Juno We’re Going to Jupiter?

Yesterday, August 30th, the Juno spacecraft successfully completed the first of two major deep-space maneuvers on its way to a July 4th 2016 arrival at Jupiter. The maneuver yesterday was a nearly 30-minute burn consuming 829 pounds of fuel. The second deep-space maneuver is scheduled for next week on the 4th and will be of similar duration and amount of fuel used.

The Juno spacecraft was launched on August 5th 2011 and is currently on its way toward the Sun not Jupiter. Why? The method used to send spacecraft to the outer regions of the solar system involves a path that swings around the Sun gaining speed from the Sun’s gravity. Additionally the two maneuvers are designed so that the spacecraft will pass by the Earth next year during October using the Earth’s gravitational field to increase the spacecraft speed as well as for guiding it toward Jupiter.

Click here to visit the Juno Mission.

Click here to read the NASA press release.

Hasta la Vesta

The Dawn Spacecraft is scheduled to leave the orbit of asteroid Vesta and head further outward toward the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest and most round object in the main asteroid belt. Launched in 2007 the Dawn spacecraft entered into orbit around Vesta during July 2011 and has been returning incredible imagery and scientific data about Vesta. Leaving orbit next week after midnight September 6th the spacecraft will take approximatelly 2.5 years to make the trek from the inner part of the asteroid belt to the other side where Ceres is located. Arrival at Ceres is early in 2015.

Dawn Mission folks have released a 5-minute video set to music that highlights many of the spectacular images and locations seen over the past year in an orbital flight around the asteroid that is very reminiscent of an older computer simulation/animation of flight over the surface of the moon Miranda.
Click here to watch the video.
Click here to read the NASA press release.

Storytelling With Maps

Story Map for Mars Rovers

A few posts, and several hundred spams ago I wrote about Info-graphics. My interest was mostly for ideas for my students independent projects. Along the lines of an Info-graphic is something called a Story Map. Like an info-graphic in appearance a Story Map is designed to be interactive whereas an Info-graphic is typically static.
Esri, a company that is synonymous with mapping and data visualization has created several interesting Story Maps illustrating a variety of topics from Civil War Battlefields, to the Mars Rovers pictured here. They also provide templates for creating your own Story Map. Story Maps may be like the Mars Rover and designed to be zoom-able and scroll-able.
Click on the graphic to see the Mars Rover Story Map.
Click here to see the other Story Maps at the Esri website.

Live from ISS

Working By Headlamp

For the next 5-6 hours two of the ISS astronauts, NASA Flight Engineer Sunita Williams and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide will be working outside the International Space station. At the time I am posting this the ISS is passing over Australia and is in the night side of Earth so the space walkers are working by the light of their headlamps.

Click here to view the live broadcast from the NASA web site.

Tropical Storm Isaac

Tropical storm Isaac Predicted Path

Now that the storm has moved inland the winds are slowing down but the rain continues. Using this interactive graphic developed by the New York Times you can see the track the storm followed across the Gulf of Mexico onto land and then its predicted path. The interactive shows 3 displays, a map, radar, and satellite image.
Of particular interest is the path the storm will follow northward into Missouri. My area has had minimal amounts of rain since last May and we are in what is called an ‘exceptional drought’ condition. Rain is desperately needed, and as one local Meteorologist put it – it is so bad that trees are fighting over dogs!

On the Road Again

Martian regolith on Curiosity’s wheels

NASA’s Curiosity Rover has left the nest so to speak as it begins the first trek, about 400 meters, across Mars toward a science target not yet determined. However I am in favor of making a stop at Winstead’s for some burgers and fries!
Seriously, at this first stop the mission controllers will run some tests using the robotic arm.

Click here to read the NASA Press Release.

Hurricane Issac From Space

Hurricane Isaac: 2 Views

Here are two contrasting views of Hurricane Isaac as it approaches the Louisiana Gulf Coast, and New Orleans.
One view is of the hurricane taken by NASA’s AQUA satellite yesterday afternoon (28 August).
The second picture is a night view of the gulf coast as seen through the lens of the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) on the Suomi-NPP satellite, (Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership). “Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.”

Click here to see a night image of the hurricane taken early this morning (29 August)

Tracking Hurricanes

Watching the weather news coverage of Hurricane Isaac had me go off in search of software or online resources for tracking this hurricane as well as past hurricanes. There are computer programs, and apps for smartphones however I decided to stick with online resources. So with that in mind here a few of the many web sites that will allow for observing hurricanes whether it is for home/personal use or for use with students in the classroom.

Screen Shot


TV Station WRAL in Raleigh NC maintains an interactive hurricane tracking and modeling web site as shown in the graphic.
On NASA’s Hurricane resource web site there are many links under the Educator’s page leading to videos, podcasts,posters, and other resources relating to hurricane study as conducted by NASA.
Faculty at Pennsylvania State University have developed a hurricane tracking web site, the Real-time Atlantic Hurricane Forecast, where a variety of maps and graphics are displayed showing location and path of each hurricane selected.
The National Hurricane Center, of the National Weather Service, is probably the ‘goto’ web site for things relating to hurricanes, or weather in general.

Spin Writers and Spam

I am probably not unlike many that use WordPress and routinely deal with spam sent as comments to my postings. And also probably like many writers, I was curious about a type of program or software known as ‘spin writers’. Essentially they seem to work like an automated Thesaurus to paraphrase writings. As it reads through your writing it offers alternate words and phrases to use as substitutes.
As a recipient of hundreds of spams sent as comments to my postings I have noticed a pattern to these spams, other than the same e-mail address. The pattern is in how these comments are written, and the fact that they rarely correlate with the post it is commenting on, and are very generically written. It seems to me that someone has written a few “I really like what you are doing/writing…” types of comments and then fed these into a spin writer over and over again to produce what seems like an endless supply of opportunities for me to click on the Empty Spam button!
Note, this is an unsolicited nod of approval for the Akismet Widget
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(In the time it took me to write this and make the little graphic 19 spams came in!)

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Neil Armstrong Has Died

This is some sad news to pass around. The first person from Earth to place their feet on another world, our Moon, has passed away. Someday I hope that my grand daughter and her generation will be able to share in an experience only my generation has experienced – that of people leaving low Earth orbit and in this case, walking on the Moon.
I can well remember sitting in the Dayroom of the barracks at Laredo AFB with the ‘troops’ watching live on TV the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon and Neil Armstrong’s comments and moon walk.

In the spirit of remembering Neil Armstrong, his accomplishments as an Astronaut, and the role model he was for many, I’d like to share an unverified story/joke about his comments made on the Moon. Supposedly after saying the “One small step…” he added, and this was for you Mr. Smith. Why? Supposedly, as a youngster he overheard his neighbors arguing about the wife’s refusal to give her husband a ‘BJ’. Her reply, supposedly, was that she would when the boy next door walks on the Moon.

Click here to go to the NPR web site to read more about Neil Armstrong.