January 20, 2019 Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse…from Southern New Mexico

By NM-GRL

We were lucky down here in my neck of the woods in southern New Mexico.  I don’t have a tripod but I have a porch with a convenient post that I could lean on.  It was cold…like dry heat, there is dry cold and when you’re at 4600+ feet above sea level, that cold is biting even though it may be in the high 40’s.

I caught the start, the peak, and the move out from totality..Top right is entry, bottom right is exit…Enjoy!

Happy 2019! New Horizons Has Flown Past Ultima Thule and I’m Still Onboard…4 Billion Miles Away

by NM-GRL

Three years ago I recounted how I managed to be aboard the New Horizons mission to Pluto…Well, a billion miles further out, this incredible mission has just completed the flyby of Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt…

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Artist’s Rendition From NASA…see About Ultima Thule

I’m now more than 4 billion miles away, a billion past Pluto.  The discoverer of Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh lived here, co-founded the Unitarian Church in town, and some of his ashes are on that spacecraft. I cheered along this morning when they received the signals confirming the checklist of all the instruments and we found out that all  are working fine,  just like I cheered when they first got the “call in”  and then during the flyby just at the start of the new year at about 12:30 AM ET, January 1, 2019.  It will take 20 months to download all the data and the clearest pictures from the closest distance/the actual flyby will be coming in February, the same month I was born. It’s SO FAR and it takes so long for that signal to come back to Earth. Another briefing will be tomorrow (2-3 pm ET, January 2) and some first pictures from the approach will be shown and these will confirm the shape of this little world.

Watch on Youtube at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory channel and NASA TV. (NASA was off the air when New Horizons first called in due to the government shutdown but was streaming today’s “checklist” confirmation coverage, so hopefully it will streaming again tomorrow).

Below is a re-post about the original Pluto mission’s first success.

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I’m Aboard the New Horizons Mission’s Final Approach to PLUTO Happening NOW!!

Originally published on January 19, 2015 at sister site…

By InsightAnalytical

UPDATE: To keep up to date with New Horizons Mission’s approach, these are the sites with all the info!  Both sites have countdown clocks to the time of the closest approach which will be at 7:49:59 a.m. EDT (11:49:59 UTC) on July 14, 2015.  The Johns Hopkins countdown also includes the elapsed time of the mission as well as a countdown to when the start of the close encounter operations begin,  12 April 2015, 00:00:00 UTC.

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/New Horizons website  — scroll down to sign up for their email newsletter for the latest updates, including tracking the craft’s location in the solar system.

NASA New Horizons Mission website  — latest news, Tweets, pictures and other information!

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I’ve always been fascinated by space.  I cherish books which I’ve had since childhood.  Published around 1957, these well-worn treasures are always in view in my office bookcase. So, winding up living in Southern New Mexico near the White Sands Missile Range has been a happy coincidence since it’s a hotbed of all things astronomy and space!   Post-World War II, Werner Von Braun was brought here to test rockets for the U.S. Army and captured V-2 rockets carried hundreds of  payloads.

 

Childood Space Books

Childhood Space Books

What Space Exploration Would be like in the 1970's--Werner Von Braun from Chapter in "Outer Space"

Werner Von Braun’s vision of space exploration in the 1970’s–from chapter in “Outer Space”

NASA’s  White Sands Space Harbor (WSSH), was the primary training area for space shuttle pilots flying practice approaches and landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft and served as a backup landing site (Shuttle Columbia landed here on March 30, 1982). And I was able to witness the final flyover of the space shuttle Endeavour on its way it’s final home in California on September 20, 2012.  NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which has supported many missions, is a few miles from my home.   I watched as Endeavour circled over White Sands and the NASA facilities on Route 70 in a final goodbye, swung back over the assisted-living facility where my mother was at the time and then flew right over me as I stood on the dam and then turned toward the west.   I had tears in my eyes as I simply loved the space shuttle era! And this haunting video of the flyover brings tears to my eyes now!   I met Alan Hale, of Hale-Bopp Comet fame at the local co-op one day and had lunch with him on his next visit to Las Cruces from his home in Cloudcroft.  Who could have imagined that when I viewed the comet back in 1997 in New Jersey I would someday chatting with one of the discoverers! I also built a 4.5″ Dobsonian reflector telescope telescope one summer at a class sponsored by the Astronomical Society…and later had my scope signed by John Dobson himself when he visited the club!  And, the Spaceport which is waiting for Richard Branson’s commercial edge of space flights to become operable, is just a short distance away.

But even more important now is the fact that Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto,  lived and passed away here…and some of his ashes are aboard the New Horizons spacecraft! See Clyde Tombaugh: Astronomer Who Discovered Pluto, from Space.com.

Tombaugh was a founder of the local Unitarian Church and he is memorialized in a stunning stained glass window in the Tombaugh Gallery,  which houses a variety art exhibitions.

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It was quite by accident (or was it synchronicity?) that I’ve reconnected with this Pluto mission. I’ve been clearing out a lot of old stuff lately…clothes, files, and all sorts of stray papers. Recently, I rediscovered a lost printout that I promptly restored to a prominent place in my office.

This single piece of paper reads:

NEW HORIZONS MISSION

Shedding Light on Frontier Worlds

Participation Certificate

Presented to

***********My Name************

On August 30, 2005

Thank you for joining the first mission to the last planet! A compact

disc bearing your name will be included on the New Horizons spacecraft,

set for the first voyage to a new class of planets on the solar system’s

farthest frontier.

Come with us as we complete the reconnaissance of the solar system and unlock

the secrets of Pluto, its moon, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt.

Certificate No. 277229

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  On December 6, 2014, NASA posted this update on the mission entitled “On Pluto’s Doorstep, NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens for Encounter.”  (http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/on-plutos-doorstep-new-horizons-spacecraft-awakens-for-encounter/#.VLWz3HuW6oN)

After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation today for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., confirmed at 9:53 p.m. (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to “active” mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.

“This is a watershed event that signals the end of New Horizons crossing of a vast ocean of space to the very frontier of our solar system, and the beginning of the mission’s primary objective: the exploration of Pluto and its many moons in 2015,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.

With a seven-instrument science payload that includes advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a compact multicolored camera, a high-resolution telescopic camera, two powerful particle spectrometers and a space-dust detector, New Horizons will begin observing the Pluto system on Jan. 15.

New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto will occur on July 14, but plenty of highlights are expected before then, including, by mid-May, views of the Pluto system better than what the mighty Hubble Space Telescope can provide of the dwarf planet and its moons.

“New Horizons is on a journey to a new class of planets we’ve never seen, in a place we’ve never been before,” says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of APL. “For decades we thought Pluto was this odd little body on the planetary outskirts; now we know it’s really a gateway to an entire region of new worlds in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons is going to provide the first close-up look at them.”

January 15th!  With very little fanfare, New Horizons is going places where no spacecraft has gone before! It is happening right now!

In a January 5th article in Time Magazine entitled “ Hello Pluto! NASA’s Visit to the Mystery World Begins,” Alan Stern who has led the project writes:

It’s not exactly top secret, but it is too little known: this month, a small, robot spacecraft—built, launched and guided by a team of over 2,500 Americans—will begin the exploration of far-away Pluto and its five known moons. Lasting from January through July, this epic journey is very much the Everest of planetary exploration.

New Horizons already set records when it was launched in 2006 by becoming the fastest spacecraft to leave the Earth—reaching the orbit of the moon in just nine hours, about 10 times more quickly than the Apollo spacecraft did. Now, after traveling for nine straight years at an average speed of 39,000 m.p.h. (59,000 km/h)—equivalent to L.A. to New York in four minutes—it is at last approaching its historic rendezvous. No spacecraft has ever ventured farther—3 billion miles (4.8 billion km)—to reach its primary target.

At its closest approach, New Horizons will pass Pluto at a distance of just 6,000 miles (9,700 km). It will send back images at resolutions so high that if it were flying over New York City at the same altitude, it could count wharves on the Hudson River and ponds in Central Park. It will also take measurements of Pluto’s composition and atmosphere, study its moons, and more.

In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences ranked visiting the Pluto system at the very top of NASA’s exploration priorities. Why? Because in the 1990s, planetary astronomers discovered a vast structure in our solar system, a previously unknown disk of comets and small planets out beyond Neptune, called the Kuiper Belt. Pluto was the first of many small planets discovered out there, and it is still both the brightest and the largest one known.

The Kuiper Belt is the largest mapped structure in our planetary system, three times as big as all the territory from the sun out to Neptune’s orbit. The comets and small planets that make it up are valuable because they represent the astronomical equivalent of an archeological dig, reaching back to the era of planet formation, 4.6 billion years ago.

Nothing like the exploration that New Horizons is about to undertake has happened in a generation, and nothing like it is planned or even contemplated to happen again. It is likely the last time in our lifetimes that a new planet will be explored. This is more than scientifically important—though it certainly is that. It’s also a reminder of what American technology, culture and daring, on its game, can do.

So… my name and certificate number on a disc that is on a small craft…and the most amazing space mission to date!

To the edge of our solar system…and beyond!

Subtle Sunset Hallucinations (Pictures of a Trip of the Imagination)

~~By NM-GRL

Yesterday we had ANOTHER snow storm…a heavy wet snow that resulted in a couple of inches and some shoveling for old times sake for me.  Of course, by today, you would never known it had ever happened!

But it’s cold and a wind moved off most of the leftover clouds. Tonight, I was out just as the sun was setting and just had to run to get the camera.  The sky over the Organ Mountains was especially sublime…the pictures really don’t do it justice, but here goes:

Sometimes we get clouds that look like flying saucers. This one over the peaks certainly is not the most perfect of examples, but the location and the colors….it will have to do!  For a moment I thought I was watching the craft from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” descending to pick me up…

A close encounter?

Then, I noticed to the left, a sight over the St. Augustin Pass that made me wonder if I were seeing a wormhole of sorts.  Time rippled around the edges of this massive gateway:

A wormhole?

Then, a closer look revealed what looked like a distant, imaginary mountain range covered in snow as I looked through the pass:

A far away mountain range? Shangri-La?

The colors of the mountain changed into a copper glow….was I on a red planet, like Mars, near an icecap?

Copper Mountains

As the light ran out, I returned to the house and back to planet Earth to cook dinner…But it had been a lovely dream!

An Early Season Snowstorm with a Magnificent Reward…(Pics, including an adorable dog, too)

~~By NM-GRL (IA)

Okay, last time I posted it was green chile time…but hectic months stopped me from getting up a couple of ideas…but they will go up!

Today I awoke to our first snow of the season….several weeks early, by my reckoning…and quite a bit more dramatic than usual. It started yesterday afternoon with a nasty, cold rain and overnight it shifted over to snow.

The big deal here is not just getting snow on the ground (although it was already gone from the streets and sidwalks by the time I woke up!).  For me, it is watching the stormy weather clear and getting a clear view of the Organ Mountains and the snow on them!

So, here’s how it unfolded over the last 24 hours:

As you can see, Slick wasn’t particularly interested in getting up this morning! In fact, all the dogs were not going out yesterday and it was a cliffhanger for a couple of them in terms of how long their bladders would hold out. Even Slick rebelled at the cold rain late in the afternoon, although I got him out for about 2 seconds to pee pee.  Toro went out into the backyard, but Tico stayed put in the back of his crate all day until I threw him outside after things cleared today!  He is deathly afraid of storms…we adopted him from the animal shelter in February 2002. He had spent a month with people who had found him in a ditch. He was about 6 months old when we got him, so I figure he was out in some pretty cold, rotten weather as a baby.  So, I can understand his penchant for hiding under the bed, in his crate, and generally refusing to go out at all.

Slick Lingers in (My) Bed

I don’t blame him, because this was going on outside:

It was still snowing in fits and starts...

Fence Peaks

Not Even the Birds Were Out for Their Morning Meal...

Pretty icky for these parts, but sissy weather for back in New Jersey!  But, it’s so fleeting here, that this sort of raw, cold, dreary sort of weather is a shock!

Ah, but then it began to clear…the clouds started rolling away and sun came…and finally, I went out to the back…and…

The Organs Show Off Their Winter Coat...

…At least here there’s a magnificent payoff at the end of the nasty weather!

A Trip to Albuquerque: Along the Road, a Wind Turbine Blade and a “Watermelon”

By NM-GRL (IA)

It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted here!  But things might be easing up, finally.

My brother visited and we’ve just completed a long two weeks enclosing our back porch.  Tonight, we sealed the grout, so all I have to do is wash the floor, lay the new indoor/outdoor rug I bought yesterday, and start setting the room up, including moving some plants out of the house to the new room.

Before that happens and I get some pictures together on the final project, I’m catching up with my overnight trip to ABQ a few weeks ago. My brother flew into the Sunport for the first time (instead of El Paso) and it gave me a chance to get out of town.  I drove up that morning and that Saturday night we went to an Isotopes baseball game which was a blast. The next morning we took the Sandia Tram, which I’ve always wanted to do. It was fantastic and I will be posting about that shortly.

But for now, here are a few pics from the drive up. Along the way, I came upon a big “wing.” I had seen one being transported back home and figured it was a blade of a wind turbine.  This one I saw close up.  I passed it, but the blade and I wound up at the same rest stop a few minutes later!  If you’ve never seen one of these babies, they are colossal and look like a whale!

First, the sign from the rest stop.  History and modern technology were together that day…

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And here is the turbine blade…

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Look at how this thing is attached to the tower…

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If I recall correctly, this blade was on its way to Utah.

Seeing this thing up close was a pretty great start to my trip!

Just before hitting ABQ I stopped at the Isleta Indian Reservation for gas. It’s a popular place along the road to take another quick rest stop and top off the tank.

I drove directly to the airport and hanging in the main lobby is an old biplane, with an engine that “pushed” rather than “pulled” the plane, sort of like how a VW Beetle had an engine in the back!  There was a fascinating display which told the story of aviation in New Mexico.

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I got a peek of the Sandia Mountains from the waiting room.  From Wikipedia:

Sandía means watermelon in Spanish,[2] and is popularly believed to be a reference to the reddish color of the mountains at sunset.[3] Also, when viewed from the west, the profile of the mountains is a long ridge, with a thin zone of green conifers near the top, suggesting the “rind” of the watermelon. However, as Robert Julyan notes,[4] “the most likely explanation is the one believed by the Sandia Indians: the Spaniards, when they encountered the Pueblo in 1540, called it Sandia, because they thought the squash growing there were watermelons, and the name Sandia soon was transferred to the mountains east of the pueblo.” He also notes that the Sandia Pueblo Indians call the mountain Bien Mur, “big mountain.”

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My brother’s plane came in on time. Eureka! Last year, flying via Dallas, he had a huge delay and it took him 12 hours to get back to New Jersey. So, we decided to try Southwest into ABQ and it worked like a charm.

Spring Finally Arrives in New York! Hurray! Photos from Highland Park (Near Rochester)

~~By Grail Guardian

After the longest Winter I can remember in quite a few years, Mother Nature has finally blessed Upstate New York with her bounty once again. Temperatures Saturday soared into the high 80s, and I actually was able to turn off the furnace and sleep with the windows open!

NM-GRL may have the New Mexico weather advantage, but we have the glorious eruption of a never-ending cascade of color and foliage that reminds us why we still live here. Basically, I think most of us will move once Governor Paterson figures out a way to tax the flowers and trees (I’m sure he’s working on it…)

So until then, let’s start with the sea of daffodils!

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This photo was taken last week, and many more have since come out. These are some early blooms at Highland Park (my favorite place to enjoy nature until my Dad gets his yard finished – I’ll do another post when his artistry is in bloom).

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The first Magnolias starting last week – they are now out in full force and walking through this section of the park sends you on a sensory journey that just has to be experienced! I love to just stand there with my eyes closed and breathe in the sweet fragrance…

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More Magnolias, surrounded by an incredible blanket of blue Glory of the Snow…

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A splash of Spring colors blankets the old Oak tree…

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I think this is a member of the Dogwood family. This park features an abundance of flora from around the world, and many unique species of lilacs created here for the annual Lilac Festival

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These pics were taken just before the 2008 Lilac Festival. I cannot even begin to describe the heavenly aroma that surrounds the park when these babies are in bloom…

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Some white Lilacs (photo from 2008)…

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Since I’m taking the trip down memory lane, here (again from 2008) are a few of the magnificent Azaleas that are taller than I am!

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Back to this year, Spring wouldn’t be complete without the forsythia. Again, this was taken last week, so they’ve filled in quite a bit.

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And here’s a preview of the Lilacs! Starting to leaf out…they’ll be glorious in a couple of weeks!

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And today the Bradford Pear outside work is in full bloom…

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And our birds’ favorite tree – they love to eat the flower buds, but the tree seems to withstand their assault quite nicely. The cardinals keep trying to build a nest in it, but it’s too close to the building so they give up every year. Thanks to the security coating on the windows, we can watch them quite close up. We have to hang feeders off the windows to keep them from flying into the glass, but our male cardinal still tries to fight the “other male” he sees in his reflection at least once a day.

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Editor’s Note:

Highland Park in Rochester was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead:

Renowned park designer Frederick Law Olmstead was responsible for final development of Highland Park. Among his other accomplishments was the design of New York City’s famous Central Park.