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April 28, 2006

Sweet Sixteen for the HST

Filed under: Space Exploration — Bob @ 7:08 pm

2006-14-a-small_web.jpg The Hubble Space Telescope is sixteen years old and this picture was released to commemerate the event. It’s a picture of the galaxy Messier 82.

Quoting the website: This mosaic image is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. The galaxy is remarkable for its bright blue disk, webs of shredded clouds, and fiery-looking plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out of its central regions. Throughout the galaxy’s center, young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy. The resulting huge concentration of young stars carved into the gas and dust at the galaxy’s center. The fierce galactic superwind generated from these stars compresses enough gas to make millions of more stars.

The light for this photo took 12 million years to reach Earth so you and I could see it (with a little help from science and engineering). Beautiful!

March 26, 2006

Welcome to Mars

Filed under: Space Exploration — Bob @ 11:50 am


The Mars Reconnisance Orbiter arrived at Mars recently and sent back its first image.

This image is at a resolution of 2.5 meters per pixel, and the platform should take much higher resolution imagery once its in the correct orbit. Its going to require six months of careful aerobraking to achieve that orbit but once there we should be able to get pictures of Martian terrain down to one meter resolution.

This fantastic imaging capability will be put to use looking for more evidence of water, checking out terrain to validate theories of climate and geology, and scouting out possible landing sites for new machines and eventually people.

In addition to the camera work this platform will act as a radio relay for existing and future ground exploration vehicles.

March 3, 2006

Neat View of Titan

Filed under: Space Exploration — Bob @ 9:31 pm


The NASA probe to the Saturn system continues to send back amazing imagery. This one shows Titan with its hazy atmosphere showing through the edges of Saturn’s rings. Here is what the Cassini science team has to say about this image:

Titan’s smoggy atmosphere glows brilliantly in scattered sunlight, creating a thin, gleaming crescent beyond Saturn’s rings. At this slight angle above the ringplane, the thin F ring shines brightly. Light from Titan’s eastern and western limbs (edges) penetrates the Cassini Division, which looks like a thin gap from this angle.

I am continuously amazed as how wonderful and beautiful the natural universe can be. Check out more sights from Saturn at the NASA Cassini website. There are three and a half more years of science to do out there, and plenty of more lovely pictures to see too.

The budget announced by NASA yesterday cuts back on these sorts of science missions, instead putting more money into human space flight especially preparing for a Moon landing in 2018. I definitely look forward to seeing people walking on the surface of our closest celestial neighbor but I find it sad that science flights suffer. I find it hard to rationalize the concept that we must choose between pushing human exploration or expanding human knowledge about the universe around us, but not both.

November 27, 2005

From the Earth to the Moon

Filed under: Movies,Space Exploration — Bob @ 11:58 am

I recently watched the five disks in HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon series. I purchased the DVD set even though I’ve previously seen most episodes on broadcast TV as well as rented the video tapes. There is something incredibly emotional about the stories presented in this series. I absolutely love this stuff. Tom Hanks did an excellent job with this series and I really appreciate HBO for supporting it.

I also own the Apollo 13 DVD and watch it occasionally as well. One of my favorite parts is when the engineers are presented with a box of seemingly random gear and a challenge: make an air purification filter to fit into the Lunar module’s panel using only these things in the box. Cool. That has to be the sort of Right, Time To Save The Day situation that engineers (like me) dream about. Watch the special content for both DVD sets, its really interesting to learn additional backstory for the series as well as the making of Apollo 13.

The DVD package includes a coupon to see the IMAX 3D film “Walking on the Moon” so Eileen and I went. Unfortunately our local IMAX theatre wouldn’t honor the coupon; they had some annoying excuse that went something like “we are IMAX/CN, not IMAX” which is totally stupid since they are benefiting from the brand name. But we paid full price anyways and its really worth it. I didn’t know what to expect but found it quite interesting and also educational. I’d recommend seeing it if you can.

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