Category Archives: Space

Spooky Explained?

A few days ago I posted pictures of “Spooky Finger Clouds“:

Some speculated that it might be contrails or something, but the explanation turns out to be more exotic.

See a day or so later:

Hey, you can see our house from here!

While they’re referred to as “gravity wave clouds,” they’re not in fact (much to my disappointment!) caused by gravity waves like those produced by colliding black holes. They’re caused by oscillations in the atmosphere where a disturbance of some sort causes moist air to rise and fall (due to gravity) much like ripples spreading out from a stone dropped into a pond.

The end result is that you get these rows of linear clouds. They can be extremely spectacular – they’ve even been seen on Mars!

Science! For The Win!

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Filed under Astronomy, Space, Weather

Do Yourself A Big Favor Today

Watch this video:

I do so dearly love Disturbed version of this song, and I’ve raved about their original video, which is spectacular. But their music and the accompanying video of our planet from space – I could just wallow in that combination of sounds and sights for hours.

Thank you, NASA Johnson! And Disturbed! And Paul Simon!

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Filed under Music, Space, Video

I Want A BFR!!

Tonight Elon Musk of SpaceX gave a speech about SpaceX’s vision of their next generation of rockets, the ones that can not only launch satellites ten times larger than the current ones, but which can also let us build a moon base and start going to Mars as early as 2024. (Which might be just a touch aggressively optimistic, but at least they’re trying.)

This next generation, bigger than the Falcon Heavy, bigger than the Saturn V, but 100% reusable an a 100 times cheaper than current rockets, is being referred to as the “BFR.” I’ll leave figuring out what that stands for as an exercise to the student.

I want one. Now. Really, really badly.

I urge you to find the full speech when it’s put up on YouTube later tonight or tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are SpaceX’s tweets that accompanied the speech:

I’m ready to go!

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Heading Off-Planet

The first thought I had, which I was actually writing as a stand-alone thing for tonight, revolves around this from the @GeekxGirls Twitter and FaceBook account:

I love this a lot, but after sharing it on both Twitter and Facebook, it occurred to me – maybe we ARE on a career path toward Starfleet. If we believe that it (or its equivalent in the real world, whatever it will be or be called) will exist and exist in our lifetimes, someone is going to have to be involved in starting it and being the first faculty and/or students.

Why can’t that be us?

Then, just before 23:00 tonight, ULA launched an Atlas 5 (big freakin’ rocket) out of Vandenberg AFB up the coast. I knew of the launch and had thought about driving up to see it, but just have too many other things to do.

I was watching the launch online on my phone, and it occurred to me about 30 seconds into launch that there might be a tiny chance of maybe seeing something of the launch from outside. Vandenberg is over 100 miles to our WNW and I’ve got a big hill to my west, but maybe.

Oh. My. Freakin’. God!

Just as I got out the rocket started to clear the hill with a bright red and orange flame that stretched at least as far as the moon is wide. It was bright enough so that even with the city lights all around and the street lights and security lights at the school up on the corner, people driving down the street were seeing it and stopping to look.

Over the next minute or more, as the rocket climbed out of the atmosphere it also climbed more overhead, directly to our west. The flame trail grew less visible, but the exhaust cone, sort of a bright, curved V-shape, got very bright and spread out. Lots of blue and orange color, just a spectacular sight.

As the rocket kept climbing toward the south I crossed the street to keep it in view over the neighbor’s house. I could clearly see the first stage dim, flash, and cut off, followed by the flash of the second stage ignition. Another few seconds after that and it faded into the haze on the southern horizon.

I need to remember this. If seeing a launch is this moving and emotional and full of elation even when seen from this far away with none of the noise or smoke or other phenomenon present, I can’t wait to see one from a much better and much closer viewpoint.

Heading off-planet, the Earth in our rear-view mirror. Today a display on the horizon, tomorrow an addicting up-close experience, soon to be a career path for all of those waiting to go exploring and working. It would be neat if they named it “Starfleet” just like they named the first Space Shuttle “Enterprise,” but I don’t care what they name it as long as I get to go!


Filed under Space

For Cassini

Tough night. As they say, let’s not be sad because she’s leaving us, let’s be joyful because of all she showed us and taught us.

And when you’ve sworn that you’re going to put on your big boy pants and make it through the vigil, you get this thread:

Then of course you have to watch the Cassini “Grand Finale” video:

Tomorrow, maybe it would be a good thing to start working a little harder to try to figure out how to get the powers that be in Washington to fund the next mission to Saturn. Maybe a Titan explorer, a boat to sail those methane seas or a balloon to soar over those petrocarbon pinnacles. Or an Enceladus orbiter to taste the plumes coming out of the polar tiger stripes.

Or both.

But for tonight, hail and farewell Cassini. You will always be Queen of the ringed planet in our hearts.


Filed under Astronomy, Music, Space

No Joy For Cassini

I had mentioned a couple of weeks back that I had applied for another NASA Social, this one at JPL in September for the Cassini finale. I had also mentioned that there were 25 spots available and I wouldn’t be surprised if they would get 2,500 or 25,000 applications and I thought my odds of being accepted were small.

I was correct!

I’ve gotten the “thanks so much for applying, but…” email and while I’m disappointed, I’m neither crushed nor surprised. But if you don’t apply, they can’t tell you “no,” correct? At least they didn’t say, “HELL, NO!”

Meanwhile, I’m one or two steps closer to getting my FAA flight physical renewed, which is the next big step to getting back into the left seat in the cockpit. While I’ve been flying (commercial doesn’t count) a handful of times in the past few years (here, here, here, and here for example), I haven’t been PIC (Pilot in Command) in almost four years.

Time to fix that.

We’re getting closer. Get the FAA medical, get a few hours of training back in and get my BFR (Bi-annual Flight Review) recorded, then start building up some hours. We’ve got that Navion that needs flying out at the CAF, and with a tailwheel endorsement, the PT-19. A few hundred hours there and a complex endorsement and the SNJ’s await.

Watch the skies. That’s me aiming to come to your town for that “$100 hamburger!”


Filed under CAF, Flying, Paul, Space

55 Days And Counting

Unless you’ve been in a cave without internet, television, radio, newspapers, or any kind of contact with the outside world…

Well, first of all, if you have and you’ve just come out, STAY OFF OF TWITTER, FACEBOOK, and whatever you do, DON’T WATCH THE NEWS!

Trust me on this one.

But aside from THAT, there’s this celestial event coming up on August 21st that you might want to think about finding a way to see. There will be a total solar eclipse, one of the singular most fantastic and astonishing sights to be seen by citizens of this planet. This particular total solar eclipse will be huge in terms of the number of people able to see it and the number of major metropolitan areas it will pass over or near. From Oregon to South Carolina, the path of totality will cover fourteen states. (THIS is an excellent site to see where totality will be, for how long, at what time, and so on. For more general questions, go here.)

As the big date approaches, you’ll be bombarded with news and articles. Not allowing for people not able to see the most spectacular parts of totality due to cloud cover, there are more than 12,000,000 people who be able to see the eclipse without leaving home. Counting people from major metropolitan areas (such as Atlanta) who are only a couple hours’ drive from the path of totality, it could easily be 40,000,000 watching.

It could be the biggest traffic jam in the history of the world. And totally worth it.

Not only will you be seeing a gazillion words from the mainstream media and online folks, you’ll be seeing quite a bit from me as well. We’ll be in the Kansas City area. Our hotel is already in the path of totality, so if it’s clear we can just go out into the parking lot and get 1:52 of totality. With a little driving out onto the back country roads of Missouri and Kansas so that we end up closer to the center line of the totality path, we’ll get 2:38 or so, near the maximum amount.

Weather will be the joker in the deck. We’ll spend Sunday watching the weather forecast and planning. If the Kansas/Missouri area is going to be totally socked in, we’ll start driving, either northwest into Nebraska or southeast toward Nashville.

If you’ve got questions, ask ’em! If you’ve got plans, share ’em!

Where will you be on August 21, 2017?

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Filed under Astronomy, Space, Travel