Dark Sky Week, Lyrid meteor shower – get outside!

April 23, 2014

From the Arches National Park Facebook page:  photo of Pine Tree Arch by Andy Porter)

From the Arches National Park Facebook page: photo of Pine Tree Arch and meteoroid by Andy Porter)

A few minutes before 9:00 p.m. Central on Tuesday, I saw a sizable fireball falling north to south, appearing from my vantage on the top of Cedar Hill to be over south Grand Prairie, Texas.  Best meteoroid I’ve seen for a while.

Part of the Lyrid Meteor Shower, perhaps?  The Lyrids coincide with Dark Sky Week this year.  Dark Sky Week’s egalitarian origins should inspire all of us to go outside and look up, no?  The celebration was invented by a high school student, Jennifer Barlow, in 2003.

I want people to be able to see the wonder of the night sky without the effects of light pollution. The universe is our view into our past and our vision into the future . . . I want to help preserve its wonder.” – Jennifer Barlow

The International Dark Sky Association promotes activities worldwide to encourage star-gazing and sky-watching.

Go out tonight, and look up!

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Daytime Moon and jet

April 17, 2014

Passenger jet and Moon.  Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.

Passenger jet and Moon. Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.

Handheld Nikon.  Nikon stabilizing lens.  Good hands, I’d say.

Third to last time I was out near Lake Powell, I was with Rodger (and about a dozen others) organizing hearings of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors.  We flew into Page, Arizona, on an Otter II coming up from Phoenix flying low, looking for elk, and legally buzzing Rainbow Bridge (impressive from the air, too).

We had a luncheon meeting at Wahweap Marina, as I recall; no time for boating.

Then we were off to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There we inspected pine trees 30 feet tall, growing between the ties of the then-abandoned rail lines.  (And did a lot of other stuff.)

Today trains carry tourists to the South Rim on those tracks, the trees gone.  Progress, really.

Rodger carries on in the knowledge that use of the outdoors, especially these public lands, heals souls, and sometimes gives you great photos.

Rodger said I could borrow the photo.  Thanks!


Sky and stars peeking into Antelope Canyon

April 11, 2014

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona, get more visitors annually than just about any other canyon except the Grand Canyon.  They cover only a few miles.

You’re not familiar with Antelope Canyon?  You’ve seen the photos, even if you don’t know the name of the place — it’s a slot canyon, carved as with a wandering knife into the sandstone at the top of the cliffs leading to the Colorado River.

Over at EarthSky, I found a view you haven’t seen before.

Antelope Canyon at night by Sergio Garcia Rill. Stunning contrast of rock painted by light, and stars.  From EarthSky.com.  Visit Sergio’s website and read more about this adventure.

Antelope Canyon at night by Sergio Garcia Rill. Stunning contrast of rock painted by light, and stars. From EarthSky.com. Visit Sergio’s website and read more about this adventure.

Details from EarthSky.com:

Sergio Garcia Rill captured this beautiful image from within Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona, which is the most visited slot canyon in the United States. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide. It’s formed by water rushing through rock. Sergio wrote:

During my recent trip to Arizona, I stopped by Page to get a chance at touring the now famous canyons (Upper and Lower Antelope) and I also had a chance to visit Upper Antelope at night.

I couldn’t really get too many shots with the sky (since the openings were very narrow and limited) but I liked this one in particular since I got a chance to set it up and do the light painting myself a couple of chambers behind from where my guide and another participant were working on another shot.

Thank you, Sergio.

Visit Sergio Garcia Rill’s Facebook page.

Click here for info about traveling to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.

Readers here may remember Page was the final destination of my late oldest brother, Jerry.  To his credit, he urged me to make a special trip to see Antelope Canyon, because most of the times I visited, it was closed, or impassable.  Alas, I have not yet been to the place.

This is one of the gems of the Diné, the Navajo Nation, and another good reason to get familiar with redrock country.


Milky Way in perspective, Northern to the Southern Cross

March 29, 2014

Found on Twitter, via @SciencePorn - One of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. Star photography by Nicholas Buer pic.twitter.com/RlwvSQNBAy

Found on Twitter, via @SciencePorn – One of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. Star photography by Nicholas Buer pic.twitter.com/RlwvSQNBAy. Much larger view here.

Nicholas Buer works hard to get these shots — a bit of a master, no?

This one was the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for January 27, 2014 (click that link for a much larger and more glorious view).  Much more detail there, revealing that this is much more of the Milky Way than you’d usually see.

From the Northern to the Southern Cross
Image Credit & Copyright: Nicholas Buer Explanation: There is a road that connects the Northern to the Southern Cross but you have to be at the right place and time to see it. The road, as pictured above, is actually the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy; the right place, in this case, is dark Laguna Cejar in Salar de Atacama of Northern Chile; and the right time was in early October, just after sunset. Many sky wonders were captured then, including the bright Moon, inside the Milky Way arch; Venus, just above the Moon; Saturn and Mercury, just below the Moon; the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds satellite galaxies, on the far left; red airglow near the horizon on the image left; and the lights of small towns at several locations across the horizon. One might guess that composing this 30-image panorama would have been a serene experience, but for that one would have required earplugs to ignore the continued brays of wild donkeys.

 


Mars ♥ you, courtesy of NASA

February 15, 2014

Happy St. Valentine's Day from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) team! This collection of images acquired over the past 3 Mars years shows some of the heart-shaped features found on Mars by the MGS MOC.

14 February 2004 NASA caption:  “Happy St. Valentine’s Day from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) team! This collection of images acquired over the past 3 Mars years shows some of the heart-shaped features found on Mars by the MGS MOC.”

No kidding! Mars really ♥s us!  Hope you had a happy Valentines Day.

Original Caption Released with Image:
14 February 2004
Happy St. Valentine’s Day from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) team! This collection of images acquired over the past 3 Mars years shows some of the heart-shaped features found on Mars by the MGS MOC.

  • The heart in E04-01788 is a low mesa located near 46.7°N, 29.0°W, and is about 636 m (2,086 ft) wide.
  • The heart in R10-03259 is a depression located near 22.7°N, 56.6°W, and is about 378 m (1,240 ft) wide.
  • The heart in R09-02121 is a small mesa on a crater floor located near 37.2°S, 324.7°W, and is about 120 m (395 ft) wide.
  • The heart in R09-00918 is a depression located near 35.8°N, 220.5°W, and is about 525 m (1,722 ft) wide.
  • The heart in R04-00395 is a depression in which occurs a low mesa located near 57.5°N, 135.0°W, and is about 1 km (~0.62 mi) wide.
  • The heart in E11-00090 is a depression located near 0.2°N, 119.3°W, and is about 485 m (1,591 ft) wide.
  • The heart in E12-00275 is a depression located near 32.7°S, 139.3°W, and is about 512 m (1,680 ft) wide.
  • The heart in R06-01364 is a depression located near 8.4°S, 345.7°W, and is about 502 m (1,647 ft) wide.
  • The heart in M11-00480 is a depression located near 1.9°N, 186.8°W, and is about 153 m (502 ft) wide.
  • The heart in R08-00939 is a depression located near 12.1°S, 173.5°W, and is about 384 m (1,260 ft) wide.

Other heart-shaped martian landforms were featured in previous MGS MOC image releases:

  • “From Mars, With Love,” 17 June 1999 PIA01342
  • “Happy Valentine’s Day From Mars!” 11 February 2000 PIA02361
Image Credit:
NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Image Addition Date:
2004-02-14

When the Moon hits your eye, in Arches NP

February 12, 2014

Photo by Lynn Sessions;

Photo by Lynn Sessions; “THE EYE OF THE #MOON: North Window arch at Arches National Park in #Utah. #NatGeo pic.twitter.com/XwHfdWK5Ft

It’s just a click of the shutter?  Ha!

I’m assuming not a lot of post-photo processing on this. Lynn Sessions had to figure out when the Moon would be in the North Window Arch, calculate exposure, and shoot off enough of them to get a decent shot before the Moon moved.  I suspect the rocks were “painted” with a flashlight during the exposure.

(Haven’t yet found the technical details of the shot. But I did find this about the photographer:
I’m a frustrated amateur photographer who is trying to visit every corner in Utah as well as hike/photograph every canyon in southern Utah. More at http://www.DreamBreeze.com )

Patience, planning, creativity — then just push the button.

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Can’t get it together; it IS together

January 2, 2014

Earth on January 1, 2014.  Looks pretty good from this angle.

Can we make it look this good down here on the ground?

NASA caption: Happy New Year! This image shows the Earth today, January 1, 2014, a few hours into the new year, as seen by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) satellite. Geostationary describes an orbit in which a satellite is always in the same position with respect to the rotating Earth. This allows GOES to hover continuously over one position on the Earth’s surface, appearing stationary. As a result, GOES provide a constant vigil for the atmospheric “triggers” for severe weather conditions such as tornadoes, flash floods, hail storms, and hurricanes. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project #nasa #earth #space #goes #irl #today #happynewyear #planets #solarsystem #newyear #2014 #nye #home

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December 30, Hubble Day 2013: Look to the stars for our future

December 30, 2013

[Today is actually the day!  You may fly your flag if you choose.  This is the traditional Millard Fillmore's Bathtub Hubble Day post.]

Lift a glass of champagne today in tribute to Edwin Hubble and his great discovery. Not sure what to call it — Hubble Day, Looking Up Day, Endless Possibilities Day — whatever, this is the anniversary of Edwin Hubble’s announcement that he had discovered the universe is much, much larger than anyone had imagined, containing far more stars than anyone had dared guess.

It’s a big universe out there.

Ultraviolet image of the Andromeda Galaxy, first known to be a galaxy by Edwin Hubble on December 30, 1924 - Galaxy Evolution Explorer image courtesy NASA

Ultraviolet image of the Andromeda Galaxy, first known to be a galaxy by Edwin Hubble on December 30, 1924 – Galaxy Evolution Explorer image courtesy NASA

So, today is a good day to celebrate the universe in all it’s glory – December 30.

On December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced he’d discovered other galaxies in distant space. Though it may not have been so clear at the time, it meant that, as a galaxy, we are not alone in the universe (whether we are alone as intelligent life is a separate question). It also meant that the universe is much, much bigger than most people had dared to imagine.

I keep trying to get people to celebrate.

In 2008 for Hubble Day, Wired picked up on the story (with a gracious link to 2007′s post here at the Bathtub). Wired includes several links to even more information, a good source of information. See Wired’s 2009 post here.

Hubble was the guy who showed us the universe is not only bigger than we imagined, it’s probably much bigger and much more fantastic than we can imagine. Hubble is the guy who opened our imaginations to the vastness of all creation.

How does one celebrate Hubble Day? Here are some suggestions:

  • Easier than Christmas cards: Send a thank-you note to your junior high school science teacher, or whoever it was who inspired your interest in science. Mrs. Hedburg, Mrs. Andrews, Elizabeth K. Driggs, Herbert Gilbert, Mr. Willis, and Stephen McNeal, thank you.
  • Rearrange your Christmas/Hanukkah/Eid/KWANZAA lights in the shape of the Andromeda Galaxy — or in the shape of any of the great photos from the Hubble Telescope (Andromeda Galaxy pictured above; Hubble images here)
    A few of the images from the Hubble Telescope

    A few of the images from the Hubble Telescope

  • Go visit your local science museum; take your kids along – borrow somebody else’s kids if you have to (take them along, too); this year, in Dallas, you can visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science – it’s a doozy
  • Spend two hours in your local library, just looking through the books on astronomy and the universe
  • Write a letter to your senators and congressman; tell them space exploration takes a minuscule portion of our federal budget, but it makes us dream big; tell them we need to dream big, and so they’d better make sure NASA is funded well.  While you’re at it, put in a plug for funding Big Bird and the rest of public broadcasting, too.  Science education in this nation more and more becomes the science shows on NPR and PBS, watched by kids who learned to read and think by watching Big Bird.
  • Anybody got a good recipe for a cocktail called “The Hubble?” “The Andromeda?” Put it in the comments, please.  “The Hubble” should have bubbles in it, don’t you think?  What was it the good monk said?  He was working to make great wine, but goofed somewhere, and charged the wine with another dose of yeast.  When he uncorked the very first bottle of what would come to be called champagne, Benedictine Monk Dom Pierre Perignon said “I am drinking stars!”  Only in French.  In any case, a Hubble cocktail should have bubbles, some of Perignon’s stars.

The encore post, from 2007:

December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced the results of his observations of distant objects in space.

PBS

Edwin Hubble


In 1924, he announced the discovery of a Cepheid, or variable star, in the Andromeda Nebulae. Since the work of Henrietta Leavitt had made it possible to calculate the distance to Cepheids, he calculated that this Cepheid was much further away than anyone had thought and that therefore the nebulae was not a gaseous cloud inside our galaxy, like so many nebulae, but in fact, a galaxy of stars just like the Milky Way. Only much further away. Until now, people believed that the only thing existing outside the Milky Way were the Magellanic Clouds. The Universe was much bigger than had been previously presumed.

Later Hubble noted that the universe demonstrates a “red-shift phenomenon.” The universe is expanding. This led to the idea of an initial expansion event, and the theory eventually known as Big Bang.

Hubble’s life offered several surprises, and firsts:

Hubble was a tall, elegant, athletic, man who at age 30 had an undergraduate degree in astronomy and mathematics, a legal degree as a Rhodes scholar, followed by a PhD in astronomy. He was an attorney in Kentucky (joined its bar in 1913), and had served in WWI, rising to the rank of major. He was bored with law and decided to go back to his studies in astronomy.

In 1919 he began to work at Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, where he would work for the rest of his life. . . .
Hubble wanted to classify the galaxies according to their content, distance, shape, and brightness patterns, and in his observations he made another momentous discovery: By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by the galaxies, he saw that galaxies were moving away from each other at a rate constant to the distance between them (Hubble’s Law). The further away they were, the faster they receded. This led to the calculation of the point where the expansion began, and confirmation of the big bang theory. Hubble calculated it to be about 2 billion years ago, but more recent estimates have revised that to 20 billion years ago.

An active anti-fascist, Hubble wanted to joined the armed forces again during World War II, but was convinced he could contribute more as a scientist on the homefront. When the 200-inch telescope was completed on Mt. Palomar, Hubble was given the honor of first use. He died in 1953.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

That news on December 30, 1924, didn’t make the first page of the New York Times. The Times carried a small note on February 25, 1925, that Hubble won a $1,000 prize from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

(Does anyone have a suitable citation for that video? Where did it come from? Who produced it? Is there more somewhere?)

Happy Hubble Day! Look up!

Resources:

Hubble Space Telescope - NASA image

Hubble Space Telescope, working homage to Edwin Hubble – NASA image

Even More Resources:


Insta-Millard, photography and astronomy edition: South DakotaHenge

December 23, 2013

How much image manipulation, if any, was necessary to capture this enormous-looking Moon rising over a South Dakota “road to nowhere,” close to the 2013 Winter Solstice?

From @GlobePics:

From @GlobePics: “Road To Nowhere – Supermoon” – Supermoon rises over this road to nowhere in eastern South Dakota. pic.twitter.com/82AoFgPvWn

Who should get credit for the photo?  (I can’t quite read the name in the lower left corner.)

Buy a print here, from the photographer, Aaron J. Groen.

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There’s a Milky Way in Australia?

November 26, 2013

Yes, but it’s upside down, right?

Meredith Frost Tweeted: Great shot of the Milky Way over Western Australia (Photo/Mike Salway) An Astronomy Picture of the DayMeredith Frost Tweeted: Great shot of the Milky Way over Western Australia (Photo/Mike Salway) An Astronomy Picture of the Day

Meredith Frost Tweeted: Great shot of the Milky Way over Western Australia (Photo/Mike Salway) An Astronomy Picture of the Day

Turns out this was the Astronomy Picture of the Day back in September 2012.  NASA said:

Milky Way Over the Bungle Bungles
Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Salway Explanation: Which part of this picture do you find more interesting — the land or the sky? Advocates for the land might cite the beauty of the ancient domes of the Bungle Bungle Range in Western Australia. These picturesque domes appear as huge layered beehives and are made of sandstones and conglomerates deposited over 350 million years ago. Advocates for the sky might laud the beauty of the Milky Way’s central band shown arching from horizon to horizon. The photogenic Milky Way band formed over 10 billion years ago and now includes many well-known nebulae and bright stars. Fortunately, you don’t have to decide and can enjoy both together in this beautiful 8-frame panorama taken from the dark skies of Purnululu National Park about two months ago.

Decide Anyway: Land or Sky

I’d make some remarks about silly names for land formations in Australia — but here we sit with The Grand Tetons, The Gros Ventre, and several dozen “Molly’s Nipples” in our nation.

But really:  Bungle-Bungles?

Ain’t geography grand? Ain’t nature grand? Ain’t NASA doing something right?

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NASA’s photo of the day the Earth smiled

November 13, 2013

NASA's caption:  On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA's Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn's shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings -- and, in the background, our home planet, Earth. Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

NASA’s caption: On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

It’s difficult to improve on NASA’s matter-of-fact explanations.

The Day the Earth Smiled

On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth.

With the sun’s powerful and potentially damaging rays eclipsed by Saturn itself, Cassini’s onboard cameras were able to take advantage of this unique viewing geometry. They acquired a panoramic mosaic of the Saturn system that allows scientists to see details in the rings and throughout the system as they are backlit by the sun. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn’s orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.

With both Cassini’s wide-angle and narrow-angle cameras aimed at Saturn, Cassini was able to capture 323 images in just over four hours. This final mosaic uses 141 of those wide-angle images. Images taken using the red, green and blue spectral filters of the wide-angle camera were combined and mosaicked together to create this natural-color view. A brightened version with contrast and color enhanced, a version with just the planets annotated, and an unannotated version are also available.

This image spans about 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across.

The outermost ring shown here is Saturn’s E ring, the core of which is situated about 149,000 miles (240,000  kilometers) from Saturn. The geysers erupting from the south polar terrain of the moon Enceladus supply the fine icy particles that comprise the E ring; diffraction by sunlight gives the ring its blue color. Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers, across) and the extended plume formed by its jets are visible, embedded in the E ring on the left side of the mosaic.

At the 12 o’clock position and a bit inward from the E ring lies the barely discernible ring created by the tiny, Cassini-discovered moon, Pallene (3 miles, or 4 kilometers, across). (For more on structures like Pallene’s ring, see PIA08328). The next narrow and easily seen ring inward is the G ring. Interior to the G ring, near the 11 o’clock position, one can barely see the more diffuse ring created by the co-orbital moons, Janus (111 miles, or 179 kilometers, across) and Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers, across). Farther inward, we see the very bright F ring closely encircling the main rings of Saturn.

Following the outermost E ring counter-clockwise from Enceladus, the moon Tethys (662 miles, or 1,066 kilometers, across) appears as a large yellow orb just outside of the E ring. Tethys is positioned on the illuminated side of Saturn; its icy surface is shining brightly from yellow sunlight reflected by Saturn. Continuing to about the 2 o’clock position is a dark pixel just outside of the G ring; this dark pixel is Saturn’s Death Star moon, Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers, across). Mimas appears, upon close inspection, as a very thin crescent because Cassini is looking mostly at its non-illuminated face.

The moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus and Epimetheus are also visible in the mosaic near Saturn’s bright narrow F ring. Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers, across) is visible as a faint black dot just inside the F ring and at the 9 o’clock position. On the opposite side of the rings, just outside the F ring, Pandora (50 miles, or 81 kilometers, across) can be seen as a bright white dot. Pandora and Prometheus are shepherd moons and gravitational interactions between the ring and the moons keep the F ring narrowly confined. At the 11 o’clock position in between the F ring and the G ring, Janus (111 miles, or 179 kilometers, across) appears as a faint black dot. Janus and Prometheus are dark for the same reason Mimas is mostly dark: we are looking at their non-illuminated sides in this mosaic.  Midway between the F ring and the G ring, at about the 8 o’clock position, is a single bright pixel, Epimetheus. Looking more closely at Enceladus, Mimas and Tethys, especially in the brightened version of the mosaic, one can see these moons casting shadows through the E ring like a telephone pole might cast a shadow through a fog.

In the non-brightened version of the mosaic, one can see bright clumps of ring material orbiting within the Encke gap near the outer edge of the main rings and immediately to the lower left of the globe of Saturn. Also, in the dark B ring within the main rings, at the 9 o’clock position, one can see the faint outlines of two spoke features, first sighted by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s and extensively studied by Cassini.

Finally, in the lower right of the mosaic, in between the bright blue E ring and the faint but defined G ring, is the pale blue dot of our planet, Earth. Look closely and you can see the moon protruding from the Earth’s lower right. (For a higher resolution view of the Earth and moon taken during this campaign, see PIA14949.) Earth’s twin, Venus, appears as a bright white dot in the upper left quadrant of the mosaic, also between the G and E rings.  Mars also appears as a faint red dot embedded in the outer edge of the E ring, above and to the left of Venus.

For ease of visibility, Earth, Venus, Mars, Enceladus, Epimetheus and Pandora were all brightened by a factor of eight and a half relative to Saturn. Tethys was brightened by a factor of four. In total, 809 background stars are visible and were brightened by a factor ranging from six, for the brightest stars, to 16, for the faintest. The faint outer rings (from the G ring to the E ring) were also brightened relative to the already bright main rings by factors ranging from two to eight, with the lower-phase-angle (and therefore fainter) regions of these rings brightened the most. The brightened version of the mosaic was further brightened and contrast-enhanced all over to accommodate print applications and a wide range of computer-screen viewing conditions.

Some ring features — such as full rings traced out by tiny moons — do not appear in this version of the mosaic because they require extreme computer enhancement, which would adversely affect the rest of the mosaic. This version was processed for balance and beauty.

This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 17 degrees below the ring plane. Cassini was approximately 746,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn when the images in this mosaic were taken. Image scale on Saturn is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) per pixel.

This mosaic was made from pictures taken over a span of more than four hours while the planets, moons and stars were all moving relative to Cassini. Thus, due to spacecraft motion, these objects in the locations shown here were not in these specific places over the entire duration of the imaging campaign. Note also that Venus appears far from Earth, as does Mars, because they were on the opposite side of the sun from Earth.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Bigger image:

Cassini's view looking back from Saturn, on July 19, 2013, the day the Earth smiled. Click for much larger view.  NASA photo and annotations

Cassini’s view looking back from Saturn, on July 19, 2013, the day the Earth smiled. Click for much larger view. NASA photo and annotations

What do you think:  Tax money well spent?

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Moon, stars, Earth, all conspire to produce astonishing beauty in Hawaii

November 5, 2013

It’s a composite of 11 photographs to get the whole panoramic view — which just demonstrates that in photography it’s great to be lucky, but it usually takes great skill to get that amount of luck.

How much processing was involved, really?

Don’t worry, just check out the photo.

Double Moonbow, lava glow and fading Lunar Halo; 11-picture Panoramic taken on the rim of Kilauea's Caldera On the Last Super Moon. Sean King, Atmospheric Phenomena

Double Moonbow, lava glow and fading Lunar Halo; 11-picture Panoramic taken on the rim of Kilauea’s Caldera On the Last Super Moon. Sean King, Atmospheric Phenomena

See the Facebook page for Hawaii Stargazing Adventures.

Click thumbnail for a larger image.  Kilauea and double Moonbow - Sean King - 736169_10201694350153369_1176409460_o


Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere

September 26, 2013

What’s the southernmost unit of the U.S. National Park System?  That’s where this photo was taken.

Stunning southern night sky in Ofu Island in the National Park of American Samoa! They get a brighter, richer view of the Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere due to the location on the globe. This is the only national park found in the Southern Hemisphere.  Photo: National Park Service

Stunning southern night sky in Ofu Island in the National Park of American Samoa! They get a brighter, richer view of the Milky Way in the Southern Hemisphere due to the location on the globe. This is the only national park found in the Southern Hemisphere. Photo: National Park Service

Many Americans seem unaware of worldwide holdings of the U.S. in territories, thinking the last territory was closed when Oklahoma or Arizona entered the union, or maybe Alaska or Hawaii.  U.S. territories today include the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam (from the Spanish American War), Puerto Rico (from the same war), and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as organized territories.  American Samoa is an “unorganized territory,” along with series of other islands in the Pacific:  Baker Island, Howland Island, Palmyra Atoll, Johnson Atoll, Jarvis Island, Kingman Reef, the Midway Islands, and Wake Island; and in the Caribbean, Bajo Nuevo Bank, Navassa Island (also claimed by Haiti), and Serranilla Bank, also claimed by Colombia.

Most of these islands offer much better star-gazing than is ever possible in Dallas.

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Voyager I becomes Earth’s first interstellar object

September 14, 2013

Can you recall what you were doing on September 5, 1977?

The Voyager 1 aboard the Titan III/Centaur lif...

The Voyager 1 aboard the Titan III/Centaur lifted off on September 5, 1977, joining its sister spacecraft, the Voyager 2, on a mission to the outer planets. Wikipedia image, from NASA

That’s the day NASA launched Voyager I, on a trip to photograph planets in our solar system more close up than we can get with Earth-bound telescopes.  The Hubble Space Telescope was not even on the drawing board then.

After completing its mission, Voyager I continued on its path.  Scientists thought it would survive to leave the solar systems, and a few forward-looking thinkers hoped to learn more about just how far the influence of our Sun really extends.  At some point, Voyager I would leave space where the chief gravitational and wind influence is the Sun, and move into truly inter-stellar (“between the stars”) space, where gravity and particle emissions are dominated by other objects in our galaxy.

Last week NASA announced that time came in August of 2012, confirmed by data transmitted back to earth by Voyager’s primitive capabilities, over the last year.

Space.com explains it well:

Interesting to think of the investment in thought, money, effort and patience by scientists and policy-makers to wait more than 35 years for such a research result.

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Voyager I, artist's interpretation.  NASA image

Voyager I, artist’s interpretation. NASA image


Quote of the moment: Carl Sagan, on perspective on our own lives

September 14, 2013

You’ve heard the news by now: Voyager I has left the system.

What are we to think of that?

Earth, Moon, Mars, Jupiter -- what you see depends on where you are, in reality as well as metaphorically.

Earth, Moon, Mars, Jupiter — what you see depends on where you are, in reality as well as metaphorically.

” . . . astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.”

- Carl Sagan on how images of Earth from space change our perspective

Sagan’s words in the full passage impart a larger message, about caring for our planet and our neighbors on it.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Carl SaganPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi

In other words, we’re on our own.  What are we going to do about that?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Hashem Al-ghaili for making this image! https://www.facebook.com/ScienceNaturePage, and to All Science, All the Time.

Hey, if I had the program and the time to fix the misspelled planet, I would. Also, it would be good to have photo credits.

More:

Voyager I photo of the Earth from outside Jupiter's orbit - the Pale Blue Dot photo

This is the photo that inspired Sagan’s reflection, as opposed to the photos in the poster mashup above. Via Wikipedia, with captions. ¶Seen from about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles), Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. ¶This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager’s great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Coincidentally, Earth lies right in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the sun. This blown-up image of the Earth was taken through three color filters – violet, blue and green – and recombined to produce the color image. The background features in the image are artifacts resulting from the magnification.

 


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