Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Moon

The above Lunar image is the December 100% of Full Moon, or as the Colonial Americans used to call it, "Christmas Moon". Actually went looking for a Sunset just on the outskirts of town, no luck again clouds, but when I turned around and glanced at the East, a got a light red Moonrise low on the horizon, took my anamorphic widescreen camera and got the pic. Just before Mars came close I got the shot below of the Christmas Moon through my Telescope, complete with a light cloud cover.

Various Cultures have different names for the monthly Full Moon. The Celtic call the December Full Moon "Cold Moon", the Chinese call it "Bitter Moon", Neo Pagan "Long Night Moon" but my fav is what the Colonial Americans called it "Christmas Moon", although "Twelfth Moon" is kind of catchy, that was the name given to the December Full Moon by the Dakotah Sioux.

If you don't mind getting up at 2 in the morning, boy have I got a meteor shower for you. The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks Jan 3rd. evening through to the morning hours of January 4th. It's radiant, that is where all the meteors seem to start from, is in the constellation "Quadrans Muralis" which by the way no longer exists. In 1920 the International Astronomical Union dropped the constellation when it decided on the final 88 official constellations we know and love today. So come next Friday at 2 am look towards the N.E. that's when and where the show begins, don't forget to dress warmly, it is January. Expect around 1-2 meteors a minute. I'll be up and out there, the weather network says it will only be -1c, and the weather network is always right!

UPDATE: NASA/JPL Near -Earth Object Program announced Friday that the chances of Mars getting hit from asteroid 2007 WD 5 has increased from a 1 in 75 chance to 1 in 25 chance . They made the adjustments based on the asteroid's appearance on 3 images taken November 8th, nearly 2 weeks before the actual discovery, the observations were then added to the existing observations and the prediction was refined.

Below is an animation of Spirit arriving at it's winter resting place, broke wheel and all, apparently little Spirit's been travelling around with a broke right front wheel since March 2006, the cause is a broken circuit on the wheel motor drive. Opportunity being closer to the equator is still doing science over at Victoria Crater at Cape St.Mary.

Coming up January 3rd. is Spirit's 4 year anniversary, Opportunity's 4 year anniversary is January 25th., not bad for a mission that was only supposed to last 90 days.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mars Occultation by The Full Moon

If you lived in North West Canada, Alaska, Northern Russia or Eastern Europe you would have been treated to a Lunar Occulatation of Mars December 23rd, that is when Mars slips behind the Moon. Here in Saskatoon we didn't get the Occultation but Mars did get close enough to the Full Moon to get both in the same field of view of my telescope. The cool image above was taken with my big scope and digital camera, Mars is the little unassuming red planet bottom left, not like some planets, not like Saturn, "Hi I'm Saturn, I'm the most beautiful planet in the universe, I have lots of moons and beautiful rings". Mars is more like , "Hi .... I'm Mars". Earlier in the evening I also got a cool wide angle image with my anamorphic widescreen palmcorder, I made a gif with reflecting water below the image. The wispy clouds over the Moon give it a haunting appearance. Hey by the way, the next time you get that Email hoax thing where it says that Mars is going to be the same size as the Moon, send them back the above image, note the size difference.

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The real neat thing is I had my scope and equipment on my front sidewalk in front of my house and people were going by asking what I was doing, when I explained about the occultation, how Mars was going to get very close to the Moon they all wanted a look and all were were amazed at how Mars and the Moon looked in a scope, a lot of wows and amazings were spoken by all, I gotta do more sidewalk astronomy, very fulfilling.

Got a couple of cool things for Christmas. My wife got me a Moroccan Iron Meteorite , it was found by nomads in the Sahara desert, meteorites are awesome, they've been flying around out in space for 4.5 billion years, to one day land on Earth to be held by me, if that isn't just the coolest thing I don't know what is.

My wife also did a painting of the Trifid Nebula complete with stars! It was really quite amazing the work that went into it, how many layers of paint, and that most of it was done with her fingers, not a brush, the stars were accomplished with a flicking of the brush.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Solar Stuff and Mars Attack!!!!

Got a cool pic of the Sun a couple days ago. it was shinning behind some wispy clouds and looked huge, grabbed my palmcorder and took the pic. The thing I like about the images is that they are in 16:9 Anamorphic widescreen, looks classy, and I love to say Anamorphic. Another Anamorphic Widescreen image I took is below, it is our lovely Sun in all it's Solar Minimum glory. Just missed an actual sunspot, #0978 had just rotated out of view a few hours before this image was taken. I took this image of the Sun with my Anamorphic Widescreen Plamcorder, stuck my white light telescopic Solar filter in front of it with one hand and snapped the image with the other, in this image you can see solar granules on the surface of the Sun, gives it a grainy appearance, basically they are caused by bubbling plasma, the same way when you boil fudge on the stove it bubbles, or boling water.

I put on the image for comparisons sake circles representing the sizes of Jupiter and Earth, the ratio is 1, 10, 100, that is the Sun is roughly 10 x the diameter of Jupiter, Jupiter is 10x the diameter of Earth, therefore the Sun is 100x the diameter of the Earth. Haven't posted many pictures of the Sun since I started my blog mostly because it is at Solar Minimum. The Sun goes through this 11 year cycle of high and low activity, right now and up until March of next year we are at the low spot , after March the Sun will start it's 5 and a half year climb to Solar max and we will slowly see increases in the amount and frequency of items such as solar flares, sunspots and prominences, nothing like a good ole solar flare to raise my spirits! Below is an image I took of the Sun a couple years ago while it still had some cool activity.

An asteroid, which by the way has been tracked by NASA since November 20, has a 1 in 75 chance of hitting little Mars on January 30th, 2008. Asteroid 2007 WD5 is around 160 feet across, is also supposed to be similar to the asteroid that broke up in midair before it flattened a Siberian forest back in 1908. If it does hit Mars the rovers may or may not get an image of the event, they figure it will hit somewhere north of Opportunity.

The blue arrow in the above image shows the predicted path of the asteroid and the orange line is the predicted impact zone. Scientists say the asteroid is behind the Moon right now, they will have a better idea if and when it will hit Mars in January when the glow of the Moon dies down and they can fine tune it's trajectory. NASA is pretty excited about the prospect of an asteroid hitting Mars, no one has ever witnessed an asteroid hitting anything, I'm all excited it's not gonna hit us!!

Since this will be my last post till after Christmas, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lunar Images and Black Holes

Finally a break in the weather, was able to get some good detailed shots of the Moon's surface. The last month or so we have either had cloud cover or frosty skies making the Moon look like a giant frosty ball, not good for taking pics. The above picture is a 68% of full Moon. I'd like to thank Anna over at My Only Photo for helping me figure out how to get the GIF file below working on my post, she had a great reflecting Full Moon on one of her recent posts which I just had to replicate with one of my Moon shots.

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I also got good shot of a 43% of Full Moon a few nights back. I used a yellow filter to bring more of the Lunar surface detail out.

Hopefully the weather co-operates cause December 23/24 we have a Full Moon, which is cool but that's not all, here in Saskatoon Mars is going to get very close to the Moon as well, might be a good photo op, actually if you live in N.W. Canada, Alaska, Northern Russia or Eastern Europe, you will get what they call a Lunar occultation of Mars, that is when Mars slips behind the Moon, I'm not quite far enough N.W. to get to enjoy the occultation but Mars and the Moon should get close enough to get in the same image, we'll see.

Okay now here is a Black Hole with some serious attitude! NASA called a special news conference last Monday to announce the awesome discovery of what they are calling "The Death Star Galaxy" In the image above the bigger galaxy's black hole is shooting out massive amounts of X-Rays and Gamma Rays to its smaller probably friendlier neighbor galaxy. The effect of this unprovoked attack could be disastrous to any planets in it's path, especially since the galaxies are only 20,000 light years apart. Scientist figure this happened about 1 million years ago. Because of the rarity of the event NASA will be paying close attention to this one. To put this into perspective, a death ray this size would basically destroy our ozone layer within a manner of months and life as we know it would eventually cease to exist.

NASA has just announced that they have found the cause of Shuttle Atlantis's faulty fuel sensors. The problem has been traced back to an over sized electrical socket that bridges the interior and exterior of Atlantis's external tank. They now have to figure out if the repair can be done in time for the new January 10th. launch date.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rovers Get Ready For Martian Winter

NASA is moving Spirit Rover to a sunnier place to prepare for the upcoming Martian winter. They have found a nice sun facing slope to park the little rover. Opportunity on the other hand is closer to the equator so they aren't quite as concerned about it as much, also Spirit still has a lot of dust on it's solar panels left behind from the dust storms so it will have less power over the winter months. The majority of Opportunity's dust was blown off by wind gusts.

NASA scientists are going over Spirit's most important discovery to date. Just before the dust storms Spirit discovered nearly pure silica, scientists say it could have come from either a hot spring or fumarole, fumaroles are vents or holes in a volcanic environment in which gases and vapor vent to atmosphere. Either of these conditions on Earth would harbor lots of microbial life, just more evidence life once or still may exist on Mars.

NASA has a cool section on their website called Spooky Sounds, check it out, one of the sounds is a sonic boom of Jupiter captured by Voyager 1 in 1979, the sonic boom is created as the Solar wind moves past the planets at supersonic speed. There is also a cool Saturn's Aurora sound picked up by the Cassini's Spacecraft electronic equipment. I found a YouTube video of a lot of these sounds together below including the Voyager 1 probe encountering Solar winds.

JD from "The Uneasy Supplicant" has once again honoured me with an award, the "Blogger Cleverness Award, for being terribly clever" Jd has an awesome story, poetry, photo site all grouped into one which I visit quite regularly.

I want to pass this award on to swubird, Ya gotta check out his blog, he has an extensive military background and has very interesting posts, very glad I found this one!

Okay just got a new toy, a palmcorder. Panasonic SDR-H18. My wife got it for me as a pre-Christmas gift. Think of the possibilities, my first use of this device is to bring you Bing and Dean, check out the video below, after Dean does his thing notice what he does with his mike hand, cracks me up every time!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lunar Surface In HD 3-D

People, this has got to be the coolest thing ever in the world, or should I say Solar System. Kaguya the Japanese Moon orbiter has released the first ever super high def 3-D images of the Lunar surface and released them in movie form!!! They were taken with Kaguya's onboard terrain camera, which is basically two cameras in one, one pointing forward and one pointing behind the orbiter, therefore being able to take stereoscopic images. There are 3 movies released, two of which can be viewed by the general population without 3-D glasses, the third or anaglyph images movie has to be viewed with 3-D glasses, which of course I just happen to have, and is it the sweetest thing ever, just feels and looks more real. You may ask how did I come by 3-D glasses. Good question, when I purchased my copy of Spy Kids 3-D Game Over , believe it or not came with 4 pairs of 3-D glasses! You may also ask, why I would purchase a copy of the kids movie Spy Kids 3-D game Over, because I used to be a spy kid when I was a kid. My parents bought me a Secret Sam outfit.

Secret Sam came with a gun you put together, white bullets, a cool periscope you could attached to the gun, so you could spy ducked down behind something, but the coolest thing you got with it is an actual working camera that as you can see from the lower left of the picture, fit into the briefcase, you could then close the case and activate the camera with a secret button on the outside of the case and take the enemy's picture like a spy without them knowing about it. I think that was the point when my love for cameras started, I just remember taking a lot of pictures with that camera and my Dad having to get them all developed the old way, you know we didn't have digital back when I was a kid, sorry for the major tangent, back to space stuff.

Not to be outdone NASA just released the highest ever resolution of a couple of Saturn's UFO shaped moons. Atlas 24x11 miles big and pan 20x13 miles big. Both images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft's narrow-angle camera. Both moons orbit around Saturn in Saturn's outer rings.

Saturn's rings formed due to a few major moons orbiting Saturn colliding, the resulting debris quickly fell into orbit around Saturn forming the rings we know of today, scientist figure that some smaller particles attached themselves to a couple of the larger core rocks forming the UFO shaped moons Pan and Atlas.

On a final note, don't forget the Geminid meteor shower starts tonight at around 9pm EST, look in the east for the constellation Gemini the radiant of the shower for the start of the show.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lunar Real Estate

Still can't think think of what to get for that someone special for Christmas? How bout real estate? How bout Lunar real estate? For a mere $36 you can purchase one acre of prime view Lunar property. Dennis Hope of the Lunar Embassy back in 1980 made a claim for the entire Lunar surface at his local Government claim registries office, and it was accepted and registered! But Dennis, or the "Head Cheese" as he likes to be called, didn't stop there, he also sent a letter of intent to claim and sell extraterrestrial property to The UN, USSR and the US governments. To this date no one has contested his claims so Dennis Hope was able to take it to the next step, to copyright his work with the US copyright registry office.

NASA has said "property rights on the Moon are governed by the United Nations" "The Moon comes under the same jurisdiction as international waters" I say who is NASA to say anything, just sour grapes that they didn't think of claiming the Moon first. The Outer Space Treaty , that's right the Outer Space Treaty, forbids countries from claiming celestial bodies but nothing in the treaty says an individual or corporation can't.

To date over 4 million people have bought property on the Moon, including celebs like George Lucas, Barbara Walters, a few ex-Presidents, some NASA employees and me. That's right me, mock me now but when my Great Great Grand kids are negotiating with NASA to buy their property because they want to build a Helium-3 Processing Plant, I'll be having the last laugh, well I won't, I'll be dead but my Great Great Grand kids will be alive and laughing all the way to the bank. So what do you get for your 36 bucks, you get your Lunar Deed, your Lunar map of where your property is , The Lunar Constitution and a short story "You Own The What" which includes the Declaration of Ownership filed with the US, USSR and United Nations. They have an excellent FAQs area, questions such as "Can I get to the Moon Now?" to a vitally important question "Do you believe in the prime directive?" (alien bases far side).

NASA just announced hours ago that they have again delayed the launch of STS 122 Atlantis due to another faulty fuel sensor. These fuel sensors protect the Shuttle's main engines by shutting them down in the event of unexpectedly low fuel. The launch has been rescheduled for January 2nd.

Tatiana over at Totally-Useless has honoured me with her Totally Useful and deserving blogger award, I accept the award and will post it proudly on my blog. Tatiana has a great blog about her personal philosophies and things that may seem useless on the surface, usually aren't. I would like to pass this award on to 3 blogs I visit and enjoy regularly.

JD at The Uneasy Supplicant , awesome writings and images.

Will at Healthy Living for People and Planet Earth , great advice for a healthier life.

Rick at Deep Sky Blog another awesome astronomy site to visit for your astronomy/astrophotography updates.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Voyager 2 Approaches Termination Shock

Voyager 2 is set to cross the Termination Shock either this month or early next year. The termination shock is the point at which the solar winds change dramatically from about a million miles per hour to around 250,000 miles per hour, in other words, little Voyager is leaving home and the effects of our Sun. The Voyager will then be in the Heliosphere, after that intergalactic space. Voyager 2 launched August 20 1977 on a five year mission to explore our planets and their moons, well it is 30 years later and both the Voyager 1 spacecraft, (which by the way reached the Heliosphere back in 2004) and Voyager 2 spacecraft are still in daily contact with the Deep Space Network sending new and unknown information from afar. Voyager 1 is about 10 billion miles from Earth, and it takes 14 hours for information from the spacecraft to reach Earth, Voyager 2 is around 8.0 billion miles from Earth and it's signal takes 11 hours to reach us. Both spacecraft carry with them a message on a gold record just in case aliens decide to pull them over, hopefully friendly aliens, since we gave them the directions to get here.

Just a friendly reminder that the Geminids meteor shower is just a week away, look at the date of this article, did I miss a time warp or something? The above photo was taken by Anna over at My Only Photo. Anna got a good shot last August of a Perseid meteor, awesome shot, check out her other work as well. Anna is my Blackholes and Astrostuff roving reporter out east(unpaid), she has a a cool Story Blob blog you should check out as well. The Geminids will start Thursday December 13th at around 9 pm EST and continue on through the night until Gemini sets in the west early Friday morning. The Geminids are the most reliable of the meteor showers producing around 50 meteors an hour or about one a minute. The Geminids originate from the 3200 Phaethon asteroid. The shower appears to radiate from the Gemini Constellation which will be low in the east around 9pm, as the night progresses Gemini travels to the SE, then the south ,then SW then sets in the west around 10 am EST Friday, bonus, look for Mars, a bright orange object in the constellation as well that night.

Being Christmas time and all I thought I would link to my Buying a Telescope post, it has a lot of good information in it, if your looking to buy a telescope for someone special this year you should find this post useful. Isn't that a nice summery picture above? I decided to go out to my cold backyard and take a picture as it looks now.

I don't usually give names to my photos, but this one I call "WINTER SUCKS"

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shuttle Atlantis STS 122

Shuttle Atlantis has been given the green light to launch Thursday December 6th. at 4:31pm EST. STS 122 main mission is to install the the European Columbus space laboratory onto the newly installed Harmony Node 2 on the International Space Station. NASA's website has had a cool makeover, very user friendly and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, check it out, has something for everyone, even the kids.

Anna over at My Only Photo tagged me with "Proudest Moment Of My Life". I have been tagged numerous times but being the introvert I am have not followed through with any of them. I am going to do something different this time, the last 3 tags I have received this week I will group in this post.

The proudest moment of my life besides being married of course was holding my new born baby girls in my arms for the first time, I was in the operating room for both procedures, very surrealistic, one moment they were in their mother's body, the next thing I knew I was holding a living breathing being in my arms, to this day I am proud of the fine young ladies that they have become.

DrowseyMonkey over at DrowseyMonkey has tagged me with name 5-10 courses you would like to take to improve your life and then one you would like to take with the person that tagged you.

1. A University course in Astronomy, I would love to learn more of the technical aspects and theory of the cosmos, also to help me sound more professional when I post about astrostuff.

2. Computer Science/networking, so I could be a computer IT guy, I just want to say to somebody over the phone, "is it plugged in?"

3. Automotive repair 101. lets face it wouldn't it be nice to be able to fix your car or at least do more then check that the battery cables aren't loose when your car doesn't start.

4. Photo shop, there is so much in this software that I would like to know how to use besides the saturation and contrast features.

5. Creative Writing, so I don't sound like a caveman when I do work memos or blog posts.

The last part of the tag is to pick a course you'd like to take with the person that tagged you, that would be the astronomy course, no particular reason for that choice other then the fact I love to share the wonders of the Universe and I think drowseymonkey would like that pick.

The last tag came from Tatiana from Totally- Useless, list 7 random or weird facts about yourself and tag 7 others.

1. I've just found out that I use "your" instead of "you're" when writing, spellcheck of course doesn't pick it up, and when I proof read my brain doesn't see it as a problem, I'm sure you will find lots of stuff like that in my posts with other words I shouldn't be using, see point 5 above.

2.I'm the only guy I know my age that loves video games. Right now I have a fake steering wheel, fake orange gun and fake guitar that I play more then my real one.

3. People who have monotone voices make me sleepy and bored.

4. Can't stand the sight of blood, or medical diagrams/pictures, you know the ones that show the muscles and veins and organs, get wheezy just thinking about it. I was getting an eye exam and the doctor had a medical diagram and was explaining the procedure he was going to perform, talked in a slow monotone voice naming all the various parts of the eye, I thought great I am stuck looking at this diagram and getting queasy, my only hope is he puts me to sleep before I pass out, too late the next thing I knew they were asking me if I was okay and if I would like some water, geez I hate when that happens.

5. I hate big giant books with no pictures.

6. I sing and play my real guitar really loud when no one's home.

7. My 2 most prized possessions are a couple of Christmas song singing dummies called Bing and Dean.

Because it is that time of year, and everybody is probably busy shopping and getting ready for Christmas I will put off the tagging other people part for a later TBA date. I'll leave you now with a pic of my fav singing dummies.