Doomed To Fail?

The ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency have joined forces to land a rover on Mars.

The ExoMars project is similar to the Mars Curiosity rover that NASA successfully landed.

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The ExoMars mission has several stages.  The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and a EDM stationary lander called ‘Schiaparelli’ are planned for 2016.

The TGO would deliver the ESA-built stationary lander and then proceed to map the sources of methane on Mars and other gases.

That mapping will be used to help select the landing site for the ExoMars rover to be launched on 2018 on a Russian heavy lift Proton launch vehicle.

This of course is provided that the EU and Russia are still talking to one another.  The political issues between Russia and the West don’t show any signs of lessening.  This could jeopardize the launch and several other projects.

Perhaps it is time that the international community come together an designate a neutral site for all the launching and retrieval missions for space that is away from any political upheavals.  A dream, I’m sure, but it would make me feel better about the future of space exploration.

– 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

Let The Battle Begin!

In this corner, the newcomer, SPHERE!

The Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch telescope trained and managed exclusively by the European Space Agency.

And in this corner, another newcomer, the Gemini Planet Imager! Born and trained in North America.

Both these bruisers are set to battle it out for the title of King of Exoplanet imaging!

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While most of their contemporaries find planets the old fashioned way, these two imager’s are going to take actual pictures of exoplanets!

Fighting it out down in Chile.  This battle is not to be missed!  And who will win this battle?  Why, we will!  Good luck to both teams and may the data flow begin.

– 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

Gaia Is Go!

Gaia, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) unmanned astrometry spacecraft has taken its first image.

As I told you before, Gaia’s mission is make a 3D space catalogue of approximately 1 billion astronomical objects.  It sounds like a lot, but that is only about 1% of the Milky Way!

File:Gaia observatory trajectory.svg

Gaia will monitor each of its target stars about 70 times over a period of five years from its L2 vantage point.

So what does a billion pixel image look like?

LMC

Pretty good for a warmup.  The final results should be spectacular.  Not the pictures (this isn’t that kind of mission), but the data collected giving us the accurate distances and relative motions of the tracked objects.  But some of the images may be spruced up a bit to make good copy.

And, if you remember my post from a few days ago, Gaia will be using parallax trigonometric techniques (like a parsec!) to measure the objects distance from us.  See! There is a madness to my method, or

– 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

Wake Up!

The ESA’s Rosetta comet probe has woken up to make its rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta’s mission will take 10 years to complete.

During its trip Rosetta passed by two asteroids, Lutetia and Steins.  The image above shows landslide that happened on Lutetia.

When Rosetta reaches the comet, it will deploy a 220-pound (100 kilogram) lander called Philae.

Once on the comet’s surface the pair of craft will accompany the comet on its journey through the inner solar system, observing at close range how the comet changes as the Sun’s heat transforms the cold surface to a boiling gaseous mass.

Rosetta is about 500 million miles (about 800 million km) from Earth near Jupiter’s orbit.  At that distance radio transmissions take 45 minutes to reach Earth and vice versa.  What is fascinating is that, due to gravity, the radio signals don’t travel in a straight line back and forth.

Once Rosetta’s on-board alarm clock went off it took seven hours to warm up its star trackers,  fire thrusters to slow its spin, turn on its transmitter and send a message back to Earth.  And with all the advances in science the drumming monkey clock was the best we could do (just kidding, atomic clocks were used, although the monkey clock would be fabulously hilarious).

There are a lot of firsts for Rosetta, but the images from the comet as it starts out-gassing should be spectacular.  I just hope Philae doesn’t land on one of the explosive vents that many comets have.  We will know later this year as the comet passes by the Sun.

– 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

Mother Earth Rising.

The European Space Agency launched the Gaia satellite last week.

Gaia is the personification of Earth in Greek mythology.

But this Gaia, is designed to map the Milky Way in 3D.  Which should look really good on my 3D TV when the movie comes out.

From it vantage point at the L2 Lagrange point, Gaia will measure the motions of the stars in the galaxy orbiting  around the super-massive black hole at the center .

Like the original Star Trek television series, Gaia’s five year mission is to measure light curves and position information over time for all the stars in the galaxy.  This highly accurate information over time will determine distances for each star that will be used to make a more accurate 3D model of the galaxy.

– 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

Yesterday’s Pictures Today!

Well, once again WordPress ate my post yesterday.  Sorry about that so here it is again.

This past weekend, I was out at my observatory taking images.  Although I haven’t processed all of them yet, I did manage to take some interesting images of the Moon and Venus (and a Joshua tree).  Enjoy.

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The annual California fire season has started again.  This photo is show a fire near Phelan Ca.

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The fires make for interesting sunsets.

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Friday night from a parking lot in Indio.  The Moon and Venus at twilight.

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Saturday afternoon maneuvers at the 29 Palms Marine Base.  It is really interesting when they do night maneuvers, they go right over my observatory.

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A variety of exposures and ISO’s of the Moon, Venus and a Joshua tree near my observatory using my Canon G12.

– 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

Happy Little Known Satellite Birthday!

Happy Birthday to the High Energy Astronomy Observatories (HEAO 1) satellite , launched August 12, 1977

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/aa/Heao1_photo.gif/330px-Heao1_photo.gif

Alas, the HEAO 1 only operated until 9 January 1979.

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HEAO 1 was primarily a survey mission, dedicated to systematically mapping the X-ray sky every 6 months.

HEAO-1 All-Sky X-ray Catalog: Beginning in 1977, NASA launched a series of very large scientific payloads called High Energy Astronomy Observatories(HEAO). The first of these missions, HEAO-1, carried NRL’s Large Area Sky Survey Experiment (LASS), consisting of 7 detectors. It surveyed the X-ray sky almost three times over the 0.2 keV - 10 MeV energy band and provided nearly constant monitoring of X-ray sources near the ecliptic poles.

HEAO 1 performed almost 3 full celestial surveys and discovered 1500 new X-ray sources in the 0.2 keV – 10 MeV range of the electromagnetic spectrum.  At the time, this was the greatest and most accurate X-ray detector.

HEAO 1 (formerly known as HEAO A) and the two other HEAO spacecraft, actually provided the beginnings for craft like Hubble and Spitzer.  Each one of the craft added to our collective understanding of X-ray and gamma radiation and its potential in helping understand the universe.

http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/multiwavelength-astronomy/images/x-ray/history/greatobs_spectrum_300.jpg

Although all told the three spacecraft only orbited from the first launch in 1977 to the final splashdown in 1982, they did fundamentally change how we understood this area of space exploration.

Of course, those craft that followed built upon the shoulders of those that went first.  So here’s to you HEAO spacecraft, your contribution is not forgotten.

– 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

Zombie Comets.

A team of astronomers from the University of Anitoquia, Medellin, Colombia, have discovered a graveyard of comets.

They also found out that some of these comets, inactive for millions of years, have returned to life as the so called ‘Lazarus comets’.  I like Zombie Comets better, but I didn’t discover them, so no zombie comets. 🙁

I understand that the biblical reference to Lazarus is appropriate, but I think zombie comets are far more satisfying.

There is ample precedent for zombie (or xombie depending on your preference) comets.  For centuries comets have been the harbingers of ill times and foreboding, omens of death, or coming catastrophes.

The team started looking for the origin of 12 active comets that have been discovered in the asteroid main belt region between Mars and Jupiter.”We found a graveyard of comets,” exclaims Professor Ferrín. He adds: “Imagine all these asteroids going around the Sun for aeons, with no hint of activity. We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy that they receive from the Sun increases by a few per cent.”  This is easily achieved due to the gravitational pull of Jupiter that can change their orbit just enough to get that extra sunlight needed to ex-gas and begin moving on their own.

This is what happened to the twelve lazarus comets and the energy from the Sun was enough to raise them from the dead like a Phoenix! Phoenix comets?

Nah, I still like zombie comets.

 

– 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

Here’s Messier in your eye.

Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new image of nearby spiral galaxy Messier 61 (M61), AKA NGC 4303.

M61 is only 55 million light-years away from Earth, it is about the size of our Milky Way galaxy (depending on whom you ask), and is about a 100,000 light-years.

M61 is an active galaxy with six supernovae observed within the last 100 years or so.

Hubble took this image as M61 was face-on. The spiral arms are very detailed.  The outer arms, seen in blue, are stellar nurseries where stars are being formed.

Messier 61 is part of the Virgo (just like me!) Galaxy Cluster, a massive group of galaxies in the constellation of Virgo (the Virgin – not so much like me in many respects).

Galaxy clusters (groups of galaxies) are some of the biggest structures in the Universe. The Virgo Cluster has over 1300 (and up to 2000) galaxies.

The Virgo Cluster also forms the central region of a Local Supercluster.  As the name suggests, it is an even bigger grouping of galaxies.

– 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

Cluster Spacecraft Detects Elusive Space Wind

High Wind Weather Warning!

Scientists have found conclusive proof that space wind exists.  Space wind theory was first postulated more than 20 years ago.

Data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster spacecraft detected plasmaspheric wind.

The plasmaspheric wind helps cause the loss of the plasmasphere, a region above Earth’s atmosphere, but below the magnetoshpere.

The data shows that there is a slow but steady wind, releasing about 2.2lbs (1 kg) of plasma every second into the outer magnetosphere.  About 100 tons (90 metric tons) every day, or one aircraft carrier every 10 days!

The plasmasphere is filled with charged particles.  Scientists analyzed the properties of these charged particles to detect the wind.


The plasmasphere, the most important plasma reservoir inside the magnetosphere, plays a crucial role in governing the dynamics of Earth’s radiation belts. These present a radiation hazard to satellites and to astronauts travelling through them. The plasmasphere’s material is also responsible for introducing a delay in the propagation of GPS signals passing through it.

 

– 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