Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another Look at the Landing

From the JPL web site:
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera acquired this image of Phoenix hanging from its parachute as it descended to the Martian surface. Shown here is a 10 kilometer (6 mile) diameter crater informally called "Heimdall," and an improved full-resolution image of the parachute and lander. Although it appears that Phoenix is descending into the crater, it is actually about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) in front of the crater.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If You Didn't See It Already

This is by far one of the most amazing photos I think I've ever seen: 

NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander can be seen parachuting down to Mars, in this image captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is the first time that a spacecraft has imaged the final descent of another spacecraft onto a planetary body.

From a distance of about 310 kilometers (193 miles) above the surface of the Red Planet, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter pointed its HiRISE obliquely toward Phoenix shortly after it opened its parachute while descending through the Martian atmosphere. The image reveals an apparent 10-meter-wide (30-foot-wide) parachute fully inflated. The bright pixels below the parachute show a dangling Phoenix. The image faintly detects the chords attaching the backshell and parachute. The surroundings look dark, but correspond to the fully illuminated Martian surface, which is much darker than the parachute and backshell.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Can't Believe I Didn't Already Know This

Did you know you can sing "Amazing Grace" to the tune of Gilligan's Island?

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see

Meanwhile, it's just over a week until the Texas Star Party, and I'm getting all excited. I think I have most of my gear together, except Ian broke one of my red flashlights. My fault, really, for leaving it in the back seat of the car. I'm planning on taking the LX200 and the the AT80EDT/LXD650, so I expect to have a full car. Oh, and I got a rack to put the bike on the roof. It had better be a good trip, 'cause if gas keeps going the way it is, it may e a while until we make the trip again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Useful Astronomical Accessory

I have a little 7 amp-hour 12-volt battery that I use to power a red neon light out in the observatory--the battery is a "jump starter" from Radio Shack. Turns out it's also useful for when your child plays in your car and leaves the headlights on and you find it dead the next morning on your way to work. Imagine, using a jump-start battery to start your car!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Voter I.D.

There's been a bunch of talk recently about requiring a government-issued photo I.D. along with a voter registration card at a polling place, and the various problems associated with doing so. I see a solution, and it's so simple I can't be the only person thinking this: 

Make the voter registration card a photo I.D. 

How hard can that be? Hell, my Sam's Club card has my picture on it, surely the State of Texas can figure it out. And you want to go one better? Engineer it in such a way that residents of a border state can use it as I.D. to leave and enter the country from their home state instead of a passport.