3200 Phaethon – The source of the Geminid Meteor Shower

December 9, 2009 14:49 by scibuff

This image below is a 4 frame animation of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon by Charles Bell (MPC Code H47). Phaethon is an Apollo Asteroid discovered on October 11, 1983 by Simon Green and John K. Davies examining the data from Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). Phaethon became the first asteroid discovered by a spacecraft.

4 frame animation of 3200 Phaethon - Credit: Charless Bell (MPC Code H47)

4 frame animation of 3200 Phaethon (the moving dot to the left of the cross) - Credit: Charles Bell (MPC Code H47)

One of Phaethon’s most remarkable distinctions is that it approaches the Sun closer than any other numbered asteroid; its perihelion is only 0.140 AU — less than half Mercury’s perihelion distance. It is a Mercury-, Venus-, Earth- and Mars-crosser.

Phaethon could be characterized as a comet, except it has been observed exhibiting a coma or tail. Soon after the discovery, Fred Whipple’s observation matched Phaethon’s orbital elements with the mean orbital elements of 19 Geminid meteors. Phaethon thus turned out to be the long-sought parent body of the Geminids meteor shower of mid-December

Unusual orbit of 3200 Phaethon takes it  out into the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, and very near to the scorching Sun inside of Mercury's orbit.

Unusual orbit of 3200 Phaethon takes it out into the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, and very near to the scorching Sun inside of Mercury's orbit.

Find out more about the origin of Geminid Meteor Shower in an article by Richard Fleet for Newbury AS.

… and don’t forget to lookup between December 12 and December 14 and join the worldwide Meteorwatch!

Chandrayaan images – Another blow to Moon landing conspiracy theories

September 3, 2009 15:30 by scibuff

Although the Chandrayaan 1 mission by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) ended prematurely when scientists lost contact with the spacecraft on August 28, 2009, the agency claimed it to be a grand success in that it completed its major tasks.

Apart from the primary objectives to prepare a 3D atlas with the resolution of up to 10-5m and chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface, the terrain mapping camera on board the spacecraft has also sent images of the landing site of Apollo 15 and the tracks of land rovers astronauts used to travel on the lunar surface.

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon - Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon - Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Analysis of data from the onboard Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) and the Hyper Spectral Imager (HySi) revealed disturbances on the the lunar surface show tracks on Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRV) used by astronauts on Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

That’s right, all your Moon landing deniers (read crazy people). Here are photos and data acquired by instruments built by an agency from a different country on board a spacecraft launched into lunar orbit independently of NASA – Chandrayaan 1 also carried NASA instruments but the TMC was built in ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC).

I’m truly curious how Moon hoaxers tackle this one. Meanwhile, the rest of us who live in a real world will no doubt enjoy in awe all other wonders of the universe.

40 years after one small step

July 21, 2009 02:56 by scibuff

Date: July 21. Time: 02:56:15 UTC. 40 years have passed since the moment in which approximately half a billion people worldwide watched in awe as Neil Armstrong said those immortal words taking the first step on another world.

That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind - Source: NASA

That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind - Source: NASA

The first words on the lunar surface actually belong to the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Buzz Aldrin. At 20:17:39.9 UTC just moments before the touchdown, Aldrin informed Armstrong of the “Contact Light” – meaning that at least one of the 1.73 meter-long probes hanging from three of the footpads has touched the surface.

At 03:15:16 UTC Buzz joined Neil out on the surface. They examined the LM, placed the TV camera away from the spacecraft, deployed scientific instruments (seismometer, laser reflectors, solar wind collectors, etc) and started to familiarize themselves with working in one-sixth gravity. The first lunar Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) lasted for 2 hours 31 minutes and 40 seconds. After closing the hatch and stoving samples and equipment, the crew had a 5-hour resting period. The LM’s ascent engine fired at 17:54:00 UTC leaving the first footsteps of men behind in Tranquility Base.

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage taken from the Command Module (CM) during rendezvous in lunar orbit as the LM makes its docking approach above Mare Smithii - Photo Credit: NASA/Apollo 11

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage taken from the Command Module (CM) during rendezvous in lunar orbit as the LM makes its docking approach above Mare Smithii - Photo Credit: NASA/Apollo 11

Despite the tremendous achievement of the Apollo program, we can consider ourselves to be only temporary visitors to Moon. The 12 days 11 hours and 28 minutes of presence on the surface combined from the six successful missions are shorter than a summer vacation for most of us. The 12 astronauts whose footprints will remain in lunar “soil” for eons, total for even shorter 80 hours and 28 minutes spent outside the LM during 14 EVA’s between Apollo 11 and Apollo 17.

Unfortunately, the public lost interested in Apollo Program not much later than politicians who saw the Kennedy’s challenge met. Have it not been for the accident that nearly cost lives of Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and John Swigert, Apollo 13 would most likely not get a second of live TV. Ultimately, the splashdown of Apollo 17 on December 19, 1972 meant the end of glorious days of lunar exploration. Nevertheless, hardly anyone would have thought that the words of Gene Cernan

Okay, Jack, let’s get this mutta outta here

a few seconds before Apollo 17 LM’s lift-off from the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, would be that the last from the lunar surface in the 20th century.

Apollo 11 arrived at the Moon

July 19, 2009 18:16 by scibuff

At 17:21:50 UTC on July 19, 1969, a retrograde burn of the Service Propulsion System (SPS) on the Command/Service Module (CSM) lasting 5 minutes and 57 seconds placed Apollo 11 into a safe, elliptical orbit of 111 by 306 km around the Moon.

The LOI burn is one of the most complex parts of a mission to the Moon. The primary requirement for the burn is that the spacecraft needs to be able to achieve a free return trajectory should the SPS fail.  Additionally, the burn should place the spacecraft into an orbital plane above the landing site at an acceptable approach azimuth (the angle of the approach path relative to lunar north). Ideally, the LOI would also put the spacecraft as close as possible to the surface but to avoid any possible collision scenarios the first orbit should not be lower than 110km.

Combining all the constraints it is impossible to execute the LOI to achieve all mission objectives. Therefore, the flight dynamics officer (FIDO) and his team prepare ten different scenarios and then the FIDO selects the “target” which violates the least amount of requirements. The selected program is then sent to the on-board computer as LOI starts while the astronauts are on the far side of the Moon.

At 21:43:36 UTC a 17 second long burn will put Apollo 11 to the final orbit and about an hour later the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) will enter the Command Module (CM) for for initial power-up and system checks. The following day, after a good sleep, both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin will enter the Lunar Module (LM) at 12:52 UTC to conduct final preparations for descent. The LM will undock at 17:44:00 UTC, at 19:08:14 UTC the LM descent engine will fire for 30 seconds to provide retrograde thrust for the descent orbit insertion and at 20:05:05 UTC the descent engine will burn for 12 minutes and 36 seconds to put the crew on the path to the Tranquility Base.

LRO proves the Apollo 11 landing to be real

July 17, 2009 16:35 by scibuff

Today at 16:30 UTC, NASA released the first images of the Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). These are actually the first photos of Apollo landing sites with resolution high enough to show the equipment left behind by astronauts on the Lunar surface. Contrary to the ridiculous beliefs of Moon landing deniers, the resolution power of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is nowhere close to being able to accomplish a similar feat.

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle at the Tranquility Base. Image width: 282 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle at the Tranquility Base. Image width: 282 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. Image width: 538 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. Image width: 538 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled photo of the Apollo 14 landing site - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled photo of the Apollo 14 landing site - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon. Image width: 384 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon. Image width: 384 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion. Image width: 256 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion. Image width: 256 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger. Image width: 359 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger. Image width: 359 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

First of all, let me make clear that I’m not naive to believe that (yet another) piece of irrefutable evidence will change the mind of conspiracy theorists. Those who still believe that NASA pulled of the biggest lie in history matched only by that of organized religion, despite having every single piece of their fantasy debunked innumerous times, are not gonna be stopped by some silly thing called evidence. As Phil Plait has put it in one of his posts:

You could fly a conspiracy theorist to the Moon and show them the equipment lying on the desolate surface, and they’d accuse you of drugging them.

Despite thousands of pictures and hours of video footage made by astronauts themselves and an unconquerable mountain of evidence refuting every single one of their claims, the Moon landing deniers will continue to spread their non-sense with religious zealotry. Similarly, antivaxxers will insist that vaccines cause autism. Creationists will obstinate that the Earth is 6,000 years old, even in a speech about mining Uranium, which, ironically enough, is used in the Uranium-lead scheme of radiometric dating to determine the age of Earth (4.5 billion years). These people live in a fantasy world rivaling that of magic schools boys and a gay headmaster in a fight against an evil soulless orphan supremacist. Their “reality” has nothing in common with an evidence-based world.

To say the truth, these people are not deserving of any respect whatsoever as they have none for the thousands they would call liars, frauds and cowards. They have the audacity to dismiss the heroism of those 24 brave astronauts who flew to the Moon and thus ventured further from the Earth than any man in the history. They would blatantly shrug off the achievement of the 12 extraordinary men, who had the privilege to touch and walk on another world, standing on shoulders of every single man and woman who dedicated their lives to the human space flight. That includes every single cosmonaut who has ever passed beyond the barrier of space, every worker in every mission control center around the world, every scientist who devised an experiment to be conducted in vacuum under zero gravity, every technician and engineer who tirelessly built every component, connected every wire and tested and retested every spacecraft zillion times until they could no longer talk, think or dream of anything else, and most importantly, the crew of Apollo 1, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roget Chaffee, together with Edward Givens (support crew Apollo 7) and Clifton Willians (backup LMP Apollo 9) who were among the 32 astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice in the effort to push the boundaries of what is possible.

To discard this wondrous accomplishment of humanity based on nothing but paranoia, inferiority complex and/or in an attempt to sell a few extra copies of a book or a movie, is against the very nature of being human, i.e. our curiosity to explore the unknown, our perseverance and unwillingness to give up despite odds or doubt and the determination to reach the stars. Fortunately, the view of these (few) individuals is irrelevant because:

Truth needs no defense. Nobody, nobody… can ever take those footsteps I made on the surface of the Moon away from me.

– Eugene A. Cernan (Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, Apollo 17)

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites - Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites - Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Apollo 11 launched successfully – 40 years ago

July 16, 2009 13:54 by scibuff

Update 2: Boston Globe published a gallery of 40 breathtaking photos of Apollo 11.

Update 1: NASA has made available HD footage of moments from the Apollo 11 mission

I wonder how would the today’s blogosphere react if this event was happening now. The buzz Space Shuttle launches generate grows with every mission as demonstrated by yesterday’s launch of Endeavour which, despite five scrubbed attempts, shuttered all previous records into pieces.

July 16, 1969 at 13:32:00 UTC – The crew of Apollo 11 successfully launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex (LC) pad 39-A on the first manned mission to land on the Moon, atop the Saturn V rocket, the most powerful machine ever build (even today) generating 34 million Newtons of thrust – the only rocket that has carried man beyond Earth’s gravity.

The crew of Apollo 11: Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Command Module pilot Michael Collins, Lunar Module pilot Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. May 1, 1969 - Photo Credit: NASA

The crew of Apollo 11: Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Command Module pilot Michael Collins, Lunar Module pilot Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. May 1, 1969 - Photo Credit: NASA

July 16

13:31:51 UTC – S-IC (Saturn V – first stage) start command

13:31:58 UTC – S-IC ignition

The Apollo 11 Saturn V at the moment of ignition - Photo Credit: NASA

The Apollo 11 Saturn V at the moment of ignition - Photo Credit: NASA

13:32:00 UTC – Lift-off

Apollo 11 Liftoff at KSC LC-39A - Photo Credit: NASA

Apollo 11 Liftoff at KSC LC-39A - Photo Credit: NASA

Apollo 11 Liftoff at KSC LC-39A - Photo Credit: NASA

Apollo 11 Liftoff at KSC LC-39A - Photo Credit: NASA

13:33:06 UTC – Passed Mach 1 and 17 seconds later Max-Q (Maximum dynamic pressure 35,200.13 N/m²)

13:34:41 UTC – S-IC onboard engine cut-off

16:22:13 UTC – Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI), Apollo 11 is heading for Mare Tranquillitatis on the Lunar surface

July 19

17:21:50 UTC – Lunar orbit insertion

Earthrise over the lunar horizon taken from the orbiting Command Module - Photo Credit: NASA

Earthrise over the lunar horizon taken from the orbiting Command Module - Photo Credit: NASA

July 20

17:44:00 UTC – Command Service Module (CSM) / Lunar Module (LM) separation

20:17:39 UTC – Lunar landing

July 21

02:39:33 UTC – Lunar EVA started

02:56:15 UTC – “That’s one small step for a man…one giant leap for mankind”

Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong at the modular equipment storage assembly (MESA) of the Lunar Module "Eagle" on the historic first extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. - Photo Credit: NASA

Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong at the modular equipment storage assembly (MESA) of the Lunar Module "Eagle" on the historic first extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. - Photo Credit: NASA

Buzz Aldrin climbs down the Eagle's ladder to the surface. Photo credit: NASA

Buzz Aldrin climbs down the Eagle's ladder to the surface. Photo credit: NASA

05:11:13 UTC – Lunar EVA ends (LM hatch is closed) – EVA clocks stop at 02 hours 31 minutes and 40 seconds

17:54:00 UTC – Lunar lift-off ignition

With a half-Earth in the background, the Lunar Module ascent stage with Moon-walking Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr. approaches for a rendezvous with the Apollo Command Module manned by Michael Collins. - Photo Credit: NASA

With a half-Earth in the background, the Lunar Module ascent stage with Moon-walking Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr. approaches for a rendezvous with the Apollo Command Module manned by Michael Collins. - Photo Credit: NASA

21:35:00 UTC – CSM / LM docking

July 22

04:55:42 UTC – Trans-Earth Injection

July 24

16:21:12 UTC – Command Module (CM) / Service Module (SM) separation

16:35:05 UTC – Atmospheric (re)entry

16:50:35 UTC – Splashdown

Columbia splashed down southwest of Hawaii - Photo Credit: NASA

Columbia splashed down southwest of Hawaii - Photo Credit: NASA