Image Credit & Copyright: Cory Schmitz.

This image was captured by Cory Schmitz while camping 3,100 m (10,170 ft.) above sea level, near the lip of Tegula/Thekula falls and roughly 10 m (33 ft.) from the edge of one of the most incredible cliff faces on Earth; the Drakensberg Amphitheatre in South Africa.

This natural wonder of the world is located in the Royal Natal National Park in the KwaZulu Natal province.  The Amphitheatre dwarfs Yosemite’s Half Dome & El Capitan at a massive 5k (3.1 miles) in length and 1,200 m (3,900 ft.) high.  Run an image search of this location (or go there) and check it out in daylight as well because it’s truly an amazing area.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If you want more information and image choices hit Cory’s links below and go wild!  Please feel free to let me know what you think as comments are always welcome and if you wish follow me on my blog and Twitter @DanSpace77.

Cory Schmitz:




Google Plus:


Royal Natal National Park:

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment



Image Credit & Copyright: Tanja Schmitz (Sund).  Look below for more links to her amazing work.

First of all, Tanja and Cory if you read this; allow me to congratulate you on your recent marriage and best of luck!

This beautiful Milky Way image was captured in Sutherland, Northern Cape-South Africa in the Karoo along the path of a now dried up stream and water fall.  This location sits at 4760 ft. (1,450 km) above sea level, thus it boasts some of the worlds clearest and darkest skies as well as some of the most stunning views of the southern hemisphere skies.  The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) also resides in Sutherland which houses the massive 11 m South African Large Telescope (SALT) as well as some eight or nine other observatories at the site.

If you ever get the chance to head out there (which I recommend) you must bring your binoculars and camera at the very least and take in that amazing sky.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If you want more information and image choices hit the links below and go wild!  Please feel free to let me know what you think as comments are always welcome and if you wish follow me on my blog and Twitter @DanSpace77.

Tanja Schmitz (Sund):




Google Plus:



Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Image Credit & Copyright: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) and NAOJ

Here’s an image released a couple years back of the beautifully violent Sharpless 2-106 or S106 for short.  This is a team effort, combining Hubble space telescope data with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) Subaru telescope’s wide field imagery atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

What you’re seeing in this image is a star being born, well, that term is relative because 100,000 years ago is very long for you and me but it’s a mere infant in the maternity warn to the universe.  The area itself is what’s called a bipolar emission nebula & compact HII star forming region.  The star being born is cataloged as S106IR or Infrared Source 4 (IR4) and it’s believed to be, as I just stated; about 100,000 years old with a mass of 15 Suns and shines 10,000 times brighter.

This star, like all stars began its life as a molecular cloud that began to condense and accrete which gave the immediate region a slow spin or rotation (Everything in the universe rotates and is moving).  That process led to contraction and heating which eventually, through building up enough mass led to massive pressures and temperatures until the laws of physics permitted thermonuclear fusion to begin.  The star came to life in a flash, its rotation, magnetic field and massive stellar radiation immediately began to carve out and illuminate the two caverns that we see in this image.

The star itself is unseen in this light as it’s still shrouded in a thick ring of material but just look at those lobes.  Imagine being one of the hundreds of brown dwarf stars within this structure that weren’t given enough time to accrete and heat to become stars themselves.  Imagine being in that void on the right, really attempt to imagine how vast that wall is.  That “wall” is a light year long and a half a light year high.  Voyager 1 has been traveling since 1977 and it’s left the solar system and as we speak it’s about 18 light hours away.  There are 8,766 hours in a year……that cavern on the right is a light year-long by half a light year wide……I find that just amazing beyond words.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If you want more information and image choices hit the links below and go wild!  Please feel free to let me know what you think as comments are always welcome and if you wish follow me on my blog and Twitter @DanSpace77.

NAME: Sh2-106, S106, Sharpless 2-106.

WHAT IS IT?: Bipolar emission nebula & compact HII Star forming region.  Shrouded star S106IR has come to life and its stellar winds are clearing a cavity in the material it was born into.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: About 2000 light years or 600 parsecs.

HOW BIG IS IT?: About 2 light years long and 0.5 light years wide.

HOW OLD IS IT?: Approximately 100,000 years.


WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Cygnus (The Swan).

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA R.A. 20h 27m 27s 10 / DEC +37° 22′ 39″.

ESA Space Telescope page for this image:

NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this image:

Hubble Heritage Project page for this image:

NASA page for this image:

NAOJ Subaru Telescope:

SIMBAD data page for this object:

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment



Image Credit & Copyright: NASA of Apollo 7 from C-135 ALOTS aircraft.  All related links below!

Spacecraft are FAST!  It takes a speed of 17,500 mph (28,163 km/h) and tons of fuel just to get into low earth orbit (LEO).  So of all spacecraft launched (from Earth) who holds the title of the highest speed of all?


Let’s start here on Earth just for reference.

Project MX981: On December 10, 1954, USAF flight surgeon Lt. Col. John Stapp rides the Edwards AFB Rocket Sled “Sonic Wind 1” to a speed of 635 mph. (1,017 km/h) before decelerating in 1.4 seconds, enduring 46.2 G’s in the process.  His contributions to ejection seats cannot be overstated.  Just a fun note; in 1949 at Edwards AFB, Capt. Edward A. Murphy (who worked on the rocket sleds) was heard cursing the technician for wiring a transducer incorrectly saying “If there’s any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”  His project manager kept a list of “Laws” and added “Murphy’s Law” to the list, forever changing the face of superstition.  Stapp himself used Murphy’s Law in a press conference some time later.

The world’s fastest “car” is the Thrust SSC rocket car.  On October 15, 1997 while in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada it Royal Air Force pilot & mathematician, Andy Green broke the land speed record with an average speed (it must make two passes) of 763 mph (1,228 km/h) which is faster than the 761 mph (1,225 km/h) speed of sound at sea level.  The run actually sent a loud sonic boom racing through the desert.  The same British team and pilot have created another rocket car named “Bloodhound SSC” and according to their reports they hope to travel to the Hakskeen Pan, South Africa to make a new world record attempt of 1000 mph).  Aside from the record breaking attempts they are running the entire program in an attempt to promote STEM.  I placed the link to Bloodhound SSC below if you’re interested.


What about a rifle bullet?  There are many factors that go into the speed of a bullet.  Handguns typically have larger, more massive “rounds” than say, a rifle bullet so they travel much slower.  The length of the barrel, its twist and the weather also affect top speed but some of the fastest rifle bullets ever made can travel at a speed of 3000 mph (4,828 km/h).


How about aircraft?  The record holder for the fastest air-breathing piloted aircraft is the SR-71 Blackbird.  It was a derivative of the Lockheed Martin, Skunk Works A-12 OXCART “Black Projects” aircraft and later the USAF YF-12.  On September 13, 1974 pilots Capt. Harold B. “Buck” Adams and Maj. Williams C. Machorek flew #61-17972 from London to Los Angeles in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 39 seconds.  Their flight took them to a speed of Mach 3 and they arrived in Los Angeles almost four hours before they left London.  Its fastest official run was on July 26, 1976 when pilots Eldon W. Joersz and Maj. George T. Morgan brought #61-7958 to a speed of 2,193 mph (3,530 km/h) or Mach 3.2.  The SR-71 was reported to have reached speeds of Mach 3.5 inadvertently as it is believed that structural integrity would begin to fail at Mach 3.6 outside Beale AFB, California.  Today, aviation enthusiasts like myself enjoy “hunting” the SR-71 and its predecessors around the country and world, that’s why I refer to them by their tail numbers.  There were 32 built and though none were lost in action there are only 20 left to be found.  There are 9 of 15 original A-12’s in existence today but one (#6931) is off limits as its on display at CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia.  Below I have listed a link to the locations of all remaining A-12 & SR-71 aircraft.

ALSO; you may be very interested to know that Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is developing the SR-72 which will have a top speed twice that of the SR-71 AND the unmanned hypersonic Falcon HTV-2 (links to those websites below as well).


Ok; were getting really fast now.  I think it’s time to transition from air-breathing jets to self-contained rocket power.  The fastest piloted aircraft in history is the North American Aviation X-15.  On October 3, 1967 Capt. William “Pete” Knight took X-15A-2 ws33 to the fastest speed traveled by a human on Earth; 4,520 mph. ((Mach 6.7)

The project consisted of 3 vehicles, 12 pilots and 199 total flights.  The vehicles were carried by B52’s to an altitude of about 8.5 miles and drop launched (air-launched).  All 199 flights were carried by the legendary 52-008 (NB-52B) or “Balls 8” and 52-003 (NB-52B) “Balls 3.”  13 flights by eight pilots reached an altitude of 50 mi. (80 km) which broke the USAF boundary of space which qualified them for astronaut status.  The 50 mile boundary was determined because it’s at the point where aircraft controls (wings, stabilizers etc.) would no longer function properly.  Two of those 13 flights (both by Joe Walker) broke the internationally recognized 62.1 mi. (100 km) “Karman Line.”  The Karman Line, named for Theodore von Karman, who discovered that above 100 km you would need to achieve orbital velocity to achieve any further lift.

Today, two of-three X-15’s remain as X-15A-3 (#56-6672) was destroyed on flight 191 which killed pilot Michael Adams.  His name was rightfully placed on NASA’s Space Mirror Astronaut Memorial.  X-15A-1 (#56-6670) is located in Washington DC at the National Air and Space Museum.  X-15A-2 (#56-6671) is located at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton Ohio.


Now we’re going fast enough to leave the Earth. As we stated above, orbital velocity is a screaming speed of 17,500 mph (28,163 km/h) but what about to go further?  What speeds did the Project Apollo astronauts encounter in their trips to the Moon and back? According to NASA sources, Apollo 10 holds the record for the farthest humans have ever traveled from home at a distance of 254,110 mi. (408,950 km) but it also holds the record for fastest manned spacecraft or in short, the fastest humans have ever traveled; period.  On May 26, 1969 during the return flight from lunar orbit Crew Service Module (CSM) Charlie Brown, Lunar Module (LM) Snoopy along with Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan reached a top speed of 24,791 mph. (39,897 km/h) or 11.08 km/s.  That’s just shy of the 25,038.7 mph. (40,295.8 km/h) or 11.2km/s mark of Earth’s escape velocity.

Just a couple fun Apollo 10 facts: Apollo 10 was the only Saturn V launch from Launch Complex-39B (LC-39B) and it’s the only mission in which all three crewmen also flew on later Apollo missions.  They were also the first to carry color television camera inside the spacecraft and they were the first to make live color TV broadcasts from space.

  Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Bartils.

Here’s an incredible image of the rare noctilucent clouds from Mike Bartils that was submitted to

As many of you space nuts already know, noctilucent clouds are a high northern & southern latitude summer treat.  Usually taking place just after sunset or before sunrise at latitudes of above 45-70 degrees north and south of the equator and for a fairly brief window from May through August for the northern hemisphere and  November through February for the southern hemisphere.  As this is a primarily summer event, regions near the poles rarely get dark enough to view them.

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds on Earth (they reside in the mesosphere) and they’re formed by ice crystals and dust extremely high in the atmosphere.  As the Sun sets and dips roughly 5 to 15 degrees below the horizon, sunlight is reflected off of them in much the same way the ISS and Iridium Flares are illuminated.

Ok, so now you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about because you already know or have just read that this phenomenon occurs high in the northern hemisphere and low in the southern hemisphere……The title of this post does say Florida doesn’t it.

Well, truth be told, what Mr. Bartils captured over his Orlando skies is an even more rare form of NLC’s; these came courtesy of a SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket launch that had taken place about an hour and a half before this sighting.  The water vapor in the exhaust of the rocket had crystallized high in the atmosphere giving astute Floridians a spectacular show.

Perhaps I haven’t given this phenomenon much though but I have seen some pretty spectacular post-launch rocket plume images, especially from the space shuttle but I never remember seeing images of NLC’s after.  If anyone has seen displays like this in the past following launches I’d love to hear the story.  If not now that we do know they happen, keep your eyes peeled for a post-launch, pre-sunrise show!

Spaceweather page with this image:

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


Here’s the launch of SpaceX, Falcon 9 carrying AsiaSat 8 which lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) at 0800 UTC (0400 EDT) on Tuesday, August 5, 2014.

Many of us waited up all night to watch the live feed of this launch and it didn’t disappoint.  Thank you to SpaceX for the continued live feeds of these launches.  Us space nuts truly appreciate it.

SpaceX YouTube channel:




Elon Musk Twitter:

SpaceX Reddit Forum:

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Hopewell Rocks

Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Woodworth.

Do you take your Milky Way on the rocks?  Let’s have a look at this incredible image by another local photographer in my area; Adam Woodworth.

Here we see a couple of the most amazing natural wonders in the same image.  First; the vast Milky Way galaxy is seen here stretching high into the sky from the Hopewell Rocks at the legendary Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada.  This is one of the very few places that I still haven’t been in the region, hopefully that changes soon!

The Bay of Fundy is a 170 mile long bay located on the border of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada and its home to the world’s highest tides.  This area sees tides swing as high as 46 feet from and the largest tide ever recorded was at Burnt Coat Head, just up the bay in Nova Scotia.  Compare that to most of the rest of the world’s 1-5 ft. tides.  The time between tides is 6 hours and 13 minutes so twice daily 100 billion tons of water (More than all of Earth’s freshwater rivers combined) rush in and out of Fundy Bay.

The Hopewell Rocks (Also called “Flowerpot Rocks”) are the end result of an ancient mountain chain known as the Caledonia Highland Mountain Range that stood here hundreds of millions of years ago; long before any of the current North American mountain ranges.  They have since been eroded down through the years by weather, tides, tidal rapids, tidal bores and whirlpools (Like “Old Sow” in Eastport ME; the 2nd largest whirlpool in the world.).

If you get the urge to plan a visit there are some factors to remember as well such as tide heights from Sun and Moon interactions (Spring & Neap tides), perigee & apogee etc.  Remember the Suns gravity is 180 times that of the Moon but because of the proximity of the Moon its effect of us is actually twice that of the Sun.  The cosmos is everywhere, at all times.

I really hope you enjoy this incredible image and check out more of Adam’s work below as you won’t be disappointed!

Adam Woodworth Photography:







Official Hopewell Rocks website:

Bay of Fundy Tourism:

Burncoat Head Park:

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment