Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hurricane Karl

The Global Hawk left southern California at 6 a.m. PDT for a 24-hour roundtrip flight to observe the storm. The DC-8, temporarily based in Ft Lauderdale, Fla., took off at approximately 1 p.m. EDT for about seven hours of research time. The WB-57, based in Houston, Texas, began its six-hour mission at about 12:30 CDT. The aircraft rendezvoused at the storm, which is currently in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Global Hawk’s altitude is about 60,000 feet over Karl, while the WB-57 is flying between 56,000 and 58.000 feet. The DC-8 joins the other two at an altitude of between 33,000 and 37,000 feet.

Today’s coordinated flights are the first time during the GRIP campaign that NASA’s three aircraft have been in the same storm at the same time. In addition, aircraft from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Air Force are monitoring Hurricane Karl.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chandra Finds Evidence for Stellar Cannibalism

The composite image on the left shows X-ray and optical data for BP Piscium (BP Psc), a more evolved version of our Sun about 1,000 light years from Earth. Chandra X-ray Observatory data are colored in purple, and optical data from the 3-meter Shane telescope at Lick Observatory are shown in orange, green and blue. BP Psc is surrounded by a dusty and gaseous disk and has a pair of jets several light years long blasting out of the system. A close-up view is shown by the artist's impression on the right. For clarity a narrow jet is shown, but the actual jet is probably much wider, extending across the inner regions of the disk. Because of the dusty disk, the star’s surface is obscured in optical and near infrared light. Therefore, the Chandra observation is the first detection of this star in any wavelength.

The disk and the jets, seen distinctly in the optical data, provide evidence for a recent and catastrophic interaction in which BP Psc consumed a nearby star or giant planet. This happened when BP Psc ran out of nuclear fuel and expanded into its "red giant" phase.

Colorado's Reservoir Road Fire from Space

Colorado's "Reservoir Road Fire" from Space

NASA's Aqua satellite flies around the Earth twice a day and captures visible and infrared imagery. On Sept. 12 at 19:20 UTC (3:20 p.m. EDT), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on Aqua captured a visible image of the "Reservoir Road Fire" that is currently raging in the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests / Pawnee National Grassland.

According to the National Forest Incident report on September 13, the Reservoir Road Fire near Loveland, Colorado, has burned 600 acres, and firefighting continues. Loveland is the second most populous city in Larimer County, Colo. Loveland is located 46 miles north of Denver.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tropical Depression Hermine

Tropical cyclones are usually big rainmakers once they make landfall and they start to fizzle out, and Hermine, now a tropical depression over Texas is no exception. Rainfall data on Hermine's heavy rains were gathered by NASA and the Japanese Space Agency's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. That data was used to create a map of potential flood areas that showed areas of flooding and potential flooding over a large area in southeastern and central Texas.

Hal Pierce of NASA's TRMM team at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. used the rainfall data from TRMM's rainfall measurements and various reporting stations to create a flood potential map. The map is color-coded and depicts areas with severe flood potential on Sept, 8.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Two Asteroids to Pass by Earth

Two asteroids, several meters in diameter and in unrelated orbits, will pass within the moon's distance of Earth on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Both asteroids should be observable near closest approach to Earth with moderate-sized amateur telescopes. Neither of these objects has a chance of hitting Earth. A 10-meter-sized near-Earth asteroid from the undiscovered population of about 50 million would be expected to pass almost daily within a lunar distance, and one might strike Earth's atmosphere about every 10 years on average.

The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., discovered both objects on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 5, during a routine monitoring of the skies. The Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., first received the observations Sunday morning, determined preliminary orbits and concluded that both objects would pass within the distance of the moon about three days after their discovery.

Near-Earth asteroid 2010 RX30 is estimated to be 32 to 65 feet (10 to 20 meters) in size and will pass within 0.6 lunar distances of Earth (about 154,000 miles, or 248,000 kilometers) at 2:51 a.m. PDT (5:51 a.m. EDT) Wednesday. The second object, 2010 RF12, estimated to be 20 to 46 feet (6 to 14 meters) in size, will pass within 0.2 lunar distances (about 49,088 miles or 79,000 kilometers) a few hours later at 2:12 p.m. PDT (5:12 pm EDT).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Crew Readies for Resupply Ship and Upcoming Departure

The Expedition 24 crew members are preparing for the arrival of the ISS Progress 39 cargo craft to replenish the orbiting laboratory with food, fuel, supplies and other cargo. The Progress 39 will dock to the aft end of the Zvezda service module Friday, Sept. 10. It is replacing the trash-filled Progress 38 which undocked Aug. 31 and is poised to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere Monday for a fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean.

The crew also will have an off-duty day Monday due to a frenetic pace of science activities. The six crew members are relaxing after three repair spacewalks restored the station’s cooling system.

Hurricane activity captured the attention of the station residents as they photographed and videotaped Earl churning in the Atlantic Ocean. The imagery and video are downlinked to ground controllers for observation and study by scientists. A Russian experiment, Uragan (Hurricane), monitors and studies the catastrophic effects of natural and man-made disasters. Other ongoing Earth observation experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory study natural phenomena and human activities and their consequences on the planet.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Science and Maintenance for Station Crew

As part of the ongoing Russian Seiner experiment, Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortsov photographed and documented developments and conditions in the Earth’s oceans Wednesday. His unique perspective of the oceans provides scientists on the ground with current position coordinates of bioproductive water areas.

Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko worked with the PILOT-M experiment. PILOT-M is an ongoing experiment that examines the effects of long-duration space flight and stress on the ability of crew members to complete manual spacecraft control tasks.

Flight Engineer Shannon Walker set up the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) experiment and performed body mass measurements. SLAMMD follows Newton's Second Law of Motion by having two springs generate a known force against a crew member mounted on an extension arm, the resulting acceleration being used to calculate the subject's mass, in effect weighing the individuals.

Using the Fluid Servicing System, Walker also refilled the Columbus laboratory’s Internal Active Thermal Control System with a water-based coolant.