Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Parman's Page: ONE MILLION Hits and Counting!

Last Saturday, my personal website hit a huge milestone when it logged over a million visitors! I would've blogged about this three days ago, if not for the dramatic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. I'd like to point out that none of those hits that allowed Parman's Page to reach a million visitors came from me! I use StatCounter...and it fortunately allows me to block the IP address of the place (not just including my current Verizon Fios connection at home) where I was using Wi-Fi to visit my site at the time. There's been a few times where that place's IP address was unexpectedly changed, causing my hitcounter to record my own visits before I noticed the mistake. Thanks to good ol' StatCounter, however, I just logged onto my account on the stats-gathering website to restore my hit counts back to the number they were at before I visited my webpage...and to include that new IP address in the list of addresses to block.

Anyways, it's so cool to hit the seven-figure mark in terms of the number of people around the world who checked out Parman's Page. It only took ?? years and the addition of 100+ pages to my website over more than a decade to do so. I started using Statcounter back in 2004... Do the math!

Happy Tuesday.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Farewell To An American Hero...

Heather Heyer gave her life fighting Trump-supporting Neo-Nazis on American soil yesterday.

It was revealed earlier today that the anti-racism activist who was mowed down by the car of domestic terrorist James Alex Fields Jr. was Heather Heyer...a 32-year-old Charlottesville resident and paralegal. Rest In Peace, Heather. As stated by numerous folks on social media, she gave her life fighting Nazis on American soil. Her memory should never be forgotten. That statue of Robert E. Lee that those white supremacist douchebags were trying to honor yesterday should be removed from Charlottesville...with a statue honoring Ms. Heyer put in its place instead. Since Donald Trump doesn't have the balls to forcefully denounce the bigots who took Heather's life yesterday, this is the least that could be done to memorialize her.

This is the last thing Heather Heyer posted on her Facebook page before yesterday's tragedy. Like a certain true President who also fought white supremacists during his term of office about 150 years ago, she now belongs to the ages.

The last thing Heather Heyer posted on social media before she became an American hero.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Photos of the Day: Just Another (Despicable) Day in Trump's America...

As Neo-Nazi scumbags march behind him, an African-American police officer does his duty providing protection for this filth that it doesn't deserve.

In response to today's horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, just thought I'd share these pics that both exemplify the divisiveness and hate that Donald Trump inflicted upon the United States since his Russia-influenced election last year, and the American heroes who show that our nation's great democratic values are still alive. In the photo above (which was presumably taken at a previous Nazi rally last month), an African-American police officer silently does his job as a group of white supremacists who most likely want to wish him harm march in the background. This officer should receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom (though NOT BY THE CURRENT PRESIDENT) for duty in the face of such adversity. Expect this photo to be immortalized in future history books.

More Neo-Nazi scumbags march in Charlottesville, Virginia on the night of August 11, 2017 (Pacific Time).

In the image directly above is the group of filth that Donald Trump emboldened when he became America's illegitimate president. All I can say is, these Nazi scumbags need to be ostracized in every imaginable way possible. By this Monday, those here who have jobs should be without a job, and those here looking for employment should realize that no prospective employer wants to ever hire them after seeing this disgraceful pic on social media. And in the pic below is James Alex Fields Jr., the domestic terrorist who plowed into a crowd of anti-racist protesters (leaving one person dead) in Charlottesville earlier today. The Feds need to make an example out of this piece of crap Trump a warning to other white supremacists trying to create chaos (moreso, that is) in this country. Sadly, considering that racism has been institutionalized in the United States since the days of the Founding Fathers, this probably won't happen.

James Alex Fields Jr.: Domestic terrorist.

But look on the bright side... Whereas Donald Trump gave a half-ass response to today's tragedy without acknowledging that white supremacists (a.k.a. his voter base) were the culprits behind it, former President Barack Obama shows why—almost seven months after he departed from the White House—is a true leader of the United States of America. Carry on.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Counting Down to September 15...

An artist's concept of NASA's Cassini spacecraft approaching the inner gap between Saturn and its Cassini concludes the 'Grand Finale' of its 13-year-long mission at the ringed planet.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Cassini to Begin Final Five Orbits Around Saturn (Press Release)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will enter new territory in its final mission phase, the Grand Finale, as it prepares to embark on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet.

Cassini will make the first of these five passes over Saturn at 12:22 a.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 14. The spacecraft's point of closest approach to Saturn during these passes will be between about 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 kilometers) above Saturn's cloud tops.

The spacecraft is expected to encounter atmosphere dense enough to require the use of its small rocket thrusters to maintain stability – conditions similar to those encountered during many of Cassini's close flybys of Saturn's moon Titan, which has its own dense atmosphere.

"Cassini's Titan flybys prepared us for these rapid passes through Saturn's upper atmosphere," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. "Thanks to our past experience, the team is confident that we understand how the spacecraft will behave at the atmospheric densities our models predict."

Maize said the team will consider the Aug. 14 pass nominal if the thrusters operate between 10 and 60 percent of their capability. If the thrusters are forced to work harder – meaning the atmosphere is denser than models predict – engineers will increase the altitude of subsequent orbits. Referred to as a "pop-up maneuver,” thrusters will be used to raise the altitude of closest approach on the next passes, likely by about 120 miles (200 kilometers).

If the pop-up maneuver is not needed, and the atmosphere is less dense than expected during the first three passes, engineers may alternately use the "pop-down" option to lower the closest approach altitude of the last two orbits, also likely by about 120 miles (200 kilometers). Doing so would enable Cassini's science instruments, especially the ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS), to obtain data on the atmosphere even closer to the planet's cloud tops.

"As it makes these five dips into Saturn, followed by its final plunge, Cassini will become the first Saturn atmospheric probe," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL. "It's long been a goal in planetary exploration to send a dedicated probe into the atmosphere of Saturn, and we're laying the groundwork for future exploration with this first foray."

Other Cassini instruments will make detailed, high-resolution observations of Saturn's auroras, temperature, and the vortexes at the planet's poles. Its radar will peer deep into the atmosphere to reveal small-scale features as fine as 16 miles (25 kilometers) wide – nearly 100 times smaller than the spacecraft could observe prior to the Grand Finale.

On Sept. 11, a distant encounter with Titan will serve as a gravitational version of a large pop-down maneuver, slowing Cassini’s orbit around Saturn and bending its path slightly to send the spacecraft toward its Sept. 15 plunge into the planet.

During the half-orbit plunge, the plan is to have seven Cassini science instruments, including INMS, turned on and reporting measurements in near real time. The spacecraft is expected to reach an altitude where atmospheric density is about twice what it encountered during its final five passes. Once Cassini reaches that point, its thrusters will no longer be able to work against the push of Saturn’s atmosphere to keep the spacecraft's antenna pointed toward Earth, and contact will permanently be lost. The spacecraft will break up like a meteor moments later, ending its long and rewarding journey.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini spacecraft.


An artist's concept of NASA's Cassini spacecraft entering Saturn's atmosphere to burn up at the end of its mission...on September 15, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Space Science Institute

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Video of the Day: Curiosity Celebrates 5 Years on the Red Planet...

In honor of the Curiosity rover successfully landing on Mars five years ago tonight, just thought I'd share this video that I put together from footage that I took at Planetfest 2012. It was at this event, which was hosted by the non-profit space organization The Planetary Society (based in Pasadena, California), where I watched NASA TV coverage of the nuclear-powered spacecraft making its way to its landing site at Gale Crater on the Red Planet. 2,000 fellow space enthusiasts were also at Planetfest to watch this historic event unfold.

Posing with the Curiosity Mars rover and its descent stage behind me, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on June 6, 2011.

All I can say is, I can't wait to attend another Planetfest (assuming that I won't be working that day) to see a NASA lander or rover make another triumphant touchdown on the Red Planet. Fortunately, the wait should't be too long... Assuming that it stays on schedule (after its launch was delayed from last year due to an issue during testing of one of its science instruments), NASA's InSight lander is set to take off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base next May and touch down on Mars six months after that in late November. And three years from now, the Mars 2020 rover (which should begin construction at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory very soon; its flight components such as the cruise stage are already being assembled) will leave the Earth to follow in the wheel tracks of its Gale Crater-roaming brethren. Considering the complexity of landing a 1-ton nuclear-powered rover on the Red Planet, and how great it feels to watch this process flawlessly carried out in real time (somewhat; there's a 20+ minute delay in transmitting and receiving radio signals from Mars), I definitely want to be on-hand to see live footage of Curiosity's successor setting its wheels down onto the Red Planet in early 2021! That is all.

My participation certificate for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Photo of the Day: A Jovian (Anti-)Cyclone...

An image of a storm on Jupiter that was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft...on July 10, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran

Jupiter Storm of the High North (News Release - August 3)

A dynamic storm at the southern edge of Jupiter’s northern polar region dominates this Jovian cloudscape, courtesy of NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

This storm is a long-lived anticyclonic oval named North North Temperate Little Red Spot 1 (NN-LRS-1); it has been tracked at least since 1993, and may be older still. An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon where winds around the storm flow in the direction opposite to that of the flow around a region of low pressure. It is the third largest anticyclonic oval on the planet, typically around 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) long. The color varies between red and off-white (as it is now), but this JunoCam image shows that it still has a pale reddish core within the radius of maximum wind speeds.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager. The image has been rotated so that the top of the image is actually the equatorial regions while the bottom of the image is of the northern polar regions of the planet.

The image was taken on July 10, 2017 at 6:42 p.m. PDT (9:42 p.m. EDT), as the Juno spacecraft performed its seventh close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 7,111 miles (11,444 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet at a latitude of 44.5 degrees.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Kuiper Belt Object That New Horizons Is Heading Towards May Be TWO Objects...

An artist's concept of 2014 MU69, New Horizons' next flyby target in early 2019, as a binary object.
NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Alex Parker

New Horizons' Next Target Just Got a Lot More Interesting (News Release)

Could the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft actually be two targets?

New Horizons scientists look to answer that question as they sort through new data gathered on the distant Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

The ancient KBO, which is more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, passed in front of a star on July 17, 2017. A handful of telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Patagonia, Argentina were in the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event known as an occultation – and were able to capture important data to help mission flyby planners better determine the spacecraft trajectory and understand the size, shape, orbit and environment around MU69.

Based on these new occultation observations, team members say MU69 may not be a lone spherical object, but suspect it could be an “extreme prolate spheroid” – think of a skinny football – or even a binary pair. The odd shape has scientists thinking two bodies may be orbiting very close together or even touching – what’s known as a close or contact binary – or perhaps they’re observing a single body with a large chunk taken out of it. The size of MU69 or its components also can be determined from these data. It appears to be no more than 20 miles (30 kilometers) long, or, if a binary, each about 9-12 miles (15-20 kilometers) in diameter.

“This new finding is simply spectacular. The shape of MU69 is truly provocative, and could mean another first for New Horizons going to a binary object in the Kuiper Belt,” said Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “I could not be happier with the occultation results, which promise a scientific bonanza for the flyby.”

The July 17 stellar occultation event that gathered these data was the third of a historic set of three ambitious occultation observations for New Horizons. The team used data from the Hubble Space Telescope and European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite to calculate and pinpoint where MU69 would cast a shadow on Earth's surface. “Both of these space satellites were crucial to the success of the entire occultation campaign,” added Stern.

Said Marc Buie, the New Horizons co-investigator who led the observation campaign, "These exciting and puzzling results have already been key for our mission planning, but also add to the mysteries surrounding this target leading into the New Horizons encounter with MU69, now less than 17 months away.”

Source: NASA.Gov


An artist's concept of 2014 MU69, New Horizons' next flyby target in early 2019, as a single but elongated object.
NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Alex Parker

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Photos of the Day #2: Snapshots from a Hollywood Movie Studio...

A snapshot of Paramount Pictures as seen from the Gower parking structure across the street...on July 31, 2017.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took at Paramount Pictures...where I worked two days ago. Bringing my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera with me, I wanted to take high-quality photos around the historic Hollywood studio during my lunch break. Every time I work at this lot, I always take a snapshot of Paramount's iconic water tower and its famous Bronson Gate. These pics are usually shot with my smartphone, so why not take images using my DSLR camera this time around? Anyways, all I can say is that Paramount, along with Warner Bros. in Burbank, are two of my favorite studios to work at. Of course, the fact that I was a regular employee at Paramount from the summer of 2005 to the summer of '06 would make me biased. However, Warner Bros. is in a much nicer area on the other side of the Hollywood Hills...and faster to drive to on the freeway. Happy Hump Day!

A snapshot of the Bronson Gate at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood...on July 31, 2017.

A snapshot of the water tower and blue sky tank at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood...on July 31, 2017.

A snapshot of the water tower (with the Moon to its right) at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood...on July 31, 2017.

A snapshot of the Hollywood Sign as seen from Paramount Pictures' Gower parking structure...on July 31, 2017.

A snapshot of Stage 29 (with Griffith Observatory visible on the hill behind it) as seen from Paramount Pictures' Gower parking structure...on July 31, 2017.

A snapshot of the downtown Los Angeles skyline as seen from Paramount Pictures' Gower parking structure...on July 31, 2017.

One more snapshot from Paramount Pictures' Gower parking structure...on July 31, 2017.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Photos of the Day: The Wilshire Grand Center and the City of LA...

The Wilshire Grand Center as seen from street level on July 26, 2017.

Last Wednesday, I finally drove down to the Wilshire Grand Center to check the skyscraper out in person for the very first time. As expected, I was impressed by the architecture and how elegant this newest addition to the Los Angeles skyline looks up-close. Using my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera, I took pics at its rooftop bar and lounge Spire 73, which is located on the 73rd floor, and scenic snapshots of the L.A. cityscape from the 70th floor as well. Overlooking the fact that I paid a little over $27 for parking (it was valet, so I shouldn't complain), this trip was worth it. I definitely want to go back to the Wilshire Grand to take images at night. If these photos from almost three months ago are any indication, then more nocturnal pics of the tallest building west of the Mississippi River won't disappoint. Especially when I'll be using my DSLR camera... Carry on!

A snapshot of the Wilshire Grand Center's main lobby at ground level...on July 26, 2017.

A snapshot of the Wilshire Grand Center's hotel lobby at the 70th floor...on July 26, 2017.

A snapshot of the Los Angeles skyline as seen from the 70th floor of the Wilshire Grand Center...on July 26, 2017.

A snapshot of traffic on the 110 freeway as seen from the 70th floor of the Wilshire Grand Center...on July 26, 2017.

STAPLES Center is visible in this snapshot that was taken from the 70th floor of the Wilshire Grand Center...on July 26, 2017.

A snapshot of the rooftop bar and lounge Spire 73 on the 73rd floor of the Wilshire Grand Center...on July 26, 2017.

A snapshot of the Wilshire Grand Center's spire and 'sail' as seen from Spire 73...on July 26, 2017.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Celebrating Four Decades of Voyage Through the Cosmos...

An artist's concept of a Voyager spacecraft venturing through the cosmos.

NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Still Reaching for the Stars After 40 Years (Press Release)

Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Their story has not only impacted generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

“I believe that few missions can ever match the achievements of the Voyager spacecraft during their four decades of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters. “They have educated us to the unknown wonders of the universe and truly inspired humanity to continue to explore our solar system and beyond.”

The Voyagers have set numerous records in their unparalleled journeys. In 2012, Voyager 1, which launched on Sept. 5, 1977, became the only spacecraft to have entered interstellar space. Voyager 2, launched on Aug. 20, 1977, is the only spacecraft to have flown by all four outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Their numerous planetary encounters include discovering the first active volcanoes beyond Earth, on Jupiter’s moon Io; hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa; the most Earth-like atmosphere in the solar system, on Saturn’s moon Titan; the jumbled-up, icy moon Miranda at Uranus; and icy-cold geysers on Neptune's moon Triton.

Though the spacecraft have left the planets far behind – and neither will come remotely close to another star for 40,000 years – the two probes still send back observations about conditions where our Sun's influence diminishes and interstellar space begins.

Voyager 1, now almost 13 billion miles from Earth, travels through interstellar space northward out of the plane of the planets. The probe has informed researchers that cosmic rays, atomic nuclei accelerated to nearly the speed of light, are as much as four times more abundant in interstellar space than in the vicinity of Earth. This means the heliosphere, the bubble-like volume containing our solar system's planets and solar wind, effectively acts as a radiation shield for the planets. Voyager 1 also hinted that the magnetic field of the local interstellar medium is wrapped around the heliosphere.

Voyager 2, now almost 11 billion miles from Earth, travels south and is expected to enter interstellar space in the next few years. The different locations of the two Voyagers allow scientists to compare right now two regions of space where the heliosphere interacts with the surrounding interstellar medium using instruments that measure charged particles, magnetic fields, low-frequency radio waves and solar wind plasma. Once Voyager 2 crosses into the interstellar medium, they will also be able to sample the medium from two different locations simultaneously.

"None of us knew, when we launched 40 years ago, that anything would still be working, and continuing on this pioneering journey," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at Caltech in Pasadena, California. "The most exciting thing they find in the next five years is likely to be something that we didn't know was out there to be discovered."

The twin Voyagers have been cosmic overachievers, thanks to the foresight of mission designers. By preparing for the radiation environment at Jupiter, the harshest of all planets in our solar system, the spacecraft were well equipped for their subsequent journeys. Both Voyagers are equipped with long-lasting power supplies, as well as redundant systems that allow the spacecraft to switch to backup systems autonomously when necessary. Each Voyager carries three radioisotope thermoelectric generators, devices that use the heat energy generated from the decay of plutonium-238 – only half of it will be gone after 88 years.

Space is almost empty, so the Voyagers are not at a significant level of risk of bombardment by large objects. However, Voyager 1's interstellar space environment is not a complete void. It’s filled with clouds of dilute material remaining from stars that exploded as supernovae millions of years ago. This material doesn’t pose a danger to the spacecraft, but is a key part of the environment that the Voyager mission is helping scientists study and characterize.

Because the Voyagers' power decreases by four watts per year, engineers are learning how to operate the spacecraft under ever-tighter power constraints. And to maximize the Voyagers' lifespans, they also have to consult documents written decade’s earlier describing commands and software, in addition to the expertise of former Voyager engineers.

"The technology is many generations old, and it takes someone with 1970s design experience to understand how the spacecraft operate and what updates can be made to permit them to continue operating today and into the future," said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Team members estimate they will have to turn off the last science instrument by 2030. However, even after the spacecraft go silent, they’ll continue on their trajectories at their present speed of more than 30,000 mph (48,280 kilometers per hour), completing an orbit within the Milky Way every 225 million years.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both. The Voyager missions are part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of SMD.


Friday, July 28, 2017

51 American Heroes (and 3 of Them are Republicans)...

Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins are traitors to the GOP, heroes to the American people!

Earlier this morning, 48 Democrats and 3 Republican senators triumphantly struck down a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would've caused 16 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2026. Known as the "Skinny Repeal," this bill would've taken away Obamacare's individual insurance mandate permanently and the employer mandate for 8 years...causing premiums to spike up by as much as 20% next year. But if you've been keeping regular track of the GOP's Obamacare Repeal fiasco like I have for much of this year, you'd already know that.

I'd like to point out that Senator John McCain exemplified why I voted for him in 2008 (and Barack Obama in 2012), and why fellow GOP senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins should be proud that they will end up on the right side of history for last night's defeat of the Skinny Repeal. Despite threats by Donald Trump (I will not call him 'president') and his White House cronies against her state of Alaska, Murkowski stood tall and struck down the Senate GOP's extremely-flawed alternative to the ACA. And just like McCain, Collins is calling for a bipartisan answer to fixing the flaws in President Obama's signature healthcare legislation. After the embarrassing loss handed to him by his fellow GOP folks today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be wise to take heed of their advice. There would be no need for me to say disparaging things about McConnell like what I've been doing with House-speaking cocksucker Paul Ryan for the past two months.

Anyways, the failure of the attempt to repeal Obamacare should be seen as a victory for Americans everywhere. In regards to those who lost their insurance due to the ACA, they should hope that the GOP and Democrats will finally work together to fix the healthcare law to ensure that they regain the medical coverage that they and the rest of the United States deserves. Thanks to McCain being a 'maverick' and the actions of two honorable ladies, that attempt to work together can begin today. Or by September... The weekend is here and Congress will soon adjourn for an August recess. (The Senate recess starts on August 11 and ends September 5.) TGIF!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The End Is Nearer For Cassini...

An image of Saturn that was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on July 16, 2017...from a distance of 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) away.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Space Science Institute

Haze on the Horizon (News Release)

This false-color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft gazes toward the rings beyond Saturn's sunlit horizon. Along the limb (the planet's edge) at left can be seen a thin, detached haze. This haze vanishes toward the right side of the scene.

Cassini will pass through Saturn's upper atmosphere during the final five orbits of the mission, before making a fateful plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15, 2017. The region through which the spacecraft will fly on those last orbits is well above the haze seen here, which is in Saturn's stratosphere. In fact, even when Cassini plunges toward Saturn to meet its fate, contact with the spacecraft is expected to be lost before it reaches the depth of this haze.

This view is a false-color composite made using images taken in red, green and ultraviolet spectral filters. The images were obtained using the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 16, 2017, at a distance of about 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is about 4 miles (7 kilometers) per pixel on Saturn.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Source: NASA.Gov


An artist's concept of NASA's Cassini spacecraft entering Saturn's atmosphere to burn up at the end of its mission...on September 15, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Space Science Institute

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Photos of the Day: My First-Ever Snapshots of the Milky Way...

The Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

As mentioned in this Blog entry I posted over a week ago, I drove back to Joshua Tree last Thursday to take my first-ever snapshots of the Milky Way. It was an interesting experience—gazing upwards and marveling at how this huge celestial wonder extends across the entire sky. Photographing our home galaxy was both fun and frustrating! Out of the almost 200 pics that I took on Thursday, only about 27 of 'em ended up being usable. And the reason for this is because my Nikon D3300 camera, for some odd reason, would take a nice crisp image in one instance and then a really blurry one the next. This is despite the fact that I didn't move the tripod or adjust the exposure settings on my camera for the subsequent shot. However, it didn't help that it was slightly windy when I was taking photos. I tried to shield my camera by standing between it and the wind multiple times during the night. It's too bad this was futile considering that the wind was coming from the direction of the Milky Way! Its brightest and most interesting part (the galactic core?), that is... The galaxy stretches across the whole sky, remember?

The Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

Anyways, I definitely want to head back to Joshua Tree to take more photos of the Milky Way. However, again, I need to buy a faster wide-angle lens that will allow me to take brighter and sharper snapshots of our galaxy...since the lens I used could only be adjusted to a low f-stop of 3.5, and I read online that f/2.8 is the aperture setting I really need to take a detailed pic of the Milky Way. That, and I need to keep my camera's noise reduction setting on next time. Live and learn. Enjoy some of these pics that I took last Thursday (those red streaks of light are airliners passing overhead), and I hope you had a great Sunday! That is all.

That gray wavy line is a moth that flew in front of my camera lens when I took this long-exposure snapshot of the Milky Way...on July 20, 2017.

The Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

That red and white streak of light is an airliner passing high above Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

The Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

The Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

The Milky Way as seen from Joshua Tree National Park in California...on July 20, 2017.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Note to Mitch McConnell: GIVE IT UP...

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discusses the (hopefully-defunct) American Health Care Act.

Earlier today, it was reported online that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to introduce a bill that would completely repeal the Affordable Care Act (or ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) without seeking to replace it for at least two years. This development came about less than 24 hours after McConnell's previous attempt to repeal and replace the ACA with the American Health Care Act (which was renamed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA) fell through...due to four Republican senators (Jerry Moran, Mike Lee, Susan Collins and Rand Paul) announcing that they will not vote 'yes' on the health bill. One of those senators, Susan Collins, joined two other congresswomen (Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito) in announcing that they will vote 'no' on the repeal-only Obamacare bill today. Mitch McConnell could only have two 'no' votes among his 52 GOP senators to pass any health bill (the Democrats are against anything that would kill Obamacare, fortunately); four 'noes' derailed the BCRA yesterday and three 'noes' thwarted the Republican repeal plan this morning.

All I can say is, Mitch McConnell needs to give up on his plans to kill Obamacare. It needs to be fixed, not replaced...with the Republicans working alongside Democrats to make the ACA work for every American in this country. No matter how many times the GOP revises its own health bill, it will always be unacceptable because of the fundamental and evil flaws behind it: That at least 20 million folks in the U.S. will lose health coverage within 10 years, and wealthy folks in this country will get huge tax breaks at the expense of sick, middle-class Americans with pre-existing conditions who need Medicaid to seek treatment for their illnesses. (I have my own personal reason as to why the ACA needs to be saved. Today, I have a 3PM doctor's appointment as of this entry.)

I implore Mitch McConnell to do the right thing and admit that Obamacare needs to be fixed using bipartisan help from the Democrats. Please don't put me in the position to spout angry, hateful things about him on my Blog like what I've been doing with House-speaking cocksucker Paul Ryan. There has to be at least one high-ranking Republican official willing to put country over party. Paul Ryan put the GOP over America while Donald Trump, of course, put Russia over the U.S. Show a change of heart, McConnell... Carry on.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The New Look of JUICE...

An artist's concept of Europe's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) in orbit around the Jovian world and its four Galilean moons.
Spacecraft: ESA / ATG medialab; Jupiter: NASA / ESA / J. Nichols (University of Leicester); Ganymede: NASA / JPL; Io: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona; Callisto and Europa: NASA / JPL / DLR

Exploring Jupiter (Press Release)

It may still be five years away from launch, and over a decade before our Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer reaches the gas giant and its icy moons, but preparations are well under way. This new artist’s impression depicts the final spacecraft design, the construction of which is being overseen by Airbus Defence and Space.

The spacecraft’s solar wings form a distinctive cross-shape totalling 97 sq m, the largest ever flown on an interplanetary mission. The size is essential to generate sufficient power – around 850 W – for the instruments and spacecraft so far from the Sun.

The spacecraft is furnished with a laboratory of instruments that will investigate Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere and vast magnetosphere, as well as study the planet-sized moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto. All three moons are thought to have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts and should provide key clues on the potential for such moons to harbour habitable environments.

Juice’s cameras will capture exquisite details of the moons’ features, as well as identify the ices and minerals on their surfaces. Other instruments will sound the subsurface and interior of the moons to better understand the location and nature of their buried oceans. The tenuous atmosphere around the moons will also be explored.

The spacecraft will also include booms such as a 10 m-long magnetometer mast (seen towards the bottom of Juice in the artist impression), a 16 m radar antenna (the long boom across the top), and antennas to measure electric and magnetic fields.

Ganymede is the only moon in the Solar System to generate its own internal magnetic field, and Juice is well equipped to document its behaviour and explore its interaction with Jupiter’s own magnetosphere.

Juice is scheduled for launch in 2022 on a seven-year journey to the Jovian system. Its tour will include a dedicated orbit phase of Jupiter, targeted flybys of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and finally nine months orbiting Ganymede – the first time any moon beyond our own has been orbited by a spacecraft.

In the artist’s impression, which is not to scale, Ganymede is shown in the foreground, Callisto to the far right, and Europa centre-right. Volcanically active moon Io is also shown, at left. The moons were imaged by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft; Jupiter is seen here with a vivid aurora, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Source: European Space Agency

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Photo of the Day: Getting Ready to Test Hubble's Successor in Texas...

The James Webb Space Telescope hangs from the ceiling of Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
NASA / Chris Gunn

NASA’s Webb Telescope ‘Hangs Out’ in Houston (News Release - July 10)

Houston might have a high of 95 degrees Fahrenheit this week, but NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will soon be hanging out in a vibration-isolating "hammock," with the best air conditioning available, courtesy of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

In preparation for the Webb telescope’s upcoming cryogenic testing, engineers at Johnson have suspended it from the ceiling of the center’s historic Chamber A. This "hammock" (really, six support rods attached to the platform on which the telescope is sitting) is not for relaxation; it’s meant to isolate the telescope from the vibrations Chamber A could produce once the door closes and testing begins, as well as from disturbances that might occur outside the chamber.

“Remember that the system is designed to work in space, where the disturbances are highly controlled and only come from the spacecraft,” said Gary Matthews, an integration and testing engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is testing the Webb telescope while it is at Johnson. “On Earth, we have to deal with all the ground-based disturbances, such as the pumps and motors, and even traffic driving by.”

You may have a hard time seeing the Webb telescope floating in the photo, because it is suspended only a few inches from the rails on the bottom of the chamber, which were used to roll the telescope into place.

What’s a hammock without a little bit of sway? With the telescope suspended, engineers conducted a "push test," where they gave it a very slight nudge and observed how it reacted to ensure the suspension system was functioning the best it could, said Matthews. Don’t worry, the 14,000 pound telescope wasn’t swinging from one side of the chamber to the other; the nudge only amounted to a few millimeters of movement.

Webb will remain suspended in the chamber for the entire cryogenic testing phase, which will last about three months. In space, the telescope must be kept extremely cold, in order to be able to detect the infrared light from very faint, distant objects. To protect the telescope from external sources of light and heat (like the Sun, Earth and Moon), as well as from heat emitted by the observatory, a five-layer, tennis court-sized sunshield acts like a parasol that provides shade. The sunshield separates the observatory into a warm, Sun-facing side (reaching temperatures close to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) and a cold side (400 degrees below zero). The sunshield blocks sunlight from interfering with the sensitive telescope instruments.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Juno Update: The "Eye of Jupiter" Up-Close...

An enhanced color image of Jupiter's Great Red Spot that was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft on July 10, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Kevin Gill

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Spots Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (News Release)

Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval. The JunoCam imager aboard NASA's Juno mission snapped pics of the most iconic feature of the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant during its Monday (July 10) flyby. The images of the Great Red Spot were downlinked from the spacecraft’s memory on Tuesday and placed on the mission’s JunoCam website Wednesday morning.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyze all the data from not only JunoCam, but Juno’s eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot.”

As planned by the Juno team, citizen scientists took the raw images of the flyby from the JunoCam site and processed them, providing a higher level of detail than available in their raw form. The citizen-scientist images, as well as the raw images they used for image processing, can be found at:

“I have been following the Juno mission since it launched,” said Jason Major, a JunoCam citizen scientist and a graphic designer from Warwick, Rhode Island. “It is always exciting to see these new raw images of Jupiter as they arrive. But it is even more thrilling to take the raw images and turn them into something that people can appreciate. That is what I live for.”

Measuring in at 10,159 miles (16,350 kilometers) in width (as of April 3, 2017) Jupiter's Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth. The storm has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking.

All of Juno's science instruments and the spacecraft's JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno's next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on Sept. 1.

Juno reached perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter's center) on July 10 at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno was about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno had covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers), and was passing directly above the coiling, crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the clouds of this iconic feature.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops -- as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Early science results from NASA's Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.

“These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are the ‘perfect storm’ of art and science. With data from Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, Hubble and now Juno, we have a better understanding of the composition and evolution of this iconic feature,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone.”

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of 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 Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

Source: NASA.Gov


Another enhanced color image of Jupiter's Great Red Spot that was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft on July 10, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Jason Major

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Getting Ready for Marvel's NEW WARRIORS Next Year...

Milana Vayntrub will play Squirrel Girl on Marvel's NEW WARRIORS in 2018.

So yesterday afternoon, I found out online that the amazingly-talented Milana Vayntrub will become one of Marvel's newest live-action superheroes in the 2018 TV series New Warriors. Milana will play Doreen Green, a.k.a. the all-powerful Squirrel Girl...who in the comic books defeated none other than Thanos himself, and bested other characters such as Deadpool in combat. With Tippy-Toe, her buddy squirrel at her side, Squirrel Girl will be joined by Mister Immortal (Derek Theler), Night Thrasher (Jeremy Tardy), Speedball (Calum Worthy), Debrii (Kate Comer) and Microbe (Matthew Moy...who cracked me up as diner owner Han Lee on the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls) on New Warriors. It will debut on Freeform—formerly Disney's ABC Family channel—next year.

As someone who's followed her career since she delighted audiences as the adorable Lily Adams on AT&T's TV commercials, I am stoked that Milana is getting roles in projects as huge as a new Marvel TV show. From her funny Let's Talk About Something More Interesting YouTube videos, Paul Feig's hilarious but sadly short-lived 2015 sci-fi web series Other Space (plus a cameo on Feig's Ghostbusters reboot last summer) to a Season One stint on NBC's hit show This Is Us, Milana is going places. This is both literally and figuratively... Milana went to Greece and Jordan over the past two years to personally help Syrian refugees (and created her charity organization as a result). Ms. Vayntrub herself was a refugee who emigrated here from Uzbekistan when it was once a Soviet republic 30 years ago.

In regards to Other Space, it's so interesting that Milana is the second cast member on that series to land a role on a Marvel show. The first cast member being Karan Soni...who went from playing Captain Stewart Lipinski on Other Space's UMP Cruiser to Deadpool's trusty cab driver Dopinder in the movies. With Milana as Squirrel Girl and Soni's Dopinder set to get more bad but hilarious dating advice by Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) in next year's Deadpool 2, it's clearly obvious that the alternate universe the UMP Cruiser stumbled into happened to be the Marvel Universe itself! I wouldn't be surprised if other Other Space alumni Neil Casey and/or Eugene Cordero join Brie Larson in 2019's Captain Marvel...

So yea, I can't wait to see Milana charm TV audiences and Marvel fans as Doreen Green next year. I'd ask if she'll appear at the D23 Expo [where Disney promotes its plans for its theme parks, movies, TV shows (Disney owns Marvel, remember?) and other properties] in Anaheim or San Diego Comic-Con this month, but it doesn't really matter to me. I've had the pleasure of meeting Milana a few times at her comedy shows and other places over the past two years. The first time was in early 2015, and I worked on an amazing short film called Brief last September... Milana and I both donated money to this project through Kickstarter, and I got to be an extra on it (yes, Milana was on set; she helped out as an assistant director since Brief was written and produced by some of her closest friends). Ms. Vayntrub is one of the coolest and nicest folks you'll ever meet in person—and considering how big of a star she's becoming by the day, that is something to be proud of. Anyways, time to end this Blog entry (unless of course, Milana is actually reading this and can't get enough of my crazy and incessant flattery)... Bring on the New Warriors next year! And Happy Tuesday.

The NEW WARRIORS will make their live-action debut on TV in 2018.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Photo of the Day: The Thunder Moon...

A snapshot of the Full Moon that I took on July 9, 2017.

Here's a snapshot of the Full Moon that I took with my Nikon D3300 late last night. I only had about 10-15 minutes to take photos of the so-called Thunder Moon (a.k.a. Hay Moon, Mead Moon, Buck Moon, Ripe Corn Moon and Guru Purnima according to NASA)...what with cloud cover quickly moving in to obscure the view above my vantage point here in Los Angeles County, California. Oh well. Lookin' forward to late next week—when I hopefully drive back to Joshua Tree and take my very first pics of the Milky Way in the desert sky. Hopefully. Stay tuned!