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Monday, August 31, 2015

Photos of the Day: The Wilshire Grand Center Continues to Take Shape...

A composite image showing the Wilshire Grand Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Just thought I'd end this month by sharing these cool progress photos of what will soon be the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River. The Wilshire Grand Center is scheduled to open in downtown Los Angeles two years from now...and based on these pics, the construction remains right on schedule (not to jinx it or anything) for its grand debut. Unlike the other buildings that dot L.A.'s skyline, I plan to visit this tower once it opens to the public in 2017. Of course, if I had enough money to spare on another trip to New York, I'd check out the 1 World Trade Center first! Oh well.

The Wilshire Grand Center's construction status as of August 27, 2015.
Image courtesy of Wilshire Grand Center - Facebook

The Wilshire Grand Center's construction status as of August 27, 2015.
Image courtesy of Wilshire Grand Center - Facebook

The Wilshire Grand Center's construction status as of August 27, 2015.
Image courtesy of Wilshire Grand Center - Facebook

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quotes of the Day...

“You can love someone so much...But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.”

-― John Green


“When you loved someone and had to let them go, there will always be that small part of yourself that whispers, 'What was it that you wanted and why didn't you fight for it?'”

-― Shannon L. Alder


“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.”

-― Nan Goldin


“No one compares to you, but there's no you, except in my dreams tonight.”

-― Lana Del Rey


“It hurts to breathe. It hurts to live. I hate her, yet I do not think I can exist without her.”

-― Charlotte Featherstone, Addicted


“I think about you. But I don't say it anymore.”

-― Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima Mon Amour

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Horizons Update... Next Stop (Hopefully): A Kuiper Belt Object Dubbed PT1!

An artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flying past a Kuiper Belt Object.
NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

NASA’s New Horizons Team Selects Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target (Press Release)

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team. Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

“Even as the New Horizon’s spacecraft speeds away from Pluto out into the Kuiper Belt, and the data from the exciting encounter with this new world is being streamed back to Earth, we are looking outward to the next destination for this intrepid explorer,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and chief of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “While discussions whether to approve this extended mission will take place in the larger context of the planetary science portfolio, we expect it to be much less expensive than the prime mission while still providing new and exciting science.”

Like all NASA missions that have finished their main objective but seek to do more exploration, the New Horizons team must write a proposal to the agency to fund a KBO mission. That proposal – due in 2016 – will be evaluated by an independent team of experts before NASA can decide about the go-ahead.

Early target selection was important; the team needs to direct New Horizons toward the object this year in order to perform any extended mission with healthy fuel margins. New Horizons will perform a series of four maneuvers in late October and early November to set its course toward 2014 MU69 – nicknamed “PT1” (for “Potential Target 1”) – which it expects to reach on January 1, 2019. Any delays from those dates would cost precious fuel and add mission risk.

“2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen.”

New Horizons was originally designed to fly beyond the Pluto system and explore additional Kuiper Belt objects. The spacecraft carries extra hydrazine fuel for a KBO flyby; its communications system is designed to work from far beyond Pluto; its power system is designed to operate for many more years; and its scientific instruments were designed to operate in light levels much lower than it will experience during the 2014 MU69 flyby.”

The 2003 National Academy of Sciences’ Planetary Decadal Survey (“New Frontiers in the Solar System”) strongly recommended that the first mission to the Kuiper Belt include flybys of Pluto and small KBOs, in order to sample the diversity of objects in that previously unexplored region of the solar system. The identification of PT1, which is in a completely different class of KBO than Pluto, potentially allows New Horizons to satisfy those goals.

But finding a suitable KBO flyby target was no easy task. Starting a search in 2011 using some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth, the New Horizons team found several dozen KBOs, but none were reachable within the fuel supply available aboard the spacecraft.

The powerful Hubble Space Telescope came to the rescue in summer 2014, discovering five objects, since narrowed to two, within New Horizons’ flight path. Scientists estimate that PT1 is just under 30 miles (about 45 kilometers) across; that’s more than 10 times larger and 1,000 times more massive than typical comets, like the one the Rosetta mission is now orbiting, but only about 0.5 to 1 percent of the size (and about 1/10,000th the mass) of Pluto. As such, PT1 is thought to be like the building blocks of Kuiper Belt planets such as Pluto.

Unlike asteroids, KBOs have been heated only slightly by the Sun, and are thought to represent a well preserved, deep-freeze sample of what the outer solar system was like following its birth 4.6 billion years ago.

“There’s so much that we can learn from close-up spacecraft observations that we’ll never learn from Earth, as the Pluto flyby demonstrated so spectacularly,” said New Horizons science team member John Spencer, also of SwRI. “The detailed images and other data that New Horizons could obtain from a KBO flyby will revolutionize our understanding of the Kuiper Belt and KBOs.”

The New Horizons spacecraft – currently 3 billion miles [4.9 billion kilometers] from Earth – is just starting to transmit the bulk of the images and other data, stored on its digital recorders, from its historic July encounter with the Pluto system. The spacecraft is healthy and operating normally.

New Horizons is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. SwRI leads the science mission, payload operations, and encounter science planning.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of a Kuiper Belt Object with the distant Sun and the outer planets in the background.
NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More Than 35 Trillion Miles and Counting...

An artist's concept of the Gliese 581 star system.

Six Light-Years... That’s how far the Hello From Earth message has traveled since being transmitted from a giant NASA antenna in Australia to the exoplanet Gliese 581d (whose existence was in doubt until earlier this year) more than half a decade ago today. As of 7 PM California time tonight (12 PM Sydney time on Friday, August 28), the radio signal containing 25,878 goodwill text messages—including one by me—will have ventured across approximately 35.3 trillion miles (57 trillion kilometers) of deep space...which, as stated at the very start of this Blog entry, equals a distance of six light-years. The signal, despite traveling 186,000 miles per second (or 671 million miles per hour, or um, 1 billion kilometers per hour), will still take 14 years to reach the Gliese 581 star system. Woohoo.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

OSIRIS-REx Update: Getting a New Set of Eyes...

The camera suite for NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, known as OCAMS, sits on a bench as it awaits installation aboard the robotic probe.
University of Arizona / Symeon Platts

Cameras Delivered for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission as Launch Prep Continues (Press Release - August 24)

The first U.S. mission to return samples of an asteroid to Earth is another step closer to its fall 2016 launch, with the delivery of three cameras that will image and map the giant space rock.

A camera suite that will allow NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission to see a near-Earth asteroid, map it, and pick a safe and interesting place to touch the surface and collect a sample, has arrived at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver for installation to the spacecraft.

“This is another major step in preparing for our mission,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “With the delivery of the camera suite to the spacecraft contractor, we will have our full complement of cameras and spectrometers.”

The OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to launch in September 2016 to study Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid that’s about one-third of a mile (approximately 500 meters) across. After rendezvousing with Bennu in 2018, the spacecraft will survey the asteroid, obtain a sample, and return it to Earth in 2023.

The three camera instrument suite, known as OCAMS (OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite), was designed and built by the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. The largest of the three cameras, PolyCam, is a small telescope that will acquire the first images of Bennu from a distance of 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) and provide high resolution imaging of the sample site. MapCam will search for satellites and dust plumes around Bennu, map the asteroid in color, and provide images to construct topographic maps. SamCam will document the sample acquisition event and the collected sample.

“PolyCam, MapCam and SamCam will be our mission’s eyes at Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “OCAMS will provide the imagery we need to complete our mission while the spacecraft is at the asteroid.”

OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, and will return the largest sample from space since the Apollo lunar missions. Scientists expect that Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation will inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an impact, should one be required.

"The most important goal of these cameras is to maximize our ability to successfully return a sample,” said OCAMS instrument scientist Bashar Rizk from the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Our mission requires a lot of activities during one trip – navigation, mapping, reconnaissance, sample site selection, and sampling. While we are there, we need the ability to continuously see what is happening around the asteroid in order to make real-time decisions."

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission's principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu.
NASA / Goddard / Chris Meaney

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dawn Update: Do Dwarves Live Inside This Mountain? (A Reference to THE HOBBIT...)

An image of a lone mountain on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres...taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers) on August 19, 2015.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA

The Lonely Mountain (Press Release)

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope.

The image was taken on August 19, 2015. The resolution of the image is 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel.

Dawn's mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

Source: NASA.Gov

Monday, August 24, 2015

Photos of the Day: The InSight Lander Makes More Progress on the Path to Launch...

NASA's InSight Mars lander is tucked inside its aeroshell at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

Just felt liking sharing these photos showing engineers at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado as they inspect the heat shield and aeroshell that will enshroud and protect NASA's InSight lander during its 6-month journey to Mars next year. With the exception of the science instruments that it will use to study the interior of the Red Planet's surface, most of InSight's flight components are derived from the Phoenix spacecraft that successfully touched down on Mars in early 2008. InSight will hopefully capitalize on that triumph by using this heritage hardware to help it make a flawless landing of its own in late September of 2016. Stay tuned.

The heat shield is about to be attached to the aeroshell that enshrouds NASA's InSight Mars lander at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

The heat shield is attached to the aeroshell that enshrouds NASA's InSight Mars lander at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

An engineer inspects the heat shield and aeroshell that enshroud NASA's InSight Mars lander at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Video of the Day: The F-35 Unleashes Its Gat...

A video screenshot showing an F-35A Lightning II aircraft firing its 25mm Gatling gun during a weapons test at Edwards Air Force Base in California...on August 14, 2015.
F-35 Integrated Test Force

Just thought I'd share this cool video (well, uncool if you're a cost-conscious yuppie pacifist who wants to rein in the Pentagon's budget and remove funding from awesome military programs like this one; no, this doesn't apply to me) of an F-35A Lightning II aircraft firing 181 rounds from its 25mm Gatling gun that's located on the port-side of its fuselage. The weapons test took place at Edwards Air Force Base in California on August 14. The cannon is hidden behind a small door to minimize the F-35's radar signature... It is, after all, the fifth-generation brethren of the stealthy F-22 Raptor. Unlike the Raptor, however, the F-35 fleet will consist of much more than 195 aircraft (the total amount of Raptors built) and will be used by other nations such as Israel, Great Britain, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Turkey and Norway. More than 2,400 F-35s are planned to be used by the United States alone (by the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy). The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force's variant of the Lightning II.

Airborne testing of the F-35's cannon will begin later this year, while the gun will officially become operational in 2017...one or two years before the F-35C (the U.S. Navy's version of the fighter jet) enters military service. The F-35A becomes operational next year while the F-35B (the Marines' variant) became ready for combat last month.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Cool Selfie from Mars...

A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, taken with a camera on her robotic arm on August 5, 2015.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Curiosity Low-Angle Self-Portrait at 'Buckskin' Drilling Site on Mount Sharp (Press Release)

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle above the "Buckskin" rock target, where the mission collected its seventh drilled sample. The site is in the "Marias Pass" area of lower Mount Sharp.

The scene combines dozens of images taken by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Aug. 5, 2015, during the 1,065th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars. The 92 component images are among MAHLI Sol 1065 raw images at http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?s=1065&camera=MAHLI. For scale, the rover's wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and about 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide.

Curiosity drilled the hole at Buckskin during Sol 1060 (July 30, 2015). Two patches of pale, powdered rock material pulled from Buckskin are visible in this scene, in front of the rover. The patch closer to the rover is where the sample-handling mechanism on Curiosity's robotic arm dumped collected material that did not pass through a sieve in the mechanism. Sieved sample material was delivered to laboratory instruments inside the rover. The patch farther in front of the rover, roughly triangular in shape, shows where fresh tailings spread downhill from the drilling process. The drilled hole, 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter, is at the upper point of the tailings.

The rover is facing northeast, looking out over the plains from the crest of a 20-foot (6-meter) hill that it climbed to reach the Marias Pass area. The upper levels of Mount Sharp are visible behind the rover, while Gale Crater’s northern rim dominates the horizon on the left and right of the mosaic.

A portion of this selfie cropped tighter around the rover is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19808. Another version of the wide view, presented in a projection that shows the horizon as a circle, is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19806.

MAHLI is mounted at the end of the rover's robotic arm. For this self-portrait, the rover team positioned the camera lower in relation to the rover body than for any previous full self-portrait of Curiosity. This yielded a view that includes the rover's "belly," as in a partial self-portrait (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16137) taken about five weeks after Curiosity's August 2012 landing inside Mars' Gale Crater. Before sending Curiosity the arm-positioning commands for this Buckskin belly panorama, the team previewed the low-angle sequence of camera pointings on a test rover in California. A mosaic from that test is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19810.

This selfie at Buckskin does not include the rover's robotic arm beyond a portion of the upper arm held nearly vertical from the shoulder joint. Shadows from the rest of the arm and the turret of tools at the end of the arm are visible on the ground. With the wrist motions and turret rotations used in pointing the camera for the component images, the arm was positioned out of the shot in the frames or portions of frames used in this mosaic. This process was used previously in acquiring and assembling Curiosity self-portraits taken at sample-collection sites "Rocknest" (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16468), "John Klein" (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16937), "Windjana" (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18390) and "Mojave" (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19142).

MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A cropped version of the Curiosity Mars rover's self-portrait, taken with a camera on her robotic arm on August 5, 2015.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

InSight Update: NASA's New Campaign to Leave Your Name on the Red Planet!

Engineers work on NASA's InSight Mars lander at the Lockheed Martin facility in Denver, Colorado...on April 30, 2015.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Lockheed Martin

Send Your Name to Mars on NASA's Next Red Planet Mission (Press Release)

Mars enthusiasts around the world can participate in NASA’s journey to Mars by adding their names to a silicon microchip headed to the Red Planet aboard NASA's InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch next year.

"Our next step in the journey to Mars is another fantastic mission to the surface," said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "By participating in this opportunity to send your name aboard InSight to the Red Planet, you're showing that you're part of that journey and the future of space exploration."

Submissions will be accepted until September 8. To send your name to Mars aboard InSight, go to:

http://go.usa.gov/3Aj3G

The fly-your-name opportunity comes with “frequent flier” points to reflect an individual's personal participation in NASA’s journey to Mars, which will span multiple missions and multiple decades. The InSight mission offers the second such opportunity for space exploration fans to collect points by flying their names aboard a NASA mission, with more opportunities to follow.

Last December, the names of 1.38 million people flew on a chip aboard the first flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to deep space destinations including Mars and an asteroid. After InSight, the next opportunity to earn frequent flier points will be NASA's Exploration Mission-1, the first planned test flight bringing together the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule in preparation for human missions to Mars and beyond.

InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California in March 2016 and land on Mars September 28, 2016. The mission is the first dedicated to the investigation of the deep interior of the planet. It will place the first seismometer directly on the surface of Mars to measure Martian quakes and use seismic waves to learn about the planet's interior. It also will deploy a self-hammering heat probe that will burrow deeper into the ground than any previous device on the Red Planet. These and other InSight investigations will improve our understanding about the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including Earth.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Send your name to Mars aboard NASA's InSight lander...set to launch early next year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

(STAR WARS CELEBRATION) I'm About Four Months Late, But Oh Well...

Kylo Ren's outfit from THE FORCE AWAKENS on display at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California...on April 17, 2015.

Back on April 16 and 17, I went to the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County, California, to attend the latest Star Wars Celebration. Originally, I was only supposed to go on the 16th, but I didn't find the location for The Force Awakens' movie prop exhibit till later that day (right when the exhibit closed). I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to see Kylo Ren's lightsaber hilt, the armor used by First Order Flametroopers and Snowtroopers as well as a desert attire worn by Daisy Ridley (who plays Rey) in person. So I dished out another 65 bucks to return to the Anaheim Convention Center the following day. Anyways, click on the link below to check out the 75 photos that I took at Star Wars Celebration. And celebrate some more: The theatrical release for Star Wars: Episode VII is a little over 4 months away! If you live here in the United States, that is.

LINK: Click here for more images from the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim

Kylo Ren's lightsaber hilt on display inside THE FORCE AWAKENS exhibit at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California...on April 17, 2015.

A Flametrooper suit on display inside THE FORCE AWAKENS exhibit at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California...on April 17, 2015.

Posing with a Snowtrooper suit inside THE FORCE AWAKENS exhibit at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California...on April 17, 2015.

The desert attire worn by Rey on display inside THE FORCE AWAKENS exhibit at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California...on April 17, 2015.

A model of the X-Wing fighter that will be seen in THE FORCE AWAKENS on display at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California...on April 17, 2015.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Akatsuki Update: Less Than Four Months from (Another) Venus Arrival...

An artist's concept of the Akatsuki spacecraft orbiting Venus.
JAXA

Akatsuki: Orbit successfully controlled‏ (Press Release - August 5)

JAXA performed an orbit control maneuver for the Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki in late July in preparation for its re-injection into the Venus orbit scheduled for December 7, 2015. According to the analysis of telemetry data acquired up to August 2, the orbit control and correction was successfully conducted as scheduled by 5:30 PM on August 4. (All dates and time are Japan Standard Time.)

Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Back in the Day: Soaring Above San Diego...

Today marks 10 years since I went skydiving for the very first time! The jump took place at Skydive San Diego from an altitude of 13,000 feet...which was also the same altitude when I leaped out of another aircraft above Skydive Perris nine months later. I went on to skydive two more times—in 2013 with the HALO jump in Tennessee (at an altitude of 29,190 feet), and last year at Skydive Elsinore for my 35th birthday (at an altitude of 12,500 feet). Will I go skydiving again, you ask? Hm. What do you think?

About to touch down at the drop zone following my first-ever jump at Skydive San Diego on August 6, 2005.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Dark Side of the Moon...in Broad Daylight!

The Earth and the Moon as seen from the DSCOVR spacecraft one million miles away...on July 16, 2015.
NASA / NOAA

From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon Crossing Face of Earth (Press Release)

A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month. The series of test images shows the fully illuminated “dark side” of the moon that is never visible from Earth.

The images were captured by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope on the DSCOVR satellite orbiting 1 million miles from Earth. From its position between the sun and Earth, DSCOVR conducts its primary mission of real-time solar wind monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

EPIC maintains a constant view of the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates, providing scientific observations of ozone, vegetation, cloud height and aerosols in the atmosphere. Once EPIC begins regular observations next month, the camera will provide a series of Earth images allowing study of daily variations over the entire globe. About twice a year the camera will capture the moon and Earth together as the orbit of DSCOVR crosses the orbital plane of the moon.

These images were taken between 3:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, showing the moon moving over the Pacific Ocean near North America. The North Pole is in the upper left corner of the image, reflecting the orbital tilt of Earth from the vantage point of the spacecraft.

The far side of the moon was not seen until 1959 when the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first images. Since then, several NASA missions have imaged the lunar far side in great detail. The same side of the moon always faces an earthbound observer because the moon is tidally locked to Earth. That means its orbital period is the same as its rotation around its axis.

In May 2008 NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft captured a similar view of Earth and the moon from a distance of 31 million miles away. The series of images showed the moon passing in front of our home planet when it was only partially illuminated by the sun.

EPIC’s “natural color” images of Earth are generated by combining three separate monochrome exposures taken by the camera in quick succession. EPIC takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband spectral filters -- from ultraviolet to near infrared -- to produce a variety of science products. The red, green and blue channel images are used in these color images.

Combining three images taken about 30 seconds apart as the moon moves produces a slight but noticeable camera artifact on the right side of the moon. Because the moon has moved in relation to the Earth between the time the first (red) and last (green) exposures were made, a thin green offset appears on the right side of the moon when the three exposures are combined. This natural lunar movement also produces a slight red and blue offset on the left side of the moon in these unaltered images.

The lunar far side lacks the large, dark, basaltic plains, or maria, that are so prominent on the Earth-facing side. The largest far side features are Mare Moscoviense in the upper left and Tsiolkovskiy crater in the lower left. A thin sliver of shadowed area of moon is visible on its right side.

“It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon," said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface.”

Once EPIC begins regular observations next month, NASA will post daily color images of Earth to a dedicated public website. These images, showing different views of the planet as it rotates through the day, will be available 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired.

DSCOVR is a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force with the primary objective of maintaining the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Not Like Jim and Pam...

Jim Halpert pretends to be hard at work at his computer while Pam Beesly and her fiance Roy Anderson get touchy-feely behind him in THE OFFICE.

So earlier today, I drove down to Laguna Woods in Orange County, CA, to attend the wedding of Nancy. It was a small ceremony...with less than 40 of us in attendance, and Nancy didn't even have a DJ to play music during her reception afterwards (she played songs from a CD player placed near her table). There was no music when she walked down the aisle either. Anyways, those are beside the point. After 8 years of being in a relationship with him, and a little over 3 years since she got engaged, Nancy finally tied the knot with Roy (I'm making another reference to The Office; it's not his real name). Now, for those of you wondering about The Office allusion in the headline of this Blog entry, a previous post (which was linked to in the opening sentence above) compared my situation to that of Jim Halpert. He was secretly in love with Pam Beesly at Dunder Mifflin for 3 years even though he knew that she was engaged to Roy for more than 8. Halpert secretly bided his time until the moment was right for him to express his feelings for Pam...and despite a hiccup along the way (Pam chose to stay faithful to Roy, prompting Jim to futilely move from Scranton to Stamford to get away from her), Jim and Pam eventually found their way into each other's arms, and would get married in Season 6 of The Office. And then they moved to Austin, Texas by Season 9 (in the series finale) so Jim could pursue a job at a sports marketing company with Pam and their two kids at his side.

Unfortunately, the happy ending for a fictional couple on a now-defunct NBC TV show won't apply to me here. This is the first time ever that I attended the wedding of a girl who I still had strong feelings for. Clearly, Nancy wanted me to show up to Orange County, seeing as how she first texted me about the wedding invitation she sent (yes, I was very devastated when I saw the invitation upon opening that text) and asked if the information was clear enough for other guests to understand (I told her that she should mention the start times for the wedding and the reception separately on the invitation), and then texted me again to tell me about the dress code for her ceremony. She preferred casual business attire even though I ended up wearing a black pinstripe suit.

For me, it was a given that I'd attend Nancy's wedding. Two years ago, I felt that it would actually be a big victory if I became close enough to Nancy that she invited me to her ceremony...whenever it would be (Yes, there are so many flaws with that sentence I just typed.) The big question was: Should I buy Nancy a wedding gift? As someone who wished that our situation could've been like Jim and Pam, it's probably detrimental to show too much support for Nancy and Roy by not only seeing them tie the knot in person, but also giving them a wedding card with $100 in cash stuffed inside of it. Yes, that's how much I gave this couple earlier today.

Did I take photos at Nancy's ceremony, you asked? Yes I did. And yes, they are now posted on my main website. (I'll give you the luxury of finding those photos yourself!) I don't know if the situation between me and Nancy will one day deteriorate to the point where I feel compelled to remove those pics from my webpage, nor do I want to find out. (Remember Denise? If we took a hypothetical photo together back in college and then posted it on my site, I wonder if I would've deleted it by now considering that the situation between us is, most decisively, a debacle.) I could continue typing and typing, but I'll just end this entry here since it could be as long as a research paper if I decided to express every single feeling I was experiencing right now. Would I say 'yes' if Nancy asks me to go hiking again? Yes, I would. I'm not gonna burn bridges with her. Would I go out of my way to ask Nancy if she wanted to go hiking, you ask? Hm— Good question. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder...although in this case, the heart is fond for another heart that unfortunately can no longer (or never did) reciprocate the feeling. Have a good night.

Jim and Pam enjoy a view of Niagara Falls moments after they got married in THE OFFICE.