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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The ONE EARTH MESSAGE: Support Its Kickstarter Campaign!

Support the ONE EARTH MESSAGE on Kickstarter!
Click above to visit the One Earth Message Kickstarter site

Just thought I'd end this month by sharing the Kickstarter campaign link for the One Earth Message (OEM)...which aims to send a digital time capsule (akin to the Golden Records that have been flying on both Voyager probes for 40 years now) to the New Horizons spacecraft in 2020. Jon Lomberg, who was responsible for creating the Golden Records, is the architect behind this project. After New Horizons flies past its next target (Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69) on January 1, 2019, it will take at least another year for the spacecraft to transmit all of the data from that flyby back to Earth. Once every bit of the KBO info has been relayed to our home planet, the data recorders on New Horizons will be erased...thus clearing up space for something such as OEM to be installed in the robotic probe's computer.

An artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flying past 2014 MU69.
NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

The campaign started last week...and ends on September 29, so donate now! The goal for this project is to make at least $72,000, but its Kickstarter campaign still has ways to go to reach it. If Mr. Lomberg or any other person on the OEM team is reading this, they need to add more rewards to the Kickstarter page to make this goal more attainable. OEM won't reach its $72,000 target based on $1 pledges ($5 should've been the lowest amount provided instead), and there should be a pledge amount between the $2,500 and $10,000 rewards to increase the chances of someone donating a large sum to this campaign (a pledge for $5,000 seems like the right amount to add). It would be awesome if there was a person or two (preferably five...the total number of $10,000 pledges that can be made to this project) to donate $10,000 each to OEM, but I wouldn't wait on that to happen! Prove me wrong, everyone.

The ONE EARTH MESSAGE would only take up space on a single microchip in New Horizon's computer.

So anyways folks, donate to the One Earth Message now! I keep repeating that because I totally want to see this project become a reality! Should the Kickstarter campaign succeed, then 2018 will be spent on developing the OEM website where people can suggest (or submit) what Earth-representative photo, message, etc. should be included with this digital time capsule. And sometime in 2019—should NASA hopefully approve the final product that Mr. Lomberg and his team churns out—the OEM will be tested and converted into the format necessary for a Deep Space Network radio antenna to transmit billions of miles to New Horizons in 2020. But all of this won't be possible without your help, folks, so donate now!

Help send a digital time capsule to the New Horizons spacecraft by supporting the ONE EARTH MESSAGE on Kickstarter!

PS: Your name will also be included in the One Earth Message if you donate to its Kickstarter campaign, so donate now! Thanks.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

T-Minus 18 Days Till Cassini Meets Its Fate...

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

Saturn Plunge Nears for Cassini Spacecraft (Press Release)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is 18 days from its mission-ending dive into the atmosphere of Saturn. Its fateful plunge on Sept. 15 is a foregone conclusion -- an April 22 gravitational kick from Saturn's moon Titan placed the two-and-a-half ton vehicle on its path for impending destruction. Yet several mission milestones have to occur over the coming two-plus weeks to prepare the vehicle for one last burst of trailblazing science.

"The Cassini mission has been packed full of scientific firsts, and our unique planetary revelations will continue to the very end of the mission as Cassini becomes Saturn's first planetary probe, sampling Saturn's atmosphere up until the last second," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We'll be sending data in near real time as we rush headlong into the atmosphere -- it's truly a first-of-its-kind event at Saturn."

The spacecraft is expected to lose radio contact with Earth within about one to two minutes after beginning its descent into Saturn's upper atmosphere. But on the way down, before contact is lost, eight of Cassini's 12 science instruments will be operating. In particular, the spacecraft's ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS), which will be directly sampling the atmosphere's composition, potentially returning insights into the giant planet's formation and evolution. On the day before the plunge, other Cassini instruments will make detailed, high-resolution observations of Saturn's auroras, temperature, and the vortices at the planet's poles. Cassini's imaging camera will be off during this final descent, having taken a last look at the Saturn system the previous day (Sept. 14).

In its final week, Cassini will pass several milestones en route to its science-rich Saturn plunge. (Times below are predicted and may change slightly; see https://go.nasa.gov/2wbaCBT for updated times.)

Sept. 9 -- Cassini will make the last of 22 passes between Saturn itself and its rings. Closest approach is 1,044 miles (1,680 kilometers) above the cloud tops.

Sept. 11 -- Cassini will make a distant flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Even though the spacecraft will be at 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) away, the gravitational influence of the moon will slow down the spacecraft slightly as it speeds past. A few days later, instead of passing through the outermost fringes of Saturn's atmosphere, Cassini will dive in too deep to survive the friction and heating.

Sept. 14 -- Cassini's imaging cameras take their last look around the Saturn system, sending back pictures of moons Titan and Enceladus, the hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet's north pole, and features in the rings.

Sept. 14 (5:45 p.m. EDT / 2:45 p.m. PDT) -- Cassini turns its antenna to point at Earth, begins a communications link that will continue until end of mission, and sends back its final images and other data collected along the way.

Sept. 15 (4:37 a.m. EDT / 1:37 a.m. PDT) -- The "final plunge" begins. The spacecraft starts a 5-minute roll to position INMS for optimal sampling of the atmosphere, transmitting data in near real time from now to end of mission.

Sept. 15 (7:53 a.m. EDT / 4:53 a.m. PDT) -- Cassini enters Saturn's atmosphere. Its thrusters fire at 10 percent of their capacity to maintain directional stability, enabling the spacecraft's high-gain antenna to remain pointed at Earth and allowing continued transmission of data.

Sept. 15 (7:54 a.m. EDT / 4:54 a.m. PDT) -- Cassini's thrusters are at 100 percent of capacity. Atmospheric forces overwhelm the thrusters' capacity to maintain control of the spacecraft's orientation, and the high-gain antenna loses its lock on Earth. At this moment, expected to occur about 940 miles (1,510 kilometers) above Saturn's cloud tops, communication from the spacecraft will cease, and Cassini's mission of exploration will have concluded. The spacecraft will break up like a meteor moments later.

As Cassini completes its 13-year tour of Saturn, its Grand Finale -- which began in April -- and final plunge are just the last beat. Following a four-year primary mission and a two-year extension, NASA approved an ambitious plan to extend Cassini's service by an additional seven years. Called the Cassini Solstice Mission, the extension saw Cassini perform dozens more flybys of Saturn's moons as the spacecraft observed seasonal changes in the atmospheres of Saturn and Titan. From the outset, the planned endgame for the Solstice Mission was to expend all of Cassini's maneuvering propellant exploring, then eventually arriving in the ultra-close Grand Finale orbits, ending with safe disposal of the spacecraft in Saturn's atmosphere.

"The end of Cassini's mission will be a poignant moment, but a fitting and very necessary completion of an astonishing journey," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The Grand Finale represents the culmination of a seven-year plan to use the spacecraft's remaining resources in the most scientifically productive way possible. By safely disposing of the spacecraft in Saturn's atmosphere, we avoid any possibility Cassini could impact one of Saturn's moons somewhere down the road, keeping them pristine for future exploration."

Since its launch in 1997, the findings of the Cassini mission have revolutionized our understanding of Saturn, its complex rings, the amazing assortment of moons and the planet's dynamic magnetic environment. The most distant planetary orbiter ever launched, Cassini started making astonishing discoveries immediately upon arrival and continues today. Icy jets shoot from the tiny moon Enceladus, providing samples of an underground ocean with evidence of hydrothermal activity. Titan's hydrocarbon lakes and seas are dominated by liquid ethane and methane, and complex pre-biotic chemicals form in the atmosphere and rain to the surface. Three-dimensional structures tower above Saturn's rings, and a giant Saturn storm circled the entire planet for most of a year. Cassini's findings at Saturn have also buttressed scientists' understanding of processes involved in the formation of planets.

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

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Monday, August 28, 2017

InSight Update: The Mars Lander Is Still On-Track for a May 2018 Launch...

An artist's concept of NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars.
NASA / JPL

NASA's Next Mars Mission to Investigate Interior of Red Planet (Press Release)

Preparation of NASA's next spacecraft to Mars, InSight, has ramped up this summer, on course for launch next May from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California -- the first interplanetary launch in history from America's West Coast.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is assembling and testing the InSight spacecraft in a clean room facility near Denver. "Our team resumed system-level integration and test activities last month," said Stu Spath, spacecraft program manager at Lockheed Martin. "The lander is completed and instruments have been integrated onto it so that we can complete the final spacecraft testing including acoustics, instrument deployments and thermal balance tests."

InSight is the first mission to focus on examining the deep interior of Mars. Information gathered will boost understanding of how all rocky planets formed, including Earth.

"Because the interior of Mars has churned much less than Earth's in the past three billion years, Mars likely preserves evidence about rocky planets' infancy better than our home planet does," said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. He leads the international team that proposed the mission and won NASA selection in a competition with 27 other proposals for missions throughout the solar system. The long form of InSight's name is Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

Whichever day the mission launches during a five-week period beginning May 5, 2018, navigators have charted the flight to reach Mars the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2018.

The mission will place a stationary lander near Mars' equator. With two solar panels that unfold like paper fans, the lander spans about 20 feet (6 meters). Within weeks after the landing -- always a dramatic challenge on Mars -- InSight will use a robotic arm to place its two main instruments directly and permanently onto the Martian ground, an unprecedented set of activities on Mars. These two instruments are:

-- A seismometer, supplied by France's space agency, CNES, with collaboration from the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. Shielded from wind and with sensitivity fine enough to detect ground movements half the diameter of a hydrogen atom, it will record seismic waves from "marsquakes" or meteor impacts that reveal information about the planet's interior layers.

-- A heat probe, designed to hammer itself to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) or more and measure the amount of energy coming from the planet's deep interior. The heat probe is supplied by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, with the self-hammering mechanism from Poland.

A third experiment will use radio transmissions between Mars and Earth to assess perturbations in how Mars rotates on its axis, which are clues about the size of the planet's core.

The spacecraft's science payload also is on track for next year's launch. The mission's launch was originally planned for March 2016, but was called off due to a leak into a metal container designed to maintain near-vacuum conditions around the seismometer's main sensors. A redesigned vacuum vessel for the instrument has been built and tested, then combined with the instrument's other components and tested again. The full seismometer instrument was delivered to the Lockheed Martin spacecraft assembly facility in Colorado in July and has been installed on the lander.

"We have fixed the problem we had two years ago, and we are eagerly preparing for launch," said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman, of JPL.

The best planetary geometry for launches to Mars occurs during opportunities about 26 months apart and lasting only a few weeks.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Together with two active NASA Mars rovers, three NASA Mars orbiters and a Mars rover being built for launch in 2020, InSight is part of a legacy of robotic exploration that is helping to lay the groundwork for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Lockheed Martin engineers take the InSight Mars lander out of temporary storage in June of 2017...to begin testing the spacecraft prior to its launch in May of 2018.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Lockheed Martin

Sunday, August 27, 2017

More Than 47 Trillion Miles and Counting...

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

Eight 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 in the summer of 2009. As of 7 PM California time tonight (12 PM Sydney time on Monday, August 28), the radio signal containing 25,878 goodwill text messages—including one by me—will have ventured across approximately 47 trillion miles (76 trillion kilometers) of deep space...which, as stated at the very start of this Blog entry, equals a distance of eight 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 13 years to reach the Gliese 581 star system. Yup. Hope you're having a great weekend!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Photos of the Day: The Great American Eclipse...

A photo I took of the Great American Eclipse...on August 21, 2017.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took of the highly-anticipated Solar Eclipse of 2017 about two hours ago. These images were taken from Los Angeles County, meaning that I only saw a partial eclipse in the sky. (One of my brothers, on the other hand, flew to Kansas City this weekend to check out the total solar eclipse.) These photos were shot with my trusty Nikon D3300 DSLR camera...with eclipse-viewing glasses that my other brother got from an issue of Astronomy magazine that he purchased years ago. Dooope. Happy Monday, folks!

A photo I took of the eclipse-viewing glasses that I used to gaze at the Great American Eclipse...on August 21, 2017.

Another photo I took of the Great American Eclipse...on August 21, 2017.

Another photo I took of the eclipse-viewing glasses that I used to gaze at the Great American Eclipse...on August 21, 2017.

A composite image consisting of photos that I took during the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017.

A selfie of me checking out the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017.

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.

PARMAN'S PAGE: ONE MILLION HITS and counting!
StatCounter

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 supporter...as 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 rings...as 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.

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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

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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.