Cassini | Fireball Into Saturn

The astronomy community is active with posts and anticipation of the end of the Cassini Mission to Saturn early in the morning of 15 Sep 2017. This post serves as a brief reminder that you can witness the ending moments live by going online or via the NASA channel on cable. Set your calendar or clock.

Time to show up for the broadcast is 7 am Eastern Time, 6 CT, 5 MT, or 4 PT. I will leave the time calculation to others who live across the oceans.

Online sources include YouTube, NASA-TV, UStream, and Facebook. The table in the link includes links to each of those. You get to choose.

Consult your cable provider to see if they provide the NASA-TV channel.

For a huge number of links to current and past information about the Cassini Mission, please go to the Media Kit provided for reporters by NASA-JPL. It is loaded with terrific sources and deserves to be bookmarked for future reference beyond the end of this mission.

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DNA Testing | Are You Interested?

Have you considered doing a DNA test? We both had our DNA tested in 2014 by 23andMe. The 23andMe results were interesting. We have thorough genealogy records for most of our family lines going back many generations. We knew what to expect from our DNA results.

My last name is derived from a variation of Raudenbusch near Stuttgart Germany. They came to Philadelphia in 1732 according to the ship manifest. The name was changed after a generation to avoid confusion with other Raudenbusch families who lived nearby. The French & German part of the chart below from 23andMe confirms that information.

They married into family lines that were British & Irish, my most recent ancestors in the timeline chart. The results also showed distant generations from Africa making up a very small part of my DNA. My records show distant relatives on my mother’s side from South Carolina who owned slaves in the late 1700s. The genetic link from 23andMe isn’t a surprise.

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Cassini-Huygens | An Amazing Journey

The Cassini-Huygens mission has delivered an enormous amount of new scientific findings about Saturn, its rings, and the surrounding many moons. Design work on the mission started in the 1980s as a joint effort by NASA, the European Space Agency ESA, and the Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana ASI. Launch was on 15 October 1997. It reached Saturn orbit 1 July 2004 after flybys of Venus, Earth, and Jupiter to adjust the orbit speed and direction via gravity assist. My previous posts about many of the findings by Cassini and Huygens are listed here.

On 15 September 2017, the Cassini spacecraft ends the mission by plunging into the atmosphere of Saturn. It will not be left in orbit for fear of collision with a Saturnian moon and possible contamination of the moon. Future missions to the Saturn system need to be free of any potential contaminants from Earth.

Some scientists and mission specialists have worked on Cassini for their entire careers. This video highlights a few of them and how they feel about the legacy of the mission. I congratulate them all for a job well done. I will be watching NASA-TV at 6 am CDT September 15 to see the final moments of the plunge into Saturn. I hope you will be watching, too.

Solar Eclipse | Viewed From Moon

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter LRO circles the Moon in a polar orbit. The LRO instruments return data on the lunar surface. Temperature maps, a mapping grid, high-resolution images cover the entire surface. The polar regions of the Moon are of particular interest. Water may exist in the permanently shadowed craters at the pole. These water resources may assist future returns to the Moon by humans and even exploration farther into the solar system. Previous posts about LRO are found here.

NASA | Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

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Star Corpses | Three Distinct Types

MinutePhysics author Henry Reich on YouTube explains the physics of a phenomenon in a minute if possible. Here he explains what is left behind when stars die. The corpse of the star depends on what mass the star had in the beginning. He took more than a minute, but less than three. I think that is quite good.

My previous post about this topic describes how stars change over time. Fair warning: It will take more than a minute to read. Probably more than three minutes.

Dogs in Space

There has been much in the news about the coast-to-coast solar eclipse on 21 August 2017. The anniversary of a lesser known event occurred on 19 August. On that date in 1960, the Soviet Union launched Korabl-Sputnik 2 for a one day orbital mission. On board were two dogs Belka and Strelka, a grey rabbit, 42 mice, two rats, flies, several plants and fungi. All passengers returned safely to Earth on 20 August 1960. It was the first time dogs were safely orbited and returned to Earth. Their pioneering flight contributed toward the successful flight of Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961.

Belka and Strelka | Soviet Space Dogs

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Solar Eclipse | Totality

Eclipse day finally arrived. Before dawn broke, we awoke to much lightning and thunder here in eastern Iowa. It seemed a bad omen. I checked the radar and forecast for central Missouri where we planned to drive. No rain there in the morning and still pretty good odds for a visible eclipse.

The phone rang about 7:30 when our daughter called. They were to meet us as we drove south so she and our two grandkids could share the experience with us. She said her daughter woke with a fever and aches and pains. It seemed another bad omen. She gave her some meds and still hoped to go. We would meet them in 2 hours and make the final decision. We met and decided to go anyway. She slept most of the 2.5 hr drive from there to Auxvasse, Missouri. Would the two bad omens spoil the day?

The weather improved as we drove farther south. The Sun came out and blue skies were peeking through the clouds. We reached the park in the tiny town of Auxvasse. It was a party! Maybe 100 people were in the park. Music was playing. Kids were on the playground equipment. We opened our picnic food. It noticeably darkened as it neared 1 pm.

Totality Approached

We watched through our eclipse glasses to keep track of the progress of the Moon across the Sun. A minute before totality I began to record this video. Next to me was Melanie and our 6 yr old grandson. I love his commentary. Notice how dark it got.

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