Friday, June 09, 2017

The GOP: America's Traitors Do It Again...

In a deceptive move that took place while the nation was focused on the Comey hearing held in the Senate yesterday, the House, under the leadership of this Wisconsin-born prick below, just killed the Dodd-Frank Act...which protected the American public from Wall Street's stupidity following the Great Recession that started nearly a decade ago. As I said in this previous journal entry: FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS.

House-speaking cocksucker Paul Ryan is proud that a law protecting Americans from Wall Street's dumbassery following the Great Recession was struck down by the House GOP.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Photo of the Day: The Comey Hearing...

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the nature of his firing due to Mike Flynn and the Trump-Russia scandal...on June 8, 2017.

What a fascinating photo. Of course, this pic would be even more interesting, and historic, if today's testimony by former FBI Director James Comey eventually leads to the ouster of The Orange One from the White House due to the ongoing Trump-Russia election the fall of fellow traitorous Trump associates like Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence (and maybe House Speaker piece of crap Paul Ryan as well). Carry on.

Monday, June 05, 2017

A Red-Hot World Is Found Beyond Our Solar System...

An artist's concept of the exoplanet KELT-9b orbiting its star KELT-9.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Astronomers Find Planet Hotter Than Most Stars (Press Release)

A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot, it's being vaporized by its own star.

With a dayside temperature of more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,600 Kelvin), KELT-9b is a planet that is hotter than most stars. But its blue A-type star, called KELT-9, is even hotter -- in fact, it is probably unraveling the planet through evaporation.

"This is the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered," said Scott Gaudi, astronomy professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, who led a study on the topic. He worked on this study while on sabbatical at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The unusual planet is described in the journal Nature and at a presentation at the American Astronomical Society summer meeting this week in Austin, Texas.

KELT-9b is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter, but only half as dense. Scientists would expect the planet to have a smaller radius, but the extreme radiation from its host star has caused the planet's atmosphere to puff up like a balloon.

Because the planet is tidally locked to its star -- as the Moon is to Earth -- one side of the planet is always facing toward the star, and one side is in perpetual darkness. Molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can't form on the dayside because it is bombarded by too much ultraviolet radiation. The properties of the nightside are still mysterious -- molecules may be able to form there, but probably only temporarily.

"It's a planet by any of the typical definitions of mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we've ever seen just because of the temperature of its dayside," Gaudi said.

The KELT-9 star is only 300 million years old, which is young in star time. It is more than twice as large, and nearly twice as hot, as our Sun. Given that the planet's atmosphere is constantly blasted with high levels of ultraviolet radiation, the planet may even be shedding a tail of evaporated planetary material like a comet.

"KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet," said Keivan Stassun, a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, who directed the study with Gaudi.

But this scenario assumes the star doesn't grow to engulf the planet first.

"KELT-9 will swell to become a red giant star in a few hundred million years," said Stassun. "The long-term prospects for life, or real estate for that matter, on KELT-9b are not looking good."

The planet is also unusual in that it orbits perpendicular to the spin axis of the star. That would be analogous to the planet orbiting perpendicular to the plane of our solar system. One "year" on this planet is less than two days.

KELT-9b is nowhere close to habitable, but Gaudi said there's a good reason to study worlds that are unlivable in the extreme.

"As has been highlighted by the recent discoveries from the MEarth collaboration, the planet around Proxima Centauri, and the astonishing system discovered around TRAPPIST-1, the astronomical community is clearly focused on finding Earthlike planets around small, cooler stars like our Sun. They are easy targets and there's a lot that can be learned about potentially habitable planets orbiting very low-mass stars in general. On the other hand, because KELT-9b's host star is bigger and hotter than the Sun, it complements those efforts and provides a kind of touchstone for understanding how planetary systems form around hot, massive stars," Gaudi said.

The KELT-9b planet was found using one of the two telescopes called KELT, or Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope. In late May and early June 2016, astronomers using the KELT-North telescope at Winer Observatory in Arizona noticed a tiny drop in the star's brightness -- only about half of one percent -- which indicated that a planet may have passed in front of the star. The brightness dipped once every 1.5 days, which means the planet completes a "yearly" circuit around its star every 1.5 days.

Subsequent observations confirmed the signal to be due to a planet, and revealed it to be what astronomers call a "hot Jupiter" -- the kind of planet the KELT telescopes are designed to spot.

Astronomers at Ohio State, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt jointly operate two KELTs (one each in the northern and southern hemispheres) to fill a large gap in the available technologies for finding exoplanets. Other telescopes are designed to look at very faint stars in much smaller sections of the sky, and at very high resolution. The KELTs, in contrast, look at millions of very bright stars at once, over broad sections of sky, and at low resolution.

"This discovery is a testament to the discovery power of small telescopes, and the ability of citizen scientists to directly contribute to cutting-edge scientific research," said Joshua Pepper, astronomer and assistant professor of physics at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who built the two KELT telescopes.

The astronomers hope to take a closer look at KELT-9b with other telescopes -- including NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, and eventually the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018. Observations with Hubble would enable them to see if the planet really does have a cometary tail, and allow them to determine how much longer that planet will survive its current hellish condition.

"Thanks to this planet's star-like heat, it is an exceptional target to observe at all wavelengths, from ultraviolet to infrared, in both transit and eclipse. Such observations will allow us to get as complete a view of its atmosphere as is possible for a planet outside our solar system," said Knicole Colon, paper co-author who was based at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley during the time of this study.

The study was largely funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through an NSF CAREER Grant, NSF PAARE Grant and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Additional support came from NASA via the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Exoplanet Exploration Program; the Harvard Future Faculty Leaders Postdoctoral Fellowship; Theodore Dunham, Jr., Grant from the Fund for Astronomical Research; and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, June 01, 2017

An Amazing Discovery in Astrophysics...

An artist's concept of two black holes about to merge together in the universe.

NASA Scientists Assist LIGO in Third Gravitational Wave Observation (Press Release)

About 3 billion years ago, a pair of orbiting black holes collided to form a single object with 49 times the mass of our Sun. The event unleashed powerful gravitational waves—ripples in the very fabric of space and time—that reached Earth seconds before 5:12 a.m. EST on Jan. 4, 2017. That's when they were detected by the National Science Foundation's ground-based twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

The event, known as GW170104, after the date, is the third detection of gravitational waves by LIGO. Located at a distance of about 3 billion light-years, the coalesced black hole is twice as far away as both of the two mergers previously detected.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), an international group of researchers that includes NASA scientists, reported the findings in a paper published online June 1 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"We have further confirmation of the existence of stellar-mass black holes that are larger than 20 solar masses—these are objects we didn't know existed before LIGO detected them," said LSC spokesperson David Shoemaker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "It is remarkable that humans can put together a story, and test it, for such strange and extreme events that took place billions of years ago and billions of light-years distant from us."

LIGO detected the first black hole mergers in September and December 2015. In the instant before the black holes merged, all three of these events produced more power as gravitational waves than is radiated as light by all the stars in the observable universe at any given time.

"Up until the success of LIGO, almost everything we knew about the universe came from light," said Tyson Littenberg, principal investigator of the LIGO research group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "Gravitational wave observations are now firmly part of the toolbox for understanding some of the most exotic objects and violent events in the universe."

Littenberg's contributions to the project have helped push the extremes of signal-processing techniques. He is on the team that developed sophisticated algorithms needed to accurately parse out signals that are barely measureable—disturbances 10,000 times smaller than an atomic nucleus. He also helped develop and run large-scale simulations to determine how sensitive LIGO is to different gravitational wave signals.

"LIGO could not succeed without the effort and continued support of more than a thousand scientists and engineers from all corners of the globe," Littenberg said. "Gravitational wave detection is an incredibly challenging endeavor, both scientifically and technologically, and we have only just begun to reap the benefits."

NASA researchers are also deeply interested in detecting high-energy light from mergers using orbiting observatories. Having both the gravitational and X-ray or gamma-ray signals from a merger would provide scientists with the greatest amount of information about these events. While mergers of binary black holes are not generally expected to produce electromagnetic signals, theorists have proposed exotic systems that possibly could. And mergers between black holes and other types of objects, such as neutron stars, are expected to produce high-energy flares.

"We're refining techniques to narrow down the amount of sky we'll need spacecraft to search in order to find a flare associated with a gravitational wave event," said Tito Dal Canton, a post-doctoral researcher in the LIGO group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who contributed to the detection algorithm used to identify the gravitational signal from this event.

Astronomers will need both ground-based and space-based observatories to take full advantage of this new observational window on the universe. NASA is working closely with ESA (the European Space Agency) to develop a concept for a space-based gravitational wave observatory and contributed to ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission, which demonstrated critical technologies needed for such an undertaking.

"LIGO is unveiling a population of stellar-mass black holes far more massive than those that have been detected through previous observations," said Jordan Camp, principal investigator for the Goddard LIGO team. "The mystery now is how these larger black holes form, and how they end up close enough to one another that we observe them merging so frequently."

LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and operated by MIT and Caltech, which conceived and built the project. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. More than 1,000 scientists from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration. LIGO partners with the Virgo Collaboration, a consortium including 280 additional scientists throughout Europe supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and Nikhef, as well as Virgo's host institution, the European Gravitational Observatory.

Source: NASA.Gov


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SOLAR PROBE PLUS Gets a New Name...

An artist's concept of NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the Sun.

NASA Renames Solar Probe Mission to Honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker (News Release)

NASA has renamed the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft — humanity’s first mission to a star, which will launch in 2018 — as the Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, where Parker serves as the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

In 1958, Parker — then a young professor at the university’s Enrico Fermi Institute — published an article in the Astrophysical Journal called “Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields.” Parker believed there was high speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the Sun, and that it affected the planets and space throughout our solar system.

This phenomenon, now known as the solar wind, has been proven to exist repeatedly through direct observation. Parker’s work forms the basis for much of our understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.

“This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “It’s a testament to the importance of his body of work, founding a new field of science that also inspired my own research and many important science questions NASA continues to study and further understand every day. I’m very excited to be personally involved honoring a great man and his unprecedented legacy.”

“The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before,” said Parker. “It’s very exciting that we’ll finally get a look. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what’s going on in the solar wind. I’m sure that there will be some surprises. There always are.”

In the 1950s, Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars — including our Sun — give off energy. He called this cascade of energy the solar wind, and he described an entire complex system of plasmas, magnetic fields and energetic particles that make up this phenomenon. Parker also theorized an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the corona, which is — contrary to what was expected by physics laws — hotter than the surface of the Sun itself. Many NASA missions have continued to focus on this complex space environment defined by our star — a field of research known as heliophysics.

“Parker Solar Probe is going to answer questions about solar physics that we’ve puzzled over for more than six decades,” said Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “It’s a spacecraft loaded with technological breakthroughs that will solve many of the largest mysteries about our star, including finding out why the Sun’s corona is so much hotter than its surface. And we’re very proud to be able to carry Gene’s name with us on this amazing voyage of discovery.”

NASA missions are most often renamed after launch and certification; in this case, given Parker’s accomplishments within the field, and how closely aligned this mission is with his research, the decision was made to honor him prior to launch, in order to draw attention to his important contributions to heliophysics and space science.

Born on June 10, 1927, in Michigan, Eugene Newman Parker received a Bachelor of Science in physics from Michigan State University and a doctorate from Caltech. He then taught at the University of Utah, and since 1955, Parker has held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and at its Fermi Institute. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the George Ellery Hale Prize, the National Medal of Science, the Bruce Medal, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Kyoto Prize, and the James Clerk Maxwell Prize.

Parker Solar Probe is on track for launch during a 20-day window that opens July 31, 2018. The mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. Johns Hopkins APL manages the mission for NASA and is designing and building and will operate the spacecraft.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Juno Update: Learning Something New About a Jovian World...

An image of Jupiter's south pole as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft...from 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers) away.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Betsy Asher Hall / Gervasio Robles

A Whole New Jupiter: First Science Results from NASA’s Juno Mission (Press Release)

Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.

“We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating,” said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. The findings from the first data-collection pass, which flew within about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) of Jupiter's swirling cloud tops on Aug. 27, are being published this week in two papers in the journal Science, as well as 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters.

“We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “But now that we are here we are finding that Jupiter can throw the heat, as well as knuckleballs and sliders. There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.”

Among the findings that challenge assumptions are those provided by Juno’s imager, JunoCam. The images show both of Jupiter's poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together.

“We're puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn't look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We're questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we're going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Another surprise comes from Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR), which samples the thermal microwave radiation from Jupiter’s atmosphere, from the top of the ammonia clouds to deep within its atmosphere. The MWR data indicates that Jupiter’s iconic belts and zones are mysterious, with the belt near the equator penetrating all the way down, while the belts and zones at other latitudes seem to evolve to other structures. The data suggest the ammonia is quite variable and continues to increase as far down as we can see with MWR, which is a few hundred miles or kilometers.

Prior to the Juno mission, it was known that Jupiter had the most intense magnetic field in the solar system. Measurements of the massive planet’s magnetosphere, from Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG), indicate that Jupiter’s magnetic field is even stronger than models expected, and more irregular in shape. MAG data indicates the magnetic field greatly exceeded expectations at 7.766 Gauss, about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field found on Earth.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and the lead for the mission’s magnetic field investigation at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others. This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen. Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works.”

Juno also is designed to study the polar magnetosphere and the origin of Jupiter's powerful auroras—its northern and southern lights. These auroral emissions are caused by particles that pick up energy, slamming into atmospheric molecules. Juno’s initial observations indicate that the process seems to work differently at Jupiter than at Earth.

Juno is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, and the majority of each orbit is spent well away from the gas giant. But, once every 53 days, its trajectory approaches Jupiter from above its north pole, where it begins a two-hour transit (from pole to pole) flying north to south with its eight science instruments collecting data and its JunoCam public outreach camera snapping pictures. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the transit can take 1.5 days.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Bolton. “On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system -- one that every school kid knows -- Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for NASA. The principal investigator is Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in Denver, built the spacecraft.


Jupiter's ring as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / SwRI

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Getting Psyched Up Over Psyche's Earlier Launch Date...

An artist's concept of NASA's Psyche spacecraft studying a metal asteroid with the same name.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Arizona State Univ. / Space Systems Loral / Peter Rubin

NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid (News Release)

Psyche, NASA's Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 -- four years earlier than the original timeline.

“We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost.”

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner."

The revised trajectory is more efficient, as it eliminates the need for an Earth gravity assist, which ultimately shortens the cruise time. In addition, the new trajectory stays farther from the Sun, reducing the amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft. The trajectory will still include a Mars gravity assist in 2023.

"The change in plans is a great boost for the team and the mission," said Psyche Project Manager Henry Stone at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Our mission design team did a fantastic job coming up with this ideal launch opportunity."

The Psyche spacecraft is being built by Space Systems Loral (SSL), Palo Alto, California. In order to support the new mission trajectory, SSL redesigned the solar array system from a four-panel array in a straight row on either side of the spacecraft to a more powerful five-panel x-shaped design, commonly used for missions requiring more capability. Much like a sports car, by combining a relatively small spacecraft body with a very high-power solar array design, the Psyche spacecraft will speed to its destination at a faster pace than is typical for a larger spacecraft.

"By increasing the size of the solar arrays, the spacecraft will have the power it needs to support the higher velocity requirements of the updated mission," said SSL Psyche Program Manager Steve Scott.

The Psyche Mission

Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, is made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal. As such, it offers a unique look into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets.

The Psyche Mission was selected for flight earlier this year under NASA's Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system.

The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to Earth's core, and what its surface is like. The spacecraft's instrument payload will include magnetometers, multispectral imagers, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer.

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Image of the Day: A New Look at America's Next Mars Rover...

An artist's concept of NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying the surface of the Red Planet.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover Artist’s Concept (News Release)

This artist's concept depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover on the surface of Mars.

The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself.

The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth.

Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July/August 2020, aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will build and manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Source: NASA.Gov

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Photos of the Day #4: Explore JPL...

The cruise stage for NASA's Mars 2020 mission on display at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) Spacecraft Assembly Facility...on May 20, 2017.

Earlier today, I drove down to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California, to attend Explore JPL...formerly known as the JPL Open House. I haven't been to this NASA center since December of 2014 (when I attended the NASA Social for Orion's first mission on Exploration Flight Test 1), and it was cool to see what JPL is working on these days. That would be the Mars 2020 project! While the rover for this mission won't begin construction for another couple of months, engineers inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF) have already begun construction on the heat shield (which was transported to another facility for testing when I visited the SAF) and cruise stage (above) for Mars 2020. Assuming that I'll still be available on the weekdays to do this in the future, I'll be planning to sign up for JPL tours over the next 2-3 years to see the progress being made on assembling the Curiosity Mars rover's twin sibling.

Attending the Explore JPL event near Pasadena, California...on May 20, 2017.

I was lucky to secure a ticket for Explore JPL two months ago...since you now need a pass to attend this event due to the Open House getting so popular over the last few years (one culprit for this being that 2015 Matt Damon movie The Martian...which prominently featured JPL, or at least a futuristic version of it) that it couldn't handle the growing number of attendees who showed up to Pasadena. But that's obviously a great thing! JPL will definitely be the place to be at if it's chosen as the manufacturer for the Europa Clipper next decade. The laboratory did, after all, build the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, as well as the Galileo spacecraft that studied Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, and the Cassini orbiter which will end its mission at Saturn this September. So basically, JPL is the site where you can see actual spacecraft destined for the outer planets and the surface of Mars. (Along with Curiosity and Mars 2020, the lab also constructed the Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity rovers.) That is all.

Inside the Space Flight Operations Facility at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

A full-size model of NASA's InSight Mars lander (set to launch in May of next year) at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

A test version of the Curiosity and Mars 2020 rovers, dubbed Scarecrow, on display at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

A full-size model of the Curiosity Mars rover at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

Full-size models of the Mars Exploration Rover and Sojourner rover (near the right side of this photo) at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

The cruise stage for the Mars 2020 mission on display (along with the work stand for the spacecraft's heat shield, which was at another facility for testing) at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Photos of the Day #3: Meeting Amy Farrah Fowler...

At The Grove's Barnes & Noble bookstore in Los Angeles to attend a discussion and signing by actress/neuroscientist Mayim Bialik...on May 16, 2017.

Almost one week after I met Beth Behrs of the TV sitcom 2 Broke Girls (which was unfortunately cancelled by CBS two days after her book signing), I went back to Barnes & Noble at The Grove a few hours ago to meet another actress on a CBS comedy: Mayim Bialik...who plays Sheldon Cooper's girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler on the hit series The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). Bialik promoted her new publication Girling Up tonight—going into detail about what she wanted to write about that would inspire young female readers, and mentioning how awesome it is to play a neuroscientist on TV (that would be Amy Fowler, in case you don't watch TBBT) since she's also an actual neuroscientist in real life!

Mayim Bialik discusses her new publication GIRLING UP at The Grove's Barnes & Noble bookstore in Los Angeles...on May 16, 2017.

Bialik's book discussion and Q&A was moderated by comedian Iliza Shlesinger...the 2008 winner of NBC'S Last Comic Standing and the creator of Truth & Iliza (obviously). It was awesome meeting Bialik! (Would've been cool to meet Shlesinger as well! She immediately left the table and exited once the discussion ended... I obviously stayed to get in line for Bialik's autograph signing instead.) Unsurprisingly, when I went up to Mayim's table to finally meet her, I mentioned the shocking last scene between Amy and Sheldon in Big Bang's Season 10 finale on May 11. Did Amy say yes? We'll hopefully find out in the Season 11 premiere this September... Or not. Have a good night.

Comedian Iliza Shlesinger moderates the discussion and Q&A for Mayim Bialik's new publication GIRLING The Grove's Barnes & Noble bookstore in Los Angeles on May 16, 2017.

Mayim Bialik discusses her new publication GIRLING UP at The Grove's Barnes & Noble bookstore in Los Angeles...on May 16, 2017.

Posing with Mayim Bialik at The Grove's Barnes & Noble bookstore in Los Angeles...on May 16, 2017.

My autographed copy of Mayim Bialik's book GIRLING UP.