Posts Tagged ‘space’


[VIDEO] Strange Colours, Clouds & Light Over Niagara, Ontario


Strange colours & light over Niagara, Ontario, Canada today.

The heat continues in the area and there was no rain.  Cirrus clouds have been idling by all day in the light, warm breeze.

Cirrus clouds (cloud classification symbol: Ci) are a genus of atmospheric clouds generally characterized by thin, wispy strands, giving them their name from the Latin word cirrus meaning a ringlet or curling lock of hair. The strands of cloud sometimes appear in tufts of a distinctive form referred to by the common name of mares’ tails.

Cirrus clouds generally appear white or light grey in color. They form when water vapor undergoes deposition at altitudes above 5,000 m (16,500 ft) in temperate regions and above 6,100 m (20,000 ft) in tropical regions. They also form from the outflow of tropical cyclones or the anvils of cumulonimbus clouds. Since these cirrus clouds arrive in advance of the frontal system or tropical cyclone, they indicate that the weather conditions may soon deteriorate. While they indicate the arrival of precipitation (rain), cirrus clouds themselves produce only fall streaks (falling ice crystals that evaporate before landing on the ground).

What was interesting was that there had to be a correlation with the composition of the clouds and how light was refracted through them.  Most likely, these clouds were composed of solid ice particles.

There could be many other explanations, which I encourage readers to leave their comments about.

Was hoping some kind of unidentified flying object or meteor would fly by at the same time but, alas, not.

Maybe HAARP? 🙂

But what do I know?


Constellation View Video – CFH Telescope – Search 4 Nibiru Continues


Despite the impotence of Elenin, there are still major storms, earthquakes and volcanoes (plus a whole slew of other conditions) that are still tormenting Earth and many are still looking for the answer … in the stars.

Does Nibiru exist? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it’s still wonderful to watch the stars.

Includes constellation overlay!!!


360 Degree Panorama – Milky Way Arches Over Chile


The Milky Way arches across this rare 360-degree panorama of the night sky above the Paranal observing platform in Chile, home of ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

The image was made from 37 individual frames with a total exposure time of about 30 minutes, taken in the early morning hours. The Moon is just rising and the zodiacal light shines above it, while the Milky Way stretches across the sky opposite the observatory.

Click For Enlarged Image - Its Gorgeous!

The open telescope domes of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical observatory are all visible in the image: the four smaller 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes that can be used together in the interferometric mode, and the four giant 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes.

To the right in the image and below the arc of the Milky Way, two of ESO’s galactic neighbours, the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, can be seen.

An interactive virtual tour is available here

Image Credit: ESO/H.H. Heyer


NASA Selects Science Proposals For Concept Studies – Sun, Milky Way, Earth’s Atmosphere


PASADENA, Calif. — NASA has selected 11 science proposals, including one from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for evaluation as potential future science missions. The proposals outline prospective missions to study the Earth’s atmosphere, the sun, the Milky Way galaxy, and Earth-like planets around nearby stars.

The selections were made from responses to Announcements of Opportunity for Explorer Missions and Explorer Missions of Opportunity released by the agency last November. The proposals were judged to have the best science value and feasible development plans.

“NASA continues to seek opportunities to push the cutting edge of science,” said Paul Hertz, chief scientist for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. “Innovative proposals like these will help us better understand our solar system and the universe.”

Five Explorer Mission proposals were selected from 22 submitted in February. Each team will receive $1 million to conduct an 11-month mission concept study. Mission costs are capped at $200 million each, excluding the launch vehicle. In addition, one Explorer Mission proposal was selected for technology development and will receive $600,000. Five Mission of Opportunity proposals were selected from 20 submissions. Each will receive $250,000 to conduct an 11-month implementation concept study. Mission costs are capped at $55 million each.

Following the detailed mission concept studies, NASA plans to select up to two of the Explorer Mission proposals and one or more of the five Mission of Opportunity proposals in February 2013. The missions would then proceed toward flight and some could launch by 2016.

The selected Explorer Mission proposals are:

-Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) Thomas Immel, Principal Investigator (PI), University of California, Berkeley — The mission would fly instruments to understand the extreme variability in our Earth’s ionosphere, which can interfere with communications and geopositioning signals.

-Fast INfrared Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey Explorer (FINESSE) Mark Swain, PI, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. — This proposal would use a space telescope to survey more than 200 planets around other stars. This would be the first mission dedicated to finding out what comprises exoplanet atmospheres, what conditions or processes are responsible for their composition, and how our solar system fits into the larger family of planets.

-Observatory for Heteroscale Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling (OHMIC) James Burch, PI, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio — The mission would use a pair of spacecraft flying in formation to study the processes that provide energy to power space weather storms. These storms create auroras and other electromagnetic activity that can impact orbiting spacecraft operations.

-Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) George Ricker, PI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. — Using an array of telescopes, TESS would perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, in orbit around the nearest and brightest stars in the sky. The mission’s primary goal would be to identify terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.

-Atmosphere-Space Transition Region Explorer (ASTRE) Robert Pfaff Jr., PI, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. — The mission would study the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and the ionized gases of space. By flying excursions deep into the Earth’s upper atmosphere, its measurements would improve satellite drag models and show how space-induced currents in electric power grids originate and evolve with time.

The selected Explorer Mission of Opportunity proposals are:

-Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) Richard Eastes, PI, University of Central Florida, Orlando — This would involve an imaging instrument that would fly on a commercial communications satellite in geostationary orbit to image the Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere.

-Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) Keith Gendreau, PI, Goddard — This mission would place an X ray timing instrument on the International Space Station (ISS) to explore the exotic states of matter within neutron stars and reveal their interior and surface compositions.

-Coronal Physics Investigator (CPI) John Kohl, PI, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge — A solar telescope would be mounted on the ISS to investigate the processes that produce the sun’s fast and slow solar wind.

-Gal/Xgal U/LDB Spectroscopic/Stratospheric THz Observatory (GUSSTO) Christopher Walker, PI, University of Arizona, Tucson — This mission would launch a high altitude balloon with a one-meter telescope to provide a comprehensive understanding of the inner workings of our Milky Way galaxy and one of our galaxy’s companion galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

-Ion Mass Spectrum Analyzer for SCOPE (IMSA), Lynn Kistler PI, University of New Hampshire, Durham — This partner mission of opportunity would provide a composition instrument to the Japanese cross-Scale Coupling in the Plasma universE (SCOPE) mission. SCOPE will study fundamental space plasma processes including particle acceleration, magnetic reconnection, and plasma turbulence.

The proposal selected for technology development funding is:

-The Exoplanetary Circumstellar Environments and Disk Explorer (EXCEDE), Glenn Schneider, PI, University of Arizona, Tucson – The technology development effort will enable studies of the formation, evolution, and architectures of exoplanetary systems through direct imaging.

The Explorer program is the oldest continuous program at NASA. It is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using PI-led space science investigations relevant to the agency’s astrophysics and heliophysics programs. Initiated with the Explorer 1 launch in 1958 that discovered the Earth’s radiation belts and including the Cosmic Background Explorer mission that led to Nobel prizes for their investigators, the Explorer program has launched more than 90 missions. It is managed by Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about the Explorer program, visit: .

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.


Image of the Week: Rare Martian Lake Delta Spotted by Mars Express


09.28.11 – via UKSpaceAgency: Europe’s Mars Express has spotted a rare case of a crater once filled by a lake, revealed by the presence of a delta. The delta is an ancient fan-shaped deposit of dark sediments, laid down in water. It is a reminder of Mars’ past, wetter climate.

Holden crater (left) and Eberswalde crater (right). Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).
Holden crater (left) and Eberswalde crater (right).
Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).

The delta is in the Eberswalde crater, in the southern highlands of Mars. The 65 km-diameter crater is visible as a semi-circle on the right of the image and was formed more than 3.7 billion years ago when an asteroid hit the planet. The rim of the crater is intact only on its right-hand side. The rest appears only faintly or is not visible at all. A later impact created the 140 km diameter Holden crater that dominates the centre and left side of the image. The expulsion of large amounts of material from that impact buried parts of Eberswalde.

However, within the visible part of Eberswalde, the delta and its feeder channels are well preserved, as seen near the top right of the crater. The delta covers an area of 115 square kilometres. Small, meandering feeder channels are visible towards the top of the crater, which would have filled it to form a lake.

Eberswalde crater in perspective. Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).
Eberswalde crater in perspective.
Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).

After the deposition of the delta sediments in the crater’s ancient lake, fresher sediments accumulated to cover up a major part of both the channels and the delta. These secondary sediments, presumably deposited by the wind, were later eroded in the delta area, exposing an inverted relief of the delta structure.

This delta structure, first identified with NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, is characteristic of the presence of a lake in the crater at that time. Such features provide a clear indication that liquid water flowed across the surface of Mars in the planet’s early history.

UK involvement in Mars Express is funded by the UK Space Agency. More information can be found in the missions section of the website.


Was a Giant Planet Ejected from the Solar System?



The Fifth Planet sounds like a great name for a sci-fi movie — perhaps a sequel to the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element.” But the fifth planet may be real; a hypothesized giant world that was flung out of our solar system four billion years ago. It would have drifted tens of thousands of light years away by now.

Why even suspect that such a planet existed?

SLIDE SHOW: Top Exoplanets for Alien Life

Though astronomers have found many planetary systems around neighboring stars, our own solar system looks like it’s the exception rather than the rule. We’re discovering that our system is an uncommonly orderly place where the planets behave themselves in wide orbits that are nearly circular.

But the planetary systems around other stars found so far present sort of a Wild West of planets. Their orbits can be steeply inclined to one another (our eight major planets are coplanar). There are many giant planets that have migrated precariously close to their stars. Other planets are in roller-coaster highly elliptical orbits that alternatively freeze and cook them.

Even more befuddling, it’s hard for theoreticians to build a planet formation model that winds up looking like our solar system.

ANALYSIS: Weird Exoplanet Orbits Could Prevent Alien Life


ANALYSIS: Does a Massive Planet Lurk in the Outer Solar System?

A new set of computer simulations by David Nesvorny of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, shows that this will work if there was once a fifth giant planet in addition to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Nesvorny models place a fifth hefty planet, several dozen times the mass of the Earth at various possible locations in the outer solar system: midway between Saturn and Uranus, and just beyond Neptune. In this game of orbital musical chairs, the fifth planet was ejected after a tussle with Jupiter –- sort of a celestial King Kong vs. Godzilla.

This may sound extraordinary but there is plenty of evidence for orphaned free-floating planets wandering our galaxy. A 2006-2007 survey of the Milky Way used gravitational lensing to find 10 dark objects drifting in front of distant background stars. Statistically, this means there could be as many as hundreds of billions of castoff planets plying inside our galaxy.

ANALYSIS: No ‘Nemesis’ Boosting Comet Impacts

Looking for evidence of a fifth giant planet calls for solar system forensics. God didn’t leave behind any file footage of the solar system’s formative years, after all.

First, it is known that Uranus and Neptune are too far from the sun for them to have formed in their present locations. There simply has not been enough time and materials for them to agglomerated into 15-Earth mass worlds. Uranus and Neptune must have formed closer into the sun and then migrated outward.

This implies that the early solar system was very chaotic. Smaller bodies, the planetesimals, were gravitationally kicked around and the exchange of momentum widened the orbits of the outer planets. Our moon bears the scars of this rough and tumble period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, of about 4 billion years ago.

The planetesimal debris was then snowplowed outward to form the Kupier belt, where Pluto dwells. Kuiper belt objects are not spread out uniformly in but are clustered into three distinct populations. This means that the belt was; extensively sculpted by the gravitational influence of the giant planets.

ANALYSIS: Uranus Pathfinder: Mission to the Mysterious Ice Giant

The ejected planet would not necessarily be lifeless even though it is sailing through the numbing cold of interstellar space. It presumably would have moons. Gravitational tidal forces could heat them so that they would remain warm in the absence of a star. The moons Io (orbiting Jupiter) or Enceladus (orbiting Saturn) are the archetype of what would be plausible. Microbes could live happily without the need for a sun in the sky. Among the billions of flung off worlds in our galaxy, this one would be isotopically stamped: Made By Sol.

source: Discovery illustrations: NASA


NOAA Report on Solar Geomagnetic Storm that Partially Hit Earth – Coinciding with Earthquake & Volcano Activity


The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has been reporting on high solar activity for the past while.  Here is the news for the past 3 days, updated today.  It is important to note that the September 26th report emphasizes that “aurora watchers in Asia and Europe will be favourably positioned” and we now have had reports of much earthquake and volcanic activity, most notably the swarms in Spain (see El Hierro Volcano Article), Greece and Turkey, as well as the ones around the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, (see Cleveland Volcano Article) as well as the 5.3 MAG that hit the North West Territories (see 4 Significant Quakes/NWT Article). There are many more places that have been affected – all along the Pacific Ring of Fire.  Drop in news of earthquake drills and we have a bit of a rocky road perhaps ahead (see Earthquake Drill in US, NZ, BC Article)? (Hey, I’m just saying, but what do I know?)

If you would like to see what an Aurora looks like from space, here is a video take from the International Space Station around September 19th 2011 and its quite spectacular to see.  The path taken here is eastwardly from Madagascar along to northeast Australia, hence the term ‘aurora australis’. Aurora borealis north & aurora australis south hemisphere.


2011-09-27 17:33   Update on the September 26/27 Geomagnetic Storm

The Geomagnetic Storm that began yesterday is quieting down, though we aren’t quite back to quiet conditions yet.  High speed solar wind is coming in behind the Coronal Mass Ejection and these winds are keeping things slightly active on the space weather front.  The region on the Sun that produced this activity is in a favorable position to cause further problems, but it is starting to weaken.  It remains a threat, though diminishing.  Yesterday, there would have been problems with high accuracy GPS and there was a noted issue with the FAA’s Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), where the Vertical Error Limit was exceeded.  WAAS is used to provide high accuracy GPS in the areas around airports.  Much more information about this storm is available on the SWPC Facebook page.

2011-09-26 19:00   

The fast Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that erupted from NOAA Active Region 1302 arrived this morning at 1237Z (8:37am Eastern Time).  It has kicked off moderate (G2) geomagnetic storms for low latitudes, but high latitudes are seeing severe (G4) levels of activity.  Aurora watchers in Asia and Europe are most favorably positioned for this event, though it may persist long enough for viewers in North America.  The bulk of the CME missed the Earth, meaning the storm intensity and duration are less than what they would have been in the case of a direct hit.  We are posting frequent updates on the SWPC Facebook page, which you can follow (here).

2011-09-24 22:00   

NOAA Region 1302 remains impressive and active as it continues its transit across the visible disc.  As shown in the GOES X-ray plot below, 1302 produced an R3 (Strong) and multiple R2 (Moderate) flares today.  Intermittent degradation to High Frequency communications occurs on the daylight side of the Earth during each respective flare.  Also, the slow rise of energetic protons near Earth has flattened out and we are hovering right around the S1 threshold (NOAA Solar Radiation Storm Scales).  A fairly fast Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) associated with the long duration R2 flare is partially directed at Earth (long duration meaning long-lasting in time and wider in the graph below, as opposed to the impulsive flares that spike quickly).  We won?t see the bulk of this CME, but a glancing blow is predicted for late evening Eastern Time on the 25th (or right around start of day GMT on the 26th).  Geomagnetic Storm levels reaching the G1 (Minor) level are likely with isolated G2 (Moderate) possible, particularly at high latitudes.  1302 remains active so stay tuned for further updates.

source: NOAA

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