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1st Feb. 2016 :: Epic Ceres Flyover

Fly over dwarf planet Ceres in this epic enhanced colour video made with real images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

It's pretty stunning...





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8th Jan. 2016 :: James Webb Space Telescope has a Dozen Mirrors

One dozen out of the eighteen mirror segments that make up the primary flight mirror are now installed on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope!
"Over the next two years in preparation for launch, various components of the Webb telescope will endure rigorous environmental and optical testing. The sunshield will be joined with the spacecraft bus (main structure) followed by more testing. The Webb telescope is planned for launch in 2018."


This telescope really is going to be a game changer. I can't wait for it's launch...

James Webb Space Telescope




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8th Jan. 2016 :: Europe planning for humans on the moon by 2030

The European Space Agency has announced that it wants to put humans back on the moon and to build a permanent base.
"This return to the Moon envisions a series of human missions starting in the early 2020s that would see astronauts interact with robots on the lunar surface from orbit"
Following on from last years video - showing the extent of ESA's ambition the new statement fleshes out plans for a mission starting in the 2020's commencing with robotic trail blazers, that will eventually work in tandem with astronauts on the Moon's surface.
"Robots will land first, paving the way for human explorers."
Why now?

The ESA statement explains that by learning from the the success of the International Space Station partnership, the European space community now sees the Moon as a springboard - the next step - to continue human exploration of the Solar System, with Mars as the next goal.

Another driver of this renewed interest in the Moon is the hunt for lunar resources, in particular for frozen volatiles - including water ice - which are known to be concealed within permanent cold spots at the lunar poles. How much is there? As much as 600 million metric tons (158 billion US gallons) as been announced after previous missions such as NASA's LCROSS which smashed in to the Moon's surface in 2009 specifically to look for water.

ESA Statement

'Significant' water found on Moon (BBC 13 November 2009)


Earth's Moon, by Me back in 2012
Full Size




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8th Jan. 2016 :: Solar System 360 Degree Tour

Fancy a 360 degree virtual tour of our Solar System?

With the help of everyone’s favourite (bad) astronomer Phil Plait, you can do just that. Simply hook up your smart phone to a VR headset (such as Google cardboard) and view this YouTube video via the YouTube Android app.





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1st Dec. 2015 :: Long Overdue - NASA receives a Budget Boost from Congress

An unexpectedly large spending package for the year 2016 has increased NASA's funding thru 2016 by $1.3 billion. This means that NASA's funding for 2016 is currently set to the tune of $19.3 billion dollars for the fiscal year. This actually represents $750 million dollars over what the agency had requested.
The increase to 0.55% of the $3.525 trillion dollar total federal budget couldn't come at a better time for NASA, as the agency works to transition from the end of the Space Shuttle to the age of Orion and Space Launch System. The Space Launch System is the next generation of heavy-lift rockets for NASA and it is designed to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit hopefully (witht he addition of a habitat) to Mars by the late 2030s. The International Space Station (ISS) will receive more than $5 billion in 2016 (more than NASA requested by nearly $1 billion) the aim appears to be supporting the on-going initiatives for Boeing and SpaceX to develop crewed transport to help end the US dependence on the Russian Soyuz.

There is also additional funding for the Planetary Science Division which will allow missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity to stay in operation beyond the current planned period of operation.

In addition, the development of the Mars 2020 rover and Europa mission (also pencilled in for the 2020's) should remain on track. The bill also requests the development of a Europa lander in addition to the planned orbiter as part of the initial Europa package. This has caused some division, as NASA has doubts whether it is capable of doing a lander on the very first mission to Europa. It would ideally like to do an orbiter mission first, allowing time for reconnaissance, and then do a lander mission which would ideally follow in later years.




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1st Jul. 2015 :: New Horizons Finally Arrives at Pluto

New Horizons has just completed, its (nearly-decade-long) journey to fly by Pluto, and reveal humanity's first close-up look at the distant dwarf planet.



Pluto has been revealed to be an incredible place, full of amazing - and very unexpected geology! By counting craters across Pluto, scientists have been able to determine that some regions of the dwarf planet are as young as 10 million years old while others are nearly as old as the 4.5-billion-year-old solar system itself. Indicating some geological activity on (or near) the surface for a very long time after it's formation.



Data from New Horizons suggests that at least two (and maybe even all four) of Pluto's moons were born from mergers of even smaller moons.



This image, of Pluto's mountainous region is just breathtaking. Taken on July 14, 2015, when New Horizons was just 18,000 km from Pluto. The near-sunset scene, which is 230 miles (380 km) across, shows ice mountains up to 3,500 meters, and flat plains. Wow - Just WOW!



Looking back as New Horizons departed the Pluto system, it caught this amazing silhouette - clearly highlighting Pluto's thin, blue atmosphere.



New Horizons Image Gallery




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1st Jan. 2015 :: Next Steps to the Moon

This 8-minute film gives an overview of the past, present, and future of Moon exploration, from the Lunar cataclysm to ESA’s vision of what Lunar exploration could be.




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2nd Oct. 2014 :: One Million SETI Credits

SETI's mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations.
From their website: "We have a passion for discovery, and for sharing knowledge as scientific ambassadors to the public, the press, and the government. "
The SETI institute is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach that began operations on February 1, 1985; today it employs over 130 scientists, educators and support staff.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. our current understanding of life's origin on earth suggests that given a suitable environment and sufficient time, life will develop on other planets. whether evolution will give rise to intelligent, technological civilizations is open to speculation, but SETI are looking - because you just never know!

Data collected by SETI 's radio telescopes is extensively processed (to look for signals in the noise) by the public by using seti@home ("SETI at home"), an internet-based public volunteer computing project. once a volunteer is signed up, the automated software system sends data to the pc in question and it then uses the pc's processor (when it is not ion use by the everyday user) to do the processing. in this way citizen scientists can help in the search for et!

My own contribution just passed one million cobblestones of computation. the "Cobblestone" is named after Jeff Cobb of seti@home. by definition, 200 cobblestones are awarded for one day of work on a computer that can meet either one of two known benchmarks.



...or one million cobblestones of computation (865.18 quadrillion floating-point operations) in SETI language!




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6th Jun. 2012 :: The Transit of Venus June 2012

The weather looked horrible at 4:45am (sunrise) from Ashdown Forest, South East UK...



Luckily for just a few minutes very close to 5:37am (3rd Contact) the skies cleared just enough to grab a few frames. As usual I realised (once again) that camera lenses are no match for a telescope with it's light gathering power and fine focus ability.

Anyway, I was very happy to have captured the last Venus transit for 105 or so years...






This is how it looked for the Japanese Hinode Solar Optical Telescope.









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28th Mar. 2012 :: Solar System Planets

I thought I'd put together a quick group collection of solar system planets. They are all taken at different times of year and at different times on their orbits so they are not to any sort of scale, but they are approximately correct as you'd see them from earth relatively.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn




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Astronomy Tools and Information

Glossary
Solar System Planets
Messier Objects
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Most Recent Posts

Epic Ceres Flyover
James Webb Space Telescope has a Dozen Mirrors
Europe planning for humans on the moon by 2030
Solar System 360 Degree Tour
Long Overdue - NASA receives a Budget Boost from Congress
New Horizons Finally Arrives at Pluto
Next Steps to the Moon
One Million SETI Credits
The Transit of Venus June 2012
Solar System Planets
Mars and Venus
The Amazing Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
New Rosette Attempt
Short Timelapse Sunset
New Attempt at Processing NGC2246 with PixInsight
A Cold Night
Another Attempt at M1 and NGC2246
Busy Timelapse Skies
Reprocessed Andromeda Galaxy
Its a Steep Learning Curve ~ M1 and NGC2246
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Known Planets Multi Planet Systems Candidate Planets
1,930 481 4,696

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About Me

I am an amateur astronomer; I am interested in science, innovation, astronomy and general musing about philosophies of life, the universe and our place in it.

I love to look up and wonder, and this blog is mostly what results from that wondering.

I also enjoy Paragliding.

All images are copyrighted and owned by me, except where stated, please do not copy or use them unless with permission.

Please feel free to contact me for any reason, the best method is to use this contact form.


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