There are those who believe…that life out there began here.

Conversely to the famous Battlestar Galactica television series statement, scientists now believe that any life found in the Solar system may have started here.  But how could that happen?

Most people know that the KPg impact caused by a 6 mile wide asteroid hitting Earth killed up to 90% of all life on the planet and ended the era of the dinosaurs and began the rise of mammals.

http://cdn0.cosmosmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/20110324_meteor_hr.jpg

This impressive event also had additional side affects.  Ejecta from the impact actually left the planet.  If you knew where to look, you would find material on the Moon that came from that event.

However, a new study posits that life spread from Earth to other planets and moons during and earlier era of asteroid impacts, about 4 billion years ago.  These multiple impacts could have carried life here back to the heavens.

But is this likely?   Given the fact that of the 53,000 meteorites found on Earth, 105 have been identified as coming from Mars it is extremely possible that reverse has happened as well.

The technical term for this is lithopanspermia: the idea that basic life forms can be distributed throughout the solar system via rock fragments cast forth by meteoroid impacts.  So it may have happened that comets brought life to Earth and then asteroid and comet impacts took it from here to the rest of the planets and moons.

Patrick Macnee in Lobster man from Mars.jpg

So with extra-planetary life possible in our own neighborhood the words spoken by Patrick Macnee at the start of a classic TV show:

“There are those who believe…that life here began out there, far across the Universe…with tribes of humans…who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians…or the Toltecs…or the Mayans…that they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids…or the lost civilizations of Lemuria…or Atlantis.

Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man…who even now fight to survive—somewhere beyond the heavens!

– 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

I can see clearly now.

On July 17, 2013, NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, spacecraft opened its spectrographic eyes to gaze at the heretofor unseen lowest layers of the sun’s atmosphere.

http://iris.lmsal.com/press/firstlight/iris_sji_image_color.png

IRIS is built to view the Sun’s interface region, a complex area between the photosphere and corona. Understanding the interface region is important because it forms the ultraviolet emission that impacts satellites in near-Earth orbit and the weather.  The region also drives solar wind.

IRIS’s instruments are a combination of an ultraviolet telescope and a spectrograph.

Light is split into its component parts.  Two of the components are used by IRIS to provide high-resolution images one wavelength of light at a time, the other is the whole spectrum that provides information about many wavelengths of light at once.

The data from IRIS is fed into supercomputers to help interpret the data.

I suppose this puts my 50mm Coronado and PST telescopes to shame, but I still enjoy the view.

Please remember not to look at the Sun without the proper protective eyewear (NOT sunglasses) or through any telescope not designed, or shielded, for solar viewing.

– 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

Summer Showers with a Chance of Rock.

As we move into the middle of the summer it is time to start planning your meteorite shower parties!

2012 Meteor shower chart

The chart above will help you plan to watch these awesome events.  Well, some are more awesome than others.

Of course some of the most popular meteor showers are the Perseid and the Geminid showers.  As my birthday is in August, I am partial to the Perseids.  Also, it is warmer.  A lot warmer.

I mean really, the Geminid’s are nice and everything, but come on!  All night in the middle of December!  I live in California, I freeze if it drops below 50 degrees F any more.

So what exactly causes these annual displays in the night sky?  Meteor showers always seem to come from one point in the night sky.  Basically these meteors are caused by streams of cosmic dust and debris, called meteoroids, entering Earth’s atmosphere. The dust and debris come from comets.  Every time a comet passes the Sun, it leaves a little trail of debris and dust behind.  As the Earth rotates around the Sun, we run into the remnants.

All the meteorites seem to come from the same place because they are all on  parallel paths, like looking down railroad tracks.

So how do you observe a meteor show?  Lucky for you I have a sure fire method of catching the best view possible for any given meteor shower:

Step 1:  Find a picnic table, or bring your own under a clear, dark sky (it really doesn’t even have to be that dark, just clear).

Step 2: lay back on said picnic table.

Step 3: Open eyes at scheduled time (set alarms as needed).

Step 4: Enjoy the show.

By the way, you can bring the whole family along.  All meteor showers are rated G by the MPAA (Many Perusing Astronomers Association).

– 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 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

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

 

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

 

Next up, the closest star to us.

That’s right, Sol our very own sun.  Like Terra for Earth, Sol is the Latin name of the Sun. That’s why we live in the Sol(ar) System.  The Sun is big compared to us, really big.  Actually, it is big compared to everything else in our system.  The Sun alone accounts for about 99.86% of all the mass in the neighborhood.  All the planets, asteroids and other cosmic visitors, like those comets, all together make up the other 0.14% of the Solar system.  Don’t you feel special now?

And, as you can see above, our sun is easily dwarfed by other stars in the Milkyway galaxy.  By the way, Antares isn’t the largest star we found that honor goes to:

Even bigger than that is all the space in between the stars and galaxies.  Technically, the Sun is is designated as a yellow dwarf star.  Sheesh, its enough to give you an inferiority complex!

But, it is our star and it is quite lovely.  All sorts of things happen on our sun that we are not even sure how or why.  Solar tsunamis, Solar quakes, coronal mass ejections, sun spots.

 

File:Sun projection with spotting-scope.jpg

It is interesting to note that although they appear black, sun spots are in fact about 3000–4500 K (2727–4227 °C).  But, because the surrounding material is at about 5,780 K (5,510 °C) they look black.

This is what we think how the Sun is made and operates, but until we can develop the technology to actually withstand the pressure and the heat, we will not know.

Compared to the Sun, landing on Venus is a walk in the park!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  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

JPL Open House 2012

WOW! I just got back from a day at JPL. I’ve heard from some of the volunteer’s that this year’s was the biggest event yet.  I will have some pictures as soon as I get them all into one place.  I had to use a variety of device (three in fact) to take all the pictures that I could.  I was only able to get about half way through all the exhibits and missed some of the ones that I wanted to see due to the amount of people.  It was like going to Disney or Magic Mountain.  The stuff I did get to enjoy was fantastic.  A big thank you to all the JPL volunteers that put this event on, you were outstanding!

I’ll have a more detailed report for you once I have rested awhile. It was 99 degrees F when I got back in my car.  Note to self, next year come earlier and wear a hat.

Love, love, loved this event.  If you ever get the chance I would plan on spending both days viewing all the exhibits.  Some people we talked to in line were coming back for their third trip to view the exhibits.  I must admit that I was tempted on a couple to get back in line and go around again.

Next year promises to be even better!  I can’t wait.

 

– Ex astris, scientia –

 

 

Image of the Venus Transit

Here are the results of my first (and last) Venus transit photos.  I had a terrible time with equipment.  None of my Canon cameras wanted to download an image.  Finally, I used Images Plus and was able to capture Live View video of the event and then stack them.  It seems, after some investigation, that the USB ports on my laptop do not supply power while it is one batteries.  So the Canon’s could not download images without power.  It would have been nice if I could control this “feature” and decide if I want the batteries to power the USB or not.  Come on man!  Anyway, the color isn’t the best, but I need to calibrate my monitor to get better color and I have not had a chance to do that yet.  Hopefully this weekend will give me the time to work on the images more.  You can view, or download the full size images here.

– Ex astris, scientia –

 

 

JPL Open House

The 2012 annual Open House at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,  Saturday, June 9th & Sunday, June 10th from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  This year’s theme is “Great Journeys,” inviting visitors to share in the wonders of space through high-definition and 3-D videos, live demonstrations, interactions with scientists and engineers, and a first look at JPL’s new Earth Science Center.

The following items are not permitted at this NASA/JPL Event: weapons, explosives, incendiary devices, dangerous instruments, alcohol, illegal drugs, pets, segways, and all types of skates including skateboards. No bags, backpacks or ice chests are allowed, with the exception of small purses and diaper bags.
JPL is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena, off the 210 (Foothill) Freeway at the Berkshire Avenue/Oak Grove Drive exit. Parking is available near the Oak Grove main gate and the eastern boundary of JPL, accessible from Windsor Avenue via the Arroyo Boulevard exit off the 210 Freeway.

This is a great event for adults and kids alike.  If you have never been to JPL or any NASA facility you are in for a treat.  I highly recommend attending.

– Ex astris, scientia –