Image Credit & Copyright: Jack Fusco.

This amazing set of startrails comes from one of the greatest night sky photographers I know; Jack Fusco.  Not only does he produce some incredible night sky images but he also has the talent for generating some inspiring timelapse work as well which, this image just happens to be a small piece of.  It’s titled “Chasing Starlight” and takes place in Jasper and Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  Any one of you that have spent sleepless nights outside freezing, trying to perfect night sky imagery can get a feel for just how much time and effort goes into a short rendering like this.

View Jack Fusco’s “Chasing Starlight” here:

As far as this image, it was captured in Banff National Park over Lake Minnewanka and what a sight it is.  The north polar startrails seemingly spin the Earth like a top as the glow of the northern lights carpet the jagged landscape in green.  The Canadian Rockies has always been on my “To Do” list and after seeing images like this it’s not hard to see why!  Thanks Jack on another amazing job, congrats!

Jack Fusco Photography:



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Image Credit & Copyright: John Davis of Bucksnort Observatory.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and hopefully this image by John Davis can help get your week started.

Nothing but color in this beautiful image of the Texas night sky over the 85 ft. in diameter Harvard Radio Astronomy Station at Ford Davis.  Every image of the night sky offers something different to take in and this image is no exception.  In this image there is no vast milky way stretching across the sky, no major constellations or dwarf galaxies making themselves known, yet it’s no less beautiful.

The contrast in the light striking the antenna and the orange nearby glow of humanity with rolling hills silhouetted create a great foundation for the color of the stars.  The orange, blue and yellow points of light stream down endlessly from their different destinations in the galaxy, all showing up for their big moment as instead of just crashing into the ground or cloud tops, these photons were captured and preserved by the sensors in this camera so that we may enjoy them for years to come.

Although I chose this image for my own personal reasons, John Davis is one of the marquis night sky and deep sky astrophotographers out there so please feel free to check out his work in the links below because it’s truly amazing.

BuckSnort Observatory:


NRAO Harvard Radio Relescope:

NASA/Harvard Radio Telescope:…13…17T

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Image Credit & Copyright: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) of GSLV MK-III rollout.

What a month it’s been for bigtime launches! Let’s keep our foot on the gas!

LAUNCH ALERT: On Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 03:30 UTC (09:00 Sriharikota time which is UTC +5:30) (22:30 EST on the 17th) the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will be conducting a sub-orbital test launch of their future heavy lift rocket; the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, Mark III (GSLV MK-III). The launch, designated (X-1 or GSLV MK-III X) will be from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, India. This test is also believed to include India’s first prototype crew capsule known as the “Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment” (CARE).

The prototype separate from the launch vehicle at T+325 seconds at an altitude of 126 km (77.67 mi.) with the main chute opening at 15 km (9.3 mi.) and splashdown in the Bay of Bengal.

THE ROCKET: ISRO’s new GSLV MK-III is a three stage rocket that stands 42.4 m (139.1 ft.) with a liftoff weight of 630 tons. The GSLV MK-III rocket will be the country’s heavy lift rocket designed to launch INSAT-4 class communication satellites which range from 4500-5000 kg. (9,220.8-11,023 lbs.). This will also serve to place the nation firmly on the map for the growing commercial launch market with a total lift capacity of 4 tons to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

PAYLOAD FAIRING: The PLF is a two-shell fairing design that’s 5 m (16.4 ft.) in diameter and can accommodate a payload of 100 cu m. (3,531.4 cu ft.).

CRYOGENIC THIRD STAGE: The 3rd stage is powered by a single C25 engine that uses Liquid Oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) as fuel.

SECOND STAGE: The second stage is what would normally be called the core stage as it is the main body of the rocket. It’s powered by a single L110 re-ignitable liquid fueled engine carrying 110 tons of propellant.

FIRST STAGE: The first stage is comprised of two S200 Large Solid Boosters (LSB’s) each with 200 tons of solid propellant.

India Space Research Organization (ISRO):

ISRO Twitter:

ISRO Facebook:

ISRO Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MK-III):


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Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Below you will find many related links including NASA/JPL live Dawn tracker, Dawn Image galleries and a live Ceres tracker.

See that image? That’s the best image we have of the one and only dwarf planet in the inner solar system but these images are going to look a whole lot more interesting soon enough. NASA’s Orbital Sciences built, ION powered Dawn spacecraft, is set to arrive at dwarf planet Ceres in just a few weeks. Let’s dig in!

Dawn was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex-17B (SLC-17B) on September 27, 2007 in the nose of a ULA Boeing Delta II rocket. Its mission, to unlock the mysteries of asteroid 4 Vesta and dwarf planet, former asteroid 1 Ceres orbiting in the main asteroid belt. After receiving a gravity assist from Mars (and some great images for the road) on February 17, 2009 it reached its first destination; Vesta on July 16, 2011 where it went into orbit and gathered incredible amounts of data, giving us a never before seen view of the Roman virgin goddess of home and hearth. It remained in orbit, delivering incredible imagery until September 5, 2012 when DAWN departed and set off for Ceres. Dawn will be captured by the dwarf planet on March 6, 2015 and enter into orbit later that month where it will open our eyes to one of the current mysteries of the inner solar system. The mission will carry on through late 2015 or early 2016.

WHAT ABOUT IMAGERY?: “optical navigation” images of about 25 pixels in diameter are set to begin on Tuesday, January 13. “Better than Hubble images should begin on Monday, January 26, the third set of imagery “Twice as good as Hubble” should start on Wednesday, February 4. After they complete the second “rotational characterization” (RC2) around Friday, February 20, images should be about seven times better than what Hubble can and has provided.

NOTE: The Dawn mission once Ceres is reached will become not only the first spacecraft to reach each of the two bodies; it will become the first spacecraft in history to orbit two separate extraterrestrial planetary bodies.

 SO WHAT’S UP W CERES?: Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi on January 1, 1801. It was eventually given the name Asteroid 1 Ceres then later re categorized as a dwarf planet. It’s named after the Roman Goddess of agriculture, grain and crops. In fact, the next time you’re sitting down with a bowl of cereal, you will know where the name cereal came from!

Ceres is a round, rocky, possibly icy solar system body and the only dwarf planet in the inner solar system. It resides in the main asteroid belt where it makes up about one-third of the entire mass of the main asteroid belt. It’s roughly 590 miles (950 km) in diameter and orbits the sun at an average distance of around 257 million mi. (414 million km or 2.76 AU). One Cerean day is just over 9 hours and one Cerean year is about 1681 Earth days or 4.6 Earth years.

Depending on where Ceres is in relation to Earth, its apparent magnitude fluctuates from about 6.5 at opposition which is right at the border of naked eye visibility to a 9.3 which is about the edge of binocular range so viewing Ceres is very possible if you know where to look and what to look for.

NASA/JPL DAWN mission Page:

NASA/JPL Where is DAWN Now?:

NASA/JPL DAWN multimedia (images/video etc.) page:

NASA Solar System page on Ceres:

DAWN on Twitter:

DAWN on Facebook:

The Sky Live (Ceres real time tracking & location):

Heavens-Above Ceres real time data:

Hubble Space Telescope image of Ceres:

NASA Solar System Simulator (interactive):

NASA Eyes on the Solar System (interactive):

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Image Credit & Copyright: SpaceX.

LAUNCH ALERT: Friday, December 19, 2014 at 13:20 EST (18:20 UTC) a SpaceX Falcon 9, version 1.1 rocket will be launching from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40 or “SLICK-40”), Florida as part of CRS-5 (SpaceX-5 or SpX-5) to resupply the International Space Station. This, the seventh dragon capsule (Dragon C-7) will be grappled and berthed to the Earth facing Harmony module or “Node 2” on December 18, where it will deliver nearly 5000 lbs. of supplies to the ISS. It is then scheduled to be released after about a month when it will return almost two tons back to Earth where is will make splashdown off the coast of Baja California. This will be Space-X’s 5th of 12 contracted ISS resupply missions and the Falcon 9’s 14th flight “F9-14.”

HISTORY IN THE MAKING?! SpaceX has, in the past attempted two soft water landings of their Falcon 9 1st stage with some degree of success just by re-firing a single Merlin 1D engine, extending the four affixed landing legs and touching it down in the Atlantic. This flight however, SpaceX will bring a whole new bag of tricks as they plan to turn up the tempo and take the next step in rocket reusability by landing the Falcon 9 first stage on a barge. Let’s take a look:

This flight will employ the use of not only re-firing one of the Merlin 1D engines and the four landing legs but it will have the added benefit of grid fins for stability as well as a place in the ocean to land which Elon calls the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. Elon revealed that the barge was being constructed back on October 24 and come to find out, it’s being built at the Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, Louisiana. That’s the same place that NASA’s Pegasus barge is being refitted to support the SLS program. Pegasus carried lots of equipment throughout the years but most famously the space shuttle external fuel tanks from NASA’s Michaud Plant in Louisiana to KSC.

On November 22, Elon released a series of images and information nuggets through Twitter starting with an image of the upper first stage of the Falcon 9 and its white grid fins that he apparently took on Nov 20 and the words, “Testing operation of hypersonic grid fins (X-wing config) going on next flight.” He would later go on to say that the “Grid fins are stowed during ascent and then deploy on reentry for “x-wing” style control. Each fin moves independently for pitch/yaw/roll.” He finished by adding a YouTube video of this summer’s 1000m successful test of the F9R with affixed grid fins at their McGregor, TX proving grounds. Here’s the video:

The image of the barge was shot from above showing the freshly painted platform with the SpaceX logo acting as a bulls eye in the center of a yellow and white set of rings with the words, “Autonomous spaceport drone ship. Thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs hold position within 3m even in a storm.” “Base is 300 ft by 100 ft, with wings that extend width to 170 ft. Will allow refuel & rocket flyback in future.”

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Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Ver Sprill.

The ghosts of yesterday truly come alive in this image. We know nothing of the house or who owned it, we hope for its sake that its life was long and well worn. A place where many memories were made; as it’s time has clearly now come and gone. Imagine, for a moment back when the paint still smelled fresh and the green highlights complimented the dark shutters that clung to the walls aside every window; when the shrubs were a third their current size, the trees, not quite a high. There was a pickup truck in the front yard, a clothesline in the back yard while kids and their dog played in the grass, you can almost smell the grass. At night there was dinner and while lying in bed, the sounds of bullfrogs and crickets streamed into the open windows with the summer heat. Life was good then, simpler. This house has seen a lot in its years, many changes, many seasons and many faces. Faces that likely grew old, moved out and moved on.

But that Milky Way, that Milky Way remains unchanged, seemingly eternal. No matter how many generations lived out their lives, no matter how many families and people this house as seen come and go in its life, one true companion that’s been there the entire time is that Milky Way. Let’s hope that this house had a long and well worn life. A life in where many memories were made, in the blink of an eye our lives are, to that Milky Way.

I really hope you all enjoy this amazing image and check out more of Mike’s work.

Mike Ver Sprill photography:





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Image Credit & Copyright: Orbital Sciences.

Just a quick update on the Orbital Sciences situation:

On December 9, 2014 it was announced by Orbital Sciences that they and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) have teamed up to launch a Cygnus cargo vehicle to the ISS on the nose of an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in the fourth quarter of 2015 with another in early 2016 if needed. The Atlas V rocket will provide a greater lift capacity than the Antares which will allow for a 35% cargo increase per flight.

Orbital is fast tracking the development of their new rocket engines and plan to be flying with Antares again in the first, second and fourth quarters of 2016. This new engine will reportedly provide a 20% increase in payload capacity to the Antares launch vehicle. The new rocket engines are slated to arrive at Wallops for integration and testing in mid-2015.

All in all, if this goes as planned all contracts with NASA should be fulfilled with only minor delay.

Orbital Sciences press release regarding this topic:

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