JAXA H-IIA IGS Optical 6

Image credit & copyright: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Launch Alert: Monday, February 26 at 23:34 EST (04:34 UTC on the 27th), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be launching the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA (H-2A) rocket; Launch Vehicle No. 38 (F38) flying in its 202 configuration (H-IIA 202). It will be carrying the IGS Optical 6 observational satellite for the Japanese government’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center (CSICE) from Launch Area-Y1 (Also known as Area-Y1 or LA-Y1) at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), Japan.

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The Southern Ring Nebula

Image credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

At only about 2,000 light years away, the Southern Ring Nebula is one of the closer planetary nebulae to us here on vantage point Earth. Located in the Southern constellation Vela, this nearly half of a light year diameter nebula is the result of a star that’s nearing the end of its life. This is actually a binary star system and if you look closely, there’s a bright 10th magnitude star with a fainter 16th magnitude star nearby. It’s been estimated that the brighter 10th magnitude star (HD 87892) isn’t hot enough to create this display. Therefore the faint 16th magnitude star, now a white dwarf, is what’s creating this artwork as it expands at about 9 miles 14.5 km) per second across the black canvas of the universe.

What Are Planetary Nebulae?: https://danspace77.com/what-are-planetary-nebulae/

Name: NGC 3132, Caldwell 74, Southern Ring Nebula, Eight-Burst Nebula.

What is it?: Planetary nebula consisting of a binary star system. There’s a bright 10th magnitude star (HD 87892) with a fainter 16th magnitude star alongside. The fainter of the two is creating the nebula.

How big is it?: Roughly half of a light year in diameter.

How far away is it?: Roughly 2000 light years or about 613 parsecs.

Apparent magnitude: 9.87 or +9.87.

Where is it (general)?: Southern constellation, Vela or “Sail.”

Where is it (exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 10h 07m 01.7640s / Dec −40° 26′ 11.060″.

NASA Hubblesite page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/image/729/news_release/1998-39

Harvard data on this star system: http://adsbit.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?bibcode=1975ApJ…199..411M&db_key=AST&page_ind=0&data_type=GIF&type=SCREEN_VIEW&classic=YES

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Our Fallible Minds

Image credit & copyright: Dan Marker-Moore.

Maybe you’ve been on a walk or perhaps driving down the freeway (highway, whatever) and there it is; the Moon sitting on the horizon in an almost shocking display. It appears huge, almost as if for some reason it’s much closer than usual or perhaps Earth’s atmosphere is magnifying the image making it look larger that it normally does.  Either way, it’s beautiful and always a spectacle to see with your own eyes.

So to that point, why is the Moon so much larger when it’s on the horizon than it is when it’s high overhead? Well, that’s the problem; it’s not.  Yea, that’s right, it’s all in our heads and even though we know that it’s an illusion your mind still falls for it every single time, why?  It’s actually closer to you when it’s directly overhead than when it’s on the horizon and the atmosphere isn’t magnifying the image.  If anything, Earth’s atmosphere would reduce the Moon’s appearance somewhat.  The atmosphere will certainly distort the shape and color of the Moon but it doesn’t magnify it. The answer to this problem isn’t firmly known but it more than likely stems from angular illusions like the Ebbinghaus or Ponzo illusions.

The Ebbinghaus illusion is a pretty familiar illusion. Created by German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus and popularized by British psychologist, Edward Titchenerin 1901; it displays two circles of the same size at the center of a ring of circles of two different sizes.  The circle at the center of the small circle ring appears to be larger than the circle at the center of the large circle ring.

The Ebbinghaus Illusion

The Ponzo illusion is also pretty common. Created by Italian psychologist, Mario Ponzo in 1911, this illusion uses perspective against you as it depicts two converging lines travelling away from you (as if you were standing on and looking down railroad tracks).  Two identical lines are placed across the “tracks,” one eight in front of you and another off in the distance.  The one off in the distance looks larger because of its size relative to the appearance of the tracks in the distance.

The Ponzo Illusion

Both of these illusions lend themselves as possible explanations to the moon illusion. As the moon rises or sets, we see it against clouds, homes, buildings trees etc. that are far away.  When the Moon is high in the sky there is no distant reference to compare it to and what little there is are things like houses, trees and clouds that appear much larger than the ones that you saw on the horizon because they’re much closer to you while the size of the Moon in the sky hasn’t changed at all.

I have witnessed this first hand through photography. Much like in the fantastic image above, you can see that the size of the Moon didn’t change at all but had you witnessed it when it was rising, it would have appeared that way to your mind.

Finally, I chose the Moon for this write up because it’s something that you can safely observe but the same effect happens to the Sun and even the constellations as well. Let me know if you’ve ever noticed this phenomenon for yourself.

Dan Marker-Moore: https://www.danorst.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danorst/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danorst

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Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/markermoore

Detailed article on the illusion: http://www.pnas.org/content/97/1/500.full

Great NASA article on the illusion: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/16jun_moonillusion/

Moon Illusion Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_illusion

Ponzo Illusion with the Moon applied

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SpaceX Falcon 9 from CA Coming Up

Images credit & copyright: Ryan Chylinski and SpaceX.

Launch Alert!: Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 06:17 PST (09:17 EST & 14:17 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 (core B1038.2) will be launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) carrying the Airbus Defense and Space Paz satellite for Hisdesat of Madrid. Falcon 9 core B1038.2 was previously flown on the Formosat 5 mission on August 24, 2017. This flight will also carry SpaceX’s Microsat 2A and Microsat 2B internet technology demonstrator satellites. When complete, the 12,000 “Starlink” satellite constellation will deliver internet to everywhere on Earth.  The plan is to have two layers in the constellation; 4,425 satellites 700 miles high and 5,718 satellites about 400 miles high and the two will operate on different frequencies from one another.  It’s estimated that the company plans to have 40 million subscribers by 2025 with a revenue of around 30 billion dollars that year alone. In a Tweet by Elon Musk on February 21, he stated where the name Starlink came from; “If anyone is curious, the name was inspired by The Fault in Our Stars.

Note: Sunrise for the Los Angeles area will be roughly 06:30 PST so as Falcon climbs from the dark into the already lit higher altitudes we have an opportunity for yet another amazing aerial display as the rocket goes through plume spread and staging.

Stats: This will be SpaceX’s 4th launch of 2018, the 55th SpaceX flight overall (5 Falcon 1, 49 Falcon 9, 1 Falcon Heavy). This will be SpaceX’s 18th launch of 2017, the 46th Falcon 9 flight overall and the 5th reuse of a Falcon 9 booster. There will be no landing attempt during this mission in order to remove the block 3 Falcons from inventory.  To date there have been 23 landings overall; 12 on drone ships and 11 on land. This will also be the first use of the 2.0 version of SpaceX’s payload fairing and the first use of Mr. Steven; the payload fairing catcher ship as SpaceX will attempt to recover the fairings.

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Soyuz Progress 69P (Progress MS-08): ISS Resupply

Images credit & copyright: Roscosmos.

Launch Alert! Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 03:58 EST (08:58 UTC & 11:58 Moscow Time) a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket will deliver a Progress MS cargo ship designated “Progress MS-08” (cataloged as 69P or Progress 69 by NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS) from Site 31, Pad 6 (Site-31/6) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. When it docks to the aft port of the Zvezda “Star” Service Module in a blistering 3.5 hr. (2 orbits) later, it will deliver roughly 6,063 lb. (2,750 kg) of food, fuel and supplies.

This will be the 158th Progress flight and the 69th to the ISS in its nearly 40 year history.

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Mysteries of Messier 83

Image credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

15 million light years across space-time toward the constellation Hydra the serpent, you will find this beautiful 55,000 light year diameter mess of a star city cataloged as barred spiral galaxy, Messier 83 or M83 for short.

55,000 light years in diameter isn’t huge for a galaxy but its close proximity at only 15 million light years makes it a prime target for observation. In this fantastic Hubble image you can see the structure of spiral arms almost as if you can see its motion. Those spiral arms are laced with dark star forming material and bright pink bursts of star formation all throughout.  At its core is a supermassive black hole which it’s believed is fueled by the funneling of material from the bar of stars (thus barred spiral) across the nucleus.

M83’s nucleus has its mysteries though as it appears to be a double nucleus. It doesn’t appear to be a double supermassive black hole, but instead a supermassive black hole being orbited by a massive collection of stars or an uneven disk of stars which creates the appearance of a double. In addition to that, neither of the cores are aligned with the kinematic center of the galaxy.

What about oddities, what’s M83 offer? As many of you know on rough average, we see one supernova per galaxy every hundred years or so.  M83 has offered up six supernovae since we’ve been observing it.  Only two other galaxies have had that many; Messier 61 which has six also, but the supernovae king is NGC 6946 with nine!

Before we close, I do want to offer you a visual; maybe even a slight thought experiment. When I began this post I mentioned that if you head toward the constellation Hydra you will find this galaxy but really think about that process.  The constellations are made up of stars in our own Milky Way and our small corner of the Milky Way at that.  That means you will leave the constellations of the night sky behind almost immediately and travel almost the entire 15 million light years with only the void of space and the light of galaxies to keep you company.

And since you asked, the galaxy M83 also inspired a band called, you guessed it, M83 and since you’re asking my opinion, give “I’m sending you away” and “Starwaves” a listen.

Name: Messier 83, M83, Southern Pinwheel Galaxy.

What is it?: Barred spiral galaxy.

How big is it?: 55,000 light years in diameter.

How far away is it?: Roughly 15 million light years.

Apparent magnitude: 7.5 or +7.5.

Discovery: February 23, 1752 by French astronomer, Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille. Charles Messier added it to his catalog of non-comets 30 years later in 1781.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Hydra the serpent and the largest of the 88 modern constellations and the prominent member of the Centaurus A/M83 Group.

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): R.A. 13h 37m 0.91s / Dec -29° 51′ 56.74″.

NASA Hubblesite page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/image/3680/gallery

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Look at Those Cave Men Go! SpaceX, Falcon Heavy Demo Flight

Images and video credit & copyright: SpaceX and Elon Musk.

On Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 15:45 EST (20:45 UTC) the first ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy listed off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) with Elon Musk’s personal cherry Tesla Roadster.

Both the port (left) booster, (B1025.2) that was previously flown on July 18, 2016 for SpaceX’s CRS-9 mission and the starboard (right) booster (B1023.2) was previously flown on May 27, 2016 on SpaceX’s Thaicom 8 mission landed safely at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) while the core booster (B1033.1) did not survive its landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) in the Atlantic.

Live Feed of Starman in His Cherry Tesla:


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