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Looking Back At Home

For me, one of the saddest things in life is to see inner city gangs fighting over turf. Often just a block or two. I’ve always found that view of life so limiting.

I feel the same way about people that have never traveled outside of their city or county. There is so much about this life and this universe to discover. Now look at this picture!

Home

Home

That’s home. Home for me. Home for you. Home for all six billion humans in this universe. Everyone that you have ever loved, every person in all of history has lived on that ball of rock.

This picture was taken from a satellite that was orbiting the planet Mars. Back in 2006, it took some time out from looking down at Mars and turned its camera towards the heavens. Wow! Even more spectacular is the full image, which captures Jupiter and its moons.

Support space science and exploration! Turn your kids into space nerds!

Big ups to BA for the highlight of the original!

Jupiter Playing Billiards Again

In infrared, white means very hot!

In infrared, white means very hot!

Back in 1994, the world was lucky enough to capture one of the greatest fireworks shows in our solar system. Co-discovered by Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy, a comet that had been torn apart by Jupiter’s gravity hurled into the gas giant. Astronomers around the world had advance notice of the collision and hundreds of telescopes turned toward Jupiter to become a witness to raw power.

Late last week, it happened again (see infrared pic above). However, we did not have advance notice. Amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia was admiring Jupiter when a dark spot suddenly appeared. After posting info about the spot on a message forum, scientists in charge of the large telescopes around world also began gathering data. The result, something huge had indeed crashed into the largest planet in our solar system.

Here is the picture that Mr. Wesley captured as he was notifying the world of Jupiter’s new blemish.

The impact is the dark spot at the top of the image

The impact is the dark spot at the top of the image

All I have to say is that we need to get our stuff together here on the blue marble. This could have been us. 😦 Support NEO detection! Support space exploration! Go NASA!

On to Europa!

Artist concept of Europa observer

Artist concept of Europa observer

NASA continues to deliver good science and great decisions! After extensive review of competing proposals,  the selection committee decided that the next Outer Planets mission would focus on the potentially life-bearing moon, Europa. I was happy that they chose Europa as the Great Cassini has (and continues) to deliver tons of data on Titan. Let’s show some love for some other planets!

The new orbiter is expected to launch in 2020 (perfect timing with our expected return to the Moon, if all goes well with the Constellation program). It will arrive in 2025 and study both Jupiter and Europa over a period of 4 years. Other highlights would include flybys of Io, Ganymede, and Callisto.

This will be the second extensive exploration of the Jovian system since Galileo ended its eight year mission by plunging into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 2003. The Juno mission (which is being run out of my new hometown’s Marshall Space Flight Center) will launch in two years with a goal of studying our resident gas giant in detail.