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

Herschel Finds Water On Ceres.

Scientists using the Herschel space telescope have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on Ceres.

Ceres is the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt and is classified as a dwarf planet, a solar system body bigger than an asteroid and smaller than a planet.

Photo : CNRS

Scientists think that plumes of water vapor shoot up from Ceres when parts of its surface are warmed by the Sun.

 

In 2015 the Dawn spacecraft will be able to provide more information, hopefully confirming and expanding the data, when it arrives at Ceres next year.

– 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

Commercial Space Programs Expand.

It comes as no surprise that commercial space programs are expanding at an ever increasing pace.  Now the government and NASA are putting unused space program assets to use helping these enterprises along.

NASA will turn over one of its unused space-shuttle launch pads to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) so that they can set up a second site in Florida.

SpaceX current sends routine re-supply missions to the ISS using its Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX won out over protests from rival space company Blue Origin, founded by Amazon’s  Jeff Bezos.

The Government Accountability Office dismissed Blue Origin’s protest.  However, the GAO said NASA could consider renting the launch pad under exclusive or multi-use arrangements for the launch pad.

NASA spends around $100,000 a month to maintain the site, so this agreement will help both NASA and SpaceX.

SpaceX is already launching its Falcon rockets from a leased launch pad at Cape Canaveral and it has a launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SpaceX’s locations are a little different from other commercial space enterprises that are basing their operations out of the New Mexico spaceport.

– 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

Exomoons?

If you have seen the movie Avatar (if you are reading this blog I will assume that you have), then you know the mythical planet of Pandora seems to be orbiting a large gas giant planet.

Although the orbit doesn’t make a whole lot of scientific sense, the model is sound.  Exomoons, by definition, orbit an exoplanet.  However, just like the movie and perhaps our own Solar system, some of these moons may be capable of sustaining life where their parent planet cannot.

Saturn’s moon Titan is believed to be able to sustain life since we have found oceans of water underneath the frozen surface.

So the prospect of an exomoon harboring life is also plausible.

But how do you find an exomoon orbiting around an exoplanet parsecs away?  Teams of scientists are currently working one methods to detect exomoons using the science developed hunting for exoplanets and data already gathered from Kepler.

So perhaps Pandora does exist, but I wouldn’t hold by breath of finding unobtainium anywhere in the Universe.

– 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

China Lands On The Moon

Sunday night, China’s Chang’e-3 lunar lander and rover successfully landed on the Moon.

Yutu rover emblazoned with Chinese Flag as seen by the Chang'e 3 lander on the moon on Dec. 15, 2013.  Credit: China Space

China is only the 3rd country in the world to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon (India and the E.U. have crashed probes on the Moon, but not landed).

Although the United States is still the only country to have successfully sent people to the Moon and back, China is working hard to repeat that feat.  Ironically, the Chinese spacecraft landed on the same day that America’s Apollo 17 mission left the Moon for their return trip 41 years ago.  It has been that long since anyone on Earth tried to land their again.

So congratulations to the Chinese Space Agency for a job well done.

– 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.

http://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

Big Blue.

Once again, Hubble has expanded the Universe of our knowledge.

This time, Astronomers found the actual color of a planet orbiting another star 63 light-years away.  The planet, HD 189733b, isn’t just blue, its big, at least the size of Jupiter.  The cobalt blue color doesn’t come from water reflection, like Earth, but most likely from the blow-torched atmosphere.  There is even speculation that there is solid silica rain (glass rain).

However fun a glass rain storm would be probably pales in comparison to the 2,000 degree Fahrenheit  (1093 Celsius) temperature and 4,500/mph (7242/ kph) wind.  Shards of glass flying at you very fast, what’s not to love about a planet like that?

Using Hubble’s Imaging Spectrograph, Astronomers measured changes in the color of light from planet HD 189733b during its transit behind the star it orbits.  Fortuitously, the planet’s orbit is tilted edge-on with respect to the Earth so the planet routinely passes in front and behind its star.

Hubble’s instruments measured about 1/10,000 of the light you would normally see.  “We saw the light becoming less bright in the blue, but not in the green or the red. This means that the object that disappeared is blue because light was missing in the blue, but not in the red when it was hidden.”

– 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