THE COSMIC DIARY NETWORK
Feb. 17, 2020 I've been busy but I wanted to squeeze in a quick pretty picture of some Mars dunes. These: These dark hills of windblown sand are on the small side for Mars. The smallest is ~88 m (288 ft) across (for reference the smaller dunes found on Earth are usually 1/4 this size). What's cool about them is the variation in their slip faces: that steep slope that is just crying out for someone to slide down it (or roll down it, or run down it, or go sandboarding🏄🏽♀️, or something fun). Some have nice steep slip faces that are easy to find, clearly proclaiming that the wind is blowing mainly toward the bottom of the frame. That must be the case because we're looking at an itty bit of a... read more ❯
Feb. 14 - Feb 22 Weekend Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe exoplanets!
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, It's time for another Unistellar eVscope exoplanet citizen science campaign. We would LOVE (Happy Valentine's Day by the way) your help observing some exoplanets, so if you want to join us in some planet hunting, then charge up those eVscopes and get ready because we need your help over the next few weekends! If you didn't catch my recent posts on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's TESS is... read more ❯
Occultation by Nyanza on President Day across the US
Hello, If you have an eVscope and you want to participate to a scientific campaign on Presidents’ Day, this is something that may interest you. The asteroid 1356 Nyanza will occult a V-12.2 star for up to 6 seconds on February 17 at ~8pm PST and 11pm EST. Yes! This occultation will be visible across the US, from Redding, CA to Philadelphia, PA and Chicago, IL. If a large number of eVscope users observe this event, we will be able to derive the size, shape and eventual existence of moons around the asteroid. So don't wait and take your eVscope out if you are located nearby the visibility path of the event! Astronomers are very interested in the shape and the size of asteroids because this helps them understand how they formed. For instance, a few days ago, a group of astronomers revealed the first pictures of the asteroid Pallas, which is heavily cratered,... read more ❯
What to do tonight? Watch a type Ia supernova with your eVscope
There is a bright type Ia supernova in the elliptical galaxy NGC 4636 named 2020ue. Since its discovery by the Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki on January 12 2020, it has gotten brighter and now has reached its maximal magnitude of 12. It can be easily spotted with your eVscope! How can you observe it? Use the Explore menu and look for "NGC 4636", then click "Goto". When the telescope is done slewing and is tracking, click "enhanced Vision" and you will be able to easily see it even from a city. Located in the constellation of Virgo, the target is visible is the second part of the night from SF/LA/Montreal/NYC/Marseille. (After 1am). Our team in Marseille got a quick image a few hours ago under relatively poor conditions but it's easy to spot. See the image below. What can you see? "A type Ia supernova (read "type one-a") is a type of supernova that occurs in binary systems... read more ❯
Feb. 1 - Feb. 9 Weekend Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe exoplanets!
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, It's time for another Unistellar eVscope exoplanet citizen science campaign. We would love your help observing some exoplanets, so if you want to join us in some planet hunting, then charge up those eVscopes and get ready because we need your help over the next few weekends! If you didn't catch my recent posts on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's TESS is an amazing instrument, it still needs... read more ❯
January 24 Edition: Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe a NASA TESS exoplanet TONIGHT!
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, Today is my birthday and for a gift, I want you to be involved in something innovative like participating in the very first second Unistellar exoplanet detection campaign? Then charge up those eVscopes and get ready because we need your help tonight to try and observe a NASA TESS exoplanet! If you didn't catch my last post on this topic, my name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Currently, one of the best planet hunting missions in operations is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (a.k.a. TESS). Although NASA's TESS is an amazing instrument, it... read more ❯
Get your Unistellar eVscopes and help observe an exoplanet this weekend!
Dear Unistellar eVscope users, Want to be involved in something innovative like participating in the very first Unistellar exoplanet detection campaign? Then charge your eVscope and get ready because we need your help this weekend! My name is Dan Peluso and I am doing my PhD in astrophysics with Franck Marchis (astronomer at the SETI Institute) and as a portion of my research I want to see if it is possible for any astronomy enthusiast around the world to coordinate with planet hunting scientists like us to help contribute to the search for planets around other stars (a.k.a. exoplanets). Exoplanet searches usually require elaborate setups, lots of study, maybe a fancy degree, and a sky mostly free of light pollution. With new technologies, such as with the new Unistellar eVscope and the citizen science network we are developing in coordination with the SETI Institute that is no longer the case! Check out the... read more ❯
The exoplanet Beta Pictoris b. And yet it moves
Eric Nielsen, formerly a post-doc at the SETI Institute and now a researcher at Stanford University, led a study of the planet beta Pictoris b that combined direct observation of the planet recorded with the Gemini Planet Imager with additional data from space and ground-based observations. The team estimated the mass of this distant planet to be eight to sixteen times that of Jupiter and found that it likely has an elliptical orbit. A video shows the motion of the planet around its star, something that was inconceivable fifteen years ago. Since it was installed on the Gemini-South telescope in 2013, GPI has been continually observing beta Pictoris, studying its debris disk, atmosphere, and orbit, and searching for additional planets in the system. What makes beta Pictoris b special in the family of directly imaged exoplanets is that it is close enough to its star to complete an orbit in just twenty-five years,... read more ❯
Finding a Space Station with a Backpack Telescope
How I observed the International Space Station (ISS) transit the Moon with a Unistellar eVscope! Space station! Read it, hear it, or think it, and my mind is immediately transported to the scene in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope when Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and Han Solo find the Death Star and Obi-Wan says “that’s no moon, it’s a space station” (Lucas 1977). On Saturday morning, November 16, at 3:43 am PDT in Pioneer Park in Woodland, California, I saw both a space station and a moon with a robotic telescope that fits in a backpack! The International Space Station (a.k.a. the ISS) is one of the greatest technological achievements of human creation. The football field sized space station is a scientific laboratory collaborative with... read more ❯
When dunes vary in color
Nov. 11, 2019 It's Veterans Day in the US today. For some it's another day of work. For others it's a day to spend with the family. For most, we honor those who have served in our armed forces. I'm at work today, along with what I call the "holiday skeleton crew" - those of us at the SETI Institute who come to work on some holidays because our schedules allow it and because this is where we want to be. It's been a while since I posted a HiRISE picture. I've been really busy with work, and I've also been fighting off a seemingly endless cold. So to take a break from being sick (oh how I wish I actually could), here's a new HiRISE image that I find quite intriguing. Let's jump into it. Here are some dunes that seem to be made of two distinct colors: HiRISE... read more ❯
Helping Future NASA Missions: The Case of Orus, Target of the Lucy Mission
A Unistellar team traveled to Oman in early September to observe the occultation of a 11-mag star by the Trojan asteroid Orus. We succeeded in capturing the event with one of our eVscopes, an achievement in and of itself considering the small and uncertain path of this occultation. This is an important breakthrough because this detection will be used for another occultation by Orus again, coming up soon in Australia. On the top of that, this positive detection heralds the arrival of a new tool (the eVscope network) for the study of asteroids, centaurs and trans-Neptunian objects by occultations. Lucy is a Discovery-class mission scheduled for launch by NASA in 2021. Its goal is to study primitive asteroids by conducting a flyby of five trojan asteroids and one main-belt asteroid. Last year, Cathy Olkin, deputy principal investigator of the Lucy mission, sent me a list of occultation events involving those targets... read more ❯
Blackout Lights Out in California? Time to look at the positive and up at the cosmos!
Doom and gloom, the end of the world and all that stuff we like to click on. Time Magazine, New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, and many major news sources are reporting on California's current blackout initiated by PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric Co.) to help prevent another major California wildfire. I live in the Bay Area, but am fortunately not affected by the blackouts in my location (at least not yet). Some reports say that 600,000 have lost their power as of Thursday, October 10, and that another 250,000 are expected to lose power over the next several days (Fuller 2019). Losing electricity is no doubt a horrible nightmare for anyone in our modern society--you can't watch Netflix, play video games, watch television, charge your phone for more Fortnite or Candy Crush, microwave a burrito, etc. Doom and gloom. Cats and dogs raining from the sky. Mass hysteria. On... read more ❯
Drake Equation Mural in a High School Physics Class
The Attention-Grabbing Intro How well do you remember your first high school physics class? The only thing I recall was dropping an egg off of some bleachers and trying to make a device that protected that egg so that it would not crack. I also remember that there was some math involved and I think I might not have been too happy about that. Other than those memories, I cannot remember anything from that class! Sorry, Mr. Hanlon! Science was not my favorite subject in high school. In fact, it wasn’t until my late 20s that I fell in love with science and changed careers. Before that I couldn’t have cared less about it, but that’s another story. This story is about how I molded art, research, dimensional analysis, and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) into an engaging project in a high school physics class. I’m not a big fan of the traditional... read more ❯
Wind and sun on the dunes
Oct. 1, 2019 It's spring in the northern hemisphere on Mars. Actually, as of today, it's pretty close to northern summer solstice, but the recent crop of released HiRISE images mostly come from the spring season. Northern polar dunes on Mars get covered in winter frost every year. That frost sublimes away, bit by bit, as the sun rises higher and the days grow longer throughout northern spring. It's a fun process to watch, like in this image: The image is tilted a bit so that north is to the upper right. Sitting on the mosaic-tile of northern patterned ground are the slowly defrosting dunes. The sun shines most directly on the south-facing slopes, so the dark slopes facing toward the lower left are the most free of frost. But there are other dune surfaces... read more ❯
How many dust devils can you find?
Aug. 28, 2019 So I was wasting time looking for dune fields on Mars and I came across a great CTX image that's just riddled with dust devil tracks. Most of the time that's all you see, but sometimes you can spy a dust devil or two. And once in a great while you catch the dust devil engine at maximum. Below is the browse image for one such example. OK, right, you can't see any spectacular dust devils looking at this alone. That's because it's the browse image, which is a thumbnail of the actual, much bigger image, which would make WordPress pretty annoyed with me if I tried to upload here. So instead I've set it so that if you click on the image, you'll go to the image web page maintained by... read more ❯
Finding Kuiper Belt 2.0
A team of astronomers led by Bin Ren (The Johns Hopkins University) imaged the debris disk system around star HD 191089 using the GPI instrument, located at 160 light-year away from us. The structure of the debris disk around this younger sibling of our Sun is strikingly similar to our own Kuiper Belt. New technology available maybe in 2030s, like the giant space telescopes (HabEx & LUVOIR) could one day tell if there is also an Earth 2.0 with the Belt delivering water right now, or is there an exotic world that we have never seen or imagined, or maybe (and sadly) if there is nothing but void. Written by Bin Ren and posted on the Cosmic Diary GPI Blog Post with her permission. The Kuiper Belt Since NASA’s New Horizons’ visit to Pluto in 2015, the spacecraft began its journey in the hometown of Halley’s Comet---the Kuiper Belt. Kuiper Belt is a... read more ❯
<3 on Mars
Aug. 22, 2019 Yeah, yeah, I should be working. But I had to do this. I found a heart❤️ on Mars made by dust devils: The wind blows dust devils around, so sometimes they meander this way and that. Straighter paths are probably created by stronger winds, which sweep the dust devils along in a straight line. Curvy tracks like these are probably made when the winds are weaker, so the dust devil paths are more affected by turbulent convective activity, which can move in any direction. OK, now back to work... read more ❯
Dunes or bacteria?
Aug. 21, 2019 Trolling through the HiRISE image catalog, I came across some dunes that look a bit like bacteria. (Well okay, they look like some sort of microbe to my eye, which is highly untrained in looking at microbes, so if that's your thing then go ahead and shake your head. I'll wait. Ready to move on?) (On the other hand, if you have a pic of microbes that look like this, let me know.) (Oh and I want to give a shout-out to a new Youtube channel Journey to the Microcosmos, which is absolutely mesmerizing.) See what I mean? But no, these are big sand dunes, located on the north polar plains. They're covered in winter frost that has just begun to sublimate away (this image was taken in mid-spring). Here's a close-up that's in color, showing the ripples that cover most... read more ❯
Bask in Mars' beauty, because you can
August 5, 2019 It's been a while since I posted anything. Not because I didn't want to, but because I'm involved in so many projects that many things I love are being shoved aside for whatever has to be dealt with at any given moment. It was a rough weekend and end of the week in the US - there have been a few quite prominent mass shootings. I'm not going to get political about it here. I'm just going to share my personal escape route from it all: gorgeous Mars. So. Here are a couple of scenes from Ius Chasma, one of Mars' big valleys (it's part of Valles Marineris - the word "Valles" is plural, since the area has a ton of huge cracks in it - Ius Chasma is one of the bigger ones). These frames come from this HiRISE image. If you follow that link and scroll down you'll... read more ❯
TMT controversy. I vote for healing
I’ve been quiet on the TMT controversy not through choice but because it erupted while I was traveling, and because it’s an important topic that needs more than a tweet to discuss. Let me begin by saying that I love astronomy and science—but I also understand the heritage and cultural importance of Maunakea to the people of Hawaii. As a POC (Malagasy-Indian, and from Reunion island), I question the way we have, and are currently, handling this situation. True, the people behind the TMT have been patient, taken lots of time, and gone to enormous pains to complete all the paperwork necessary to certify the project. They have also attended countless hearings to make the project better and more respectful of both the environment and Hawaiian culture. I admire my colleagues at the TMT who worked around the clock to improve the project—they did the best they could under trying circumstances, and... read more ❯