A strange solar tail wind.

 

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft took the first complete pictures of the solar system’s downwind region and it revealed some interesting stuff.

It has been theorized for a long time that the heliosphere had a tail.

 

Taking images since 2009, IBEX has shown an unexpected ribbon of high energetic neutral atom (ENA) emissions and a structure comprising lower energy ENA emissions.

Also, there seems to be two low energy ENA tail regions to the side of the previously identified high energy one.  So, instead of the expected single tail, there appears to be two “lobes.”

IBEX data shows that the heliotail is a region where the Sun’s million mile per hour (1,000,000,000 mph or 2,200,000 kph) solar wind flows away from the center of the Milkyway, eventually ending up in interstellar space.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

LADEE do you need some help?

As Jerry Lewis was fond of saying LAAYYYDEEE.  Although in this case it means something else.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is scheduled to launch from Wallops Island in September.

This will be the first mission launched from Wallops Island to go beyond low Earth orbit.  I wasn’t even aware that Wallops Island had this capability (Go Navy!).

LADEE will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

LADEE is also the first spacecraft to use a new modular common spacecraft bus.

This will allow multi-use designs and assembly-line production, that could drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development.  Much like the European Space Agencies Mars and Venus Express craft used many common items to cut costs and decrease the time it takes from production to launch.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

A “Heavenly” view.

Earlier this week I posted about the Chinese space station Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace mission.

Solar transit of the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 with the Shenzhou-10 module docked, taken from Southern France on June 16, 2013 at 12:14:50 UTC; using a white light filter.  Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

Copyright Thierry Legault 2013 all rights reserved.

Well, it appears that the Shenzhou-10 module has successfully docked with the space station.  Can you see the space station in another amazing image taken by fantastic transit photographer Thierry Legault.

Hydrogen-alpha solar transit of Shenzhou-10 module docked to Tiangong-1, taken from Southern France on June 17, 2013 at 12:34:24 UT. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

Copyright Thierry Legault 2013 all rights reserved.

Because of the speed of the orbiting space station, Thierry had less than half a second each to capture these two images of the Shenzhou-10 docked with the Tiangong-1 space station.  What is even more amazing is that each image was taken on two different days.

These images are even more impressive when you consider the size of the two objects and how far away they are from the surface.  The Tiangong-1 space station is about 34ft (10.4 meters) long and the Shenzou-10 is about 30ft (9.25 meters) long.   Together they are about 65ft long orbiting at around 225 miles (362 kilometres) overhead.  Pretty much like imaging  a needle in a haystack.

Thierry uses a program that I have not tried, CalSky, to calculate when and where to take  these amazing 1/2 second photos.  I think I will have to give it a try.  I have been using a program called The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) to plan my Moon, Sunrise and Sunset photographs and I highly recommend it as well.  You should add them to your arsenal of good tools for taking great shots.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

 

Happy Anniversary Mars Express

Named because of the rapid and streamlined development time, the Mars Express Orbiter represents ESA’s first visit to another planet in the Solar System.

On June 2, 2003, the Mars Express orbiter was launched toward the red planet, entering into orbit just six months later. Though the accompanying Beagle 2 did not survive entry, the orbiter is still swinging around Mars ten years later.

Mars Express orbits roughly every 8 hours to collect data on Mars, its moons, and the Sun.

Mankind has been going to the red planet since the 1960s.  As noted above, the missions have been met with varying success.  The Mars Express Orbiter is one of the better examples of success.

Still, being in orbit around a planet about 140 million miles (225 million km) is nothing to sneeze at.  Various problems in both the hardware and software have been overcome by mission specialists to keep the data flowing back to Earth.

Overcoming these technical challenges has resulted in fantastic discoveries in the last ten years.Mars Express has monitored all regions of the Martian environment, from the subsurface to the upper atmosphere to its two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Mars Express has helped find out that water was once present on Mars.  In fact Mars Express helped find out that there is water locked up in the planet’s ice caps by using its ground-penetrating radar system.  It seems that there may be enough water in the form of ice to cover the entire planet with a layer of water some 30 feet deep.

Happy anniversary Mars Express and a job well done to everyone at the ESA that keeps you flying.  May you have many more.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Good photo op in tonight’s sky.

If you missed the last conjunction between Jupiter, Mercury and Venus this past month, you’ll get another chance at a good photo tonight.

This time it is the Moon, Venus and Mercury.  If you look to the west-northwest horizon tonight you will see all three.

The show will last for about 45 minutes after sunset (Venus sets right after that).

You should be able to see all three with the naked eye and you might even want to try and take a photograph.  You shouldn’t need anything fancier than your cell phone and a steady hand.  Orion even makes devices for holding your cellphone in place for you.

I am going to try my hand at getting a few images and I will post the results (provided the weather cooperates).  Let me know if you take any images, I would love to see your shots!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Another swing and a miss.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 will fly by the Earth on May 31 (or June 1st depending upon where you live) at a distance of 3.6 million miles or 5.8 million km.
The size comparison that most everyone is using is that the 1.7 mile or  2.7km long rock is 9 times the size of the Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner.
I am not sure how big that is, but the graphic above puts in a little better perspective for me.
Moon
Additionally, if you are worried that it might hit the Earth, the moon is fifteen times closer at about 230,800 miles.  So, not much of a chance of impact.
However, I am very interested in seeing if there are any little companions travelling with the asteroid.  If you recall, a few hours after the last asteroid that flew by us, a fairly large chunk of something hit in Siberia making a very large explosion.
https://images.sdentertainer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/asteroid2.jpg
Could it be that this wanderer through our neighbouring space is also bringing unwanted guests?  It will be hard to tell until something happens.  We currently don’t have the technology to detect small asteroids and/or comet that are small.  Hopefully, the only thing that happens is that all the scientists get great images, spectra and radar information to work with.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Quick RTMC recap.

This weekend was the annual pilgrimage to Big Bear for the Society for Astronomical Sciences meetings and  RTMC.

The 2013 SAS Symposium on Telescope Science was held on May 21-23at the Northwoods Resort in Big Bear Lake, CA.  Over 100 professional and amateur astronomers meet each year for this event.  The Symposium has become one of the premiere events for amateur astronomers and for building pro-am collaborations.  Amateurs, and some professionals, make presentations covering a wide range of topics, from imaging basics, photometry, spectroscopy, instrumentation, and more. Observing targets reach from near-Earth to the edges of the Universe.  If you’re at least a little interested in astronomical research, this is one of the events attend each year.  More information about next years event can be found on their web site (link above).

Immediately after the SAS conference RTMC opens the gates at Camp Oakes, a YMCA camp, near Big Bear City. 

2013-05-24 21.28.14

This is the booth for discovering all the activities and sign up sheets for …

… the Big Bear Solar observatory.  Please note, the picture above is not to scale or snow depth.  It was actually a warm 78 degrees this year.  Due to the altitude, however, I have spent some Memorial weekends in the snow.

For the rest of the week, I am going to show images that I took at RTMC and some of the events that take place each year.  If you are looking for a brief astronomical event that the whole family can enjoy.  There is swimming, hiking, horse back riding and a whole bunch of other events for everyone to enjoy.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

 

Jelly Doughnuts!

“Mmmmm…doughnuts” Homer Simpson.

Today is Friday, and I am in charge of bringing in the doughnuts (or donuts if you prefer) and bagels for everyone in the office.

Today it turns out that the jelly doughnuts and bagels have switched metaphoric states.

M57LRGBa(500).jpg (44902 bytes)

Credit: Alson Wong (http://www.alsonwongastro.com/m57-ring.htm)

Most of my pictures look like my friend Alson Wong’s image above.  (Alson, I needed to borrow yours because I can’t find mine, thanks).  You could always see that there was some material in the center  portion, but it was thought to be the expanding matter blown off from the central star.

A core disc of dark, smokey blue crossed with wisps of violet and ringed with all the colors of the rainbow before exploding into shells of red gasses streaking out across the stars

However, a new image by Hubble has lead team leader C. Robert O’Dell of Vanderbilt University to state that: “The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it’s like a jelly doughnut, because it’s filled with material in the middle.”

One of the reasons that the ring nebula is so interesting, is because it is a prelude to what could happen with our Sun.  Although the star at the center of the ring was much larger than our Sun, it should end up in a similar fate.  Blowing of material and becoming a white dwarf.  From millions of times the size of the Earth, to about the same size (although a lot hotter and denser).

Someone once asked me why I keep taking images that everyone else has already imaged.  The answer, of course, is you never know what you will find.  Many new discoveries in space happen because of directed research by professionals (like this one), but a good amount of discoveries happen because some amateur astronomer was imaging the same thing and something new showed up.

RTMC_CLogoJ.jpg (9992 bytes)

We have only been peering at the heavens seriously for about 400 years.  We tracked the stars way before that, but serious, scientific inquiry is only about 400 years old.  The star that formed the ring is relatively young in comparison, the event happened about 4,000 years ago and will go on for another 10,000 years or so.

BIG PLUG for RTMC.

This weekend, if you want to learn more about astronomy, how to make your own telescope, view the night sky.  The RTMC Astronomy Expo is being held near Big Bear California this weekend.  Go here for more information.  I’ll be there and I’m sure that the will be jelly doughnuts….mmmmmm.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Nights Under the Stars

I just got back today from a couple of nights at the observatory.  I imaged the Iris and Crescent nebulae.  The wind was a little high on Friday, but it was glorious on Saturday.  I wanted everyone to see the view I go to sleep with on nights like this.  My 11″ Celestron Fastar with an 80mm short tube Orion refractor on top for guiding and wide field imaging.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to image when I started, but a quick look through the CCDCalc (freeware with Neil Fleming’s additional images) of my setup and the available targets, and I quickly chose those two for my imaging.  As you may recall, I had an incident with the GPS unit and the real time clock in my mount fighting with each other.  Evidently, all you have to do is pull everything apart, disconnect all the batteries and power sources and put it all back together again.  Then, they will play nice with one another.  Piece of cake…NOT!  Anyway, everything is back to functioning perfectly as before.  I wish I knew what happened.  I should have the two images done this week, so I will post them when the processing is a little farther along.  So until then, I give you these two images so you can harken back to camping out and looking at the star in wonder and awe.

– Ex astris, scientia –


Until next time.  Please remember, If you have a great idea that need protection (like an unbreakable astronomy mount) or you know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.  Thanks.