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Our Solar Fireplace

Here comes the sun!  Haven’t you noticed those lengthening days?  Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl are behind us, and winter will recede regardless of Punxatawney Phil.  Whatever the vicissitudes of the climate debate, the sun is the primary driver of both the earth’s weather and its energy supply (both stored and “online”).

Space Videos has posted this streaming replay of our luminous neighbor, filmed from the International Space Station.  The video offers some spectacular scenes of activity on the solar surface, accompanied by soothing New Age style music.  So drop by when the mood strikes you and see the sights! What is office wi-fi good for, anyway? 🙂

Supermoon Struck!

The orbital gyrations of our lunar neighbor have positioned the moon at its closest distance to earth in 68 years. The result is a “supermoon”, which is delighting evening viewers across the globe. The Weather Network has assembled some great shots from NASA and placed them in the video below. Enjoy!

Asteroids: OSIRIS REx Probe Aims At Bennu

For those attracted by apocalyptic scenarios, errant asteroids are always a possibility. Several have orbits that take them near earth (in astronomical terms), and as the orbits can change due to factors such as gravity and surface temperature, they merit close observation.  As part of this endeavor, NASA recently launched its OSIRIS REx probe towards Bennu, known more formally in the astronomy trade as 101955 Bennu, a body that is expected to have several close encounters with earth in the late 22nd century. The probe will arrive at its destination in 2019 and begin a detailed study of it properties, composition and orbit.  It will conclude by taking samples from the body’s surface and return them to earth in 2023.

Apart from self-preservation for us earthlings, the mission is intriguing from  a purely scientific point of view. Asteroids are left over from the formation of the solar system some four billion years ago, and are composed of its primary building blocks. If successful, the mission will expand our understanding of the origins and nature of our celestial  neighborhood.

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Reaches Jupiter!

After a long, circuitous voyage NASA’s Juno spacecraft reached Jupiter on July 4. It will spend the next year observing our solar system’s largest planet and hopefully beam reams of data earthwards about the gas giant’s atmosphere, surface and core.   The NASA Juno You Tube channel posted this time lapse view of Jupiter and its 4 largest moons, filmed between June 12 and June 29, starting from a distance of 10 million miles. The astronomer Galileo first saw this sight over three centuries ago. Those orbiting moons indicated that the earth was not the center of the universe, a discovery that shattered the accepted truth of the authorities of his day and put the savant’s life in danger.  The mission has attracted a global following, and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW English) explains the project in the second video.

We are poised to witness an incredible age of discovery, if only the authorities of OUR day manage to avoid blowing the world to bits!

India’s PSLV Rocket Puts 20 Satellites In Orbit

Talk about economies of scale! brings us the recent launch of India’s PSLV rocket, which put 20 payloads into orbit, the CartoSat 2C mapping satellite and 19 smaller ones.  Note the multinational cast of customers and the speed of the action.  Just twenty minutes after launch, the satellites are being placed hundreds of miles away from the launch point.  A reminder of the promise and power of rocket technology, and the perils if not used wisely.



Space X – This Blast Is Not From The Past!

Heaven knows there is plenty of depressing, tragic news to rivet our attention these days.  Bur the human spirit recharges through its love of discovery, and an incredible adventure is unfolding before us.  Space X continues to make enormous strides in making commercial space flight a reality with its Falcon 9 rocket/Dragon CRS-8 spacecraft combo.  The successful landing of the former’s first stage rocket, shown below by, is a scene right out of a classic sci-fi movie.  Should the company succeed in perfecting and scaling its reusable rocket technology, there’s no telling where the venture can go- and take us!