the sexes - the 1st EVER kiss of a white man (Capt. Kirk) and black woman (Uhura) on TV took place on Star Trek, poverty, communism vs democracy, the cold war, space-time and a host of other themes. I can honestly say I never saw a bad episode and each caused me pause to think and ponder.

In 1966 I was in full astronomy mode to follow in 1968 with telescope and camera. NASA was in full swing to get to the Moon and astronauts were flying Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions while Star Trek was on the air. There were other GREAT science fiction series on TV during this time too: 'Outer Limits', 'Twilight Zone' and 'The Invaders'. This was an incredible time to be a sic-fi and space lover.

The most iconic Star Trek character that will endure as long as humanity has a memory, is Mr. Spock, played so fully and completely by Leonard Nimoy. His was the most difficult role on the show (including make-up) as he played an alien-human mix that had to contend with emotional humans when he himself sought to suppress his emotions and live by logic alone. Boy, was there some great writing and episodes about that conflict.

Mr. Nimoy passed away into eternity on 2/27/15 at the age of 83. The Internet came alive with his passing and did not reach the levels of the 'llamadrama' and 'whatcoloristhedress' but it did trend and he received just due and respect. He was able to have a last Tweet posted on his official Twitter account which was touching and led to the #LLAP - 'Live Long and Prosper' Twitter hashtag based upon Spock's icon greeting.

Another icon was created by Astronaut Terry Virts' tribute to Mr. Nimoy which was taken aboard the International Space Station (ISS) while she flew over Boston, MA, Mr. Nimoy's birthplace.

A lot of tributes from NASA, including astronauts, were sent out via Twitter thanking Mr. Nimoy for his role as Mr. Spock. They cited how he and Star Trek caught their imagination and kindled their desire to explore "Space, the final frontier…." which was used in the opening monologue of each Star Trek episode and is known to all Trekkies.

Three of the actors for the main characters of the original Star Trek series - Scotty/James Doohan, Bones/DeForrest Kelly, and now Mr. Spock/Leonard Nimoy - are gone. Only Captain Kirk/William Shatner remains. Several other Star Trek actors remain but these 4 were the core of every episode and Star Trek movies 1-6.

Live Long and Prosper Mr. Spock, and thank you Mr. Nimoy for bringing him to life.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Puzzling Bright Spots of Ceres

Hey Space Placers!

What an image taken of dwarf planet Ceres by the approaching Dawn spacecraft on Feb. 19, 2015;

Image Credit: 
I'm surprised that this hasn't shown up in the tabloids or the 'net as an alien beacon or similar silly predictions. I did Tweet to NASA and the Dawn spacecraft that this looked like an X-File and that Scully and Mulder needed to investigate - all tongue in cheek of course!

As Dawn gets ever closer to Ceres our views will improve and the bright spots and craters will come into clearer focus. Speculation right now is that they may be impact craters or what I think more likely is some form of cryovolcano (ice volcanoes) activity like we have seen on other moons in the solar system

A week from tomorrow, March 8th, Dawn will begin manuvering to enter into orbit around Ceres to begin 5 months of observation. This will reveal Ceres in great detail and there will be much to learn and astound during that time.

After the mission Dawn will remain in orbit around Ceres and we will be rewriting the textbooks on dwarf planets, the asteroid belt and the solar system in general.

Stay tuned as we enjoy this voyage of exploration together.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ask An Astronaut

Hey Space Placers!

Forget #llamadrama and #whatcoloristhedress. Two weeks from today, March 13, WTOP will be carrying a LIVE 10-minute interview with two astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Mike Moss and Joan Jones will be talking live with NASA Astronaut Terry Virts and European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Samantha (Sam) Cristoforetti

The interview will be broadcast by WTOP sometime between 7 and 9 a.m. EDT. ISS mission planners at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, will provide WTOP with the exact time in the very near future. WTOP wants you to submit your questions for Terry and Sam to our live blog. We’ll pick the best and ask Terry and Sam.

You can follow ISS, Terry and Sam on Twitter as I do. Terry and Sam have Tweeted gorgeous and stunning pictures from ISS. By the way, you can actually see ISS fly over your location by subscribing to Spot The Station. It is a beautiful sight, especially when you realize you are looking at a million pounds of space hardware and six humans 250 miles up traveling at 17,500 miles per hour!

Good luck with your question submission and be sure to tune in to this unique listening experience at WTOP.

Sky Guy in Thawing Out But Stiil COLD & CLOUDY VA

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tired of Winter? Watch This Video…You'll Be Glad You Did

Hey Space Placers!

For those of us in the weird grip of this winter, take heart - Spring is 22 days away and I could smell spring as I shoveled snow this morning.

With gray skies and white all around, take a peek at this video .  Watch it in a darkened room with the sound up a bit and marvel at our planet and our ability to see it as we do in this video.

Watch closely and you will see much in the sky and on the ground.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Visit

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you yesterday but I was at NASA's Goddard Space FLight Center in Greenbelt, MD, catching up on my favorite spacecraft,  Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

I wrote a feature article on LRO for Sky & Telescope magazine that was published in June 2009 and had a pic of me and LRO taken:

I visited with the LRO team - the mission director, the former chief scientist for the mission, the current deputy scientist, visualization experts and LRO herself (sort of).  When I did the article in 2009 the operations center where LRO is monitored an controlled was not operational. Yesterday I was able to visit LRO's mission control room.

While I was there LRO was over the North Pole of the Moon! To be exact, this picture shows that she was at 86.7 degrees N lunar latitude at a height of 165.8 KM. I could see the orientation of the spacecraft and the area of the Moon she was flying over based on prior pics taken by LRO. I have to say it was a surreal moment for me and one I will always remember.

LRO is still doing cutting edge science and is in perfect health….she could last another 20 years. NASA currently has no funding for LRO in NASA's Fiscal Year 2016 budget which means that unless funding is found, LRO will cease operation effective 10/1/2015. This would mean that there would be no operational spacecraft in lunar orbit - and no one has plans to build such a mission that I am aware of.

Other space agencies depend on LRO's instruments and science is done on LRO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. New discoveries are being made and there are 100's and 100's of Terrabytes of LRO data being added to the already bursting amounts of data the spacecraft has collected in almost 6 years. We know the surface of the Moon better than we do our own planet thanks to the cameras and instruments aboard LRO.

As I have blogged here the Moon is a VERY interesting world that has much to offer and is in my personal opinion, very important to humanity's future in space.

You can keep up on LRO at Twitter,  Facebook and of course on the web.

Sky Guy in VA