Sunday, January 30, 2005

Another bright flash from Mount St Helens

The Volcanocam images from last night showed another bright flash event in the crater last night at 23:18 (local time). These bright flashes in the night time images are thought to be the result of the lavadome fracturing and exposing fresh lava to the surface. A new movie of last nights event has just been posted.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Close up of Meteorite on Meridiani Planum

This iron meteorite was discovered last week by the NASA Mars rover Opportunity on Meridiani Planum - the first meteorite discovered on another planet!

The latest microscopic imager pictures released today show some close-up images of the surface of the meteorite. This image shows a range of intriguing features - the dark markings towards the top of the frame, an interesting angular shaped inclusion jutting out of the rock and a very fresh looking hole in the dust on the surface, presumably caused by one of Opportunities instruments.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Mount St Helens glows again

The incandescent glow returned to the night time images from the Volcanocam last night - although very faint and difficult to see. I have processed the images from last night to enhance the brightness of the glow so its possible to see where the activity is occuring in the crater.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Life on Mars???

The NASA Mars Rover Spirit took this interesting picture on Sol 372. Looking for all the world like a small piece of lichen sitting on a rock, what could it possibly be? (Click the image to go to the relevant Spirit Raw Photo archive page)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Rhea in unprecedented detail

While all the attention of the last few days has justifiably focused on the Huygens lander and the images from Titan, the Cassini probe itself has been busy as well.

On Sunday (16 January) Cassini captured a sequence of images of Saturn's moon Rhea, revealing unprecedented detail of surface of this moon. One intriguing feature is the long bright linear feature that crosses the moon towards the bottom of the images.

This image is the result of stacking five raw Cassini images (N00026544.jpg to N00026550.jpg) using the excellent freeware astronomical imaging program Registax 3. The final image was adjusted to emphasise the details on the surface.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Another flash from Mount St Helens

There was another brief outburst recorded on the Volcanocam images from last night at 22:59. It wasn't as large an event as the previous night, but most likely indicates another fracture of the lavadome exposing fresh lava to the surface.

The USGS/CVO is reporting this morning that, "A large slab on the west side of the dome had collapsed recently and had generated a small rock avalanche and ash cloud that had drifted over the south crater rim. A bright glow on the VolcanoCam seen Thursday night was likely caused by this event."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Huygens probe first images from Titan

The first images from the Huygens probe descent onto Titan have just been released by the ESA. One shows a view from the ground of what appears to be a rock strewn plain. The other shows an aerial view of what looks to be numerous drainage chanels leading to the shoreline of a lake!

Mount St Helens - something happened last night

At 20:39 last night there was a spectacular brightening of the glow on Mount St Helens. The glow which has been relatively quiet in recent days flared up to a level which has not been seen since it first appeared last October. This sudden burst of activity may have corresponded with a large piece of the lavadome breaking off exposing fresh lava to the air. Better weather over the coming days may enable USGS/CVO scientists to observe any major changes to the lavadome that have occured.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Hubble's new BIG beautiful picture

The Hubble imaging team have released one of the largest ever images of a galaxy taken by the Hubble Space telescope. The 4-foot-by-8-foot image is being released today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, California.

According to NASA, "At Hubble's resolution, a myriad of fine details, some of which have never before been seen, is seen throughout the galaxy's arms, disk, bulge, and nucleus. Blue and red supergiant stars, star clusters, and star-forming regions are well resolved across the spiral arms, and dust lanes trace out fine structures in the disk and bar. Numerous more distant galaxies are visible in the background, and are seen even through the densest regions of NGC 1300."

The Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300, lies roughly 69 million light-years away (21 megaparsecs) in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The glow returns to Mount St Helens

Last nights images from the Volcanocam showed the incandecent glow intermittently during last night. So it appears that fears of the early demise of the glow were unfounded... New processed movies of the glow have been posted.

The USGS/PNSN report that, "The mountain is clear today and emitting a moderate steam plume. Seismicity and deformation of the south part of the lava dome are proceeding at rates similar to those in the recent past. Digital analysis of recent aerial photography suggests that the overall rate of dome growth may have slowed down since late November. Later this week, field crews plan to install more GPS units near the vent area to measure extrusion rate."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Iapetus the walnut?

Images just released from NASA and the Cassini imaging team reveal that Saturn's moon Iapetus has a bulging waistline! The images reveal a 20km high ridge neatly bisecting the dark hemisphere of this intriguing moon... Does anyone else think Iapetus resembles a heavily cratered walnut?

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Mount St Helens - glow, no glow?

The Volcanocam suffered some sort of breakdown last night and stopped transmitting images at 03:20am. Before then, the weather was clear and there should have been a good view of the night time glow from the crater. However, on reviewing the processed images from last night there was almost nothing to be seen!

So I tweaked the images to an extreme amount (effectively dialing up the gain) and the glow did appear from the darkness. So its still there, but just a very pale comparison to that which we've seen over the last couple of months.

The dimming of the glow seems to be yet another indication of the decreased levels of eruptive activity on the mountain. But for how long?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Comet Machholz in the early evening sky

Comet Machholz is a fairly bright comet that can be seen quite easily in the early evening in North America. In particular, in areas where the night sky is nice and dark. Unfortunately, I live quite close to the downtown of Vancouver, BC, and the sky is heavily light polluted. I could just make out the comet high in the SE sky at about 8:00pm through my small 9x25 binoculars.

I have never taken a photo of a comet before, and despite the large streetlight 5 metres away from our balcony, I thought I would give it a go.

The photo below is the result of stacking 16 shots taken with a Canon Digital Rebel camera (with 100mm lens @ f3.5, 2.5 seconds, 1600 ISO) using a program called Registar (which works like magic at aligning images), together with a little adjustement of levels in Photoshop. As a first attempt I think its reasonable - the comet is the little greenish fuzzball in the lower right of the image. I would have liked to capture at least a hint of the ion and dust tails, so maybe I'll try again tomorrow night, weather permitting...

Comet Machholz approaching the Pleiades star cluster.

Mount St Helens - winding down?

Despite the clear weather at Mount St Helens, the glow from the crater last night was subdued and relatively feeble - apart from one single burst around 20:20. The levels of seismic activity continue at very low levels and it seems the expansion of the lava dome is slowing (see below). Maybe the current eruptive phase is starting to wind down? Time will tell...

Latest Update from the U.S. Geological Survey, Vancouver, Washington and
University of Washington, Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, Seattle, Washington

Tuesday, January 4, 2005 9:10 a.m. PST (1710 UTC)

Recent observations: The volcano is very clear without a steam plume, but winds are very high. Seismicity continues at a very low level. We had a very successful field day yesterday. Crews placed a GPS unit on the southeast side of the new dome, measured gases, and collected rock samples. Preliminary GPS data show that expansion of the rear part of the dome has slowed to a rate of only a few meters per day. However, observations reveal that the new dome is heavily fractured and faulted; the north end emerging from the vent remains smooth and appears to still be moving relatively rapidly. Measured gases were not significantly different than previous measurements. Rock samples from the new dome are being analyzed. We have no specific field plans for the next several days.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A new year glow

Despite the clouds obscuring Mount St Helens last night, the glow from the crater was visible from about 1:00am until sunrise.

At the moment the Volcanocam shows a partly cloud covered mountain with a fairly strong steam plume rising from the crater. The latest update from the USGS/PNSN notes that the current very low level of seismicity continues.

Due to improving weather, there's an excellent chance of good views of the mountain and the nightly glow in the coming few days (and nights).

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Years view of Iapetus

The Cassini spacecraft passed within 72,000 kms of Saturn's moon Iapetus yesterday, beaming back some fantastic images of the rugged moons surface.

Click Here