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Sunday, June 30, 2013

An art concept showing the twin Voyager spacecraft heading towards interstellar space.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Interstellar Space Beckons...

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NASA's Voyager 1 Explores Final Frontier of Our 'Solar Bubble' (Press Release - June 27)

PASADENA, Calif. -- Data from Voyager 1, now more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the sun, suggest the spacecraft is closer to becoming the first human-made object to reach interstellar space.

Research using Voyager 1 data and published in the journal Science today provides new detail on the last region the spacecraft will cross before it leaves the heliosphere, or the bubble around our sun, and enters interstellar space. Three papers describe how Voyager 1's entry into a region called the magnetic highway resulted in simultaneous observations of the highest rate so far of charged particles from outside heliosphere and the disappearance of charged particles from inside the heliosphere.

Scientists have seen two of the three signs of interstellar arrival they expected to see: charged particles disappearing as they zoom out along the solar magnetic field, and cosmic rays from far outside zooming in. Scientists have not yet seen the third sign, an abrupt change in the direction of the magnetic field, which would indicate the presence of the interstellar magnetic field.

"This strange, last region before interstellar space is coming into focus, thanks to Voyager 1, humankind's most distant scout," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "If you looked at the cosmic ray and energetic particle data in isolation, you might think Voyager had reached interstellar space, but the team feels Voyager 1 has not yet gotten there because we are still within the domain of the sun's magnetic field."

Scientists do not know exactly how far Voyager 1 has to go to reach interstellar space. They estimate it could take several more months, or even years, to get there. The heliosphere extends at least 8 billion miles (13 billion kilometers) beyond all the planets in our solar system. It is dominated by the sun's magnetic field and an ionized wind expanding outward from the sun. Outside the heliosphere, interstellar space is filled with matter from other stars and the magnetic field present in the nearby region of the Milky Way.

Voyager 1 and its twin spacecraft, Voyager 2, were launched in 1977. They toured Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune before embarking on their interstellar mission in 1990. They now aim to leave the heliosphere. Measuring the size of the heliosphere is part of the Voyagers' mission.

The Science papers focus on observations made from May to September 2012 by Voyager 1's cosmic ray, low-energy charged particle and magnetometer instruments, with some additional charged particle data obtained through April of this year.

Voyager 2 is about 9 billion miles (15 billion kilometers) from the sun and still inside the heliosphere. Voyager 1 was about 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the sun Aug. 25 when it reached the magnetic highway, also known as the depletion region, and a connection to interstellar space. This region allows charged particles to travel into and out of the heliosphere along a smooth magnetic field line, instead of bouncing around in all directions as if trapped on local roads. For the first time in this region, scientists could detect low-energy cosmic rays that originate from dying stars.

"We saw a dramatic and rapid disappearance of the solar-originating particles. They decreased in intensity by more than 1,000 times, as if there was a huge vacuum pump at the entrance ramp onto the magnetic highway," said Stamatios Krimigis, the low-energy charged particle instrument's principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "We have never witnessed such a decrease before, except when Voyager 1 exited the giant magnetosphere of Jupiter, some 34 years ago."

Other charged particle behavior observed by Voyager 1 also indicates the spacecraft still is in a region of transition to the interstellar medium. While crossing into the new region, the charged particles originating from the heliosphere that decreased most quickly were those shooting straightest along solar magnetic field lines. Particles moving perpendicular to the magnetic field did not decrease as quickly. However, cosmic rays moving along the field lines in the magnetic highway region were somewhat more populous than those moving perpendicular to the field. In interstellar space, the direction of the moving charged particles is not expected to matter.

In the span of about 24 hours, the magnetic field originating from the sun also began piling up, like cars backed up on a freeway exit ramp. But scientists were able to quantify that the magnetic field barely changed direction -- by no more than 2 degrees.

"A day made such a difference in this region with the magnetic field suddenly doubling and becoming extraordinarily smooth," said Leonard Burlaga, the lead author of one of the papers, and based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "But since there was no significant change in the magnetic field direction, we're still observing the field lines originating at the sun."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., built and operates the Voyager spacecraft. California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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An art concept showing the Voyager 1 spacecraft flying through a region of space known as the 'magnetic highway.'
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Preparing for my HALO jump above Whiteville, Tennessee...on April 29, 2013.

Photos of the Day... Today marks two months since I did that HALO jump above Whiteville, Tennessee. Just thought I'd commemorate the occasion by posting these two images...the one above specifically because I like the lighting in it. Hah.

Lowering and securing my visor prior to conducting the HALO jump above Whiteville, Tennessee...on April 29, 2013.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft undergoes acoustics testing at the Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado.
Lockheed Martin

Meeting MAVEN... Just thought I'd post pics of NASA's next Mars-bound spacecraft as it undergoes final testing prior to being shipped to Kennedy Space Center this August for a launch to the Red Planet between late November and early December. Known as the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission, this robotic probe would depart (aboard an Atlas V rocket) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by December 7 and arrive at the Red Planet in September of next year. Unlike other craft such as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), MAVEN will not be used to take highly-detailed photos of the Martian surface...but instead use its main science instruments to study the planet's atmosphere and determine how it evolved into its current incarnation (hence the long acronym behind MAVEN's name). The planned elliptical orbit for MAVEN will limit its ability to relay data (unlike MRO, NASA's Mars Odyssey and the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter) from spacecraft on the Martian surface—such as the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, as well as NASA's Insight lander; scheduled to depart for the fourth rock from the Sun in 2016.

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft undergoes acoustics testing at the Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado.
Lockheed Martin

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is about to undergo thermal vacuum testing at the Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado.
Lockheed Martin

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft undergoes thermal vacuum testing at the Lockheed Martin facility in Colorado.
Lockheed Martin

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jim Halpert hangs out at Pam Beasley's reception desk to chat with her in THE OFFICE.

So What Would Jim Halpert Do (Part 2)? Yesterday, I worked with Nancy again after not seeing her in person since our Northridge gig more than a month ago (she got booked on other assignments since then). Unlike that gig, this one went a whole lot smoother (possibly because I posted not-so-subtle comments indicating my fondness for Nancy on her Facebook page after that Northridge um, debacle—and she actually reciprocated)...with Nancy even asking me for my phone number towards the end of the day. Of course, I probably won't (or should) call or text her—even though she asked me, before leaving work, if my phone was able to receive text messages (of course it could)—seeing as how Nancy is engaged. This actually led to the only real lowpoint of the day (there were a few others; but this one stood out the most): When I said 'hi' to Nancy and hugged her after arriving at work, I noticed that she wasn't wearing her engagement ring. (In hindsight, Nancy probably removed her ring because we were working in a not-so-pristine area of downtown Los Angeles.) While chatting with Nancy after seeing this, the back of my mind was screaming "Yesss!" as I secretly held out hope that the engagement was off. Unfortunately, it was about an hour later when Nancy finally mentioned her fiancé in the conversation...and I was once again thinking about how John Krasinski's fictional character in The Office would handle this (not-so-new) development.

I'm in a lose-lose situation with Nancy at work. On one hand, I risk the emotional crash (lousy oxytocin and dopamine) that results from me driving home from work (and away from her) after how much time I spent sitting next to her and talking/flirting for much of the day (our assignment lasted for more than 15 hours yesterday). I actually posted a Blog entry a few years back (which is about another girl I had a crush on) about how one minute we're sitting so close together that we're touching knees (I waited for Nancy to move hers away from mine last night, hah), and less than an hour later, we're about 30 miles away from each other...assuming she went straight home as opposed to say, her fiancé's house. (I don't know where this dude lives.) On the other hand, there is no way in hell that I'm going to keep my distance from Nancy at work and watch some other punk move in and try to chat her up. What I'm about to say next is extremely naive, possessive, stupid and very selfish, but while I know that Nancy will inevitably and sadly get hitched to someone else soon, her fiancé isn't around at our work—and I want Nancy all to myself when we're booked together. (Yes, I even gave annoyed looks to other female coworkers walking up to Nancy to talk to her.) Is this mentality completely messed up? Hell yes, it is. But it will be this way until one of us finds another way (or place...like how Jim Halpert transferred to Dunder Mifflin's Stamford office after being rejected by Pam Beasley in The Office's Season 3 premiere) to earn a living. Nancy has been at this job much longer than I have, so I guess it won't be her making the move.

Pam Beasley hangs out at Jim Halpert's desk to chat with him in THE OFFICE.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The F/A-XX... So last week, I went to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore and was reading an aerospace magazine when I saw that the U.S. Navy is planning to replace its long-standing fleet of F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets. Overlooking the fact that the U.S. military still doesn't know what's causing the oxygen-generating problems that temporarily grounded all of its F-22 Raptors two years ago (thus preventing the aircraft from seeing any actual combat yet), and is still in the midst—and difficulty—of developing the F-35 Lightning II (a.k.a. the Joint Strike Fighter), the Pentagon apparently wants to procure another aircraft that would allow the F/A-18 and EA-18G Growlers to be retired from the naval arsenal sometime in the 2030s. By then, I assume that the F-22 finally gave American taxpayers their money's worth by dropping a couple of satellite-guided smart bombs on Syrian targets or shooting down a wayward North Korean MiG flying over the Sea of Japan... Or am I instigating?

An artist's concept of Boeing's F/A-XX stealth fighter jet.
Boeing

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dwyane Wade holds up the NBA championship trophy while LeBron James displays his NBA Finals MVP award after the Miami Heat defeats the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals...on June 20, 2013.
NBA

The Super Friends Do It Again... A few notes about Game 7 of the NBA Finals last night: The Miami Heat (I'll be nice) joins the L.A. Lakers as the only NBA teams to currently win back-to-back titles in the 21st century; LeBron James still deserves an asterisk next to his 2012 championship since it was won during a lockout-shortened season, but earned genuine accolades for yesterday's performance; and Ray Allen showed why he deserved to play Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee's 1998 film, He Got Game (though this is primarily due to his 3-pointer that brought Game 6 into overtime... I think Allen went scoreless last night). Oh, and Tim Duncan will still be chasing after a 5th ring while Kobe pursues that Jordan-tying sixth. That is all.

Only the Boston Celtics can laugh at this. Punks.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An illustration depicting the Gemini Mark 39 Deep Space Armor from IRON MAN 3.

Images of the Day... Just thought I'd share these cool illustrations depicting the Deep Space Armor (a.k.a. Gemini Mk. 39) from Iron Man 3. I didn't spot this suit during the 'House Party' sequence at the end of the movie (despite the fact it's visible in the poster, shown in the two pics directly below), but I think it should definitely appear in an upcoming Marvel flick...like The Avengers 2 (Yes, I know— All of the suits were destroyed at the end of Iron Man 3, but Tony Stark will obviously build new ones in future films). The Deep Space Armor has a very Robotech-ish feel to it, which makes it awesome. If you've never heard of Robotech before, then forget what I just said. And start watching kick-ass 1980's cartoons and old Japanese anime while you're at it. Carry on.

The Deep Space Armor (right) as seen in the IRON MAN 3 theatrical poster.

Another glimpse of the Deep Space Armor in the IRON MAN 3 theatrical poster.

Another illustration of the Deep Space Armor from IRON MAN 3.

A close-up of the Gemini Mark 39's helmet.

An IRON MAN 3 promo featuring the Deep Space Armor.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Three years ago tonight, Kobe Bryant won his 5th ring and the Los Angeles Lakers earned their 16th championship after defeating the Boston Celtics, 83-79, in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. What an awesome series! Of course, things went waaaay downhill for the Lake Show after that, but this entry is to reminisce about the good times...

Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant congratulate each other as Josh Powell looks on...after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics, 83-79, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals (on June 17, 2010).
Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Quote of the Day, Part 2...

"Being in love with someone who doesn't even know you exist isn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, it's quite the oppostie. Almost like passing in a term paper that you know sucked, but having that period of time where you haven't gotten your grade back yet—that kind of exhale where you haven't been rejected, although you pretty much know how it's going to turn out."

-― Tonya Hurley, Ghostgirl

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quote of the Day...

"I think if you like somebody you have to tell them. It might be embarrassing to say it, but you will never regret stepping up. I know from personal experience, however, that you should not keep telling a girl that you like her after she tells you she isn't into it. You should not keep riding your bike by her house either."

-― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

At the Los Angeles Convention Center for E3, on June 11, 2013.

E3... Early this afternoon, I drove down to the Los Angeles Convention Center to visit the Electronic Entertainment Expo...not to hear about how there will be a new installment for Star Wars: Battlefront coming out (Woohoo! I remembered playing Battlefronts 1 and 2 on Playstation 2 almost a decade ago—before I sold all of my video games and accessories to the local GameStop in 2009), or the fact that a fourth Assassin's Creed title (Black Flag) is on the horizon, or that Xbox One and Playstation 4 made their appearance at the annual gamers convention today. Nope, I went to E3 so I could check out a Dragon capsule that SpaceX successfully launched to low-Earth orbit in 2010. Nothing special about Dragon's design (or even of that of NASA's own Orion vehicle), but seeing as how this privately-made craft is the future of human spaceflight for America, I'm all for seeing it in person. Back to E3 though; you either needed to pay admission (I think) or have a badge to check out all of the goodies that the video game industry has in store for The Big Bang Theory-type nerds in the not-too-distant future... Fortunately, there were a lot of free stuff (and attractive girls) to see out in the front lobby, as shown with the pics that I posted with this Blog. That is all.

LINK: Click here for more images from the E3 convention

I want this statue for my backyard.

Do you think this dude will make an appearance at Knott's Scary Farm this October as well?

I usually do these photo ops with the ladies if this were an import car show or something, but whatever.

A large banner promoting the upcoming ASSASSIN'S CREED: BLACK FLAG.

The Los Angeles Convention Center: Where shows like E3 and Erotica L.A. happen.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Despite the fact that the L.A. Kings are no longer the Stanley Cup champions and Tim Duncan is still in great position to tie Kobe Bryant with 5 NBA titles, I couldn't help but applaud when LeBron James emphatically blocked this dunk attempted by the Spurs' Tiago Splitter in Game 2 today. The Miami Super Friends pulled off the rout, 103-84...but we'll see how they fare playing three straight games in San Antonio this week. I'd still prefer that the 2013 NBA Finals were somehow forfeited and neither Duncan nor James won another championship (ever), but that's just me. Carry on.

LeBron James blocks a dunk attempted by Tiago Splitter during the Miami Heat's Game 2 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on June 9, 2013.
NBA - Facebook.com

Friday, June 07, 2013

The World Trade Center plaza in New York City...as seen on May 30, 2013.

Photos of the Day... Recent views of the 1 World Trade Center; the new crown jewel of Lower Manhattan.

The 1 World Trade Center's antenna spire...as seen on May 28, 2013.

The 1 World Trade Center as seen on May 20, 2013.

The 1 World Trade Center as seen on June 6, 2013.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, taken with a camera on her robotic arm on October 31, 2012. Mount Sharp lays in the background.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Now Bound for Mt. Sharp...

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NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Nears Turning Point (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is approaching its biggest turning point since landing its rover, Curiosity, inside Mars' Gale Crater last summer.

Curiosity is finishing investigations in an area smaller than a football field where it has been working for six months, and it will soon shift to a distance-driving mode headed for an area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, at the base Mount Sharp.

In May, the mission drilled a second rock target for sample material and delivered portions of that rock powder into laboratory instruments in one week, about one-fourth as much time as needed at the first drilled rock.

"We're hitting full stride," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We needed a more deliberate pace for all the first-time activities by Curiosity since landing, but we won't have many more of those."

No additional rock drilling or soil scooping is planned in the "Glenelg" area that Curiosity entered last fall as the mission's first destination after landing. To reach Glenelg, the rover drove east about a third of a mile (500 meters) from the landing site. To reach the next destination, Mount Sharp, Curiosity will drive toward the southwest for many months.

"We don't know when we'll get to Mount Sharp," Erickson said. "This truly is a mission of exploration, so just because our end goal is Mount Sharp doesn't mean we're not going to investigate interesting features along the way."

Images of Mount Sharp taken from orbit and images Curiosity has taken from a distance reveal many layers where scientists anticipate finding evidence about how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved.

While completing major first-time activities since landing, the mission has also already accomplished its main science objective. Analysis of rock powder from the first drilled rock target, "John Klein," provided evidence that an ancient environment in Gale Crater had favorable conditions for microbial life: the essential elemental ingredients, energy and ponded water that was neither too acidic nor too briny.

The rover team chose a similar rock, "Cumberland," as the second drilling target to provide a check for the findings at John Klein. Scientists are analyzing laboratory-instrument results from portions of the Cumberland sample. One new capability being used is to drive away while still holding rock powder in Curiosity's sample-handling device to supply additional material to instruments later if desired by the science team.

For the drill campaign at Cumberland, steps that each took a day or more at John Klein could be combined into a single day's sequence of commands. "We used the experience and lessons from our first drilling campaign, as well as new cached sample capabilities, to do the second drill campaign far more efficiently," said sampling activity lead Joe Melko of JPL. "In addition, we increased use of the rover's autonomous self-protection. This allowed more activities to be strung together before the ground team had to check in on the rover."

The science team has chosen three targets for brief observations before Curiosity leaves the Glenelg area: the boundary between bedrock areas of mudstone and sandstone, a layered outcrop called "Shaler" and a pitted outcrop called "Point Lake."

JPL's Joy Crisp, deputy project scientist for Curiosity, said "Shaler might be a river deposit. Point Lake might be volcanic or sedimentary. A closer look at them could give us better understanding of how the rocks we sampled with the drill fit into the history of how the environment changed."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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A Mastcam image of a rock target that the Curiosity Mars rover drilled on May 19, 2013.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A Quick Rant... For those of you who still use Hotmail/Windows Live/Outlook/Whatever-The-Heck-It's-Now-Called (like I do), you've obviously noticed this supposedly adorable photo of a little Asian boy trying to look like Elton John or something with those wacky glasses on. Seeing as how Asian guys are occasionally stereotyped as flip flop-wearing effeminate tech nerds (in all fairness, not always all of the above), this pic doesn't help in trying to dispel that image. Of course, I'm obviously reading too much into this photo. What I would prefer instead is for Hotmail/Windows Live/Outlook/Whatever-The-Heck-It's-Now-Called to change back to simply Hotmail where I can check my e-mail messages without being told that I can no longer use Windows Messenger when I'm logged into my account. I don't care about that crap.

I reckon that this kid will move to California's Bay Area when he grows up (if he doesn't live there already). Wait what?