Black Hole Startrails

Star Trails at La Silla

Image Credit & Copyright: European Southern Observatory (ESO) Yuri Beletsky.

Like stars at the center of the Milky Way, these stars on the telescope appear to be orbiting a supermassive massive black hole. As they approach, they accelerate due to the force exerted upon them by the massive gravity well created by the black hole. After whipping around the mass in their highly elliptical orbits they slow again until their next approach many years later.

Of course the black hole in this image is the receiver hole in the de-commissioned 15 meter Swedish-ESO Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Behind this big fella is the dome of the 3.6 meter telescope with tail lights heading up the road as well as of course, the incredible set of startrails that encapsulates the entire scene.

Want to see the real thing?! Here’s a video provided by ESO of a 16 year-long study of almost 30 stars (especially star S2 or S0-2) orbiting Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

ESO page for this image:

ESO page for SEST:


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ULA DELTA IV GPSIIF-9 Launch Highlights


Image & Video Credit & Copyright of: United Launch Alliance (ULA).

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket successfully launched the ninth Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite for the U.S. Air Force from Space Launch Complex-37B. This was ULA’s fourth launch in 2015 and the 95th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.


ULA homepage:


Twitter for ULA CEO Tory Bruno:




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Arianespace Soyuz to Launch Dual Galileo NavSats


Image Credit & Copyright: Arianespace of the rollout of VS11.  Links to stream live below.

On Friday, March 27, 2015 at 21:46 UTC (17:46 EDT) an Arianespace Soyuz 2-1B (Soyuz ST-B) rocket designated VS11 will be launching from pad ELS at the Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana with a dual payload of Galileo FOC-2 navigation satellites. The Russian Soyuz 2-1B rocket is used by Arianespace as the medium lift rocket in their fleet with Vega being the light lift and the massive Ariane 5 doing the heavy lifting.

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St Patrick’s Day Aurora


Image Credit & Copyright: Johannes Erkkila.

On Tuesday, March 17, 2015 as St. Patrick’s Day was entering into darkness the universe took it upon itself to kick off the night time festivities with the largest geomagnetic storm of Solar Cycle 24. The ensuing G4 class storm (G5 is the maximum) drove the now famous light show as far south as New Jersey and Kansas and stayed with us for 9 hours. For reference, a G4 class storm correlates to a KP index of 8 (KP8). Here’s my Aurora Guide with more information on the subject: This brilliantly colored image was captured in Finland by photographer Johannes Erkkila.

Reports came in from around the world exclaiming brilliant multicolor curtains of charged particles from the Sun. From green, yellow, purple, blue and red, the images of this event are visually stunning, awe inspiring and I for one am extremely envious of all those who got out to enjoy the show.

One thing that really helped this particular event besides the fact that it was just flat-out powerful is that is occurred just a few days from a new moon which meant the skies were dark as can be and thus the stage was set for a display of epic proportions.

Johannes Erkkila Instagram:

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Beautiful Barred NGC 6217


Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

This incredible image of barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was the first image by the Hubble space telescope after completion of STS-125 Atlantis’s Hubble Servicing Mission 4 (HSM4). This galaxy at 44,000 light years is less than half the diameter of the Milky Way and resides 60 million years into the past.

This structure is very much alive in star formation as seen in the pink regions where stars are coming to life all throughout the two major arms. Those arms are also alive with young bright blue stars creating an amazing color contrast from proverbial head to toe. At the nucleus the telltale sign of yellow ancient stars glows showing traces of gas and dust lanes. It’s this nucleus as with almost all galaxies to include our neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy is all that we see in binoculars and in telescopes. It’s typically tough to see spiral arm features in small to medium sized telescopes unless you have very dark locations.

NAME: NGC 6217.

WHAT IS IT?: Barred Spiral Galaxy.

HOW BIG IS IT?: 44,000 light years in diameter.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 60 million light years.


WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Ursa Minor and the asterism of the Little Dipper.

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 16h 32m 39s.2 / DEC +78° 11′ 53″.

NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this image:

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Soyuz TMA-16M (ISS-42S) to Launch 1 Year ISS Crew


Image Credit & Copyright: NASA Aubrey Gemignani of the landing of Expedition 42.

Friday, March 27, at 19:42 UTC (15:42 EDT) a Soyuz-FG rocket; TMA-16M (ISS 42S) will be lifting off from Launch Pad 1/Launcher 5 (LC 1/5) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will carry two crew members of Expedition 43/44/45 & 46 (And 1 member of Expedition 43/44) to the International Space Station (ISS) on a four orbit, 6 hour “fast-track” launch to docking flight which began manned operations on TMA-08M on March 28, 2013. This mission will kick off the 1 Year Mission of Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. This will also be the 125th flight of a Soyuz capsule since its 1st launch on April 23, 1967.

The crew will dock with the Russian Mini Research module-2 (MRM-2) Poisk “Search” Module on Saturday morning (Friday night in the U.S.) and that capsule will remain there for approximately 6 months as a crew escape vehicle and ultimately a return vehicle.

Want to see the ISS overhead? Here’s everything you need!

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JAXA H-IIA Launch of IGS Optical 5 Spy Satellite


Image Credit & Copyright: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Thursday, March 26 at 01:00 UTC (21:00 EDT on the 25th), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be launching the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA (H-2A) rocket; Launch Vehicle No. 28 (F28) flying in its 202 configuration (H-IIA 202). It will be carrying the Information Gathering Satellite Optical-5 (IGS Optical-5) satellite, from Launch Area-Y1 (Also known as Area-Y1 or LA-Y1) at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), Japan.

There are 2 active launch pads at Tanegashima; Launch Pad-1 (LP-1) and Launch Pad-2 (LP-2). They are in an area known as the Yoshinobu Launch Complex and designated as Launch Area-Y, Area-Y or LA-Y. They differentiate between pads by placing a (1) or a (2) after the designation, for example if you see basic launch data above you will see the ALOS-2 will be launching from Pad-1. H-IIA rockets launch from Pad-1 while H-IIB rockets launch from Pad-2.

JAXA’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA (H2A) rocket is a two (2) stage expendable rocket and is the medium lift vehicle in the H-II Rocket Family along with the H-II and the H-IIB and it stands 53m (173.8 ft.) tall. The H-IIA has a lift capacity of 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), 4 tons to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), 4 tons to Sun Synchronous Orbit and only about 2.5 tons to Earth Escape Velocity.

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