Happy Little Known Satellite Birthday!

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

https://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.

https://ia600401.us.archive.org/28/items/MSFC-0102089/0102089.jpg

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.

https://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

Bad New For Space Travelers.

I have written before about the Air Force’s program to track all the vast amount of space debris in orbit about our Planet.  The radar system that tracks thousands of objects orbiting Earth has been slated for shutdown due to budget cuts.

The ground-based network known as the “Space Fence” may cease to operate in October.

The shutdown is being blamed on the sequestration cuts and on a review conducted by the Pentagon to find areas of potential savings.  Although it doesn’t seem like much, the across the board cuts are being felt everywhere.  My personal disappointment was the cancellation of the JPL open house this year.

File:NAVSPASUR Fence 2001.jpg

However, the news isn’t all that bad.  The current space fence is using equipment from the 1960’s to track all the orbiting junk.  The Air Force is waiting to award a contract to build an updated version of the space fence system, but this plan too is been held up by budgetary problems.

So what exactly is the current system tracking?  According to NASA:  “More than 21,000 orbital debris larger than 10 cm are known to exist. The estimated population of particles between 1 and 10 cm in diameter is approximately 500,000. The number of particles smaller than 1 cm exceeds 100 million.”

It would be bad day in orbit if you accidentally ran into some of this debris.

– 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

Curiosity Turns 1!

It seems like yesterday the Curiosity was a bouncing….well free falling…baby spacecraft waiting to hatch, er…be dropped stork-like on to surface of Mars.

 

Although not as old as its bouncing, literally, cousins Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity has not been idle.

Curiosity, which is the size of a car, has traveled 764 yards (699 meters) in the past four weeks after finishing experiments at one location for the past six months.

Curiosity is heading to the base of Mount Sharp, to perform more experiments before heading up the mountain (about 3 mile or 5.5 km high).  It is expected to take the better part of a year to get to the final point of the scheduled mission.

However, if Curiosity is anything like its cousins, data collection will continue well beyond the original program (with sufficient budget of course).  I mean really, after traveling millions of miles, and basically being dropped off, this rover should last for a long time.

– 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.

https://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

Can You See Yourself Waving?

This past Friday, the Cassini spacecraft captured a picture of Earth through Saturn’s rings.

https://www.dailygalaxy.com/.a/6a00d8341bf7f753ef0192ac23f9c6970d-pi

The image is only the third ever taken of Earth from the outer solar system (home to the gas giants and their moons).

It is also the first time that everyone knew the picture was going to be taken in advance.  As I reported earlier, that knowledge prompted a lot of interesting events to celebrate the occasion.

From 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away, the Earth is a small blue dot.  If you look closely, you can see the moon next to the Earth (naturally).

So did you see me waving?  Leave me a message and let me know how you celebrated this historic first.

– 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

Saturday Night with the RAS.

At this Saturday’s general meeting of the Riverside Astronomical Society (RAS) that are always open to the public (see our website ww.rivastro.org), Associate Professor Kevork N. Abazajian who gave a talk entitled: “Cosmological Large Scale Structure Surveys.”  Professor Abazajian teaches for the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of California Irivine.  You can read more about Kevork and his research interests by clicking here.

Dr. Abazajian’s talk encompassed the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and how it was the largest optical survey of galaxies in our universe and it found 3-dimensional positions of approximately one million galaxies to a distance of 1.9 Gly (1.9 billion light years).  He described the exciting results of this survey, its implications for cosmology, and the prospects for an even larger and deeper survey currently being designed for the future Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

He talked about how the survey done by Herschel in 1785 showed our first understanding of the Universe.  Which at that time was just our galaxy.

In 1921, our understanding deepened a little with the Shapley model of the Universe.

Then, after Hubble discovered that our galaxy was just one of billions, the next survey in 1985 started honing our knowledge of the universe.

Then, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey really started to allow scientists to verify many of the cosmological models that had been proposed.

Currently the SDSS bills itself as the largest color image of the sky ever made.

However, the WMAP spacecraft in 2003 pushed the boundaries of the universe to about 13.7 Billion years.  This is currently the farthest that we can see because of the plasma left over from the big bang is blocking our view beyond that time.  Dr. Abazajian said that it was like trying to look through an inverted sun.  The photons from the plasma are coming toward us from the edge instead of at us from a point.

The ESA’s Plank satellite has provided even more detailed structure of the universe.

New equipment is being built right now to make all the other surveys pale in comparison.  The large synoptic survey telescope (LSST) will be able to survey the entire sky in just 3 nights!  It has a 3200 Megapixel digital camera, and a 3 degree field of view.

Not surprisingly, one of our members asked: “So what are you going to do with it after those three days?”  Not to worry, the LSST will then be tasked with trying to locate and catalog all the  Kuiper Belt objects.

If you  want to see the universe in a few minutes, the SDSS have made a movie using the data collected from the survery.  You can find it here.  I highly recommend it.  A word of warning, your mind will have trouble grasping the scale of the universe after a while, at least mine did.

Another impressive movie was made by the American museum of natural history: The Known Universe, is also highly recommended.

Check our website for the next Star Party and meetings.  Everyone is welcome, you don’t need to bring anything but your wonder, we’ll handle the amazing.

– 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

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