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the Phoenix Mars Mission
|| 5/30/2008 || 2:00 pm || Comments Off on the Phoenix Mars Mission || ||

The Martian surface is rather barren….
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

For nearly the last year I’ve been following the various contemporary space missions on this blog. It probably all started last summer after finding the unique Zodiac from 1544, then this curiosity progressed to Google Sky & Stellarium, to seeing my first Moon Mars conjunction as well as Saturn for the first time in December, and most recently seeing Mercury Messenger‘s first photographs of the backside of Mercury and seeing Jupiter conjunct the Moon for the first time last week.

Today’s entry concerns the Phoenix Mars Mission which I’ve found to be pretty fun to learn about. The website consists of scientist blogs, near-realtime photographs and animations. Because it’s all happening in near-real time, it’s like you are exploring Mars alongside of the official scientists. Quite cool.

Related Space Entries:

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Astrophotography by Anthony Ayiomamitis – Analemma with the Parthenon
|| 4/1/2008 || 2:28 pm || Comments Off on Astrophotography by Anthony Ayiomamitis – Analemma with the Parthenon || ||

Following up on my antique sundials posting, I just came across this stunning photography by Anthony Ayiomamitis that shows the sun’s yearly orbit seen from a stationary points around various ancient ruins in Greece. The figure 8 design that the sun creates is called an Analemma. It’s a curve representing the angular offset of the sun from its mean position on the celestial sphere as viewed from Earth. The sun’s position in the figure 8 varies by geography and time of year, but when a series of photographs are taken from one location you can see the sun’s relative path through the seasons.

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The first glimpse of Mercury’s horizon
|| 1/17/2008 || 5:55 pm || Comments Off on The first glimpse of Mercury’s horizon || ||

As the MESSENGER spacecraft drew closer to Mercury for its historic first flyby, the spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) acquired an image mosaic of the sunlit portion of the planet. This image is one of those mosaic frames and was acquired on January 14, 2008, 18:10 UTC, when the spacecraft was about 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from the surface of Mercury, about 55 minutes before MESSENGER’s closest approach to the planet.

The image shows a variety of surface textures, including smooth plains at the center of the image, many impact craters (some with central peaks), and rough material that appears to have been ejected from the large crater to the lower right. This large 200-kilometer-wide (about 120 miles) crater was seen in less detail by Mariner 10 more than three decades ago and was named Sholem Aleichem for the Yiddish writer. In this MESSENGER image, it can be seen that the plains deposits filling the crater’s interior have been deformed by linear ridges. The shadowed area on the right of the image is the day-night boundary, known as the terminator. Altogether, MESSENGER acquired over 1200 images of Mercury, which the science team members are now examining in detail to learn about the history and evolution of the innermost planet.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

As I mentioned the other day, the MESSENGER spacecraft started to document the planet Mercury. Since this is the first time in my entire life that contact has been made with the planet, I find these pictures quite intriguing.



Staring at the Sun in Stellarium
|| 1/15/2008 || 12:34 pm || Comments Off on Staring at the Sun in Stellarium || ||

Screen grab of Stellarium with the constellations art layer turned on

Two screen grabs below with the azimuthal & equatorial grids turned on:

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Mercury is nigh [flyby stimuli]
|| 1/14/2008 || 12:51 am || Comments Off on Mercury is nigh [flyby stimuli] || ||

According to Astroprof’s Page:

The MESSENGER spacecraft is now nearly to Mercury. It will pass the planet on Monday, January 14, 2008, at about 1:05pm, Central Standard Time.

MESSENGER (the MErcury Surface, Space Environment, GEochemistry and Ranging spacecraft) is the first space probe to visit Mercury since Mariner 10 last passed that planet in 1975, over three decades ago. Technology and instrumentation have come a long way since then. MESSENGER is far more capable than Mariner 10 ever could have been. Furthermore, MESSENGER aims to do something that Mariner 10 never did: MESSENGER, after several flybys, will enter orbit around Mercury. Mariner 10 only flew past three times. MESSENGER will pass closest to Mercury tomorrow, and then again 266 days later, on October 6, 2008. This is important, because it is about 4.5 Mercury rotations. That means that on the second flyby, MESSENGER will see the opposite side of Mercury lit than the one lit on the first flyby. When Mariner 10 flew past, each time by was almost 3 exact rotations later, so nearly the exact same side of Mercury was lit each time by. As a consequence, half of Mercury could never be seen by Mariner 10. And, not even all of the side lit by the Sun was imaged, so less than half of Mercury has been photographed and mapped. MESSENGER will not have this problem. The MESSENGER website has several animations that show the launch, trip across the solar system, and approach for the spacecraft.

Read more here & here.

Watch the flyby animation of Mercury in HD [quicktime]

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The Grand Design Lenz Quilt
|| 1/13/2008 || 11:20 am || Comments Off on The Grand Design Lenz Quilt || ||

: rendered at 9,000 X 6,000 :
The Grand Design Lenz Quilt

Using the elements from the Lenz Projection I was able to magnify portions of a tessellated Messier 101 Pinwheel Galaxy (a grand design galaxy) to create this fine celestial perspective.

Read more about this project here.

View Details:

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Messier 101 Mandala [birth/death of a star]
|| 1/11/2008 || 6:22 pm || Comments Off on Messier 101 Mandala [birth/death of a star] || ||

: saved at 12,000 X 12,000 :
Messier 101 Mandala

It was originally rendered at the normal size (216mp), but I decided to cut the center out and use the circular Mandala layout. Being that its my first use of tessellated space I decided to use an archetype that represents rebirth.

Read more about this project here

View Details:

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Moon Mars Conjunction
|| 12/24/2007 || 3:06 pm || Comments Off on Moon Mars Conjunction || ||

Screen grab from the Astroprof’s Page (Image produced using Stellarium)

Last night my next door neighbor and I lugged the telescope to my rooftop to look at the night sky. It was an exceptional night for celestial observations too. My neighbor had been letting me borrow the telescope for the last 3 months and I must say its been an absolute pleasure looking off into the cosmos– even through the dense light pollution surrounding Washington, DC.

Last night’s conjunction was definitely a high point of my celestial viewings, followed closely by seeing Saturn. In the telescope, Mars was visible but rather hard to see because of the relative brightness of the moon! My neighbor commented on Mars, “Is that brown spot a storm?” I laughed and said that was probably the surface of Mars that he was seeing. What was really neat was watching the conjunction take place. Around dusk, Mars was on the left of the Moon and by 10pm he was on the other side of the Moon.

Below is some text copied from the Astroprof’s Page:

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Seen in the night sky last week
|| 12/1/2007 || 11:05 pm || Comments Off on Seen in the night sky last week || ||

Two weeks ago I finished reading “Fated Sky” by Benson Bobrick. The book is a historical overview of prominent astrologers thoughout history like Ptolemy, Dee, Brahe, and Sibley (to name but a few). I am quite happy I read it. It’s given me a new appreciation for the ancient art of astrology. It’s also helped to support my recent interest in the night sky.

This last week was quite a busy, productive, and exciting week. Some emotional loss, some financial gain, travel to a new place, research of the old and new and, well, quite a lot of fun.

This week also coincided with the viewing of two planets for the first time. With both my naked eye and using a telescope, I gazed upon Mars & Saturn for the first time.

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An updated Armillary Sphere
|| 9/28/2007 || 8:54 pm || Comments Off on An updated Armillary Sphere || ||

Above is an Armillary Sphere, which was used in ancient times as a celestial calendar. Created prior to the orrey, which is a helio-centric model, the Armillary Sphere allowed it’s user to know where the moon was in relation to the earth. It also featured a zodiac, which I’ve been playing with earlier this year.

To make the above image, I edited the public domain engraving on the Wikipedia page and added a very tiny NASA Blue Marble satellite image of the western hemisphere of the earth. I am probably going to add this image to this website’s splash page, which will knock the total number of visual combinations to over 3,000! I’d like to make a few more first. The U.S. Naval Observatory’s logo gave me some ideas :-).

Since May I’ve been very interested in old maps and the scientific instruments that were used. When I discovered Julius Schiller, who published Coelum Stellatum Christianum (which replaced pagan constellations with biblical and early Christian figures), I began to take quite an interest in celestial cartography.

Around that same time my next door neighbor, thinking that my cartographic expertise had to do with astronomy, offered to let me borrow his children’s telescope. Since then (about mid-August) I’ve been looking to the night sky about once a week; much to my enjoyment. Last week was a highlight because we met on the rooftop and set up the telescope. I showed him and his kids how to use the telescope and was able to show them the moon for the first time. DC has quite a bit of light pollution which makes celestial observances quite tough. The neighborhood watch was even in effect because my housemate said people from the street over knocked on our door warning her about people on the roof.

My favorite night sites are Venus and the Moon, simply because they are the easiest to find. I really want to see Mars, Saturn, or Jupiter. But I’ll just have to wait until the night’s right (or I have ample patience). Ironically, a week after my neighbor brought over the telescope, the new version of Google Earth came out with an integrated celestial viewer.

I have more to write about my nightly observations and research I’ve been dabbling in at a later date.

Related Antique Entries:

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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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