Rocket Science

ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment

Southeast Asia

This is an interesting thing to watch live streaming from the International Space Station. It is a high definition view of the Earth below taken from one of four HD cameras aboard the ISS. I screen captured the image above of somewhere over Southeast Asia as the ISS sailed off to the south pacific. Read the entire description of the experiment at APOD.

This is a good site to find out the current location of the ISS. Click on the image to enlarge.

UPDATE: I watched the streaming video as the ISS approached the terminator and was surprised to see the full moon rising in the distance.

Full Moon Rising

UPDATE II: This is looking back at the setting moon at about 1815UTC 5/16/2014 as the ISS passed into western Canada.


Click on the images to enlarge.

Mars Rover Opportunity Tenth Anniversary


Originally envisioned as a three-month Martian experiment, rover Opportunity managed to exceed its lifetime projection forty fold. I missed posting this yesterday, so here it is today.

From APOD and NASA:

On January 25 (UT) 2004, the Opportunity rover fell to Mars, making today the 10th anniversary of its landing. After more than 3,500 sols (Mars solar days) the golf cart-sized robot from Earth is still actively exploring the Red Planet, though its original mission plan was for three months. This self-portrait was made with Opportunity’s panoramic camera earlier this month. The camera’s supporting mast has been edited out of the image mosaic but its shadow is visible on the dusty solar panels arrayed across the rover’s deck. For comparison, a similar self-portrait from late 2004 is shown in the inset. Having driven some 39 kilometers (24 miles) from its landing site, Opportunity now rests at Solander Point at the rim of Endeavour Crater.

Mars Rover Opportunity 10 Year Anniversary


Today marks the tenth anniversary of the deployment of the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Spirit has not been heard from for several years, but Opportunity keeps on chugin’ along. This is quite an achievement for JPL, NASA and the subcontractors that put these remarkable spacecraft together. Several years ago, Damsel and I visited JPL and took the tour that included the ground facilities for the rover program. It was quite impressive.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Tony Phillips’ article about Opportunity:

Opportunity’s Improbable Anniversary

July 1, 2013: When NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity blasted off from Cape Canaveral in 2003, many onlookers expected a relatively short mission. Landing on Mars is risky business. The Red Planet has a long history of destroying spacecraft that attempt to visit it. Even if Opportunity did land safely, it was only designed for a 3-month mission on the hostile Martian surface.

Few, if any, imagined that Opportunity would still be roving the red sands of Mars–and still making discoveries–ten years later.

On July 7, 2013, Opportunity celebrates the 10th anniversary of its launch and more than 9 years on Mars.

Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity Rover

Curiosity RoverOn August 5, 2012, The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars for its two-year-long mission to look for signs of life on the red planet. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.”

This image was featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday, but at a much larger and higher resolution. The composite image was constructed from 55 different images wherein the robotic arm holding the camera was digitally removed, making it appear as if it weren’t a self-portrait. Click on the image to enlarge.

To find out about the possibility of life (past or present), the rover carries the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the martian surface. The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet’s climate and geology is essentially “written in the rocks and soil” — in their formation, structure, and chemical composition. The rover’s onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.

Portions of the description above, came from the Mars Science Laboratory Overview website.

Solar Radiation Storm and CME

These colorful solar animations are always very interesting to me. Click animation below to view full-sized version.


A radiation storm that began on Nov. 26th when a magnetic filament erupted on the sun is subsiding. Nevertheless, the Earth-effects are just beginning. The same explosion that caused the radiation storm also hurled a CME into space at about 930 km/s (2 million mph). According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME will reach our planet on Nov. 28th at 17:21 UT (+/- 7 hours).


Four Moons of Saturn


Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a spectacular view of four of the moons of Saturn and a partial view of the rings. Image and the explanation below courtesy of APOD and NASA. You may need to click on the image to enlarge it to original size to see the fourth moon “Pan.”

Explanation: A fourth moon is visible on the above image if you look hard enough. First — and farthest in the background — is Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and one of the larger moons in the Solar System. The dark feature across the top of this perpetually cloudy world is the north polar hood. The next most obvious moon is bright Dione, visible in the foreground, complete with craters and long ice cliffs. Jutting in from the left are several of Saturn’s expansive rings, including Saturn’s A ring featuring the dark Encke Gap. On the far right, just outside the rings, is Pandora, a moon only 80-kilometers across that helps shepherd Saturn’s F ring. The fourth moon? If you look closely in the Encke Gap you’ll find a speck that is actually Pan. Although one of Saturn’s smallest moons at 35-kilometers across, Pan is massive enough to help keep the Encke gap relatively free of ring particles.