Ingenuity Flights | Enhanced Views

See flights 2 and 3 at the end of this post.

The first video view of the flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars was short and jerky. It lasted 13 sec. The initial video data omitted many frames in order to quickly confirm for scientists that the flight was successful. Since that time, the rest of the frames have been downloaded and compiled into this version of 57 sec. The camera used was on the Perseverance rover several meters away.

Things to watch for include spin-up of the rotors at 7 sec. Liftoff takes place at 15 sec. It reaches 3 meter altitude at 19 sec. It hovers and does a 90˚ turn at 24 sec. It holds that position for several seconds. During that time, notice how it drifts to the right and then left a little bit. The gentle Martian breeze that day caused the drift. Ingenuity regained its position correctly. It started to descend at 37 sec with touchdown 3 sec later.

Scientists at JPL used special video filtering to capture the faint dust cloud stirred up by the rotors of the helicopter.

“The Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover shot video of the helicopter’s flight. The video is presented here in side-by-side formats that have both been enhanced to show a dust plume swirling during takeoff and again on landing. The view on the left uses motion filtering to show where dust was detected during liftoff and landing and the view on the right is enhanced with the motion filtering. Scientists use this image processing to detect dust devils as they pass by Mars rovers.”

While Ingenuity hovered, the camera on the bottom aimed straight down captured this image of its shadow. Imagine looking straight down from the height of a basketball hoop. The fast shutter speed froze the positions of the two counter-rotating rotor blades spinning at about 2500 rpm. The 4 legs of the copter are visible.

UPDATE: Flight 2 and images taken by Ingenuity in this video.

UPDATE: Flight 3 starts at the lower left. Lift-off at 10 sec. Cruises off screen to the right. Returns to view at 49 sec and then to touchdown.

M87 Black Hole Revisited

In April 2019, astronomers with the Event Horizon Telescope EHT released the most detailed image of the region near a black hole in the large elliptical galaxy M87. This image was the first view inside the core of a galaxy showing the extremely energetic spinning disc, or donut, of material and radiation surrounding the invisible black hole at the center. Material falling into the black hole disappears within this horizon. Not even light can escape. This black hole is about 55 million light-years from us and has a mass 6.5 million times that of our Sun.

We are not seeing the black hole. We are aware of the absence of anything visible in the center. That is where the black hole is located. I invite you to read my previous non-technical post about this story.

Near M87 Black Hole | Event Horizon Telescope

In April 2021, new findings from multiple radio, optical, X-ray, and gamma-ray telescopes were shared revealing greater detail about the broader surroundings and processes taking place in the vicinity of galaxy M87. The telescopes are ground based and some are space based. They observed in wavelengths from long radio waves of many meters, the more familiar shorter waves of the optical spectrum, and in extremely short X-ray and gamma-ray wavelengths. Such broad coverage will give scientists greater insights into the dynamics near black holes and aid their understanding of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Continue reading

Starlink 8 | Morning Pass

On 13 June 2020, SpaceX launched 58 Starlink and 3 Planet SkySats into orbit atop Falcon 9. Many photos and video of the launch are available here and satellite details here.

Early in the morning of 17 June, that same set of satellites passed directly over my location. It was 4:45 am. Twilight was beginning to brighten the sky. I set my iPad on a stable surface and started a long 200 sec exposure with the NightCap app in ISS mode. Within a minute the train of satellites appeared in the southwest (lower left) heading northeast (upper right). The constellation Cygnus was directly in their path. You might recognize Cygnus as a set of short star trails in the center of the image.

Starlink 8 | NightCap ISS mode | 200 sec | 1/2s shutter speed

In the weeks and months ahead, the Starlink satellites will use their ion engines to move apart to higher altitudes of 341 miles (550 km) and become part of the constellation of about 12,000 when all are launched and deployed. More are planned. Since May 2019, about 538 have been launched in sets of 60 at a time. Another 1000 are expected in multiple launches this year. Details of the plan to deliver internet service can be found in a Wikipedia article here.

This is Rocket Science | Factory Tour

I have been a fan of space travel and rocket science for about 60 yrs of my life. The technology is fascinating. Space flight is a dangerous thing to do. Success depends on reliability and small margins of error. This video published by Smarter Every Day is a tour inside the rocket factory of United Launch Alliance ULA in Alabama. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

A few more minutes from Tory Bruno about rocket science.

Wind Turbines | National Database

Electricity generated by wind turbine technology in Iowa is robust. There are over 4135 turbines installed producing nearly 37% of the electricity for the state. New installations will soon bring the installed capacity to 40%. Contrary to the claim by a politician, there is no outbreak of cancers due to these wind turbines. Rather, the reduction of fossil fuel use has likely reduced cancers.


The turbines are installed in wind farms over a broad region of the state mostly in the north and west where wind is most strong and steady. The map of Iowa turbines was captured from the U.S. Wind Turbine Database released in January 2019. The database is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Geological Survey, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the American Wind Energy Association.

Colors indicate output power of the turbine farms. The link to the interactive viewer is here. Use it to zoom in to find turbines near you if there are some. Details will appear for individual machines when you hover or click.

A wealth of information about installations is available through the viewer. Details can be filtered using tools at the right of the viewer. This excellent 6 minute video tutorial explains how those tools work.