Kennedy Space Center Sunrises – A Photo Book by Jen Scheer

August 17, 2010 16:47 by scibuff

If you follow @flyingjenny, the incredible Space Shuttle Technician who’s started the Space Tweep Society, or if you’ve seen her daily entries in the Astrophoto gallery, then you know she’s been taking amazing photos of sunrise not far from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). What you might not have known (I only found out myself a few days ago) that she is going share this amazing photo collection with all of us:

I have amassed a nice collection of sunrise photos, some of which have elements that are unique to this location, such as plumes from pre-dawn launches that resemble fire-breathing dragons. I am going to combine the best of these photos into a book, and then pepper it with little bits of historical information about the structures that appear in some of the photos.

The book funding project is hosted on The Kickstarter and at the time of writing the project had 72 backers who had pledged almost $5,000 (see the details below).

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises - A Photo Book

Kennedy Space Center Sunrises - A Photo Book

The best part is that you’ll get your money back in the form of an e-book. Those who donate ($50 or) more will receive a hard-copy signed by the same hand that signs shuttle banners. And, of course, the higher your pledge the better the goodies that come with the book.

To make a pledge, simply visit the project website. As a freebie you can have a look at Jen’s amazing sunrise photo collection on flickr

Spot of light - Credit: Jen Scheer

Spot of light - Credit: Jen Scheer

APOD celebrates 15 years

June 16, 2010 09:23 by scibuff

On June 16, 1995 NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU) launched a new website called The Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). APOD was presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 1996. It received a Scientific American Sci/Tech Web Award in 2001.

APOD is 15 years old

Whimsical Vermeer composite that ran on APOD's fifth anniversary now digitally re-pixelated using many of the over 5,000 APOD images that have appeared over APOD's tenure

As during each of the 15 years of selecting images, writing text, and editing the APOD web pages, the occasionally industrious Robert Nemiroff (left) and frequently persistent Jerry Bonnell (right) are pictured above plotting to highlight yet another unsuspecting image of our cosmos. Although the above image may appear similar to the whimsical Vermeer composite that ran on APOD’s fifth anniversary, a perceptive eye might catch that this year it has been digitally re-pixelated using many of the over 5,000 APOD images that have appeared over APOD’s tenure.

It was a great honor to have a link to my blog post appear in the APOD website on October 15, 2009; you may remember:

Extremely bright fireball seen over the Netherlands

The brilliant fireball meteor captured in this snapshot was a startling visitor to Tuesday (October 13, 2009) evening's twilight skies over the city of Groningen - Credit: Robert Mikaelyan

Amazing photo of aurora from space

April 29, 2010 11:49 by scibuff

NASA Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson (STS-117, Expedition 15/16, STS-120, STS-131) captured this amazing photo of Aurora from orbit while abroad Space Shuttle Discovery during the recent STS-131 mission. If you look closely, you can see the constellation Orion just above the Earth on the right; easy recognizable are the “belt” stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka, the B-type blue supergiant Rigel and even the Orion nebula.

Aurora from the Space Shuttle

Aurora from the Space Shuttle - Credit: NASA/Clayton Anderson

Rosette Baby Boom

April 12, 2010 14:48 by scibuff

The latest image of the Rosette Nebula taken by the Herschel Space Observatory reveals previously unseen stars with up to ten times the mass of our Sun. The image is a combination of three different wavelength from the infrared part of spectrum: at 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red. The raw data was acquired by Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE).

The Rosette molecular cloud, seen by Herschel

Infrared image of the Rosette molecular cloud in a three-colour composite made with observations from Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) - Credit: ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortium/HOBYS Key Programme Consortia

The Rosette Nebula is located about 5,200 light years from Earth and is associated with a larger cloud that contains enough dust and gas to make the equivalent of 10,000 Sun-like stars. The Herschel image shows half of the nebula and most of the Rosette cloud. The massive stars powering the nebula lie to the right of the image but are invisible at these wavelengths. Each color represents a different temperature of dust, from –263ºC (only 10ºC above absolute zero) in the red emission to –233ºC in the blue.

The small spots near the center and in the redder regions of the image are lower mass protostars, similar in mass to the Sun. The bright smudges are dusty cocoons hiding massive protostars. These will eventually become stars containing around ten times the mass of the Sun and will significantly influence the formation of the next generation of stars.  The understanding of the formation of high-mass stars in our Galaxy is important because they feed so much light and other forms of energy into their parent cloud they can often trigger the formation of the next generation of stars.

Source: ESA

Venus and Mercury tonight

April 8, 2010 19:51 by scibuff

Here are my photos of Venus and Mercury taken tonight from Amsterdam

Venus & Mercury

Venus & Mercury - Canon 450D f/8 exp. 3s ISO 1600 - Credit: ME :D

Venus & Mercury

Venus & Mercury - Canon 450D f/8 exp. 3s ISO 1600

Venus & Mercury

Venus & Mercury - Canon 450D f/8 exp. 3s ISO 1600

Triton’s atmosphere more mysterious than thought

April 7, 2010 10:57 by scibuff

The first ever infrared analysis of the atmosphere of Neptune’s moon Triton revealed the presence carbon monoxide and methane. As summer hit the moon’s southern hemisphere, observations made at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) based at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) showed the thin atmosphere to vary with seasons.

Artist’s impression of Triton

Artist’s impression of how Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, might look from high above its surface. The distant Sun appears at the upper-left and the blue crescent of Neptune right of center - Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

“We have found real evidence that the Sun still makes its presence felt on Triton, even from so far away. This icy moon actually has seasons just as we do on Earth, but they change far more slowly,” says Emmanuel Lellouch, the lead author of the paper reporting these results in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

On Triton, where the average surface temperature is about minus 235 degrees Celsius, it is currently summer in the southern hemisphere and winter in the northern. As Triton’s southern hemisphere warms up, a thin layer of frozen nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide on Triton’s surface sublimates into gas, thickening the icy atmosphere as the season progresses during Neptune’s 165-year orbit around the Sun. A season on Triton lasts a little over 40 years, and Triton passed the southern summer solstice in 2000.

Based on the amount of gas measured, Lellouch and his colleagues estimate that Triton’s atmospheric pressure may have risen by a factor of four compared to the measurements made by Voyager 2 in 1989, when it was still spring on the giant moon.

Carbon monoxide was known to be present as ice on the surface, but Lellouch and his team discovered that Triton’s upper surface layer is enriched with carbon monoxide ice by about a factor of ten compared to the deeper layers, and that it is this upper “film” that feeds the atmosphere. While the majority of Triton’s atmosphere is nitrogen (much like on Earth), the methane in the atmosphere, first detected by Voyager 2, and only now confirmed in this study from Earth, plays an important role as well.

Triton from Voyager 2

Voyager 2 raw image of Neptune's satellite Triton taken from roughly 500,000 km. Evidence of complex surface features can be seen from this distance - Credit: NASA

Of Neptune’s 13 moons, Triton is by far the largest, and, at 2700 kilometers in diameter (or three quarters the Earth’s Moon), is the seventh largest moon in the whole Solar System. Since its discovery in 1846, Triton has fascinated astronomers thanks to its geologic activity, the many different types of surface ices, such as frozen nitrogen as well as water and dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide), and its unique retrograde motion.

Observing the atmosphere of Triton, which is roughly 30 times further from the Sun than Earth, is not easy. In the 1980s, astronomers theorised that the atmosphere on Neptune’s moon might be as thick as that of Mars (7 millibars). It wasn’t until Voyager 2 passed the planet in 1989 that the atmosphere of nitrogen and methane, at an actual pressure of 14 microbars, 70 000 times less dense than the atmosphere on Earth, was measured. Since then, ground-based observations have been limited. Observations of stellar occultations (a phenomenon that occurs when a Solar System body passes in front of a star and blocks its light) indicated that Triton’s surface pressure was increasing in the 1990′s. It took the development of the Cryogenic High-Resolution Infrared Echelle Spectrograph (CRIRES) at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to provide the team the chance to perform a far more detailed study of Triton’s atmosphere.

Source: ESO