Tuesday, December 28, 2004

History or littering?

The NASA Mars rover Opportunity has just reached its discarded heat shield lying on the flat plains of Meridiani Planum.
I wonder if these pieces of discarded space junk (see Pic1, Pic2) will be considered future historic sites, or just a case of interplanetary littering?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

New movie of Mount St Helens posted

The glow returned last night from just after 7:20pm and lasted for the entire night. I have posted a new time lapse movie of the display. The Volcanocam is showing clear weather and a plume of steam gently rising from the crater this morning.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

An Xmas glow?

Last night the glow made a brief appearance from 7:00pm until about 2:30am. A new movie of last nights display is available here. The weather forecast is for clearer weather later in the week and the moon should be near full. So maybe the mountain will put on a good display over the Xmas weekend...

Update from the USGS/PNSN:

U.S. Geological Survey, Vancouver, Washington
University of Washington, Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, Seattle, Washington
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 8:55 a.m. PST (1655 UTC)

Recent observations: Clouds again obscure the mountain, but better weather is forecast for later in the week. According to field sensors, there is no significant change in the eruptive activity. When the weather improves, field crews will service seismic stations, continue repairs to radio transmitters, and install more GPS units. Preliminary analyses from a gas-sensing flight last week suggest that emissions of SO2 may be slightly elevated, but within the range of past measurements; confirmation of results awaits further analysis. As of the end of November, the “whaleback” measured about 500 m long, about 200 m wide, and its highest point, which extends above the old lava dome, reached about 275 m above the old crater floor. The volumetric change associated with emplacement of new lava (the new dome, uplift, and glacier deformation) was about 28 million cubic meters. The old lava dome, which grew from 1980-86, has a volume of about 80 million cubic meters.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

New movies of the "Glow"

Friday night and last night were mostly clear on Mount St Helens and the incandescent glow was visible on the Volcanocam images for most of the two nights. I've posted new movies of the display here.

The USGS/PNSN report that a few more earthquakes of approximately magnitude 3 have shaken the mountain over the last few days. It is likely this is due to the ongoing growth of the new lavadome.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mount St Helens update

The last couple of nights have been clear on the mountain and the night time glow has been relatively active. The problems with the focus of the Volcanocam persist, but processing of the images at least improves the view a little. A new movie of last nights display is available here.

Update from the USGS/PNSN:

U.S. Geological Survey, Vancouver, Washington
University of Washington, Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, Seattle, Washington

Friday, December 17, 2004 9:50 a.m. PST (1750 UTC)

"We got clear views of the crater mid-day yesterday during a thermal-imaging flight. The new dome has noticeably broadened and the prominent fracture system along its top continues to widen. Hot cracks emit ash intermittently. During the night of December 15 (Wednesday) ash emitted from the east side of the dome formed a cloud that swept down the east arm of the glacier and over east side of the old lava dome, leaving a dark smear of ash on the snow on its north face. This smear is visible on the USFS VolcanoCam. The flow was relatively cool as it did not melt much snow. We were also able to repair an important radio-telemetry site that was severely damaged during the recent windstorm and do other needed maintenance. Owing to a late start caused by lingering fog in the metro area, we were not able to fit in a gas-sensing flight. That flight will begin shortly today. This morning the volcano is emitting a vapor plume that is drifting over the southeast crater rim. Four earthquakes of about magnitude 3 occurred overnight amidst the ongoing pattern of frequent smaller earthquakes. Swarms of similar-sized events have occurred on several occasions during the past month."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Awesome & bizarre Cassini images

NASA released several stunning processed images today from the Cassini spacecraft's recent close flyby of Saturn's moons Titan and Dione on the 13th and 14th December. There has also been a constant stream of fascinating images appearing on the Cassini Raw Images archive.

There were a lot of images that didn't make the press release, but seem worthy of interest - at least to me! Here's three examples:

The first is a crop of one of the raw images of Dione, showing a perfectly straight channel cut across the face of the moon. Such a linear feature is unlikely to be caused by tectonic activity, so was it possibly caused by a grazing encounter with another body?



The next is an intriguing image of the shadow of the rings on the surface of Saturn. Who would have thought that the rings could give such a well defined shadow image on the surface of the planet?



This last image reminds me of a shot of a UFO. A disk hanging in space - although its really a view of the pole with the shadows of the rings cast across it. With dozens (hundreds?) of turbulent storms to be seen on the surface of the planet's atmosphere. Literally - breathtaking...




Wednesday, December 15, 2004

New Titan images released today

NASA has released the first couple of images from the Cassini spacecrafts recent close approaches of Titan and Dione on the mission website, and will release more images and initial scientific results at a press conference tomorrow in San Francisco.

The first close up images from the flyby of the Saturn moon Dione have also appeared in the Cassini Raw Images archive.


Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Monday, December 13, 2004

Mount St Helens glows again

Last night the mountain put on a good show, the incandescent glow from the growing lavadome was visible for the entire night.

Unfortunately, it is now obvious that the recent adjustments to the focus of the Volcanocam have adversely effected the quality of the images at night (and to a certain extent during the day). In an attempt to compensate for the out-of-focus images of the glow, I have been trying different deconvolution algorithms in an attempt to correct the images.

You can see the success, or otherwise, of my efforts here.

Titan encounter

Tonight at 04:46am PST the Cassini spacecraft will pass by Titan at an altitude of 1200 kms - so we should get another raft of interesting images of the moons suface over the coming days.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Mount St Helens update

The weather on Mount St Helens continues to be bad, bad, bad. No day or night time views on the Volcanocam for the last several days... The levels of seismic activity continue at low levels indicating the continued growth of the lavadome, but the USGS/CVO scientists have been unable to carry out any field work due to the weather. Lets hope for a break in the clouds in the coming days...

The best meteor show of the year

Don't forget that the Geminids meteor shower peaks over the 12-14th December. The best viewing times (for North American viewers) will be around midnight local time on the nights of 12/13 & 13/14 December. Meteor rates of up to 60-80 per hour can be expected from dark sky sites and around a third of that rate for those of us in a city.

For a map on where to look and more info, please check out Science @ NASA.

Rings and moons

Another stunning image from the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn's rings and the three moons: Mimas, Janus and Prometheus. Most of the images of Prometheus we have seen previously show the moon inside the F-ring from above or below the ring plane. This is the first image I recall seeing showing the moon orbiting above the plane of the rings...


Image Credit:NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Norton AV or System Works problems?

If you recently updated your Norton Anti-virus or Internet Security programs and have been getting an error when you try and send email over the last couple of days, there is now a fix for the problem. Check out the details here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Thunderbird is GO!

The Mozilla Foundation has released v1.0 of the Thunderbird e-mail program for Windows Mac OS X, and Linux-as a free download from mozilla.org.

According to the Press Release, Thunderbird v1.0 offers:

* Adaptive junk mail controls - Thunderbird's junk mail controls learn and improve from emails that you receive to stop spam.
* Integrate RSS news and blog reader - View RSS news feeds and blogs with Thunderbird to quickly scan and sort through hundreds of headlines.
* Saved search folders and search bar - To help you find emails faster you can save common searches in virtual folders and find emails with the search bar.
* Tools to efficiently manage email - Global inbox, message filters, grouping, message views, labels, and much more are available to help you manage your email.
* Extensible with themes and Add-ons - Extensions like Palm Synchronization with address book make Thunderbird even more customizable and convenient to use.
* Easy migration - With Thunderbird it's easy to switch from Outlook Express and other email clients. When you first launch the product, Thunderbird migrates your mail account from Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, and Netscape Communicator.

I have been using Thunderbird for all of my e-mail for the last several months now and can highly recommend it.

Meteor, returning space junk, UFO or digital artifact?

The NASA Astronomy Pic of the Day website has posted an intriguing picture showing a dark trail, a flash and what appears to be steam rising around the impact site in a body of water. They don't think its lightning or a meteor and are asking for suggestiions via the Nightskylive online discussion board. There's also a very lively discussion going on Slashdot. What do you think it is?

Monday, December 06, 2004

The youngest galaxy

Using imagery from the Hubble space telescope, scientists have announced the discovery of the youngest Galaxy so far identified. The galaxy, I Zwicky 18, may be "only" 500 million years old - a mere toddler in the greater scheme of things...


Credit: NASA, ESA, Y. Izotov (Main Astronomical Observatory, Kyiv, UA) and T. Thuan (University of Virginia)

Friday, December 03, 2004

A kinky F-Ring animation

NASA has released an animation of Saturn's F-ring clearly resolving several individual ringlets and the kinks, knots and clumps of material that make up the ring. Fascinating! The full size animation is definetely worth a look!



Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

NASA has also finally released a slightly enhanced image of the shepherd moon Prometheus interacting with the F-ring material, which I first posted here back on 2 November 2004.


Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Mount St helens puts on a more diffuse show

Yesterday the US Forest Service serviced the Volcanocam (cleaned the lens, adjusted the focus and zoom). Last night the images from the mountain showed the glow for most of the night, but the glow was far larger and more diffuse than we have seen previously, as demonstrated by the stacked image below. This may be due to steam obscuring the incandescent lava which gives rise to the well defined hot spots on the mountain we have seen over the previous weeks, or it could possibly be due to the focus adjustment of the Volcanocam. I guess time will tell...

The movies of the diffuse display has been posted.

Note: When comparing this image to the previous image from yesterday, it is only the area around the glow which is comparable. I couldn't use the previous reference (Background) image due to the adjustment of the zoom range on the Volcanocam.

Stacked image from last night showing the diffuse glow from the crater.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Mount St Helens puts on a good show

After many days of poor weather, last night Mount St Helens put on a good show for the entire night. Multiple "glows" from the rising lavadome and several plumes of steam flickered on and off all night. New movies posted here.


A combined image showing the visible plumes on Mount St Helens last night

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Titan - a slightly clearer view

NASA has released a new radar image from the Cassini-Huygens space probe revealing another tantalising glimpse of the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. The image shows a number of linear features and a surface devoid of impact craters - indicating that the surface of Titan is most likely still geologically active.

We should learn a lot more about the surface of Titan when the Huygens probe descends to the surface of the moon on 14 January 2005.


NASA /JPL Image

Bhopal a major human tragedy

Twenty years ago tomorrow night, a little before midnight, something went horribly wrong at the Union carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. In the following couple of hours approximately 24 tonnes of the deadly gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC) was released from the factory into the surrounding community.

According to Amnesty International between 7,000 and 10,000 people died over the next three days and more than a hundred thousand more were seriously injured by exposure to the gas. The suffering of the people continues to this day. Unfortunately, it is not only those who were present on that fateful night who are still suffering. The next generation born to those exposed on the night are showing multiple health effects and birth deformities.

Union Carbide, now 100% owned by Dow Chemical, settled out of court with the Indian Government in 1989, without the consent or involvement of the survivors of Bhopal. The compensation paid was inadequate and did not take into account the actual number of people who have died or continue to suffer to this day.

Nor does it take into consideration the fact that Union Carbide never cleaned up the factory site itself. Recent studies have shown exceedingly high levels of chlorinated solvents in the groundwater - the only source of drinking water for thousands of people who still live around the plant.

If you would like to know more about this ongoing tragedy, please visit Bhopal.net and/or sign the on-line petition.

Mount St Helens update

The view of the mountain was obscured by clouds last night and continues today. So new new movies posted today.



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