Amateur radio astronomer discovers long-lost satellite

In December 2005, NASA lost contact with the IMAGE satellite. After trying to reconnect for two years, the agency gave up. Over a decade later, hobbyist Scott Tilley was able to confirm that IMAGE is not only still in orbit, but also transmitting data.

Tilley stumbled on the find while looking for another satellite named Zuma. Via the Washington Post:

When Tilley caught a signal after a week of searching, on Jan. 20, he almost ignored it. Whatever it was, it was orbiting much higher than Zuma was supposed to be. There are hundreds of active satellites in space, most of which didn't interest him. “I didn't think of it much more,” he wrote on his blog.

But as he continued to scan for Zuma, he came across the signal again — stronger this time — and out of curiosity checked it against a standard catalogue.

The signal matched for IMAGE. But IMAGE was supposed to be dead.

Tilley had to Google the old satellite to find out what it was, as it had been all but forgotten on Earth. Eventually, he came across a decade-old NASA report on the mission's failure.

“Once I read through the failure report and all the geeky language the engineers use, I immediately understood what had happened,” Tilley told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News.

Then he rushed to contact NASA himself.

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It took 83 engines to get to the moon

Amy Shira Teitel of Vintage Space shares lots of cool facts about the golden age of space exploration. Here, she enumerates the engines (and motors) it took Apollo to get to the moon. Read the rest

NASA uses 450,000 gallons of water to shield launch vehicles from acoustic damage

NASA uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water during launches to suppress vibration during liftoff: "a curtain of water around the engines to dampen the loudness of the test and protect the core stage from noise damage". Here's the system being tested!

Water flowed during a test at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 450,000 gallons of water flowed at high speed from a holding tank through new and modified piping and valves, the flame trench, flame deflector nozzles and mobile launcher interface risers during a wet flow test at Launch Complex 39B. At peak flow, the water reached about 100 feet in the air above the pad surface. The test was a milestone to confirm and baseline the performance of the Ignition Overpressure/Sound Suppression system. During launch of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, the high-speed water flow will help protect the vehicle from the extreme acoustic and temperature environment during ignition and liftoff.
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LEGO Apollo Saturn V rocket on Amazon for $119

I have been waiting to find the LEGO Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V 21309 Building Kit for list price. Amazon is selling it now.

This fantastic 1969 piece set looks wonderful. I can not wait to build it with my daughter.

Watch out for scalpers.

LEGO Ideas Nasa Apollo Saturn V 21309 Building Kit via Amazon Read the rest

NASA's Juno captures more stunning Jupiter photos

As Juno continues its mission, NASA released new color-enhanced images, like this massive storm in the northern hemisphere. Read the rest

Intensity of Southern California fires as seen from space

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the horrific fires rapidly spreading through Southern California. Stay safe, friends. From NASA:

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, instrument on Dec. 05, 2017. Actively burning areas (hot spots), detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. Each hot spot is an area where the thermal detectors on the MODIS instrument recognized temperatures higher than background. When accompanied by plumes of smoke, as in this image, such hot spots are diagnostic for fire.

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Voyagers: David Pescovitz, Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad nominated for Grammy award

Boing Boing editor and founding partner David Pescovitz, with colleagues Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, was nominated this week to receive a Grammy Award. It's for their work on reissuing the legendary Golden Record that accompanied the Voyager probe into space, which turned into one of 2016's blockbuster Kickstarter campaigns and can now be ordered directly from Ozma records.

They're competing in the Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package category, against Tim Breen, Tom Hingston and other art directors.

What's on the Golden Record? 120 images, a "sound poem" of Earth, greetings in many languages, and a heavenly playlist:

1. Greeting from Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations 2. Greetings in 55 Languages 3. United Nations Greetings/Whale Songs 4. The Sounds of Earth 5. Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro (Johann Sebastian Bach) - Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter 6. Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers) - Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro 7. Cengunmé - Mahi musicians of Benin 8. Alima Song - Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest 9. Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song - Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu 10. El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata) - Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión 11. Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry 12. Mariuamangɨ - Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan 13. Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest) - Goro Yamaguchi 14. Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau (Johann Sebastian Bach) - Arthur Grumiaux 15.

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NASA simulation of this year's hurricane season

NASA published an animation depicting this years' rough hurricane season in two smooth minutes. It's beautifully wispy and liquid, a fascinating contrast to the radar machine-vision we usually get of weather patterns. From the press release:

How can you see the atmosphere? By tracking what is carried on the wind. Tiny aerosol particles such as smoke, dust, and sea salt are tranpsorted across the globe, making visible weather patterns and other normally invisible physical processes.

This visualization uses data from NASA satellites, combined with mathematical models in a computer simulation allow scientists to study the physical processes in our atmosphere. By following the sea salt that is evaporated from the ocean, you can see the storms of the 2017 hurricane season.

During the same time, large fires in the Pacific Northwest released smoke into the atmosphere. Large weather patterns can transport these particles long distances: in early September, you can see a line of smoke from Oregon and Washington, down the Great Plains, through the South, and across the Atlantic to England.

Dust from the Sahara is also caught in storms sytems and moved from Africa to the Americas. Unlike the sea salt, however, the dust is removed from the center of the storm. The dust particles are absorbed by cloud droplets and then washed out as it rains. Advances in computing speed allow scientists to include more details of these physical processes in their simulations of how the aerosols interact with the storm systems.

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Beautiful photo of Earth from 10,000 miles away taken on this day in 1968

From NASA: "On November 9, 1969, the uncrewed Apollo 4 test flight made a great ellipse around Earth as a test of the translunar motors and of the high speed entry required of a crewed flight returning from the Moon. A 70mm camera was programmed to look out a window toward Earth, and take a series of photographs from "high apogee." Coastal Brazil, Atlantic Ocean, West Africa, Antarctica, looking west. This photograph was made as the Apollo 4 spacecraft, still attached to the S-IVB (third) stage, orbited Earth at an altitude of 9,544 miles."

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Juno's beautiful new images of Jupiter

NASA's Sean Doran posted a new set of Jupiter shots imaged by the Juno probe, and they're stunning: "What a blimmin' gorgeous/diabolical planet. Smörgåsbord"

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NASA playlist of the incredible "sounds of space"

In the vacuum of space, there's no way for sound to travel. But that doesn't mean space is silent. Spacecraft capture radio emissions that can be converted into sound we can hear. Indeed, NASA recently posted a fantastic collection of space audio on Soundcloud and it's wonderfully haunting:

Here are descriptions of some of the recordings:

• Juno Captures the 'Roar' of Jupiter: NASA's Juno spacecraft has crossed the boundary of Jupiter's immense magnetic field. Juno's Waves instrument recorded the encounter with the bow shock over the course of about two hours on June 24, 2016.

• Plasma Waves: Plasma waves, like the roaring ocean surf, create a rhythmic cacophony that — with the EMFISIS instrument aboard NASA’s Van Allen Probes — we can hear across space.

• Saturn's Radio Emissions: Saturn is a source of intense radio emissions, which were monitored by the Cassini spacecraft. The radio waves are closely related to the auroras near the poles of the planet. These auroras are similar to Earth's northern and southern lights. More of Saturn's eerie-sounding radio emissions.

• Sounds of Jupiter: Scientists sometimes translate radio signals into sound to better understand the signals. This approach is called "data sonification". On June 27, 1996, the Galileo spacecraft made the first flyby of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, and this audio track represents data from Galileo's Plasma Wave Experiment instrument.

• Sounds of a Comet Encounter: During its Feb. 14, 2011, flyby of comet Tempel 1, an instrument on the protective shield on NASA's Stardust spacecraft was pelted by dust particles and small rocks, as can be heard in this audio track.

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The Voyager Golden Record on "All Things Considered"

NPR's All Things Considered aired a wonderful piece about the Voyager Golden Record's first-ever vinyl release that I co-produced with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. Listen to Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi's report here:

Last week, (the original Voyager Golden Record's producer Timothy) Ferris got his box set in the mail. He says that his friend, the late Carl Sagan, would be delighted by what they made.

"I think this record exceeds Carl's — not only his expectations, but probably his highest hopes for a release of the Voyager record," Ferris says. "I'm glad these folks were finally able to make it happen."

Pescovitz says he's just glad to have returned the Golden Record to the world that created it.

At a moment of political division and media oversaturation, Pescovitz and Daly say they hope that their Golden Record can offer a chance for people to slow down for a moment; to gather around the turntable and bask in the crackly sounds of what Sagan called the "pale blue dot" that we call home.

"As much as it was a gift from humanity to the cosmos, it was really a gift to humanity as well," Pescovitz says. "It's a reminder of what we can accomplish when we're at our best."

"The Voyager Golden Record Finally Finds An Earthly Audience" (NPR)

The Voyager Golden Record is now available for pre-order on vinyl or CD from Ozma Records. Read the rest

'To Donald Trump,' by Leland Melvin, former NASA Astronaut and NFL Player

Leland Melvin is the astronaut in that fabulous NASA photo with his two dogs. He is an engineer and former NASA education leader, and the author of 'Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances.' He shared this essay with friends today, and I thought you'd like to read it, too.—XJ

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Real crop circles seen from space

This NASA photo taken from the International Space Station shows crop circles in southwest Egypt's Sahara Desert. The crops thrive in the middle of the desert thanks to either secret alien technology or the amazing underground Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System that covers two million square kilometers. From the NASA Earth Observatory:

The crop circles are a result of center-pivot irrigation, an efficient method for water conservation in agriculture. Groundwater from the Nubian aquifer is drawn up from wells in the center of the circles, and it is sprayed or dripped out of long, rotating pipes that pivot around the center.

Most of the crops pictured here are likely potatoes (darker green circles), wheat (lighter brown circles), or medicinal and aromatic plants such as chamomile. The light, tan-colored crop circles likely have undergone controlled burning to remove excess plant matter and essentially clean up the land for the next crop.

"Crop Circles in Sharq El Owainat" (NASA via the Daily Grail) Read the rest

Pasadena 9/28: Voyager Golden Record panel with Ann Druyan, Reggie Watts, Lynda Obst, Ed Stone, and David Pescovitz

I'm honored to be included on a free panel discussion next Thursday, 9/28, at Caltech about the cultural influence of the Voyager Golden Record, the enchanting phonograph record launched into space on the twin Voyager spacecraft 40 years ago. (I co-produced the first vinyl release of the Golden Record with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad.) I'm incredibly excited to share the stage with the following inspiring individuals:

• Ann Druyan: Creative director of the Voyager interstellar message; writer, producer, and director of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

• Reggie Watts: Vocal artist, musician, comedian, and technologist

• Lynda Obst: Bestselling author, producer of Interstellar, Contact, Sleepless in Seattle, and many other films

• Ed Stone: Voyager project scientist; David Morrisroe Professor of Physics, and Vice Provost for Special Projects, Caltech

KCRW radio's music director, Jason Bentley, will moderate the discussion. Doors are 6:45pm and while it's free, reservations are required. Contact the Caltech Ticket Office by calling (626) 395-4652 to grab tickets. More details here. I hope to see you there!

Special thanks to Dan Goods of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for organizing this event!

The Voyager Golden Record is now available as a vinyl box set and CD/book package from Ozma Records.

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Goodbye Cassini, now part of the planet Saturn that it was studying

Almost 20 years after Cassini launched, the spacecraft vaporized in Saturn's atmosphere early this morning. Cassini's intentional destruction was to prevent it from possibly crashing into Saturn's moons Titan or Enceladus where there may be life. Above is the last image taken by the spacecraft. Over at the New York Times, Kenneth Chang celebrate and mourns this amazing spacecraft:

Some of the Cassini scientists and engineers had worked on the mission for two decades of their careers.

Nearby, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built and operated Cassini, staff in mission control worked through a bustle of final activities. When the project manager proclaimed an end of mission and end of spacecraft, engineers and scientists gave a standing ovation and embraced.

The mission for Cassini, in orbit since 2004, stretched far beyond the original four-year plan to explore Saturn and its moons, sending back multitudes of striking photographs, solving some mysteries while upending prevailing notions about the solar system with completely unexpected discoveries.

“To me, Cassini is really one of those quintessential missions from NASA,” said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science. “It hasn’t just changed what we know about Saturn, but how we think about the world.”

"Celebrating and Mourning Cassini in Its Finale at Saturn" (NYT) Read the rest

Ultrathin "blanket" spacecraft could someday wrap up dangerous space junk for destruction

There are more than 500,000 pieces of dangerous space junk orbiting the Earth, not including paint flecks and other tiny bits flying around at 17,500 miles per hour that put spacecraft at risk. The Brane Craft, in the conceptual phase at Aerospace Corporation, is a bulletproof "blanket," one yard across and thinner than a human hair, that the company thinks could wrap around space junk and pull it into the atmosphere where it will safely burn up. The project just received another grant from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program that funds radical concepts that may never work but would have great impact if they do. From Space.com:

The thin spacecraft is not only lightweight, which reduces fuel consumption, but is easy to stack in a launcher and deploy in a swarm of dozens of bots, each on a track to a different rogue piece of debris. Brane Crafts will be powered by ultrathin solar cells as well as a little bit of propellant. The company plans to launch the craft frequently, with many Branes deployed at the same time, helping to reduce costs...

The NIAC grant provides two years of funding for laboratory demonstrations of the thin film. The investigators plan to outline how to develop the technology and which fabrication technologies hold the most promise.

"We're also looking at how we can get government or other companies interested in this to take this to the next level," (Aerospace Corporation principal investigator Siegfried) Janson said, pointing out that readiness for space would likely take a few million dollars.

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