Category Archives: Space

Wake Up, Florida!

Yeah, all of you…

(Images courtesy of the SpaceX webcast)

And EchoStar 23 is on its way to an orbit over Brazil. Congratulations to SpaceX on another outstanding and successful launch!

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Sunset On Trappist-1e

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It’s only forty light-years away! I’m ready to go!!

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It Moved!

Again out to the roof of the office parking garage. Tonight I started to attract some attention. It’s not normal to see a guy out there with a couple of big cameras pointed at the moon!

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Look at that! Last night the moon was down there, but tonight it’s up there! (Well, relative to our sightline to Venus, but let’s not get carried away here.) It’s almost like the Earth, Moon, Venus, Sun, and Mars were all…moving.

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It was a bit darker when I went out tonight, so it’s easier to pick up Mars. It’s just above center here, with Venus on the bottom, the Moon, at the top, and the Sun somewhere way over to the left. Obvious to us, but not so to the ancients. We might have a slightly more accurate worldview than they did.

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Crescent Moon + Venus + Mars

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Last night was “clear and a million” and I had my alarm set incorrectly, so I missed most of the nice sunset with the thin crescent moon. Not tonight, even if it does mean taking a quick break from the office and going out to the parking garage roof.

But where’s the moon?

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There it is! Veiled by all of those high, thin clouds.

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Not bad for a handheld shot, no tripod.

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Look out! I didn’t know Southwest Airlines had regularly schedule service to the Moon!

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Coming back out about a half-hour later when it was suitably dark, I found that most of the overcast had disappeared, allowing Venus to appear!

img_0370_smallA little bit of Earthshine lighting up the dark parts of the moon.

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Mars was suposed to be to the upper left of Venus from this perspective. Is it there? Click on the image to see it full-sized and take a look.

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Eugene “Gene” Cernan (1934-2017)

We lost another one today, another hero of my youth.

img_0544(All photos: NASA)

Captain Gene Cernan was a Naval Aviator and test pilot who became the second American to walk in space, on Gemini 9. It nearly killed him. He was the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 10, the “dress rehearsal” mission prior to Apollo 11. It nearly killed him. He was the mission commander on Apollo 17 where he landed on the moon along with Harrison Schmitt, spent three days and three hours there, made three EVAs of over seven hours each, and drove all over the Taurus-Littrow valley, bringing back 243 pounds of samples.

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He was “the last man on the moon.” When he stepped off of the lunar soil and onto the ladder after his third EVA on December 14, 1972, we stopped putting new footprints in lunar soil. When the Apollo 17 crew splashed down on December 17, 1972, it marked the last time that humans have ventured beyond low Earth orbit.

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For the last forty-five years, Cernan has constantly said that he hoped that before he died he would no longer be the last man on the moon. We let him down.

That’s criminal in my book.

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Fair winds and following seas, Captain. We’ll be following someday, hopefully soon, hopefully in my lifetime, but someday.

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The circumstances in which human history does not include a return to the moon are too horrible and depressing to contemplate.

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SpaceX Launch

SpaceX (flawlessly) performed their return-to-flight launch today out of Vandenberg AFB, a couple hours drive up the California coast. As much as I might have wanted to be there, that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I had an alarm or two set on my phone and a few minutes before launch I broke away from my chores at the CAF and went out to the edge of the runway.

It’s 108 miles as the crow flies to Vandenberg from Camarillo. Given that, I was amazed at how easy it was to see the launch and follow it for about two minutes. (You probably have to click on the pictures to see them full sized – it wasn’t THAT huge.)

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Starting to pick up a bit of contrail behind it.

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Heading due south toward Antarctica and a polar orbit.

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Cropped to show just the rocket and tail of flame.

One of these days I’m going to have to make the 3-hour drive up to catch one from much, much closer!

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Anaglyphs – From MARS!!

There’s a really cool spacecraft orbiting Mars, with a freakin’ huge camera on board. (Actually, there are quite a few really cool spacecraft orbiting Mars, but we’ll talk about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter¬†right now.) It’s called HiRISE, which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. From Mars orbit, the “camera” (which is really a 0.5 meter aperture telescope, the biggest ever sent so far from Earth) can see objects only a foot across.

Check out their website for tens of thousands of ¬†amazing photos. In particular, look at the “anaglyph” photos (almost 5,000 of them as of today), which show Mars to you in 3-D. That is, they do if you wear those goofy-looking red-lens/blue-lens glasses.

img_8709You might have seen cheap cardboard anaglyph glasses or have gotten a pair at a science fair or something. However, I have it on good authority that these days you can buy a pair of sturdy, good, plastic anaglyph glasses on Amazon for under $2.

It might be hard for you to look as cool as I do while looking at 3-D pictures of Mars, but for pocket change you can give it a try!

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