Light Reflection: a brilliant fan of cryogenics venting from a relief valve on STS-122 Atlantis' ET (external tank) post-separation. Also see this handheld video of the ET, with money shots at 2:15 and 3:55. [more inside]
A tour around Discovery STS-120 and the International Space Station with Paolo Nespoli and Dr. Scott Parazynski. Tomorrow, Parazynski will be perched at the end of a robot arm and sensor boom assembly, stitching up a damaged solar array in what might be one of the riskiest EVAs since Skylab 2.
Tvashtar in Motion. Awesome five-frame GIF of fountaining sulfuric lava on Io courtesy New Horizons as it swung by Jupiter earlier this year. Found via Planetary Society Blog (Thank you, Emily). More on Tvashtar.
RIP Wally Schirra, 1923-2007. One of the original Mercury Seven "Right Stuff" astronauts (just two left now), Schirra flew on Sigma 7, Gemini 7, and Apollo 7. From there on, it's stationkeeping.
Stunningly beautiful photo of Dione and Saturn with rings. Such a sensation of depth and grandeur. Thanks, Cassini/JPL/NASA. [animation] [planetary photojournal entry] [B/W mirror from kokogiak] [now you play fun Flash spaceship game].
Cassini Flies by Tethys and Hyperion, and the photos so far have been awesome and weird. I especially want to point out this fascinating view, which, if you look at it closely, reveals what appears to be a string of small impact craters, in a straight line over older terrain. What kind of meteor impact could have produced such an excellent formation of craters? Hyperion photos are coming. (Kokogiak's got backup in case the JRUNS strike.)
Two Moons Passing in the Night. Mars rover Spirit took these sequential photos of Martian moons Phobos and Deimos passing overhead in the night sky. Those rovers are still going strong!
Ecological impact of Space Shuttle launch exhaust. Aluminum oxide powder, hydrogen chloride, and of course, water vapor, which can form noctilucent clouds. The environmental impact is supposedly minimal.
Liftoff! Discovery is in orbit, and STS-114 is well and fully underway. The fuel sensor problem which had previously delayed the launch was not an issue this morning. Mission timeline, mission updates, and the Wikipedia entry.
Rocks Among the Rings. The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla has compiled some of the loveliest imagery of Saturn's ring-and-moon system from Cassini. More on Saturn from the Planetary Society here. Also see the Cassini at Saturn photoset, from our very own kokogiak, and watch for updates on the latest Enceladus flyby.
The Pioneer Anomaly. Something's up in deep space: the Pioneer spacecraft, now out of contact, have shown an unexplained Doppler drift, indicating sunward acceleration, effectively decelerating the probes cumulatively. The effect may be be nongravitational, and could be explained by any number of factors: an undiscovered twist in Newtonian physics, localized cosmological contraction issues, or just venting gas. Other deep space probes may have experienced the anomaly as well, and a new mission could explore the puzzle; but for now, all we have is past Pioneer data, and that's stored on old 9 track tape which can only be read by antique readers. What's to be done? (Also see Pioneer Odyssey for a nostalgic romp through those early days of deep space exploration. And NASA, bring back the original Pioneer home page plz, kthx.)
"Standard orbit, aye, sir." Following a nail-biting ring-plane crossing and 96-minute engine burn, Cassini has arrived, and is now in orbit around Saturn, 84 light-minutes away, sending in the first closeup pictures of the planet's rings. Also see the Planetary Society's details on the Orbit Insertion, Spaceflight Now's mission updates in weblog-like format, and raw images from the spacecraft as they come. Kudos, JPL! (Aside: the press has yet to tire of Lord of the Rings references.)
Mars Rover Blog, move over: SpiritRover and OpportunityGrrl are on Livejournal, along with Pathfinder(ess), Voyager 1, Cassini, GOES, FUSE, Hubble, and the Planet Mars Himself. (Educational. Sort of. And very LJ. Very, very LJ.)
Old Mars and the Sea. A salty sea may once have covered the Opportunity rover's landing site on Mars, boosting the possibility that the planet may once have evolved life. (Of course, there are those who believe NASA has been conspiring to cover it all up, but the Bad Astronomer has words on that. Bunnies and faces, my foot.)
NASA and the Mars Bunny. I first heard about it from our own kokogiak. Then the conspiracy theorists: "They're destroying the evidence!" But now NASA has come out to tell us, "It's probably just airbag material."
Far, far away. Today, Voyager 1 will reach 90 AU from the sun, around which distance it is expected to cross the "termination shock," finally crossing into the fuzzy boundary between the heliosphere and true interstellar space. (Yes, it's taken that long to get there.) Some even think that the termination shock has already been reached, but then re-expanded past the spacecraft. Tears need not be shed yet for these distant explorers: both Voyagers have juice till about 2020, and the mission remains very much alive. (No word, however, on a possible return to the Creator.)