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That Was the Week that Was, March 14-18, 2011. . . Best of Goddard People, Science, & Media and the blogpodcastotwittersphere


Tsunami Damage, Rikuzentakata, Japan

Tsunami Damage, Rikuzentakata, Japan


Japan Earthquake
After the March 12 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it’s as if the world collectively gasped — and then what followed was almost a feeling of disbelief as the harsh facts begin to register. Entire seaside communities erased from existence. . . tens of thousands of lives feared lost. . . giant ocean swells flooding the coastline. . . cars and houses looking like toys bobbing in the water. And then there are the satellite images, which provide a critical wide-angle perspective.

NASA’s Earth-observing fleet has helped to reveal the full scope and power of the catastrophe. As Mark Imhoff, the Terra satellite project scientist at Goddard, said in a report by West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

“It’s been heart wrenching seeing some of these images because the first set images that we got in on the day after the earthquake on March 12, even though the resolution from of the satellite wasn’t very good, the data from the Miser instrument at Jet Propulsion’s Laboratory showed that there were a large area of coastline that really weren’t there anymore and so you could really get an impression that a lot of villages and agricultural areas had really been severely impacted by the ocean.”


NASA released a web feature on March 17, five days after the quake, showing tsunami after-effects documented by Landsat 7.

NASA Earth Observatory has compiled a gallery of earthquake-related images from various NASA spacecraft, including EO-1, Terra, Aqua, and astronaut photos from the International Space Station.

As usual, EO’s in-depth captions provide context and explanations for the various destructive effects of the earthquake on coastal Japan. An even larger selection of imagery is available in this NASA web feature about the disaster.


lola_trio_600

New LRO Data
On March 15, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission released the final set of data from the mission’s exploration phase, along with the first measurements from its new life as a science satellite. The press release explains the details. The slideshow below takes a look back at some of the coolest imagery from the mission so far. All the images in the slideshow, and many more, are archived here on the NASA LRO website, which includes detailed captions.




Messenger Makes It
The third major story out of Goddard this week was the arrival in Mercury orbit of the Messenger spacecraft. After three spectacular fly-bys earlier (see slideshow below), Messenger is now in position to really dig into its science mission to reveal the nature and history of the first rock from the sun. An earlier post discusses some of the research being conducted on Mercury’s thin “exosphere” of atoms and ions wispily clinging within the planet’s gravity.


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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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After the International Space Station: A gateway to deep space

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment
A "gateway" station between Earth and the moon could be a stepping stone out of Earth orbit for future deep-space exploration. (Artist concept of gateway station courtesy John Frassanito & Associates.) http://www.frassanito.com

A "gateway" station between Earth and the moon could be a stepping stone out of Earth orbit for future deep-space exploration. (Artist concept of gateway station courtesy John Frassanito & Associates.)



Imagine it’s New Year’s Day, 2021. The previous year, NASA officially shuttered the International Space Station. The last astronaut has turned off the lights and landed safely.

Then what? Then WHERE?

This week, one of our senior civil servant scientists, Harley Thronson, University of Texas partner Dan Lester, and aerospace industry colleague Ted Talay published an intriguing scenario in the online journal Space Review. They explain how the United States could continue to field astronauts in space despite the recent decision to abandon the return-to-the-moon plan that reigned though most of the last decade.

The idea would be to establish a “gateway” deep-space station between Earth and the moon as a stepping stone out of low-Earth orbit for our astronauts. The coolest thing is: It could be done without the Space Shuttle, using existing launch systems such as the Delta 4, that routinely and reliably launch heavy payloads already. To save on weight, much of the station’s inhabitable space would be a thick-walled, multi-layer inflatable donut-shaped structure.

A TransHab inflatable module

A TransHab inflatable module

Thronson, Talay, and Lester are by no means the first or the only ones to propose an inflatable gateway station. The concept has been in development in various guises and by various people – from NASA itself to the private “space hotel” company Bigelow Aerospace – since the late 1990s. Catch up on the tech here at the Wikipedia article about the “TransHab” concept for the lunar gateway.

Thronson is Associate Director for Advanced Concepts and Planning in the Astrophysics Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and is involved in major initiatives to develop future large optical systems for use in space and the capabilities to build them. He started thinking about the space gateway concept in 1999, while serving on NASA’s Decade Planning Team. The group sketched out a number of next-generation concepts for human space exploration — including inflatable space habitat designs.

Thronson is still at it a decade later, and will be presenting his team’s ideas at various journals and conferences in the near future. In this week’s article, they describe their latest formulation for the gateway station. An earlier article, published in February 2010, gives additional background.

“Such a ‘Gateway’ could be the first step beyond [low-Earth orbit] in a flexible path, including returning humans to the Moon and supporting surface operations there. These habitats have also been proposed to demonstrate next-generation systems developed on the ISS that will be necessary for missions beyond the Earth-Moon system. This ‘beachhead’ for longer-range human operations at these libration points may eventually provide opportunities for other missions. For example, assembly and upgrade of complex science facilities and support for space depot systems may be carried out at these sites.”

Here are the basic bullet points for Thronson, Lester, and Talay’s gateway concept:

  • Launch a fuel tanker into low-Earth orbit.
  • Launch the station into orbit and refuel the Delta’s liquid-fuel second stage.
  • Boost outward to L1 or L2, locations between Earth and the moon where their gravity balances out and it thus requires minimal fuel to maintain the station’s position. This would be about 60,000 kilometers (37,300 miles) from the moon.
  • Send a crew of three to the station. Up to four crews could go to the station per year, each requiring two Delta 4 Heavy launches.
  • The pressurized interior volume of the station would be 170 cubic meters. (The space shuttle orbiter has 71.5 cubic meters, NASA’s Skylab had 283, and the ISS has around 1,000.)
  • The crew could remain for a few months at a time. This would be an opportunity to continue learning how to live and work in deep space in anticipation of future trips to near-Earth asteroids or Mars.

But here’s the really cool part. The station would be close enough to the moon to allow near-instantaneous communication with robots. Astronauts could explore the lunar surface using telepresence technology. Their view would be unhindered by bulky helmets ands suits, allowing them to experience and explore the environment in a way undreamt by the pioneering Apollo moon walkers.

That, my friends, would be Very Cool, not to mention electrifying to the public and to students.

In the end, the gateway model is a way of laying smaller, more achievable (not to mention affordable) “stepping stones” into space. And there’s still plenty to explore.

In the first of a series of articles, “The Case for the Moon: Why We Should Go Back Now,” running this week on Space.com. The reporter interviewed one of our solar system scientists for the article:

“The Apollo astronauts made only brief visits to only six places on the moon, all near the equator,” said Richard Vondrak, deputy director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Our most recent missions, such as LRO and LCROSS, are revealing new secrets of the moon and helping us to identify new places to go, such as the polar regions.”

Although the future of U.S. human space flight is somewhat uncertain right now, the dream of space exploration burns as brightly as ever.

Robonaut, a telepresence robot under development at NASA.

Robonaut, a telepresence robot under development at NASA.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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Red red moon!

December 21, 2010 4 comments

photograph of dec 21 lunar eclipse

Cornelis Dutoit, an engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center and president of our amateur astronomy club, took this bloody red image of the moon at about 3 a.m. this morning from home. We had great luck here in Maryland, with good clear skies for lunar eclipse viewing. Cornelis recounts his experience…

At first it seemed that everything was going wrong. I first struggled to get my scope balanced with a new camera adapter, and then when I went through the motions of getting the telescope aligned, its batteries died on me! I got new batteries installed (AA size in the C-size holders) just as the eclipse was starting. After that everything went fine, and even the slight wind died down. Clouds appeared on the Southern horizon but did not get near the moon. I waited till 3 a.m., about 20 minutes after the moon was covered completely but not quite at the center of the eclipse, when I finally decided that I had enough cold exposure for the night… My first pictures were taken with 1/250th of a second exposure, and the last was done with 15 second exposure, which shows that the moon dimmed in the order of 4000 times or more!

To take the picture, he used a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ8 camera mounted on a 42mm eyepiece with a Meade 8-inch f10 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, 15-second exposure time.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Categories: Earth's moon, Eclipse Tags:

SDO sees a solar eclipse from space: watch the dark shadow of the moon chug across the surface of our sun

October 18, 2010 2 comments



On October 7, 2010, the moon passed between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and its target. And SDO saw the equivalent of a partial solar eclipse — from space.  The SDO “Pick of the Week” write-up below provides additional details. Watch the incredible video to see the dark shadow of the moon chug across the surface of our sun.

This was a first for SDO and it was visually engaging too. On October 7, 2010, SDO observed its first lunar transit when the new Moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the Sun. With SDO watching the Sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark Moon created a partial eclipse of the Sun.

These images, while unusual and cool to see, have practical value to the SDO science team. Karel Schrijver of Lockheed-Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Lab explains: “The very sharp edge of the lunar limb allows us to measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope e.g., light diffraction on optics and filter support grids. Once these are characterized, we can use that information to correct our data for instrumental effects and sharpen up the images to even more detail.”

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Dr. Garvin's Solar System Picture Show

Garvin_title_608
Hey kids — got a science report due on the solar system? Do I have a video for you: a guided tour of the inner rocky planets by Goddard’s James Garvin.

Chief Scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Jim Garvin, takes us on a journey of Earth, the moon, and our neighboring planets. Why does space matter? Why is exploring the inner solar system so crucial? Where will humans venture to next? In this video lecture, Dr. Garvin answers these questions and discusses NASA’s past, present, and future of discovery on our nearest neighbors in the solar system.

Click the image above to see the entire 55-minute presentation on Blip TV. This version, compressed to play in a continues clip, is a little grainy. That short-changes you a bit on the fantastic computer simulations and images packed into Garvin’s talk. You have the option of watching the presentation in six higher-resolution YouTube clips (below). Or you could download the high-res files from Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio site.

Garvin covers Mercury, Venus, the moon, asteroids, Earth (a wee bit), and then Mars (quite a bit). He covers the detailed history of what we’ve done and what we still want to do. Garvin scores big points with his enormous energy and enthusiasm, deep knowledge of the subject (he’s a planetary scientist), and a humorous touch.

Check it out if you want an update from the bleeding edge of NASA planetary science from a true insider. It’s watchable and packed with interesting science/tech tidbits.

If you have a fast Internet connection, set the video segments below to play back at 720p for the maximum High Def data blast.


http://www.youtube.com/v/ePffS0N_HZk?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/-dQ2YYrE8yI?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/hXE2rEodGEA?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/0VsbXLVr2P0?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/znx77MdPTxg?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/mHbFFv1Pq5c?fs=1&hl=en_US

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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That Was The Week That Was, August 22-27, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

SUNDAY AUGUST 22: Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles and other classics, was born this day 100 years ago in Waukegan, Illinois.

The rockets came like drums, beating in the night. The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night.


MONDAY AUGUST 23: The MODIS Image of the Day shows a plankton bloom off Greenland.

Planet pulverizers: A research team including Goddard’s Marc Kuchner finds evidence of planet-destroying collisions in another star system!

Dog days of summer: On What On Earth, bloggers Patrick Lynch and Adam Voiland of NASA’s Earth Science News Team discuss the warm and erratic summer weather.

Better luck next time: On this day in 1961, Ranger 1 launched. When the experimental satellite separated from its Agena booster stage it went into a low Earth orbit and began tumbling. The satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere a week later, on August 30, 1961

Awesomely: Featured in Blueshift’s Weekly Awesomeness Round Up: solar sail, sunspots, special shuttle launch, space colonies, and other highlights in space science and astronomy.


satellite image of hurricane katrina

TUESDAY AUGUST 24: Goddard marks the 5-year anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe:  The Scientific Visualization Studio provides a satellite-eye view of the tempest. See a Katrina Flickr gallery by Public Affairs photo maven Rebecca Roth. Meanwhile, gogblog asks Goddard researcher Siegfried Schubert how supercomputers are improving hurricane forecasting. And Discovery News blogger Michael Reilly comments on the Goddard satellite visualization about Katrina.

This year’s model: Here’s how to build a life-size mock-up of the James Webb Space Telescope.


photo of launch of spitzer space telescopeWEDNESDAY AUGUST 25: Satellite imagery featured today: dust storms in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how satellites can help archeologists preserve hidden cultural treasures.

Koji says: Take a tour of the international observatory on the island of La Palma with NASA Blueshift blogger Koji Mukai.

Hail to the chief. . . of the Goddard Astrochemistry Laboratory, Jason Dworkin, in a new video profile.

Go Spitzer! On this day in 2003, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) launched into orbit. One of the quartet of NASA Great Observatories, SIRTF was renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope and continues to push the frontiers of space-based astronomy.


robonaut_202THURSDAY AUGUST 26: Earth Observatory spotlights satellite view of fires raging in South America.

FRIDAY AUGUST 27: On this day in 1962, Mariner 2 left for Venus, to become the first spaceship from Earth to visit another planet.

Space rocks: NASA and U2 released a commemorative video highlighting a year’s worth of collaboration in space and on the Irish rock band’s 360 Degree tour.

I, Robonaut! NASA’s humanoid astronaut buddy is being prepared for its history making launch to the International Space Station on STS-133.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Blogolicious image of the day: Earth and its moon as seen from the MESSENGER spacecraft

Some images are so extraordinary you don’t have to say all that much. And you don’t even need color.

So, briefly, here is an image snapped by the MESSENGER spacecraft, now exploring Mercury. The big blob is us, the littler blob is our moon. MESSENGER snapped the image May 6, 2010, from 114 million miles away — greater than Earth’s average distance from the sun.

And that’s all I gotta say about that. Read more about it at OnOrbit.

Earth and its moon

Earth and its moon

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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It's moon day at gogblog: International Observe the Moon Day is coming! ALSO: How to create a gorgeous portrait of the rising moon. PLUS: New NASA images say "Honey I shrunk the moon."

click to make me bigger!

click to make me bigger!

Are you ready for International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)? In a previous post I told you about this event, which was conceived by NASA lunar scientists and educators, but involvement has since become more widespread and international.

You should get involved, too. The InOMN website has everything you will need to participate. I and other members of the Goddard Astronomy Club will be at Goddard’s  Visitor Center September 18 with telescopes, showing the public a cavalcade of craters.

InOMN will include a lunar photo contest. In this post, you can learn how to create a gorgeous multiple exposure shot of the moon rising, similar to the one at left by Oregon photographer Randy Scholten. He photographed the partial lunar eclipse of June 26 (2010) and it was published on Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).


The basic ingredients:

  • A camera that you can operate in manual mode.
  • A sturdy camera tripod.
  • Access to Photoshop software and basic Photoshop skills.

Here’s how to make the portrait:

Mount the camera on a tripod. You will need to keep the camera steady for the best results.

Take a background shot of the land, sky, and the moon just starting to rise.

Then shoot additional images of the moon as it rises. Scholten shot the eclipsing moon every 10 minutes with a 500mm telephoto lens. This is why the tripod is important: Even a slight jiggle while shooting in telephoto mode can blur the image.

To make sure you get the best possible shot, “bracket” the exposures a couple of settings above and below the initial one. This will give you more choices to work with in the Photoshop assembly phase.

Scholten used Photoshop to select the 12 best moon images and arrange them in a series onto the initial background image. To do this, you need to understand how to use the Layers function of Photoshop and the Marquee selection tool (elliptical). Fortunately, this is pretty easy to learn, with many clear and free tutorials available on the Web. Good luck!

“Not your grandfather’s moon” And last but not least, today the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team announced images that bear on the moon’s evolution. The new stuff from LRO adds to mounting evidence that the moon has been more dynamic then people thought, and is not at all a “dead” solar system body.

From the press release:

Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon’s recent geologic and tectonic evolution.


Here’s a crack in the incredible shrinking moon:

scarp_608

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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Gogblog's Monday video rewind picture show: "Sentinels of the Heliosphere," a detailed look at the fleet of spacecraft that keeps a collective eye on our stormy sun

August 17, 2010 4 comments

[Um…. Make that the TUESDAY video rewind picture show. We had a network outage yesterday, so sorry about that. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. . . ]

Given the recent upturn in stormy solar activity, it seemed a good time to revisit the spectacular piece of visualization known as Sentinels of the Heliosphere. This video debuted in 2009 at SIGGRAPH, an international conference and exhibition on computer graphics and interactive techniques.

http://www.youtube.com/v/AqRQ_93kFKs?fs=1&hl=en_US

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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The solar eclipse from above and below: Blogolicious image of the day, July 15, 2010.

click to make me big!

click to make me big!

Like most earthlings, you probably didn’t make it to Easter Island to see the solar eclipse on Sunday July 11. But here’s something you would not have been able to see even from Easter Island: a combined space-and-surface view of the eclipse.

This is another in the series of fantastic solar images that Goddard’s Steele Hill releases to science museums and other public places every week from the Solar Dyanamics Observatory (SDO), SOHO, and STEREO spacecraft. Hill is one of our media people for those three missions.

Steele created this image by combining an image taken by the Williams College Expedition to Easter Island (the black-and-white portion) with snapshots from space courtesy of SDO and SOHO.

SOHO’s contribution, in red, shows the sun’s outer atmosphere (corona). To make the corona more visible,  SOHO uses a device called a “coronograph” to cover the glaring central disk. It’s sort of what you do when you hold your palm out to mask the blinding glare of a bright light shining in your eyes.

The Williams College image (again, the black-and-white portion) shows the sun’s inner corona.

Finally, SDO donated the image of the sun’s central disk to cover the silhouette of the moon, which blocked the sun’s glare during the eclipse.

Goddard's Steele Hill Photoshopically manipulating the sun...

Steele Hill

Voila! A truly blogolicious composite of gogblog’s favorite star ever!

In Steele’s own words:

I’ve done this several times before.  The challenge is correctly rotating the image to align the structures in the eclipse image with the structures the coronagraph sees.  Since the eclipse image was taken in the South Pacific, the image has a different perspective versus our spacecraft.  But that did not take too long.  I like the way that we can combine ground-based and space-borne images and bring the three perspectives together.

For additional details about this image, read the NASA image release from this morning. And let’s not forget to thank Jay M. Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu, and Craig Malamut from the Williams College Eclipse Expedition for allowing this use of their image.

An earlier gogblog post explores one of Steele Hill’s previous solar images from SDO.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.


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