First (Truly) Live Tweet From Space

January 22, 2010 11:47 by scibuff

On January 22, 2010 at 08:13 GMT, the Twitterverse has changed forever. At this time, a member of Expedition 22, Timothy J. (TJ) Creamer, has sent the first live twitter status update directly from the International Space Station.

Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! : ) More soon, send your ?s

Sending tweets from space began during NASA’s STS-125, the fifth and final service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). On May 12, 2009, mission specialist Michael J. Massimino (@Astro_Mike) sent the first tweet from space.

From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!

Well, not quite. Mike did not update his account directly from space. He wrote his updates and then emailed them to Houston. Since emails are transmitted from the space shuttle to the Control Center only a few times a day, his status updates were not “Live”.

I will be able to twitter from space if I have time. I will email tweets to NASA who’ll fwd them. No promises but I will try my best.

Other members of Expedition 22 who also have twitter accounts are Jeff Williams (NASA) and Soichi Noguchi (JAXA). Recently, Nicholas Patrick, a mission specialist of the STS-130 mission to the ISS currently scheduled for launch at 09:39 GMT on February 7, also joined in.

Note: On October 21, 2009, Jeff Williams and his Expedition 21 crewmate, Nicole Stott, participated in the first tweetup from the station with members of the public gathered at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This involved the first live Twitter connection for the astronauts.

A quick tour through the observable universe

December 17, 2009 21:26 by scibuff

When it comes to sizes and distances at the cosmological scale, we humans have very hard time of comprehending their magnitudes. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise. We’re quite good at judging distances of meters and kilometers because we can experience those (somewhat) easily on daily basis. Although 5,500 km is a bit of an arbitrary number, the moment one assigns it to the distance between London and New York, our mind does the rest. However, with the exception of the 24 brave astronauts who left Earth’s Low Orbit and flew to the Moon, hardly anyone can truly comprehend even the distance of roughly 1.28 light second (or 384,400 km – the semi-major axis of the Moon’s orbit). Pass this tiny number, any guess is just as good as the next.

More than 750,000 have seen this video comparing the size of our Moon and Earth (along other planets and the Sun) to some of the largest stars known. Now, the American Museum of Natural History in partnership with Rubin Museum of Art, created a video showing the known Universe mapped through astronomical observations. Every satellite, moon, planet, start and galaxy is represented to scale and in its correct, measured location according to the best scientific research to-date.

The Known Universe film created by American Museum of Natural History as a part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010

This new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010. The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. The accurate placement of every object seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe – the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History.

Moonwatch is coming

October 22, 2009 16:47 by scibuff

As part of Autumn Moonwatch (24 October – 01 November 2009), International Year of Astronomy 2009 in the UK, in association with Newbury Astronomical Society, are running Twitter Moonwatch (on the evenings of 26 & 27 October 2009).

To join in you can simply tweet with the hashtag #Moonwatch or follow NewburyAS or @astronomy2009uk.

Also, you can keep track of all pictures/images submitted to twitter for the event via my gallery and the MoonWatchPix twitter account.

First data from LCROSS impacts

October 9, 2009 15:29 by scibuff

Update: The LRO LAMP instrument (UV spectrometer) has confirmed detection of the ejecta plume and has begun analyzing their data. Also, the LRO Diviner instrument (Imaging Radiometer) has confirmed they have detected the #LCROSS impact crater.

First data from LCROSS impacts are coming in. Athony Colaprete, LCROSS Principal Investigator (NASA Ames), confirmed during NASA/LCROSS press conference that

We saw the impact, we saw the crater, we got spectroscopic data, which is the data we need.

Centaur impact flash detected by the Mid IR camera - Source: NASA TV

Centaur impact flash detected by the Mid IR camera from 600 km above the surface - Source: NASA TV

Centaur impact detected by visible spectrometer - Source: NASA TV

Centaur impact detected by visible spectrometer - Source: NASA TV

Jennifer Heldmann, LCROSS Observation Campaign Lead (NASA Ames), said that there is observation data from over 20 land sites as well as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and other observatories in Earth’s orbit.

Lunar crater Cabeus were taken on October 9, 2009 with the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch (5-meter) Hale Telescope and its Adaptive Optics  - Source: Palomar Observatory/Antonin Bouchez

Lunar crater Cabeus were taken on October 9, 2009 with the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch (5-meter) Hale Telescope and its Adaptive Optics - Source: Palomar Observatory/Antonin Bouchez

The public was somewhat disappointed by not seeing the ejecta plume. Although the scientists have confirmed the impact and seen a crater, there are several explanations for the lack of plumes. One could be simply that the ejecta did not “fly” high enough above the surface to escape the shadows of lunar surface. Alternatively, the ejected material could have been too faint and too spread out to be observable from almost 400,000 km. Nevertheless, Colaprete emphasized that scientific instruments were primarily focused on collecting spectra and that the first look at the data shows signs of ejected material.

LCROSS impacts the Moon

October 9, 2009 11:44 by scibuff

Today at 11:31:19.5 UTC the Centaur upper stage impacted the lunar surface a 2.5km/s ejecting about 350 tonnes of lunar material into the path of the Shepherding Spacecraft which impacted about 4 minutes later at 11:35:38.7 UTC, ending thus the flight part of NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission. In the next few weeks, the impact ejecta will analyzed for the presence of hydrated minerals which would tell researchers if water is there or not.

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 30 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 30 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 20 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 20 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 10 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 10 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC at the time of Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC at the time of Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 1 minute before impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 1 minute before impact - Source: NASA TV

Silencing the crazy “Do not bomb the Moon” outcry

October 8, 2009 10:37 by scibuff

Tomorrow, the spaceflight part of NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission will end as the two main components, the Shepherding Spacecraft (S-S/C) and the Centaur upper stage rocket, impact the Cabeus crater located about 100km from the Lunar south pole.

An artist's impression of the LCROSS spacecraft's Centaur stage crashing into the surface of the Moon. The LCROSS spaceraft will observe and record the impact and then it also will crash into the crater - Image Credit: NASA

An artist's impression of the LCROSS spacecraft's Centaur stage crashing into the surface of the Moon. The LCROSS spaceraft will observe and record the impact and then it also will crash into the crater - Image Credit: NASA

Immediately after the LRO/LCROSS launch on June 18, science illiterate members of the blog community started a campaign to stop NASA from “Bombing the Moon”; an act, which, according to them, was in a clear violation of the UN resolution 2222 written in the 1499th plenary meeting on December 19, 1966 – Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. I will not support this insanity by providing links here (just google “NASA Moon bombing”).

The arguments on blogs range from the creation of (up to) 8km deep crater, to the bombing constituting a hostile act against known extraterrestrial civilizations and settlements on the Moon allegedly observed by the crew of Apollo 11 (seriously?). Several magazines and newspapers (the likes of Scientific American, the Examiner and the UK Telegraph – no surprise there) jumped on the bandwagon featuring articles with an unfortunate (but I suspect a rather deliberate) word choice – “Moon bombing”.

Asteroid impact the Moon

Bombing can be defined as detonation (on impact) of an explosive devise producing a chemical action which causes a sudden formation of a great volume of expanded gas. In other words, nothing close to the events which are about to occur near the Moon’s south pole.

Let me assure you: the Moon is hit by space junk on regular basis. It has withstood this bombardment for billions of years and it will prevail for many billions to come. The flash in the sequence below was caused by a meteoroid about 25 cm in diameter traveling at 38 km/s. As such, although much smaller than either the (S-S/C) and the Centaur, the energy released in the impact is comparable with tomorrows impacts because this piece of rock was traveling fifteen times faster than LCROSS.

A meteoroid hits the Moon, May 2, 2006; video-recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Danielle Moser.

A meteoroid hits the Moon, May 2, 2006; video-recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Danielle Moser.

The Centaur upper stage will impact the lunar surface at around 11:31:20 UTC at -84.675, 311.275 E (in selenographical coordinates). NASA estimates the impact velocity of 2.5 km/s which will excavate more than 350 tonnes of lunar material and create a crater 20m in diameter with a depth of about 4m; in other words, nowhere near the sensational 8km (given the crater size, not even the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to see it under ideal conditions).

Using the nominal impact mass of 2,305kg and the velocity of 2.5km/s the kinetic energy of the spacecraft can be easily calculated as

E=\frac{1}{2}mv^{2}=0.5\times 2,503kg\times \left ( 2,500m\cdot s^{-1} \right )^{2} = 7,203,125,000\ J

E\simeq 7.2\times10^{9}\ J

Since a kiloton of TNT is equivalent to 4.184\times10^{12}\ J, the total energy released in the impact (under ideal conditions) is 0.001\ 72 kiloton of TNT; again, nowhere close to the 2 kiloton of TNT (which equals to 10% of the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima) claimed by some authors. Furthermore, both the S-S/C and Centaur performed a blow-down maneuver to vent any remaining fuel inside the Centaur to help prevent contamination of the impact site and the ejecta material, thus there will be no explosion.

The Shepherding Spacecraft will impact the lunar surface roughly four minutes after the Centaur upper stage, at around 11:35:39 UTC at -84.729, 310.64 E, ejecting about 150 tonnes or material leaving behind a crater 14m wide and 2m deep.

LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur upper stage impact sites - Source: NASA

LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur upper stage impact sites - Source: NASA

As for the last argument, if you truly believe in the conspiracy to cover up the presence of an extraterrestrial civilizations on the Moon, reported in witnessed statements by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, and in witnessed statements to NSA (National Security Agency) photos and documents regarding an extraterrestrial base on the dark side of the Moon (let’s forget for a second that there is NO such thing as the “dark” side of the Moon), I applaud you for reading this far and let’s just leave it at that…

Moon Defence