Send Your Name To The Sun

Ponder your name on a microchip aboard a car sized solar probe traveling 692,000 Km/hour around the Sun. Imagine that probe entering the Suns’ atmosphere. How cool would it be if the first mission to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona carried your name. Would you see the Sun with fresh eyes knowing your name was part of an endeavor to explore solar wind?

The Parker Solar Probe begins a seven year, seven gravity assist Venus flyby, 93 million mile journey to the Sun in summer 2018. To commemorate humanity’s first visit to a star, NASA issued an open invitation – send your name to the Sun. Deadline, April 27, 2018. Get on board at  –

Learn more at –


Ponder 2017, A Year In Space

On the cusp of 2017s last gasp, ponder a year of cosmic discovery. September 2017 marked the end of Cassini’s stoic 20 year, one billion mile journey to unlock mysteries of Saturn and its moons. A quest defined by exquisite images, unprecedented collection of data and a fiery death plunge into the heart of Saturn. We lost Cassini in 2017, but data collected on her death march will keep science busy for years. Great link to NASA Cassini timeline –

In April 2017 Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau published a study detailing LHS 114Ob, a Earth-like planet orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light years away.  “This is the one we’ve been hunting for all these years!” said Charbonneau. A rocky, temperate exoplanet with our best to date potential for finding alien life.

Credit – M. Weiss/CfA

Speaking of exoplanets – In June 2017 NASA announced 10 of the most recent 219 planets catalogued by the Kepler space observatory, were Earth sized and potentially habitable.

Credit – NASA/JPL-Caltech

November 2017, science discovered the first documented interstellar object to enter our solar system. Object A/2017 U1 was noticed moving away from Earth at a staggering 15.8 miles per second. Now dubbed Oumuamuas, learn more at link below this image –

Gravitational waves took October 2017 by storm, awarding the Nobel Prize in Physics to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). First theorized by Albert Einstein, conclusive evidence of gravitational waves is possibly the greatest cosmic discovery of 2017. Gravitational waves occur when mass accelerates, such as when two black holes rotate around each other. Moving at the speed of light, they spread outward filling the universe. Einstein didn’t believe they could be measured, LIGO proved him wrong. Astrophysicists won’t forget 2017, the year gravitational waves validated determination to understand disruptions in spacetime.

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Cosmic water rippled across 2017. From Cassini’s suggestion Saturn’s moon Enceladus harbored water, to exhaustive unraveling of ancient flowing liquid erosion on Mars and Moon research indicating a wealth of hidden water.

Saturn's moon Enceladus, photographed here by the Cassini spacecraft, has a subsurface ocean that also contains a chemical energy source that could be used by life-forms.


Saturn’s moon Enceladus, photographed here by the Cassini spacecraft, has a subsurface ocean that also contains a chemical energy source that could be used by life-forms.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute


This image of an inner slope of a crater on southern Mars has several seasonal dark streaks called “recurrent slope lineae,” or RSL.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS

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Moon water theory stems from deposits of pyroclastic rock known as volcanic glass. Glass beads form when eruptions of magma crystallize as they cool on the surface trapping water inside. Until recently decades old samples of volcanic moon glass brought back by Apollo 15 & 17  were thought to be regional peculiarities. Closer modern scrutiny confirms wide total distribution of volcanic glass – a 2017 about face regarding hidden lunar moisture.
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 Perhaps the best way to embrace wonders of 2017 is with imagery. Start here – – move on to – – spend a few minutes at NASA –
2017 catapulted cosmic foundations, science embraced unimaginable leaps toward unraveling the paradox of spacetime. Lack of understanding, dismissive frustration born of absent points of reference are no excuse to retreat from cosmic wonder. I won’t call it a resolution for the new year, but do hope more people open their minds to the cosmos. Start 2018 with links to or in your news feed. Happy New Year.



15 Days Of Darkness

According to conspiracy websites skies will go dark at 3 am November 15, 2017, Earth will languish in darkness until 4:45 pm on November 30, 2017. 15 ominous black days, supposedly confirmed by former NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a “1,000 page document” presented to Barack Obama’s White House. Conspiracy isn’t fazed by the fact no such document exists, or that 15 days of darkness is utter nonsense. Much as my intent is to assure trembling masses they have nothing to fear, it’s hard not to guffaw in the face of absolute ignorance – faced with a preposterous media hoax void of grade school scientific reason, a horse barn of manure served warm to countless millions of robotic nincompoops incapable of  connecting cosmic dots, an obligation exists to ponder conspiracy rationale behind 15 days of darkness..

In a nutshell – a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter results in proximity separated by one degree. Venus then moves slightly southwest of Jupiter, now Venus shines ten times brighter than Jupiter. Light from bright Venus heats gases of Jupiter releasing unfathomable levels of hydrogen. At 2:50 am November 15 rogue Jupiter hydrogen reaches the Sun causing a behemoth explosion, facilitating a heat generated eruption so powerful it will change the Sun’s colour to blue. Earth is plunged into total darkness. For the next 14 days the Sun cools enough to regain normal temperature and colour. Conspiracy urges calm and civil obedience, quick to point out 14 days of darkness is harmless, no different than winter at the North Pole.

As conspiracy goes this hoax is hardly remarkable. Most days I wouldn’t give vacant jibber-jabber the time of day – tonight it frosts me to ponder how ridiculous millions of supposedly educated people can be.

Help NASA Name MU69

Launched January 19, 2006 NASA’s New Horizons probe began a mission to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons made headlines in July 2015, fulfilling mission goals beyond our wildest dreams.Five billion kilometers from Earth, it took four and a half hours for messages to reach home, transmissions containing exquisite images of our solar system’s petticoat.

NASA issued fresh orders – cross 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto to intercept asteroid 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day 2019.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft streaking past 2014 MU69 – which might be 2 objects orbiting each other – on January 1, 2019. Image via Carlos Hernandez/ NASA.

Mu69 is minuscule by cosmic standards. One, perhaps two oddly shaped binary objects no more than 20 kilometers across. Barely noticed until passing in front of a few stars last summer, now the focus of New Horizons and a NASA contest open to anyone interested in giving MU69 a nickname. The link below takes you to the contest home page – read existing entries, vote or nominate one of your own.

Earth Has An Asteroid Buddy

In 2016 planetary astronomers at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory discovered a small ( 100 meter ) object moving with Earth around the Sun. Dubbed 2016 OR3, initial science speculation wondered if it might be a piece of space junk, perhaps a rogue rocket booster caught in wobbly orbit occasionally intersecting Earth orbit.

Last week at the annual Division For Planetary Sciences  meeting in Provo, Utah Vishnu Reddy from University of Arizona laid speculation to rest, identifying 2016 OR3 as an asteroid, stating in part –

“2016 HO3 is a small near-Earth object (NEO) measuring no more than 100 meters (330 feet) across that, while orbiting the sun, also appears to circle around the Earth as a quasi-satellite. Only five quasi-satellites have been discovered so far, but 2016 HO3 is the most stable of them. The provenance of this object is unknown. On timescales of a few centuries, 2016 HO3 remains within 38 to 100 lunar-distances from us.”

“One way to visualize HO3’s orbit is by picturing a hula hoop dancer — the sun in this analogy — twirling two hoops around the hips at the same time, ever so slightly out of sync. While it orbits the sun, the object makes yearly loops around the Earth.

As a result, the object appears to orbit the Earth, but it is not gravitationally bound to our planet.”

2016 HO3 is seen at the top left corner of this animation made of ten 2mn long exposures in I band using MODS1 on the left side of LBT – The telescope is tracking the moving asteroid, so background stars (and even a couple of galaxies) are trailed. Image via LBTO.

Asteroid 2016 OR3 is hardly a harbinger of doom – orbiting politely at 38 – 100 lunar distance from Earth, it is a cosmic companion which now bears official designation of quasi-satellite. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said –

The asteroid’s orbit also undergoes a slow, back-and-forth twist over multiple decades. “The asteroid’s loops around Earth drift a little ahead or behind from year to year, but when they drift too far forward or backward, Earth’s gravity is just strong enough to reverse the drift and hold onto the asteroid so that it never wanders farther away than about 100 times the distance of the moon,” said Chodas. “The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth.”

“Caught in a little dance with Earth” makes me smile. Not for knowing Earth has an asteroid buddy, but for affirmation everything in our universe is caught in a little dance.

CosmoQuest’s Image Detectives

NASA had me at CosmoQuest, Image Detective sweetened the pot. A NASA funded citizen science project seeks public help identifying geographic features in photographs taken from the International Space Station. ISS astronauts take scores of photographs, science needs citizen help in creating a searchable image database of natural and man-made global locations. All you do is sign up, look at images and identify features.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) lead investigator Pamela L Gay said –

The astronauts’ photos of Earth are visually stunning, but more than that, they can be used to study our changing Earth. From erupting volcanoes, to seasonal flooding, these images document the gradual changes that happen to our landscape.

The trick is, we need to make these images searchable, and that means taking the time to sort through, analyze, and label (add metadata) the unidentified images within the database of 1.5 million plus photos.”

Jennifer Grier, Senior Education and Communication Specialist at PSI, CosmoQuest’s lead support scientist added –

This is a unique, powerful, and beautiful image data set that has already yielded excellent research science. But the data set needs the many eyes and minds of citizen scientists to reach its full potential as a publicly available, searchable catalog. With the additions that citizen scientists as detectives can make, professional research scientists will be able to conduct more research into our changing world, and do so much more effectively.”

Sign up at –

Algerian desert from the ISS –