Earth and Moon | A Different Viewpoint

Position a satellite camera 1 million miles from Earth directly toward the Sun, 4x the distance to the Moon. Keep it at that location and make it stare toward Earth. Eventually, this happens.

 

The Moon orbits Earth in a 5˚ tilted plane relative to Earth’s orbit plane. Rarely does the Moon pass directly between the camera location and the Earth. It happened twice in the past year. This pass was captured on 5 July 2016 by the camera on the satellite. It did so once before on 16 July 2015 shortly after the satellite became operational. The Moon passed behind Earth on 27 Sept 2015 as captured in this video. A solar eclipse was captured on 9 March 2016 as the umbra of the Moon’s shadow crossed the Pacific.

These views of Earth are provided by NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite. It is located at a point where the gravitational pull of Earth and Sun on the craft are equal and opposite. This stable location serves as an early warning site for geo-magnetic storms from the Sun. The Space Weather Prediction Center will begin using DSCOVR data on 27 July 2016 to monitor conditions and make predictions.

In much the same way distant off-shore sea buoys serve as early warning beacons for tsunamis, this satellite gives Earth 15-20 minutes of warning for solar storms that might affect Earth.

NOAA

 

Recent true color views of Earth are available at this site. You can navigate forward and backward in time by clicking the right and left margins of the screen.

Scientists with the DSCOVR mission have compiled a video from over 3000 images of Earth taken by the EPIC camera on board during the year from July 2015 to July 2016. Notice how the tilt of the poles changes between summer and winter.

 

Gun Violence | The Costs Are Huge

StopViolenceWe pay a high price in the U.S. for our lack of action to curb gun violence. It is inexcusable how little is done to combat the spread of weapons of carnage. Especially disturbing is how large percentages of the general population think smart measures should be taken, yet, political forces prevent it.

The price we pay is obvious when we see the stories of police violence toward citizens, shootings of police, murders, robberies, and senseless horrible mass killings. People are understandably fearful for their lives and those of their children and loved ones. Some segments of our society are in much greater danger than most. We must try to turn the tide against this.

Besides the emotional and societal costs, another price we all pay is in actual monetary cost. This isn’t reported as often. It doesn’t carry the visual impact of a shooting or senseless crime. Media wants news and stories that grab an audience. The cost in dollars to every person in the country is very high at over $700 per year. The cost to victims and their families is enormous.

Mother Jones published an in-depth piece in the spring of 2015 about the monetary costs of gun violence. This is the link. I urge you to read the entire thing. It tells of a couple who were victims of shooting after a minor car collision. The one who recovered enough to tell her story speaks of the costs in millions for her care. Others are highlighted as well. They come from all segments of our society. Many were innocent victims.

The writers point out how political forces in Washington D.C. have effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding research on injury and death from gun violence. Funding constraints don’t allow studies to help us understand the complexities and impacts of the problem of gun violence. No relevant studies have been published since 2005. Inaction is not part of a solution.

Many of the findings by the Mother Jones writers are summarized in this brief video. Much more detail is presented in their published story.

 


I urge you to speak up about your feelings on gun violence. Call or write to your senators and congress person. Support efforts in your local community to discuss the issues and reduce the division and danger. Take actions to help bring people together.


 

RAW | JPG | My Comparison Test

The new camera I got this spring has many new useful features compared to my previous camera. One feature new to me is shooting images in RAW format. I wondered what difference it made in the image quality.

I conducted a simple experiment and photographed the same scene in AUTO mode and in RAW mode. For both modes, I used a 10 second timer delay to eliminate movement. The camera was at full optical zoom of 65x on a tripod. The subject was a radio tower visible from my house 100 m (330 ft) tall and 500 m (1640 ft) away.

Original Images

This first image used the camera AUTO setting. The camera automatically processed the image in a variety of ways such as shutter speed, ISO, contrast, brightness, white balance, etc, and saved it as a JPG format on the memory card. That resulted in an image needing less memory space and which is generally pleasing to the eye. Click on it to embiggen to full size of 4608 x 3456 pixels.

2016_0701AutoFull

AUTO Mode

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Jupiter | Harmony of Motion

Galileo used a telescope to cast his eyes upon Jupiter and its moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto in 1610. He recorded notebook drawings of their positions nightly. He believed they moved around the planet Jupiter in what appeared to be orbits. His views were but snapshots in time.

Galileo Galilei | Siderius Nuncius | 1610

Telescopes improved over time. Technology brought us better views. Spacecraft Voyager and Galileo gave us marvelous images of the moons. But, those detailed images still gave us only snapshots in time. Those amazing views still lacked the perspective needed to show them in actual orbit about Jupiter.

Gali_moons.jpg

Our view of the moons changed with the arrival of the Juno spacecraft on 4 July 2016. It approached Jupiter from above the plane of the orbits of Jupiter and its moons. The perspective allowed the JunoCam camera onboard to image the system multiple times for 17 days between 12 June and 29 June. The still images were made into a movie which shows the four moons in orbit several revolutions around the massive Jupiter.

Notice how the innermost moon Io orbits quickly. The farther moons more slowly. The planets of our solar system behave this way. All bodies in the universe orbit other bodies this same way. We are seeing from a unique perspective above the orbit plane. We are witnessing firsthand the effect of the law of gravitation. It is a thing of beauty. In addition, the three inner moons darken briefly as they pass into the shadow of Jupiter in each orbit.

Quoting Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, Southwest Research Institute:

“This is the king of our solar system, and its disciples going around it. It’s also representative of nature. This is how we look, that’s a mini solar system. And so, I think, to me it’s very significant because we’re finally able to see, with real video, real pictures, this motion. And we’ve only been able to imagine it up until today.”

Juno | Welcome to Jupiter

UPDATE: The Juno spacecraft was successfully captured into a long eccentric orbit. The main engine burned about 35 minutes to slow down as planned when Juno was at its closest to Jupiter depicted in the animation below. The spacecraft performed as expected. All scientists breathed a sigh of relief.


Original Post: The Juno spacecraft launched in August 2011. It coasted away from Earth and returned for a gravity assist flyby in October 2013. That flyby boosted the speed of Juno enabling it to coast away from the Sun and toward Jupiter. It arrives at Jupiter on the 4th of July at 9:30 CDT.

The trajectory brings Juno toward Jupiter over the north pole going 160,000 mph (257,000 km/h) . Its rocket will fire for about 35 min to slow it down in order to be captured in a highly eccentric polar orbit. Previous spacecraft have never visited Jupiter in this kind of orbit or this close. What will Juno encounter?

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Stars | How They Change Over Time

Stars go through changes over the course of their existence. The rapidity and violence of those changes depends upon the mass of the star. Low mass stars are slow to change. High mass stars change quickly. Perhaps a case of Live Fast, Die Young.

This post is intended for those readers who have wondered what happens during the lifetime of a star. It is not intended to be an exhaustive description of the life-cycles of stars. Some of the numbers used here represent a range of values assumed for these events. Sources will differ some. There are many parts of star behavior that are complicated and not understood well by the experts. General concepts are presented here to make the processes more understandable.

All stars involve two types of processes that oppose each other. Gravity pulls the star components inward and tries to reduce the star’s volume. Nuclear fusion exerts outward forces and tries to increase the star’s volume. This interplay of opposing forces can create equilibrium. Change in strength of the processes will cause the star to either expand or contract in size. Since the mass of the star is quite constant, the inward pull of gravity is constant. The outward forces can change in strength as nuclear fusion processes change.

equilibrium_300
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Jupiter | Juno Arrives 4 July 2016

The Juno spacecraft launched in August 2011. It coasted away from Earth and returned for a gravity assist flyby in October 2013. That flyby boosted the speed of Juno enabling it to coast away from the Sun and toward Jupiter. It arrives at Jupiter on the 4th of July at 9:30 CDT.

The trajectory brings Juno toward Jupiter over the north pole going 160,000 mph (257,000 km/h) . Its rocket will fire for about 35 min to slow it down in order to be captured in a highly eccentric polar orbit. Previous spacecraft have never visited Jupiter in this kind of orbit or this close. What will Juno encounter?

Show me more…