NASA enters the solar atmosphere for the first time – NASA The new milestone marks one major step for Parker Solar Probe and one giant leap for solar science. Just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the very stuff the Sun is made of will help scientists uncover critical information about our closest star and its influence on the solar system.
Well done to the data team at The Economist, having to visualise a 12-year journey of a space probe as it makes a flying visit to eight different asteroids. They’ve made a very complicated journey look quite straightforward and elegant.
A probe intended to study the Trojan asteroids takes off – The Economist Lucy, as this planetary-ancestor-investigating mission is dubbed, after a well-known specimen of Australopithecus, an early hominid, blasted off from Cape Canaveral, in Florida, and will now follow one of the most complex paths around the solar system yet devised by NASA’s orbital navigators. The diagram which shows Lucy’s journey, indicates how the craft will first pick up speed using two velocity-boosting fly-bys of Earth. It will then head for the Greek camp, passing, for a practice run at observation, by way of a convenient main-belt asteroid that the mission’s scientists have named Donaldjohanson, in honour of the discoverer of Lucy the Australopithecine. When it arrives at L4 in 2027, it will encounter five bodies: Eurybates and its tiny satellite Queta, Polymele, Leucus and Orus. Having examined each of these, it will leave the Greek camp in 2028 and cross, via another velocity-boosting fly-by of Earth, to the Trojan camp at L5. Its final planned encounter, when it reaches L5 in 2033, is with Patroclus and Menoetius.
Lucy mission trajectory – NASA Scientific Visualization Studio Lucy will launch in October 2021 and, with boosts from Earth’s gravity, will complete a twelve-year journey to eight different asteroids — a Main Belt asteroid and seven Jupiter Trojans, the last two members of a “two-for-the-price-of-one” binary system. Lucy’s complex path will take it to both clusters of Trojans and give us our first close-up view of all three major types of bodies in the swarms (so-called C-, P- and D-types).
The experts fell short. The group determined that none of Earth’s existing technologies could stop the asteroid from striking given the six-month time frame of the simulation. In this alternate reality, the asteroid crashed into eastern Europe.
US military has ‘no plan’ to shoot down debris from falling Chinese rocket – The Guardian Speaking with reporters, the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said the hope was the rocket would land in the ocean and that the latest estimate was that it would come down between Saturday and Sunday. … The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, characterized reports that the rocket is “out of control” and could cause damage as “Western hype”. The situation is “not worth panicking about”, it said, citing industry insiders.
Let’s hope those things whizzing above our heads are just satellites and nothing scarier.
For more UFO debunking, you must check out Metabunk.
Cigar shaped UFO over Angels Landing, Utah [Probably Starlink] – Metabunk That doesn’t look like a plane to me at all but I’m pretty certain that you got video of the initial satellite train of the Starlink 22 deployment. A Falcon 9 had launched from Cape Canaveral about three hours earlier. The sats are still clustered together fairly closely since they had only recently been released.
Utah Drone video of UFO [Probably an insect] – Metabunk A few days ago, a youtube video was posted on Reddit r/UFO’s showing an object flying by a drone … With these clear videos is I think we could do some calculations, or other advanced analysis? I am tending towards cgi myself. … Here’s an animation I quickly did of a bug sized object (1cm across) moving at a bug like speed (about 7km/h) towards an approaching camera moving at drone like speed (30km/h). For the FOV I used that of the DJI Phantom Pro 4, the forward camera of which is listed as 50 degrees.
Mick West, the man behind Metabunk, is incredibly thorough in his work, as can be seen by this thread investigating UFOs over Loch Ness. But perhaps there are some satellites overhead right now?
But even on a clear night you might have a problem with light pollution.
Light pollution map A mapping application that displays light pollution related content over Microsoft Bing base layers (road and hybrid Bing maps). The primary use was to show VIIRS/DMSP data in a friendly manner, but over the many years it received also some other interesting light pollution related content like SQM/SQC measurements, World Atlas 2015 zenith brigtness, almost realtime clouds , aurora prediction and IAU observatories features.
England’s quite bright everywhere, especially where I live, though I can see just how well positioned the Kielder Observatory is now. And I’m guessing those islands in the North Sea are oil rigs? Look how so well defined Belgium’s borders are, much like the line between North and South Korea further round the globe.
Reminds me of when I tried looking for Street Views across Europe once. Are there no streets in Germany?
I’m sure President Biden has enough on his to-do list at the moment to be giving Space Force and the politics of space much thought, but this new book from Benedict Redgrove might spark some enthusiasm.
Benedict Redgrove’s intimate photography book lands us inside the world of NASA – IGNANT Redgrove has been fascinated by space suits and shuttles since he was a young man. “The image of the astronaut or spaceman has been with me ever since, as a sort of talisman to all that is great and good,” he shares. “They symbolize the explorer, the hero, the good character, the leader. The spacesuit takes on that character, the suit and the human become one entity, more powerful than either on their own.” Combining his fascination with space technology with his interest in photography, the British creative took on the challenge to document America’s home of space-based research and development in intimate detail. Redgrove spent almost a decade working on the project, negotiating access and forming relationships with NASA, researching, investigating, and producing over 200 images of NASA’s facilities and the many objects that made their space travel imaginable and possible.
The engineering involved in landing on the moon was incredible. To fully appreciate that, I think I need to add this epic piece of journalism to my reading list.
Of a Fire on the Moon by Norman Mailer – Penguin Random House For many, the moon landing was the defining event of the twentieth century. So it seems only fitting that Norman Mailer—the literary provocateur who altered the landscape of American nonfiction—wrote the most wide-ranging, far-seeing chronicle of the Apollo 11 mission. A classic chronicle of America’s reach for greatness in the midst of the Cold War, Of a Fire on the Moon compiles the reportage Mailer published between 1969 and 1970 in Life magazine: gripping firsthand dispatches from inside NASA’s clandestine operations in Houston and Cape Kennedy; technical insights into the magnitude of their awe-inspiring feat; and prescient meditations that place the event in human context as only Mailer could.
That line about the poor quality visuals (deliberately poor, apparently) not matching the scale of the achievement reminded me of Brian Eno’s dissatisfaction with the audio, the chatter of the experts obscuring the event’s grandeur and strangeness.
Of a Fire on the Moon was first published across three issues of Life magazine (much like John Hersey’s Hiroshima, published in its entirety in The New Yorker in 1946), and is yours in book form for a tenner or so. Or, if you want to spend a little more…
Of a Fire on the Moon; $112,500 coffee table edition – Wikipedia The 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing was marked in 2009 by the release of an abridged, limited edition of the text, re-packaged with images from NASA and Life magazine. This production retitled the work, MoonFire, and was presented in an aluminium box with a lid shaped like the crater-pocked surface of the Moon; the object was mounted on four legs resembling the Apollo Lunar Module’s struts. Thus, the coffee table book came inside its own lunar-themed “coffee table”, with an uneven surface (see photograph). The package included a numbered print of the famous portrait of Buzz Aldrin standing on the Moon, framed in plexiglass and signed by the astronaut himself—and enclosed a lunar meteorite. Only 12 were created and the price was $112,500.
NASA’s ‘worm’ logo lay dormant for 28 years. So why are people so obsessed with it? – Fast Company Danne says these simple, elegant, and versatile visual elements also underscore a deeper meaning. “NASA is very romantic and sexy,” he says. Especially when compared to other government agencies, like the Department of Transportation. “They both have motion built into their matrix, but NASA is the only one that has adventure and exploration.” It represents an entity that takes humans to the furthest possible realms; In just four letters, it “personifies innovation and moving ahead.”
This July saw the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and I shared a number of landing related links, including one about a speech for President Nixon in case the worst should happen, titled “In the Event of Moon Disaster.”
A deepfake Nixon delivers eulogy for the Apollo 11 astronauts – Kottke Fifty years ago, not even Stanley Kubrick could have faked the Moon landing. But today, visual effects and techniques driven by machine learning are so good that it might be relatively simple, at least the television broadcast part of it. In a short demonstration of that technical supremacy, a group from MIT has created a deepfake version of Nixon delivering that disaster speech. […]
The implications of being able to so convincingly fake the televised appearance of a former US President are left as an exercise to the reader.
One way of escaping our worrieshereonEarth could be to take a trip to the International Space Station. That might not work out so well, though.
Life on the Space Station is about to get really weird and lonely – Wired UK
Right now, there are six astronauts aboard the International Space Station, floating 408km above our heads. But soon things could be about to get a lot lonelier up there. Delays in building new spacecraft to get astronauts into space mean that the next trio of astronauts set to join the ISS in April 2020 are facing the possibility of being the space station’s lone occupants for six months.
Space can make your blood flow backwards – BGR
On Earth, gravity aids in draining blood from the head and ensuring a steady flow. In space, that assistance just isn’t there, and slow-moving or stagnant blood can cause clotting. In fact, two of the crew members were found to have clots or partial clots in their left internal jugular vein. Blood clotting is incredibly dangerous when it happens within the body, and if a clot were to form and then travel to the lungs it could create a pulmonary embolism, which is a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment.
NASA went to extraordinary lengths to show that what was brought back from the moon that time was safe.
NASA fed some of its precious Apollo 11 lunar samples to cockroaches
“We had to prove that we weren’t going to contaminate not only human beings, but we weren’t going to contaminate fish and birds and animals and plants and you name it,” said Charles Berry, head of medical operations during Apollo, in an oral history. “Any of the Earth’s biosphere, we had to prove we weren’t going to affect it. So we had to develop an amazing program that was carried off really for three flights’ worth. A lot of trouble.”
50 years later, those samples are still studied.
How NASA has preserved Apollo moon rocks for 50 years
“May I hold it?” I ask Krysher. No dice. I had to ask, even though Zeigler had warned me in an e-mail before I arrived: “We have pretty strict rules about people putting their (gloved) hands in the cabinets to touch samples. Basically, it’s an only-if-you-walked-on-the-moon rule.”
Keeping pristine samples away from curious fingers allowed scientists to make one of the most surprising lunar discoveries of the last 50 years: The moon is wet. Over the last decade, scientists have found hundreds of times more water in lunar samples than researchers in the Apollo era realized existed.
A visit to NASA’s moon rock central
Science News astronomy writer Lisa Grossman went behind the scenes at NASA’s pristine sample lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston this spring and saw moon rocks up close — or as close as non-astronauts can get.
Armstrong, flying manually, had to improvise. He had roughly one minute of fuel to find a safe place to land … “The tension was through the roof,” said Charlie Duke, also in Mission Control, who was the man telling Armstrong he was flying on fumes. Duke said the tension was so great at Mission Control there was dead silence. “I’d never heard Mission Control so quiet. So that tension, it was palpable. You could feel it.”
Armstrong finally spotted smooth terrain: “And we finally landed with nobody knows exactly how much fuel. Some estimates have it at 20 seconds’ [worth].”
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” “Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
An absolutely incredible journey. The risks were staggering. It could have all gone very differently.
50 facts about the Apollo 11 moon landing for its 50th anniversary 5. Richard Nixon had a speech prepared in case the Apollo 11 astronauts never came home. As with many historic undertakings, President Nixon had to prepare for the possibility that a tragedy might occur during the Apollo 11 mission. So his speechwriter, William Safire, wrote two different speeches: one to celebrate the mission’s victory, another titled “In the Event of Moon Disaster.” It stated:
“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.”
Thankfully, the mission was a success, though some thought the soundtrack could be improved.
Brian Eno’s soundtrack for the Apollo 11 moon landing In the months that followed, the same few seconds of Neil Armstrong’s small steps played on an endless loop on TV as anchors and journalists offered their analysis and patriotic platitudes as a soundtrack. The experts, he later wrote, “[obscured] the grandeur and strangeness of the event with a patina of down-to-earth chatter.”
In 01983, Eno decided to add his own soundtrack to the momentous event.
The Atlas of Moons Our solar system collectively hosts nearly 200 known moons, some of which are vibrant worlds in their own right. Take a tour of the major moons in our celestial menagerie, including those that are among the most mystifying—or scientifically intriguing—places in our local neighborhood.
Can’t resist just adding another article here, though I’ve mentioned some of these before.
The greatest photos ever? Why the moon landing shots are artistic masterpieces The legacy of Earthrise has never stopped growing – and the Earth, as seen by unmanned spacecraft, has never stopped shrinking. When Nasa’s Voyager probe reached the edge of the solar system it turned to take a picture of a tiny Earth alongside its neighbouring planets. The Hubble telescope and its like have shown us a sublime, colourful universe whose light-filled dust clouds are light years across.
Yet the photographs taken by the Apollo 11 astronauts and the handful of humans who followed them remain unique. They are still the only portraits of our species on another world.
I didn’t realise you could see Buzz Aldrin’s face in that photo.
The sublime Romanticism of the moon landing Virtually alone among contemporary observers in seeing the true significance of the lunar landing was Vladimir Nabokov, who rented a television set for the occasion. Asked by The New York Times for his reaction, the author of Pale Fire wrote of:
…[T]hat gentle little minuet that despite their awkward suits the two men danced with such grace to the tune of lunar gravity was a lovely sight. It was also a moment when a flag means to one more than a flag usually does. I am puzzled and pained by the fact that the English weeklies ignored the absolutely overwhelming excitement of the adventure, the strange sensual exhilaration of palpating those precious pebbles, of seeing our marbled globe in the black sky, of feeling along one’s spine the shiver and wonder of it. After all, Englishmen should understand that thrill, they who have been the greatest, the purest explorers. Why then drag in such irrelevant matters as wasted dollars and power politics?
We’re all fascinated by images of space (and from space), but their polish and stillness can sometimes hide the fuller picture.
Celebrating the rough, the raw and the human in hardcore space science
Images of space and the solar system have a powerful appeal, and amaze with their vibrant otherworldly vistas. But it’s easy to forget just how processed they are: the colours are often added for effect, and digital editing makes these pictures pop. So it’s worth remembering the human process behind space as we know it. This is precisely the aim of Black Rain, which transforms raw scientific data into pulsating audiovisual art. … Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt – aka Semiconductor, the UK artist duo behind the video – say the images are a reminder of ‘the human observer, who endeavours to extend our perceptions and knowledge through technological innovation’.
A few more videos in keeping with that grainy, black and white vibe.
The first photo of a black hole
We have the first photo of a supermassive black hole, from imagery taken two years ago of the elliptical galaxy M87 (in the constellation Virgo) by the Event Horizon Telescope project. The EHT team is a group of 200 scientist that has been working on this project for two decades. The image was created using data captured from radio telescopes from Hawaii to the South Pole and beyond using very long baseline interferometry.
Compare that with this image from 1979 (colourised in 1989), “said to be the the first based on data rather than artistic speculation.”
Groundbreaking 1979 visualization of black hole – Boing Boing
“The final black and white “photographic” image was obtained from these patterns. However, lacking at the time of an appropriate drawing software, I had to create it by hand. Using numerical data from the computer, I drew directly on negative Canson paper with black India ink, placing dots more densely where the simulation showed more light – a rather painstaking process!”
As always with space stuff, I have a problem with scale. This helps enormously, though.
NASA’s record-setting Opportunity Rover mission on Mars comes to end
Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.
Nasa confirms Mars rover Opportunity is dead
“We had expected that dust falling out of the air would accumulate on the solar rays and eventually choke off power,” Callas said. “What we didn’t expect was that wind would come along periodically and blow the dust off the arrays. It allowed us to survive not just the first winter, but all the winters we experienced on Mars.”
A dust storm has killed NASA’s longest-lived Mars rover
In 2005, Opportunity overcame a sand trap and the loss of one wheel to arrive at the Victoria crater, a 2,400-foot hole that it explored for two years, finding features at its bottom again shaped by ancient water. It next explored the Endeavor crater, 13 miles away, starting in 2011. Most recently it had traversed a narrow valley leading down into the larger Endurance crater.
As this video from NASA shows, the Rover had been on an incredible trek these last 15 years.
You know those Golden Records NASA sent into space in the 70s, on the Voyager spacecrafts? They contained images, music and sounds from Earth, as well as greetings in 55 languages. If any alien were to come across these disks, accessing their contents is far from straightforward.
Decoding images from the Golden Record You might think that the images were included in some printed or digital form, such as a .jpeg or .tiff. But back in 1977, there was no technology available to put images on analog disks. Voyager’s computer systems could only hold 69 kilobytes of information, barely enough for one image, let alone 115. So NASA invented a way to include image data on the LPs.
By projecting images onto a screen, recording them with a television camera, and then turning those video signals into audio waveforms, the images could be properly pressed onto the records. The reversal process — turning that image data back into images — is what any extraterrestrial (or curious human) would have to figure out how to do.
Nevermind the contents of these records, the instructions alone will have the aliens scratching their heads. If they have heads, of course.
The Economist has a very effective, scrolling infographic on the changing pattern of states and companies that are filling up our skies.
The space race is dominated by new contenders
Some 4,500 satellites circle Earth, providing communications services and navigational tools, monitoring weather, observing the universe, spying and doing more besides. Getting them there was once the business of the superpowers’ armed forces and space agencies. Now it is mostly done by companies and the governments of developing countries.
In the past decade the West’s space-launch market has become more competitive thanks to an innovative new entrant, SpaceX. But state-run programmes still lead the way in emerging markets. In 2003 China became the third country to put a person into orbit; India plans to follow suit in 2022. Both sell launch services to private clients. China did legalise private space flight in 2014, but no companies based there have yet reached orbit on their own.
But looking at this, you wonder if there’s any space left up there.
A beehive of satellites The launch of the first artificial satellite by the then Soviet Union in 1957 marked the beginning of the utilization of space for science and commercial activity. During the Cold War, space was a prime area of competition between the Soviet Union and the U.S.
In 1964 the first TV satellite was launched into a geostationary orbit to transmit the Olympic games from Tokyo. Later, Russian launch activities declined while other nations set up their own space programs. Thus, the number of objects in Earth orbit has increased steadily – by 200 per year on average.
The debris objects shown in the images are an artist’s impression based on actual density data. However, the debris objects are shown at an exaggerated size to make them visible at the scale shown.
The lunar gateway: a shortcut to Mars? “The moon has lain virtually undisturbed for the last 4.5bn years,” says Parker. “It is a museum of the history of our solar system. And yes, we visited it when we briefly landed Apollo spacecraft there. However, that was the equivalent of going to a museum, heading straight to the gift shop and then leaving. It is the dusty corners of a museum where you find the really interesting stuff – and that is where we are going to go with Gateway.”
And our boy’s keen to go, too, on his way to Mars. That may take some time, though.
How far is it to Mars? If the Earth were 100 pixels wide, the moon would be 3000 pixels away. Mars, at its closest, would be 428,000 pixels away.
And who knows what else is out there.
The unending hunt for Planet Nine, our solar system’s hidden world Astronomers are deeply divided, but intent on finding the truth. They’re using the world’s largest telescopes and most powerful supercomputers, and enlisting the help of thousands of amateurs like Forbes, who plays her part in this epic, astronomical search in between episodes of Love Island. Together, they will either pinpoint the location of this mysterious world and give the solar system a ninth planet, or rule out its existence once and for all.
NASA’s TESS spacecraft begins its search for exoplanets
TESS is a follow-up to Kepler, a spacecraft that has spent the last nine years searching for Earth-like exoplanets near Sun-like stars. Though it may be on its last legs, Kepler has already found 2,650 confirmed exoplanets and even more are expected to be discovered from the data it has collected. But Kepler was designed to focus on a small section of the sky and while it spotted many exoplanets, a lot of them were very far away from Earth. TESS, however, will eventually map about 85 percent of the sky and it will attempt to spot exoplanets a bit closer to Earth — which allow other telescopes to study them more thoroughly.
So what kind of new worlds are being discovered? And when can we visit?
Visions of the future
Imagination is our window into the future. At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality. As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.
What about those planets closer to home?
Cool, there’s water on Mars. But does it make good pickles?
Deep under the ice cap of Mars’s southern pole, there could be a store of water, the first stable body of liquid water ever found on the planet. After the paper announcing this discovery came out, reporters described a “lake of liquid water,” about 12 miles in diameter. Hearing that phrase, it’s easy, perhaps even natural, to imagine a bubble of crystal-clear water, hidden under the cap of frozen water and carbon dioxide, pure and sweet and waiting. But the reality would be less appealing.
It felt right that those first images of and from the moon were so blurred and grainy — it was a quarter of a million miles away, after all. But that wasn’t the full picture.
McMoon: How the earliest images of the moon were so much better than we realised
Fifty years ago, 5 unmanned lunar orbiters circled the moon, taking extremely high resolution photos of the surface. They were trying to find the perfect landing site for the Apollo missions. They would be good enough to blow up to 40 x 54ft images that the astronauts would walk across looking for the great spot. After their use, the images were locked away from the public until after the bulk of the moon landings, as at the time they would have revealed the superior technology of the USA’s spy satellite cameras, which the orbiters cameras were designed from.
The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.