by Alex Autin


Live Long And Prosper

Leonard Nimoy – 1931-2015

When I was a kid my brother and I had to share a TV (Oh, the horror!). We had an elaborate system worked out to determine who would have control of the TV at which time. There was one time-slot, above all others, that my brother would trade anything for, and I do mean anything. 6pm to 7pm, weekdays. This was the time for Star Trek reruns. It didn’t matter how many times my brother had seen a given episode, he wanted to watch it again. And I exploited this…big time. Money, toys, chores, forcing him to play games he hated, nothing was off the trading table for that time-slot. Little did my brother know that I loved Star Trek every bit as much as he did and I also couldn’t wait to watch another episode, no matter how many times I’d seen it. One of the reasons I loved it so much, I mean other than space travel and star ships, was Mr Spock.


Thank you, Mr Nimoy, for making weird cool. LLAP

SDO Celebrates 5 Years

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Celebrates Its 5th Anniversary


This week NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) celebrates the 5th anniversary of its Feb 2010 launch. As part of that celebration they’ve recently released two stunning videos highlighting 5 years of work observing our home star.

The first video, shown below, is an amazing 5 year time-lapse capturing one frame every 8 hours starting when data became available in June 2010 and finishing in February 2015. The different colors represent the various wavelengths in which SDO observes the Sun.


The second video, below, which is a bit longer, showcases highlights of SDO’s 5 years of sun watching. The movie features giant clouds of solar material hurling out into space, the graceful dance of giant loops hovering in the corona, and huge sunspots growing and shrinking on the Sun’s surface.

Congrats SDO! And thank you for the work you do!

NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory is operated and managed by Goddard Space Flight Center for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program.

Coinciding with SDO’s 5th anniversary celebration Goddard has opened a new digital art installation called Solarium. The exhibit, at Goddard’s Visitor’s Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, opened Feb 11 and immerses the viewer directly in imagery from the sun’s dynamic and explosive atmosphere with spectacular floor to ceiling images. Solarium will be a permanent exhibition at Goddard, but will also be making its way at various locations across the country.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Duberstein/Wiessinger

DSCOVR Launches Towards Deep Space

Up, Up and Away…



Following more delays than I’d like to think about, let alone write about, NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) lifted off yesterday, Feb 11, onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, at 6:03 pm EST, on its way to an orbit one million miles from Earth. (Image Credit: NASA)

DSCOVR, a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and the U.S. Air Force, will provide NOAA space weather forecasters more reliable measurements of solar wind conditions, improving their ability to monitor extreme emissions from the sun which can affect power grids, communications systems, and satellites close to Earth.

Once reaching its destination in about 110 days, and following successful activation of the satellite, NASA will hand over operations of DSCOVR to NOAA. DSCOVR will be the U.S.’s first operational satellite in deep space, orbiting between Earth and the Sun at a point called the Lagrange point, or L1, and will act as America’s primary warning system for solar magnetic storms headed towards Earth.


L1, located some 932,000 miles away from Earth, is the spot where the gravity between the Sun and Earth is perfectly balanced. A satellite can orbit this spot just as they can orbit a planet, and as L1 also lies outside Earth’s magnetic environment it’s a perfect place to measure the constant stream of particles from the sun (aka solar wind) as they pass by. (Image Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

DSCOVR’s orbit at L1 also makes it ideal as an Earth observer. In addition to DSCOVR’s primary space weather-monitoring instruments, the satellite also carries two instruments to support Earth science; the National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR), and the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC).

NISTAR will measure the reflected and emitted energy from the entire sunlit face of Earth which will help improve climate scientist’s understanding of the effects of changes in Earth’s radiation budget caused by human activities as well as natural phenomena.

EPIC will provide images of the entire sunlit face of Earth, with ten filter settings in the ultraviolet and visible spectral ranges. Its observations will be used to measure ozone and aerosol amounts, cloud height, vegetation properties and ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. Data from EPIC will also be used to create publicly available true-color images of the full sun-facing side of Earth. Imaging the Earth in one picture is something which has never been done before from a satellite. (Since most Earth-observing satellites circle the planet within 22,300 miles to get an entire Earth view scientists have to piece together images.) At least six images will be produced each day and posted to the NASA website. The first images are expected to be posted in approximately six months.

SpaceX Scenes From DSCOVR’s Launch:


In a beautiful, and flawless, sunset launch Falcon 9 lifts off from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the DSCOVR satellite. This marks SpaceX’s first deep space mission.


SpaceX delivered DSCOVR to a parking orbit just under 200km. Ultimately the satellite will reach its final orbit in 110 days when it will be positioned at the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point, 930,000 miles from Earth. This is more than four times farther than the Moon.


Still no cigar for Musk. Due to weather conditions SpaceX was prevented from attempting to recover the first stage, however data shows the first stage successfully soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean within 10 meters of its target. According to SpaceX the vehicle was nicely vertical and the data captured during this test suggests a high probability of being able to land the stage on the drone ship in better weather.

Launch Scene Image Credit: SpaceX


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