Category Archives: Space

Gobsmacked

Again. Only better.

Launch at the 19:56 mark, which is phenomenal.

But holy shit – check out the twin side boosters landing side by side at 27:29!!!

Then they landed the center booster first stage on the barge at 29:21 – the first time they’ve recovered all three boosters. (This is the second Falcon Heavy launch – on the first launch they ONLY recovered the two side boosters. ONLY!!)

And now I see that they recovered both fairing halves as well and they’ll be re-used.

If you aren’t just moved to tears of joy watching this, we probably can’t be friends.

But I found even better.

All of the professional video feeds and views live from space are truly amazing. But here’s why I want to see a launch live:

There are a bunch of things not going so well these days – thank god we have people like SpaceX doing the “impossible” things like this!

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No Context For You – April 01st

I have no clue – it’s on my phone and was taken at 19:07 tonight. All I know is that my personal Rorschach Test sees that big thing on the left with a decidedly Georgia O’Keeffe vibe going on.

I’ve been enjoying my Bose wireless headphones quite a bit, pretty much on a daily basis for at least an hour or two once I get home from the office. The batteries will hold a full charge for close to a week at that rate (about 20 hours total is what they say, and I’m finding that to be pretty accurate) but I usually charge them overnight before they get too depleted.

Until last night.

One feature of these headphones is a little robot voice that will tell you what the battery status is when they’re turned on. (I think the little voice will tell you a couple dozen other things, like if there’s an incoming phone call and so on.) Last night, I found that when the battery starts to get low, you’ll get spoken warnings once the battery is down to about 10%.

I kept going since I was on a roll with a project. I got another warning. Or two.

Then I heard, “My battery’s low, please recharge me now.”

And all I could think of was Opportunity’s last message. “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”

A headphone’s simple warning about battery status shouldn’t leave you wanting a pillow fort, hot chocolate, and some alone time.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Paul, Photography, Space

“My Battery Is Low And It’s Getting Dark”

To the cold hearted pragmatists it was probably just two small bits of telemetry, numbers, indicating the level of battery charge and the transparency of the Martian atmosphere. A machine, built by humans, launched to Mars by humans, guided by humans, running a program written by humans.

Two numbers.

But humans put it in context and translated it into our languages, in the process adding context and massive amounts of emotion.

I hope when my time comes I’m lucid enough to remember those words. They wouldn’t be the worst final words to use if you get to pick.

I also hope that I say them on Mars in about 200 years…

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Good Night, Opportunity

I know we’re not supposed to cry over robots, especially after we send them into hostile environments a billion miles away, and especially after they run for fourteen years in their ninety-day missions.

But I’m going to anyway.

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Lunar Eclipse Tonight

Here’s a shot that didn’t suck from tonight:

I’ll have more in the next day or so after I sort through all of the images from tonight, but after a quick scan of the photos from the wide angle camera, this one stood out first. Fully eclipsed moon at lower left, Orion on the right, and Sirius is the bright star at the bottom right just above the tree.

It was beautiful to watch but we had a ton of wind and clouds blowing through periodically. (You can see a band of high clouds in this picture from the lower right to the center, just along the right edge of the big tree, with some more clouds in the lower right.)

But most of the time we were able to see the moon from the first stages of the partial eclipse, through totality, until the first minute or so as the moon started to come out of totality. Then it was solid clouds and after ten minutes or so waiting for any sign of a break, I bailed.

I hope many of you also got a chance to see some or all of the eclipse, it was wonderful. More orange than red to my eye, but it looked through the telephoto camera to have a dark brown or grey cast to the darker sections. We’ll see what the photos say.

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ISS Pass With Lightning!

That was a first!

I hope that some of you in LA got to see the nice ISS pass that I talked about last night. It was bright, it was long, it went almost from horizon to horizon, fairly near the zenith.

It was behind this:

(Image from NOAA Hi-Def Radar app)

But the green stuff hadn’t covered the blue dot yet, so hope springs infernal! Out I went with my tripod & gear!

Much as in the radar, clouds covered most of the sky. But not ALL of it – there was that little slice to the west-northwest where the ISS would be rising. And the lighting wasn’t continuous, nor was it close enough to actually hear the thunder yet, so standing out there in the open on top of the hill next to the trees and telephone poles wasn’t the stupidest thing I had done today!

And there it was!

I tried shooting this in portrait mode this time instead of landscape mode since the ISS was rising pretty much straight up. That part worked. I even remembered to focus! I still need to work on getting a slightly more stable tripod setup, since you can see where there was a slight shift twice.

But given the circumstances, I’m not unhappy with this result. I’ve seen (and photographed, for better or for worse) the ISS three times in two days. (No visible pass tomorrow, but there’s a so-so one on Sunday night, then nothing for a while.) And I didn’t get hit by lightning!

Now it sounds like the storm is here and that big orangish, reddish, angry looking blob is headed right towards us in the next fifteen to twenty minutes, so I’m going to go out on my front porch and enjoy (in safety) a bit of rogue Southern California weather. I might even do another Facebook Live if it gets to hopping and booming!

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Double ISS Pass

First of all, if you’re in LA, I’m showing you this tonight because there’s an EXCELLENT pass of the ISS tomorrow!

Rise at 17:32 in the northwest, highest point at 19:35:58 in the southwest 62° above the horizon, sets at 19:37:54 in the south-southeast. (Map here on heavens-above.com)

Which brings us back to this evening.

The ISS goes around the Earth in about 90 minutes. If you happen to have a long twilight at a particular time of year and you get a pass early enough in the evening (but still after it’s dark enough to see the ISS in the dusk) you might get another one 90 minutes later before it’s full dark. That happened tonight in LA with passes at 18:48:35 and 20:24:56.

Here’s what I learned trying to photograph it (I’ve mentioned in the past that it’s a learning process):

(Image created using StarStaX 0.7)

For that early dusk pass, when it’s still fairly bright but you can see the ISS just fine with the naked eye, a one-second exposure isn’t going to work. The sky’s too bright and each frame will be way, way over-exposed. I had a feeling that might happen and was tempted to cut it to like 3/4 second – should have cut it to like 1/8 second or less and then just shot a LOT of frames to stack.

Secondly, when you realize the ISS is over there when you thought it was going to rise over there and you grab the tripod and scramble to reposition, take a second to make sure that the camera’s still in focus. (It probably isn’t any more – duh!)

For the second pass when it’s much later and darker, those 1-second exposures work well! The ISS here is the upper track, passing from the lower right to the upper left. The lower tracks are aircraft over the California coast on the long arc into LAX from Asia.

You’ll note that the ISS fades out in the top (upper left) of its arc. This was when it moved into shadow. Being the second pass of the night you’re probably not going to see it get too high or travel too far across the sky. It’ll still be there! But the Earth’s shadow will catch it, it will fly into orbital night, and you won’t see it any more. But watch for it – it will dim and turn red and orange as it goes through it’s ten-second orbital sunset.

Tasty!

Meanwhile:

In between the wires after the first pass there was a two-day old moon and Jupiter down on the western horizon. (They’ll be there tomorrow too when you go out to see that ISS pass that I told you about at the top – right?) This photo brought to you by the fact that I remembered to focus!

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