Videos: “Space to Ground” report on the ISS – Aug.31.2018

Here is the latest Space to Ground report from NASA on activities related to the International Space Station:

A selection of other recent NASA videos of interest:

** An overview of NASA’s ICON mission, which is set to be orbited in October via a Northrop Pegasus XL rocket air-launched from under a Lockheed L-1011 airliner:

Where does Earth’s atmosphere end and space begin? This and other questions soon will be answered by NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. Get ready to watch as the Pegasus countdown reaches T-Zero launching in early October from its carrier aircraft flying near the Kennedy Space Center. 

** Guy Bluford Reflects on the 35th Anniversary of His First Space Flight

** An update on the recently launched Parker Solar Probe:



Listen to the Story of Apollo 8, when humans first left earth and orbited another world

Bob Zimmerman tells me his book, Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, which tells the dramatic history of the first mission to send humans beyond earth orbit, is now available as an unabridged audiobook.  From the press release:

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of mankind’s boldest adventures, the first manned flight to another world. To mark the occasion, an audio version of the first book about the mission of Apollo 8 has been released, narrated by Grover Gardner, a legend in the ears of fans of audiobooks all over the planet.

Says Valerie Anders, wife of Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders, “When I first read this excellent account, published before the end of the space shuttle era, I was delighted.”

Now, with the advent of high quality audio books and online merchants like iTunes and Audible, and the resonant and expressive voice of narrator Grover Garner, everyone can enjoy this recording of this pivotal moment in space history.

While more recent books have been published on the mission of Apollo 8 (most of which rely heavily on Zimmerman’s work), none has captured the impact the Apollo program had on the families of the astronauts nearly so well as “Genesis – the story of Apollo 8.” The new forward to “Genesis,” by Valerie Anders, contains a moving tribute to those pilots who never returned from their missions – not as faraway as the moon, but just as dangerous and far more frequent.


Carnival of Space #576 – hosts the latest Carnival of Space.

“About 35% of all known exoplanets which are bigger than Earth should be water-rich. These water worlds likely formed in similar ways to the giant planet cores Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune in our own solar system. The newly-launched TESS mission will find many more of them, with the help of ground-based spectroscopic follow-up. The next generation space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, will hopefully characterize the atmosphere of some of them.” – NextBigFuture



Video: The Planetary Post with Robert Picardo + Win a trip to Florida to watch a Falcon Heavy launch

Here is the latest episode of the Planetary Post with Robert Picardo from the Planetary Society:

Robert Picardo is in Scotland so he invited a special guest host, MaryLiz Bender, to share her recent launch experiences on the Florida Space Coast.

As mentioned in the video, the Society is holding a drawing (entry with a minimum $10 donation) to win a trip to Cape Canaveral to see a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch that will include the Society’s LightSail-2 among the payloads: Join Bill Nye for Lunch and the Launch of LightSail® 2 –

Well, it’s official: The future is here. It’s in the form of the LightSail 2 launch, and who’s got a front row seat? You. You’ve also got an A-list guest by your side in the form of Bill Nye. You’ll head to Cape Canaveral to see LightSail 2—a small CubeSat created and crowdfunded by the global community of The Planetary Society supporters—launch into space, deploy shiny solar sails and soar into space on beams of pure energy (aka, the light from the sun). And to get up there, it’ll hitch a ride on the world’s most powerful rocket, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Pretty cool. Watch this monumental launch with Bill, then grab a bite with him to geek out over the overwhelming awesomeness of it all. After that, you’ll attend an exclusive VIP dinner for The Planetary Society, an incredible organization that introduces people to the wonders of the cosmos and empowers us all to advance space science and exploration. Flights and hotel included.



Video: Hubble captures aurora in action on Saturn’s north pole

A new report from the NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope collaboration:

Hubble observes energetic lightshow at Saturn’s north pole

This image is a composite of observations made of Saturn in early 2018 in the optical and of the auroras on Saturn’s north pole region, made in 2017. In contrast to the auroras on Earth the auroras on Saturn are only visible in the ultraviolet — a part of the electromagnetic spectrum blocked by Earth’s atmosphere — and therefore astronomers have to rely on space telescopes like the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study them. [Higher-res image]
Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space telescope have taken a series of spectacular images featuring the fluttering auroras at the north pole of Saturn. The observations were taken in ultraviolet light and the resulting images provide astronomers with the most comprehensive picture so far of Saturn’s northern aurora.

In 2017, over a period of seven months, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took images of auroras above Saturn’s north pole region using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. The observations were taken before and after the Saturnian northern summer solstice. These conditions provided the best achievable viewing of the northern auroral region for Hubble.

On Earth, auroras are mainly created by particles originally emitted by the Sun in the form of solar wind. When this stream of electrically charged particles gets close to our planet, it interacts with the magnetic field, which acts as a gigantic shield. While it protects Earth’s environment from solar wind particles, it can also trap a small fraction of them. Particles trapped within the magnetosphere — the region of space surrounding Earth in which charged particles are affected by its magnetic field — can be energised and then follow the magnetic field lines down to the magnetic poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper layers of the atmosphere, creating the flickering, colourful lights visible in the polar regions here on Earth [1].

The image, observed with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph in the ultraviolet, shows the auroras surrounding Saturn’s north pole region. In comparing the different observations it became clear that Saturn’s auroras show a rich variety of emissions with highly variable localised features. The variability of the auroras is influenced by both the solar wind and the rapid rotation of Saturn. [Higher-res images]
However, these auroras are not unique to Earth. Other planets in our Solar System have been found to have similar auroras. Among them are the four gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Because the atmosphere of each of the four outer planets in the Solar System is — unlike the Earth — dominated by hydrogen, Saturn’s auroras can only be seen in ultraviolet wavelengths; a part of the electromagnetic spectrum which can only be studied from space.

Hubble allowed researchers to monitor the behaviour of the auroras at Saturn’s north pole over an extended period of time. The Hubble observations were coordinated with the “Grand Finale” of the Cassini spacecraft, when the spacecraft simultaneously probed the auroral regions of Saturn [2]. The Hubble data allowed astronomers to learn more about Saturn’s magnetosphere, which is the largest of any planet in the Solar System other than Jupiter.

The images show a rich variety of emissions with highly variable localised features. The variability of the auroras is influenced by both the solar wind and the rapid rotation of Saturn, which lasts only about 11 hours. On top of this, the northern aurora displays two distinct peaks in brightness — at dawn and just before midnight. The latter peak, unreported before, seems specific to the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere at Saturn’s solstice.

The main image presented here is a composite of observations made of Saturn in early 2018 in the optical and of the auroras on Saturn’s north pole region, made in 2017, demonstrating the size of the auroras along with the beautiful colours of Saturn.

Hubble has studied Saturn’s auroras in the past. In 2004, it studied the southern auroras shortly after the southern solstice (heic0504) and in 2009 it took advantage of a rare opportunity to record Saturn when its rings were edge-on (heic1003). This allowed Hubble to observe both poles and their auroras simultaneously.


[1] The auroras here on Earth have different names depending on which pole they occur at. Aurora Borealis, or the northern lights, is the name given to auroras around the north pole and Aurora Australis, or the southern lights, is the name given for auroras around the south pole.

[2] Cassini was a collaboration between NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency. It spent 13 years orbiting Saturn, gathering information and giving astronomers a great insight into the inner workings of Saturn. Cassini took more risks at the end of its mission, travelling through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecraft had previously done this, and Cassini gathered spectacular images of Saturn as well as new data for scientists to work with. On 15 September 2017 Cassini was sent on a controlled crash into Saturn.