Posts

Thinking of You, Shuttle Challenger Crew

Mission patch for the failed mission, STS-61, of shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986

Mission patch for the failed mission, STS-61, of shuttle Challenger, on January 28, 1986

It was this day back in 1986 that we said hello and goodbye to the crew of the shuttle Challenger (OV-099) as she blasted off into the atmosphere, only to be felled by a faulty rubber seal that engineers knew would not perform at the temperatures in the morning of that launch day.

Challenger_flight_51-l_crew

Shuttle Challenger crew:

It’s hard to watch the videos of the explosion having watched as a little boy live.  But it’s interesting nonetheless.  I highly recommend watching The Challenger Disaster on Amazon, William Hurt ROCKS that role.  The two videos below are the best news coverage videos of the event that I could find — I hope each of their souls found rest.

Thanks NASA and Wikipedia.

Amazing Vintage Black and White NASA Project and Facilities Photos

Guide vanes in the 19-foot Pressure Wind Tunnel at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, form an ellipse 33 feet high and 47 feet wide. The 23 vanes force the air to turn corners smoothly as it rushes through the giant passages. If vanes were omitted, the air would pile up in dense masses along the outside curves, like water rounding a bend in a fast brook. Turbulent eddies would interfere with the wind tunnel tests, which require a steady flow of fast, smooth air. (March 15, 1950)  - Courtesy of the awesomeness at Brainpickings.org

Guide vanes in the 19-foot Pressure Wind Tunnel at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, form an ellipse 33 feet high and 47 feet wide. The 23 vanes force the air to turn corners smoothly as it rushes through the giant passages. If vanes were omitted, the air would pile up in dense masses along the outside curves, like water rounding a bend in a fast brook. Turbulent eddies would interfere with the wind tunnel tests, which require a steady flow of fast, smooth air. (March 15, 1950) – Courtesy of the awesomeness at Brainpickings.org

I saw this excellent article at a site I read called Brain Pickings regarding fear and the creative process a few nights ago as I bring to a close the entirety of the JimOnLight TV Episode 1 journey that has engulfed my life for the last year.  In the process of this, I discovered an amazing article that boasts a ton of vintage NASA project photographs from decades gone by, and I could not resist sharing these amazing pieces of history.

You have got to check out Brain PickingsMaria Popova is one of my heroes in this whole thing we call writing.

Maria, you’re awesome.  I hope you read my site sometime.

You’ve Never Seen the International Space Station like THIS!

iss

I saw this in a post the other day somewhere, and I forgot to bookmark the link.  I just spent the last several minutes digging through Vimeo to determine if this was the one, or if I need to lay off the Nabob.

Check this out — this is a video of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).  This is about the coolest thing I have seen this week, besides of course getting married to my lady!

Time-Lapse | Earth from Bruce W. Berry Jr on Vimeo.

I went apesh*t when I saw this video, so of course I found some other awesome stuff. How about the fabulous Commander Suni Williams giving a nice tour of the International Space Station? I was completely immersed, so I hope you enjoy this over your morning coffee too!  (Consequently, the ISS was here when I was writing this post.)

Heeeeeeeere’s Suni!

Still need a fix?  Try this:

The Stars as Viewed from the International Space Station. from AJRCLIPS on Vimeo.

Timelapse videos depicting the stars from low earth orbit, as viewed from the International Space Station. Images edited using Adobe Lightroom with some cropping to make the stars the focal point of each shot, and with manipulation of the contrast to bring out the stars a bit more.

The video plays best if you let it load a bit first.

Music: “Truck out There” by London PM.
Buy the Track here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/truck-out-there-single/id513091776

Editing by Alex Rivest

First sequence star-trails processed using StarStaX:
markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html

Timelapses and images courtesy: The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. The Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. One of NASA’s best outreach programs, in my opinion.

http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/Videos/CrewEarthObservationsVideos/

A very big thanks to NASA astronaut Don Pettit (@astro_Pettit) for taking most of these images.

Dedicated to those who dream of exploring the solar system, and those who are sharing their experiences while doing it.

Hurricane Sandy – New York and New Jersey Blackout Satellite Images

This is really unfortunate and pretty telling as to the power and fury of Mother Nature – the Earth Observatory at NASA has published images, both before and after, of the East Coast where Sandy came ashore.  You have to see this, it is unbelievable.

So here is the coast before Sandy hit:

and here is the ensuring blackout and chaos post-Sandy:

From the Earth Observatory page on Hurricane Sandy:

This pair of images shows New Jersey, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania as viewed at night by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The top image was taken at 2:52 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:52 Universal Time) on November 1, 2012. For comparison, the lower image was taken at 2:14 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:14 UTC) on August 31, 2012, when conditions in the area were normal.

Both images were captured by the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as gas flares, city lights, and reflected moonlight. In the top image, lingering clouds from Hurricane Sandy are lit by moonlight and obscure much of New York’s Hudson Valley, northwestern New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania. (For a wider view, download the large image beneath each web image.)

Turn on the “view image comparison” button to see the difference in city lighting before and after the blackout. In Manhattan, the lower third of the island is dark on November 1, while Rockaway Beach, much of Long Island, and nearly all of central New Jersey are significantly dimmer. The barrier islands along the New Jersey coast, which are heavily developed with tourist businesses and year-round residents, are just barely visible in moonlight after the blackout.

Along with the scattered electric lights, there is a bright point along the shore south of Mantoloking, New Jersey, that could be fires fueled by severed natural gas lines. Note: It is not clear if the fires reported on October 31were still burning on November 1.

For more views of the storm, visit our Hurricane Sandy event page.

The Earth Observatory has this applet on the website that allows you to move a slider across both images overlaid together, showing a humbling differentiation between the before and after shots:

In order to get this view, go to the Earth Observatory Blackout in New Jersey page and click the “View Image Comparison” button.  It’s crazy how the blackout just spidered across the coast.

Remember That Huge Solar Storm We Just Had?

At the beginning of March 2012, we had a few days’ worth of pretty major solar activity — does anyone remember this?

This storm produced some pretty incredible Auroras Borealis and Australis for days before and after the big CME from the Sun.  CME means coronal mass ejection, which is a huge burst of solar wind that is powerful enough to push the bits of solar wind our direction.  Solar wind is a big gust of protons and electrons with very, very strong electrical charges.  Solar wind and coronal mass ejections are the things that the news and scientists talk about that might disrupt our power grids and kill our electronics.  All of these phenomena are called space weather — which tickles me silly and makes me giggle:

These massive bursts (CMEs) of charged particles plays hell on the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is a protective magnetic field that basically wind blocks the Earth from solar wind.  When the CMEs are very, very strong, the magnetosphere just gets sort of magnetically bent out of the way, causing havoc at the planet’s surface.  In the scary event of something like a nuclear war, a similar tactic is utilized to disable an enemy’s defenses and communication electronics — a nuclear weapon is detonated above the target country somewhere in the upper atmosphere, and the huge electromagnetic pulse fries anything that has a circuit board.  After that, the bombardment begins pretty much whenever chosen; the enemy can no longer see, hear, or talk electronically.

This is an excellent GIF of this phenomenon taken using the LASCO telescope — watch the bottom right quadrant of the image:

There are so many theories on why we’re seeing this activity in such magnitudes.  *deep breath* Could it be a coincidence of some kind of Mayan calendar thing, where the dark rift of the Milky Way is going to unleash a solar storm of magnitudes only seen by Nicolas Cage in Knowing?!  Who knows, probably not.  But I was so disappointed in that movie about this very same thing when the damned aliens showed up to “save the planet’s children.”  COME ON.  ALIENS?!  COME ON, NICK!

This is a video of the big X5.4 class solar flare that happened on March 7, 2012:

The beautiful thing is that if I’m wrong, who gives a poo, we’re all completely dead and vaporized from this world anyway, and probably with a quickness.  Really, is there anything to be afraid of?  it’s not like we’re going to know once it happens!  There are lots of websites out there that talk about all of our electrical grid being knocked out; now granted if that were to happen, we’re in quite a lot of trouble fo sho, but anything along the line of a super-mega-ultra-duper X-class flare that brought the heat and torched up our planet would just make us go away.  Solar wind travels somewhere in the neighborhood of hundreds of billions of miles per hour.  Do you think there’s anything that man can make that can protect us from something of that scale?

There is a theory about this thing called the Milky Way dark rift, too — the dark rift is the middle bit of the Milky Way that the earth passes through once every “age,” as it’s known to those who take stock in the study of Astrology.  Not tied to Astrology is what the dark rift actually is, which is a dense mass of charged particles and clouds that are very thick and full of stellar stuffs.  if you were to do some google searching on this phenomenon, you would come across some very end of the world websites and some “nah, calm the eff down” websites.  Really, everything we can track is speculation at this point, regardless of the fact that some of the smartest brains on Earth are studying this very phenomenon and that we have some very high tech but relatively primitive looking glasses in the skies above Earth.

From NASA on the subject of the Dark Rift, 2012 Alignment and Doomsday predictions:

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy — or perhaps the galaxy’s thick dust clouds — on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm (and, indeed, will not even be at its closest alignment during the 2012 solstice.)

The details are as follows: Viewed far from city lights, a glowing path called the Milky Way can be seen arching across the starry sky. This path is formed from the light of millions of stars we cannot see individually. It coincides with the mid plane of our galaxy, which is why our galaxy is also named the Milky Way.

Thick dust clouds also populate the galaxy. And while infrared telescopes can see them clearly, our eyes detect these dark clouds only as irregular patches where they dim or block the Milky Way’s faint glow. The most prominent dark lane stretches from the constellations Cygnus to Sagittarius and is often called the Great Rift, sometimes the Dark Rift.

Another impressive feature of our galaxy lies unseen in Sagittarius: the galactic center, about 28,000 light-years away, which hosts a black hole weighing some four million times the sun’s mass.

The claim for 2012 links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third — the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere — to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

On the bright side (get it?), the images and video that have been captured from places like the International Space Station and in extreme latitudes of the Aurora Borealis (northern) and Aurora Australis (southern) have been absolutely unbelievable.  Seeing them on video just blows my mind, I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I could see one in real time!  Check some of these out, this stuff is absolutely amazing:

Aurora Borealis:

Aurora Australis:

Seriously, it is almost unexplainably beautiful:

Photo credit Giles Boutin

Photo credit Yuichi Takasawa

So who’s right and who’s wrong, here?  Who cares?!  This stuff is amazing and beautiful!

Thanks to HD Wallpapers, Wikipedia, Policy Mic, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, and Nicolas Cage, even though the end of Knowing sucked (but I still love you, Nick!)

Blue Marbles! The Earth At 28,000 Miles

So back on the 7th of December 1972 , Appollo 17 was about 28,000 miles away from the surface of the Earth, and they decided HEY!  Let’s tweet this cool photo of the Earth that nobody but us can see!

(Of course I kid, everybody knows that MySpace was the *only* Social Media place back then)

Do you think they high-fived after seeing that?  I have to believe I would want to high-five something, a colleague, the bulkhead, the instrument panel, anything.  I’d be too excited.

Now a new Blue Marble was released just a few weeks ago – but it’s a composite image of six orbits of the Earth, not the one shot Instagram masterpiece that the Apollo 17 ninjas got back in 1972.  Check it out:

Check THIS out – this is the Hasselblad camera, a model just like the one the astronauts on Apollo 17 used to snap the first Blue Marble:

I put this together for your enjoyment and study – here are the 1972 and Eastern Hemisphere Blue Marbles (2012) side-by-side.  If you click the image, it opens up to a manageable size (1800 pixels wide) for viewing.  Check it out!

Now just remember, these are all courtesy of NASA and NOAA, so make sure you attribute if you share!  Plus, it’s just awesome to point someone to the NASA and NOAA websites; to be nerd is to be awesome.

That’s right, you heard it here first.  Well, the nerd thing anyway.

The North American Nebula

Pardon the late afternoon post, I’m rocking some kind of stomach flu today. What an interesting day – this morning, not even water could take residence in my stomach.  I tried, but the water said “I’M OUT!”

Light from the universe is pretty cool.  There is a large nebula that has a quaint resemblance to the North American continent (which is funny enough called The North American Nebula) that is sometimes visible on really dark nights.  What makes this nebula cool is that as you filter out certain wavelengths of light (like the IR spectrum or UHC filters), our perception of the light from the nebula changes.  The shape really kind of goes away altogether, but who cares – that mass of points and bands of light and color is absolutely amazing.

Check out this image – it’s a quad image from wikipedia of the North American Nebula, but with filters in place for each image:

(You have got to see this one full size.  Seriously.)

This is an amazing thing – I know that there are some serious nerds who read JimOnLight.com, hopefully you all read the NASA Image of the Day gallery, this was the post from yesterday:

From the NASA Image of the Day post from October 18:

This swirling landscape of stars is known as the North America Nebula. In visible light, the region resembles North America, but in this image infrared view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the continent disappears.

Where did the continent go? The reason you don’t see it in Spitzer’s view has to do, in part, with the fact that infrared light can penetrate dust whereas visible light cannot. Dusty, dark clouds in the visible image become transparent in Spitzer’s view. In addition, Spitzer’s infrared detectors pick up the glow of dusty cocoons enveloping baby stars.

Clusters of young stars (about one million years old) can be found throughout the image. Some areas of this nebula are still very thick with dust and appear dark even in Spitzer’s view. 

The Spitzer image contains data from both its infrared array camera and multi-band imaging photometer. Light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns has been color-coded blue; 4.5-micron light is blue-green; 5.8-micron and 8.0-micron light are green; and 24-micron light is red. This image is from February 2011.

This is totally worth a few minutes, check out this video – it breaks down the nebula with visible and invisible light filters and details. Unbelievably beautiful.

Laser Powered Broadband? In Space? Wait. What?

Ok, there is something very interesting taking place with NASA this month.  On September 23, NASA decided to approve three projects that are being called “Technology Demonstration Projects.”  A space-based optical communication system (which is what I find the most exhilarating), a deep space atomic clock, and a big ol’ space sail.  From the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist‘s office:

NASA has selected three proposals as Technology Demonstration Missions that will transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities. The three Space Technology projects will develop and fly a space solar sail, a deep space atomic clock, and a space-based optical communications system. These crosscutting flight demonstrations were selected because of their potential to provide tangible, near-term products and infuse high-impact capabilities into NASA’s future space exploration and science missions. By investing in high payoff, disruptive technologies that industry does not have in-hand today, NASA matures the technologies required for its future missions while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost for other government agency and commercial space activities. 

Ok.  Personal commentary?  What a weird three projects to say “Hey, don’t take our money away, you crazy Congress people and President Obama, we’re NASA.”  I can see the space based laser communication system, that’s pretty cool.  Now granted no one asked me (and I know better that’s probably the main cause we don’t have a space-based laser that can scratch your back), but I’m sure there is reasoning behind these other two projects.  Right?

Right?

Check this out – again,. from the press release at NASA – it’s about this big space laser data communication thingie, called the  Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Mission:

Led by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will demonstrate and validate a reliable, capable, and cost effective optical communications technology for infusion into operational near earth and deep space systems. The Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) office in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate is collaborating with the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist in sponsoring this technology demonstration. 

Optical communications (also known as laser communication – lasercom) is a transformative technology that will enable NASA, other government agencies and the commercial space industry to undertake future, complex space missions requiring increased data rates, or decreased mass, size, and power burdens for communications. For approximately the same mass, power, and volume, an optical communications system provides significantly higher data rates than a comparable radio frequency (RF) system. 

High-rate communications will revolutionize space science and exploration. Data rates 10-100 times more capable than current RF systems will allow greatly improved connectivity and enable a new generation of remote scientific investigations as well as provide the satellite communication’s industry with disruptive technology not available today. Space laser communications will enable missions to use bandwidth-hungry instruments, such as hyperspectral imagers, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and other instruments with high definition in spectral, spatial, or temporal modes. Laser communication will also make it possible to establish a “virtual presence” at a remote planet or other solar system body, enabling the high-rate communications required by future explorers. 

As an example, at the current limit of 6 Mbps for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it takes approximately 90 minutes to transmit a single HiRISE high resolution image back to earth. In some instances, this bottleneck can limit science return. An equivalent MRO mission outfitted with an optical communications transmitter would have a capacity to transmit data back to earth at 100 Mbps or more, reducing the single image transmission time to on order of 5 minutes. 

The LCRD mission will:

  • Enable reliable, capable, and cost effective optical communications technologies for near earth applications and provide the next steps required toward optical communications for deep space missions
  • Demonstrate high data rate optical communications technology necessary for:
    • Near-Earth spacecraft (bi-directional links supporting hundreds of Mbps to Gbps)
    • Deep Space missions (tens to hundreds of Mbps from distances such as Mars and Jupiter)
  • Develop, validate and characterize operational models for practical optical communications
  • Identify and develop requirements and standards for future operational optical communication systems
  • Establish a strong partnership with multiple government agencies to facilitate crosscutting infusion of optical communications technologies
  • Develop the industrial base and transfer technology for future space optical communications systems

Ok, now that does sound pretty cool.

How do you feel about these projects?  Worth the money?  NOT worth the money?  Leave a comment below!

What A Fun… Unusual Cosmic Blast!

Have you seen the news stories about this “unexplained cosmic blast” that NASA’s Swift Satellite captured a few weeks ago?  NASA scientists have been checking out this crazy monstrous gamma ray explosion they observed back in March, but that continues to keep shining.  Typically these types of cosmic explosions go on for about an hour or so, maybe a little longer, but this one was huge and bright, with very high levels of radiation being emitted from the site.

Well, research is ongoing into this crazy little phenomena, but the general feeling towards this bright burst is that a star in another galaxy has gotten too close to its central black hole, and the black hole tore the star to smithereens – cosmic smithereens, that is.  I wonder if that’s the name of the new band by Jack Black and Judd Apatow.

When a star gets torn apart by a black hole like we think this one has, observers will notice a stream of radiation, light, and particles that makes a pretty good light show for a few hours.  This one has been going on for a few weeks, which is a bit puzzling, but scientists are thinking that we’re looking directly into the stream of light and particles that the star is giving off.  When a star is torn apart like this, a stream of light will be created along the star’s rotational axis – essentially we’re looking into a big bright stream of star destruction.  This is crazy pretty, no?

From an article at NASA’s Swift Satellite website:

That same day, astronomers used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to make a four-hour-long exposure of the puzzling source. The image, which locates the object 10 times more precisely than Swift can, shows that it lies at the center of the galaxy Hubble imaged.

“We know of objects in our own galaxy that can produce repeated bursts, but they are thousands to millions of times less powerful than the bursts we are seeing now. This is truly extraordinary,” said Andrew Fruchter at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

“We have been eagerly awaiting the Hubble observation,” said Neil Gehrels, the lead scientist for Swift at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The fact that the explosion occurred in the center of a galaxy tells us it is most likely associated with a massive black hole. This solves a key question about the mysterious event.”

Most galaxies, including our own, contain central black holes with millions of times the sun’s mass; those in the largest galaxies can be a thousand times larger. The disrupted star probably succumbed to a black hole less massive than the Milky Way’s, which has a mass four million times that of our sun

Astronomers previously have detected stars disrupted by supermassive black holes, but none have shown the X-ray brightness and variability seen in GRB 110328A. The source has repeatedly flared. Since April 3, for example, it has brightened by more than five times.

Scientists think that the X-rays may be coming from matter moving near the speed of light in a particle jet that forms as the star’s gas falls toward the black hole.

“The best explanation at the moment is that we happen to be looking down the barrel of this jet,” said Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, who led the Chandra observations. “When we look straight down these jets, a brightness boost lets us view details we might otherwise miss.”

This brightness increase, which is called relativistic beaming, occurs when matter moving close to the speed of light is viewed nearly head on.

I’m gonna hold off on stocking up for the end of the world another few weeks.  :)