Allow Me To Introduce The Moon

The cosmos doesn’t have to by a mystery, the first step begins with our Moon. Once you know the Moon, cosmic threads unravel with confidence. Allow me to introduce the Moon –

Moon phase composite via Fred Espenak. Read more about this image.

Moon phase composite via Fred Espenak. Read more about this image.

1. When you see the moon, think of the whereabouts of the sun

2. The moon rises in the east and sets in the west, each and every day

3. The moon takes about a month (one month) to orbit the Earth

4. The moon’s orbital motion is toward the east

Landing On Pluto

Last week NASA released a video compilation of New Horizons 2015 landing on Pluto.

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto — starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon — and leading up to an eventual ride in for a “landing” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia.
To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.
After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The original black-and-white “landing” movie can be viewed at:…

Google Lunar XPRIZE

September 13, 2017 marks ten years since Google announced the Lunar XPRIZE at a technology conference sponsored by Wired magazine. Up for grabs – a $30 million US prize pool, $20 million top prize going to the first privately funded team of innovators successfully landing a robotic craft on the Moon, moving it at least 500 meters across the lunar surface and transmitting two “Mooncasts” in high definition video, no less than 8 minutes each – one on arrival, the other at completion of mobility requirements. Subsidiary, bonus and incentive prizes are detailed below. Link to full contest rules –

Registration closed December 31, 2010. If no registered team managed to secure launch arrangements by December 31, 2015, the contest would end. On October 9, 2015 team SpaceIL verified a launch contract with SpaceX. Conditions met, the contest continued. Teams had until December 31, 2016 to secure launch contracts, all Moon missions must be completed by December 31, 2017. Five verified teams remain –

Link below for other privately funded space endeavors –

Venus Bubbles

This is pretty cool – do a little space homework, find out when the Moon or planets appear in the direction of setting Sun. Take a piece of picture frame size glass outside at sunset. Find an appropriate place to fasten it between yourself and the setting sun. Sprinkle glass with drops of water. Focus your camera lens on the drops of water…….

Photographer John Bell of Haversham, Bucks, UK followed the recipe and obtained the picture above on Jan. 17, 2017.

“I had been looking at macro photos of flowers through droplets and thought I’d try the same with the evening sky,” explains Bell. “I taped a photoframe glass to a tree branch in my garden and framed the droplets using my Canon 5D MK2 with a sigma 106mm macro lens. The view was of Venus by a neighbour’s tree.”

Water droplets act as inverting lenses, so in the original photo the sunset was upside down. “Easily fixed,” says Bell, who restored order by rotating the image 180 degrees. “Focusing was a bit difficult,” he adds. “After all, water droplets are not perfect lenses.” The result, however, was perfectly beautiful. More exposures are available here.

Titan Touchdown

On January 11, 2017 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL ) released “Titan Touchdown”, a short video of stoic little probe Huygens landing on Saturn’s moon Titan. A video marking the 12th anniversary of January 14, 2005, the day Huygens bravely marched into history as the furthest ever landing from Earth. The day Huygens met fate in a blaze of glory, making the most of precious minutes until Titan claimed it for eternity.

The Cassini-Huygens mission holds a place in my heart – RIP Huygens, your sacrifice won’t be forgotten.

Have You Seen The Milky Way?

Born under starry skies, rural seclusion wrapped childhood in the Milky Way. Constant, permanent, watchful – I left for city lights without saying goodbye. We still see each other every few years, picking up where we left off like old friends do. When time comes to part I wave goodbye, mindful of cosmic wonders that shaped my life. Pondering the fact 80% of people alive today have never seen the Milky Way.


Draugr, Poltergeist and Phobetor

January 9, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Exoplanet discovery. On this day in 1992 the science journal Nature published a paper by astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail detailing first confirmation of planets orbiting a star beyond our solar system. That star was a pulsar, 2300 light years away in the constellation Virgo, known as PSR B127+12. Pulsars are maelstroms of fast spinning highly magnetized solar remnants created when mass at the moment of supernova isn’t enough to make a black hole. Instead the outer layer blasts to oblivion, leaving an inner core of dense material exerting unimaginable gravitational force. Spinning countless times per second, those maintaining angular momentum become pulsars – distinguished by intense beams of radio emissions several times a second, similar to a lighthouse beacon.

At Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico Frail and Wolszczan witnessed regular dimming of the pulsar beacon, split second interruptions caused by orbiting planets. Two planets, PSR1257+12b (orbiting once every 66 days) and PSR1257+12c (one orbit every 98 days) became our first proven exoplanets. In 1994 they discovered PSR1257+12d, a tiny third exoplanet orbiting once every 25 days.

In 2015 the International Astronomical Union sponsored a Name Exoworlds contest, 12b, c and d became Draugr, Poltergeist and Phobetor. In 2009 NASA launched the Kepler Space Telescope using the same method of light interruption to detect planetary orbits. To date Kepler has identified 2330 of the over 3500 confirmed exoplanets. Happy exoplanet anniversary,