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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Photos of the Day: Visiting Crystal Cove in Orange County...

An image of a tidal pool at Crystal Cove Beach that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera...on January 17, 2018.

Just thought I'd share these photos that I took at Crystal Cove Beach in Orange County, California yesterday. I've been meaning to visit this state park since mid-2017, but I couldn't find the time to...and I wasn't in the mood to pay $15 maximum for parking at the beach (I ended up only paying $10). Also, I heard through one of my friends last year that the city of Laguna Beach, which—along with nearby Newport Beach—has jurisdiction over parts of Crystal Cove, made it mandatory to apply for a permit (at a cost of $100 minimum) to conduct photo and film shoots at the beach. Seeing as how I went to Crystal Cove to take pics with my Nikon D3300 DSLR, and I was originally planning to use my camera tripod with it, this was probably gonna be a red flag to any park rangers I ran into at the area (I ended up encountering two rangers at the beach). All the images that I took were handheld yesterday.

An image of Crystal Cove Beach that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera...on January 17, 2018.

Crystal Cove Beach is a nice locale, but chances are I'll probably just drive to El Matador Beach in Malibu if I want to take more photos of the ocean with my DSLR next time. Despite the distance (El Matador Beach is around 70 miles from where I live, as opposed to 40 miles for Crystal Cove), there are no photo restrictions at the Malibu location...and I don't have to take a friggin' toll road to get there. [I had to use the 73 Freeway, which required you to pay a toll, in Orange County—despite many efforts to avoid this highway by driving far enough to have my GPS re-route me to a different path. These efforts didn't work (thanks for nothing, Google Maps).] Carry on.

An image of two sandpiper seabirds milling about along the shore at Crystal Cove Beach...as seen with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera on January 17, 2018.

An image of a sandpiper seabird milling about along the shore at Crystal Cove Beach...as seen with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera on January 17, 2018.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A MAGA-Spouting Moron in Denial...

This MAGA-spouting moron is in absolute denial over the Moron-In-Chief 'governing' America right now.

Took the screenshot above of a Trumptard's Twitter page today. Is this a bot? Or is this an actual person who's either joking or just really gullible and f**kin' stupid to believe that the Dotard could be "very healthy" and "very sane?" The Dunning-Kruger effect at work here, folks...

Despite spending more time golfing than leading America (which may be a good thing), Donald Trump doesn't look like he's in 'good health' here to me...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Rest In Peace, Dolores O’Riordan (1971-2018)...

The Cranberries' lead singer Dolores O'Riordan performs in Berlin on May 2, 2017.
Frank Hoensch / Redferns via Getty Images

Another music icon has sadly left the world. Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer for The Cranberries, was just 46 when she passed away in London today. My condolences to her loved ones. 1993's "Dreams" and 1994's "Zombie" are two of my favorite songs by her amazing rock band. The music videos for both of them are below...



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Photos of the Day: The Snowy Peak of Mount Baldy...

An image of Mount Baldy that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera from the city of Industry in California...on January 10, 2018.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took of Mount Baldy and the surrounding peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains last Wednesday. The 10,064 feet-tall (or 3,068 meters-tall) landform, which also goes by the name Mount San Antonio, was covered in snow following a two-day rainstorm that struck Southern California last Monday and Tuesday. Of course, considering that SoCal's weather fluctuates like crazy and the majority of this snow melted due to the 80-plus degree weather that hit the region over the last two days, this cool winter scenery is now a thing of the past (till the next storm, that is). Oh well. I took these images using my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera. Happy Sunday!

Another image of Mount Baldy that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera from the city of Industry in California...on January 10, 2018.

An image of the San Gabriel Mountains that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera from the city of Industry in California...on January 10, 2018.

Another image of the San Gabriel Mountains that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera from the city of Industry in California...on January 10, 2018.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Kepler Update: Yet Another Solar System Has Been Discovered (By Ordinary Citizens Using Kepler Data)!

An artist's concept of the five confirmed exoplanets in the K2-138 star system.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Multi-planet System Found Through Crowdsourcing (Press Release - January 11)

A system of at least five exoplanets has been discovered by citizen scientists through a project called Exoplanet Explorers, part of the online platform Zooniverse, using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope. This is the first multi-planet system discovered entirely through crowdsourcing. A study describing the system has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

Thousands of citizen scientists got to work on Kepler data in 2017 when Exoplanet Explorers launched. It was featured on a program called Stargazing Live on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). On the final night of the three-day program, researchers announced the discovery of a four-planet system. Since then, they have named it K2-138 and determined that it has a fifth planet -- and perhaps even a sixth, according to the new paper.

Another batch of 2017 Kepler data was recently uploaded to Exoplanet Explorers for citizen scientists to peer through. Astronomers have not yet searched through most of it for planets.

NASA's Ames Research Center manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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An infographic comparing the sizes of the five confirmed exoplanets in the K2-138 star system to that of Earth.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Thursday, January 11, 2018

More Signs of Water on the Surface of the Red Planet...

An image of a scarp containing water ice on the surface of the Red Planet...as seen by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UA / USGS

Steep Slopes on Mars Reveal Structure of Buried Ice (Press Release)

Researchers using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have found eight sites where thick deposits of ice beneath Mars' surface are exposed in faces of eroding slopes.

These eight scarps, with slopes as steep as 55 degrees, reveal new information about the internal layered structure of previously detected underground ice sheets in Mars' middle latitudes.

The ice was likely deposited as snow long ago. The deposits are exposed in cross section as relatively pure water ice, capped by a layer one to two yards (or meters) thick of ice-cemented rock and dust. They hold clues about Mars' climate history. They also may make frozen water more accessible than previously thought to future robotic or human exploration missions.

Researchers who located and studied the scarp sites with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on MRO reported the findings today in the journal Science. The sites are in both northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at latitudes from about 55 to 58 degrees, equivalent on Earth to Scotland or the tip of South America.

"There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars," said the study's lead author, Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. "What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before."

Windows into underground ice

The scarps directly expose bright glimpses into vast underground ice previously detected with spectrometers on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, with ground-penetrating radar instruments on MRO and on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, and with observations of fresh impact craters that uncover subsurface ice. NASA sent the Phoenix lander to Mars in response to the Odyssey findings; in 2008, the Phoenix mission confirmed and analyzed the buried water ice at 68 degrees north latitude, about one-third of the way to the pole from the northernmost of the eight scarp sites.

The discovery reported today gives us surprising windows where we can see right into these thick underground sheets of ice," said Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, a co-author on today's report. "It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground."

Scientists have not determined how these particular scarps initially form. However, once the buried ice becomes exposed to Mars' atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it "retreats," due to sublimation of the ice directly from solid form into water vapor. At some of them, the exposed deposit of water ice is more than 100 yards, or meter, thick. Examination of some of the scarps with MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) confirmed that the bright material is frozen water. A check of the surface temperature using Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera helped researchers determine they're not seeing just thin frost covering the ground.

Researchers previously used MRO's Shallow Radar (SHARAD) to map extensive underground water-ice sheets in middle latitudes of Mars and estimate that the top of the ice is less than about 10 yards beneath the ground surface. How much less? The radar method did not have sufficient resolution to say. The new ice-scarp studies confirm indications from fresh-crater and neutron-spectrometer observations that a layer rich in water ice begins within just one or two yards of the surface in some areas.

Astronauts' access to Martian water

The new study not only suggests that underground water ice lies under a thin covering over wide areas, it also identifies eight sites where ice is directly accessible, at latitudes with less hostile conditions than at Mars' polar ice caps. "Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need," Byrne said.

The exposed ice has scientific value apart from its potential resource value because it preserves evidence about long-term patterns in Mars' climate. The tilt of Mars' axis of rotation varies much more than Earth's, over rhythms of millions of years. Today the two planets' tilts are about the same. When Mars tilts more, climate conditions may favor buildup of middle-latitude ice. Dundas and co-authors say that banding and color variations apparent in some of the scarps suggest layers "possibly deposited with changes in the proportion of ice and dust under varying climate conditions."

This research benefited from coordinated use of multiple instruments on Mars orbiters, plus the longevities at Mars now exceeding 11 years for MRO and 16 years for Odyssey. Orbital observations will continue, but future missions to the surface could seek additional information.

"If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars," suggested MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "It's part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go? When does ice accumulate? When does it recede?"

The University of Arizona operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, leads MRO's CRISM investigation. The Italian Space Agency provided MRO's SHARAD instrument, Sapienza University of Rome leads SHARAD operations, and the Planetary Science Institute, based in Tucson, Arizona, leads U.S. involvement in SHARAD. Arizona State University, Tempe, leads the Odyssey mission's THEMIS investigation. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the MRO and Odyssey projects for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built both orbiters and supports their operation.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Another image of the scarp containing water ice on the surface of the Red Planet...as seen by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UA / USGS

Monday, January 08, 2018

Orange and Insane...

A GARFIELD comic strip from July 25, 2017.

I've been a huge fan of Garfield since I was in grade school 30 years ago. And I've been a huge NON-fan of Donald Trump since he announced his previous bid to become president before the 2012 U.S. election. So I found it amusing that this particular comic strip for the funny fat cat unwittingly poked fun at the orange-tanned Russian puppet as well. I'm pretty sure that this was unintentional on Jim Davis' (the creator of Garfield) part. But for me, I immediately saved this strip to my desktop screen last summer...waiting for the right moment (which there were MANY since the Dotard was sworn in last January) to post it on my Blog. In the wake of Trump's embarrassing "stable genius" rant on Twitter last weekend, I felt that this was obviously the best time to do so.

Orange is the color of insanity—for an overweight and stubborn but very hilarious cartoon feline, and also for an overweight, stubborn, extremely moronic and cartoonish conman posing as an American president in real life. Carry on.

Donald Trump shouldn't have displayed that executive order for people to mock.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Photos of the Day: The Wolf Moon of 2018...

An image of the Supermoon that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera on January 1, 2018.

Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope your first day of 2018 was a safe and memorable one. Anyways, just thought I'd share these pics that I took of tonight's Supermoon, also known as the Wolf Moon...which is the second Supermoon to take place in less than a month. And guess what? A third Supermoon will occur on January 31st—complete with a total lunar eclipse that will be visible over much of the world (except parts of Africa, South America and western Europe)! I definitely can't wait to get pics of that one...assuming I'll be able to get out of bed early in the morning to go outside and take photos. The total lunar eclipse itself begins at 4:51 AM and ends at 6:07 AM, Pacific Standard Time. Don't know if the Moon will have set below the horizon during that time, but it's all good. I used my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to capture these images.

So once again, have a safe and prosperous new year, everyone! And Happy Monday.

Another image of the Supermoon that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera on January 1, 2018.

Another image of the Supermoon that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera on January 1, 2018.

Another image of the Supermoon that I took with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera on January 1, 2018.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Final Post of the Year: Asteroid Images by Arecibo...

An image mosaic of asteroid 3200 Phaethon that were taken by the Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar in Puerto Rico on December 17, 2017.
Arecibo Observatory / NASA / NSF

Arecibo Radar Returns with Asteroid Phaethon Images (Press Release - December 22)

After several months of downtime since Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar has returned to normal operation, providing the highest-resolution images to date of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon during its December 2017 close approach to Earth. The radar images, which are subtle at the available resolution, reveal the asteroid is spheroidal (roughly ball-shaped) and has a large concavity, or depression, at least several hundred meters in extent near its equator, and a conspicuous dark, circular feature near one of the poles. Arecibo's radar images of Phaethon have resolutions as fine as about 250 feet (75 meters) per pixel.

"These new observations of Phaethon show it may be similar in shape to asteroid Bennu, the target of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, but more than 1,000 Bennus could fit inside of Phaethon," said Patrick Taylor, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Columbia, Maryland, scientist and group leader for Planetary Radar at Arecibo Observatory. "The dark feature could be a crater or some other topographic depression that did not reflect the radar beam back to Earth."

Radar images obtained by Arecibo indicate Phaethon has a diameter of about 3.6 miles (6 kilometers) -- roughly 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) larger than previous estimates. Phaethon is the second largest near-Earth asteroid classified as "Potentially Hazardous." Near-Earth objects are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely they can approach Earth's orbit.

Tracking and characterizing PHAs is a primary mission of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Radar is a powerful technique for studying asteroid sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features and roughness, and for more precise determination of their orbital path, when they pass relatively close to Earth.

"Arecibo is an important global asset, crucial for planetary defense work because of its unique capabilities," said Joan Schmelz of USRA and deputy director of Arecibo Observatory. "We have been working diligently to get it back up and running since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico."

The Arecibo Observatory has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth. On Sept. 20, the telescope suffered minor structural damage when Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit the island since 1928, made landfall. Some days after the storm, the observatory resumed radio astronomy observations, while also serving as a base for relief efforts to surrounding communities. Radar observations, which require high power and diesel fuel for generators at the site, resumed operations in early December after commercial power returned to the observatory and the generators could then be used exclusively for the radar.

Asteroid 3200 Phaethon was discovered on Oct. 11, 1983, by NASA's Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), and the planetary dust that produces the annual Geminid meteor shower originates from this asteroid. Observations of Phaethon were conducted at Arecibo from Dec. 15 through 19, 2017, using the NASA-funded planetary radar system. At time of closest approach on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST, 11 p.m. UTC) the asteroid was about 6.4 million miles (10.3 million kilometers) away, or about 27 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The encounter is the closest the asteroid will come to Earth until 2093, but it came a little closer in 1974 and about half this distance back in 1931 before its existence was known.

The Arecibo Planetary Radar Program is funded by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program through a grant to Universities Space Research Association (USRA), from the Near-Earth Object Observations program. The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by SRI International, USRA, and Universidad Metropolitana.

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting coordination of U.S. government response planning, should there be an actual impact threat.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Monday, December 25, 2017

Images of the Day: More Cool Pics of the Dragonfly...

An artist's concept of the Dragonfly drone spacecraft designed to study the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
NASA

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Just thought I'd mark today's joyous occasion (unless of course, you live here in the United States and constantly read about politics) by sharing these images I found online of the Dragonfly rotorcraft that will hopefully emerge victorious when NASA announces its fourth New Frontiers space mission in mid-2019. The two screenshots directly below, in particular, totally hype me up in terms of the type of vehicle that will hopefully fly through Titan's atmosphere when it arrives at Saturn's largest moon in 2034 after launching from Florida in 2025. These screenshots came from this fascinating YouTube video, while the video itself was posted on the main mission website for Dragonfly.

All I can say is, next decade could prove to be an exciting one for space aficionados like myself who wish to see another spacecraft join the Europa Clipper in studying an intriguing ocean moon orbiting a gas giant in our solar system. But we'll find out what NASA ultimately selects less than two years from now... Happy Holidays!

A screenshot of a Dragonfly prototype drone that's about to take off for a test flight above a grass field.
Johns Hopkins University - Applied Physics Laboratory

A screenshot of the Dragonfly prototype drone lifting off to conduct a test flight above a grass field.
Johns Hopkins University - Applied Physics Laboratory

Another art concept of the Dragonfly drone spacecraft designed to study the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
APL / Michael Carroll

A cropped version of the art concept depicting the Dragonfly spacecraft designed to study the surface of Titan.
APL / Michael Carroll

An art concept of the aeroshell (similar in design to the one used by the Curiosity Mars rover) that the nuclear-powered Dragonfly spacecraft will ride in on its journey to Titan.
Johns Hopkins University - Applied Physics Laboratory