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  • JENAM 2009 - The Official Opening

    Posted on April 20th, 2009 Dr. Mario M. Bisi 3 comments


    The opening Ceremony of JENAM 2009.

    Today (Monday 20 April 2009) saw the first day of JENAM/MIST/UKSP for EWASS with an official opening at a little after 09:00h BST following the pre-conference social opening yesterday evening (Sunday 19 April 2009). The opening ceremony started with a short introduction by the University of Hertfordshire’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Tim Wilson. Prof. Andy Fabian OBE FRS, President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) then gave a brief summary of the RAS and commented on the current government’s support for science while introducing the next speaker (a parliamentary Minister).

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  • ISS Node 3 - Tranquility

    Posted on April 14th, 2009 Dr. Mario M. Bisi No comments


    Well, seems my suggestion of Tranquility wasn’t the only thought of the same… So, here I am supposedly packing for three conferences among other things to go back to in the UK in a few hours and I find out that Tranquility was actually the name of ISS Node 3 chosen. Some people might say predictable, but I’ve not seen it anywhere except in my article here on the moon landings… Either way, I’m happy!

    ISS Node 3 - Tranquility.

    Go Tranquility (better than Colbert any day if you ask me)!


    Image taken from astroengine.com.


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  • A Pre-20-Year Anniversary for Asteroid Apophis

    Posted on April 13th, 2009 Dr. Mario M. Bisi No comments


    On 13th April 2029, twenty years from today, the asteroid designated Apophis (full designation 99942 Apophis, originally designated 2004 MN4) is going to come very close to the Earth. It originally caused a brief period of concern throughout December 2004 because some initial observations of its trajectory indicated a significant probability that it would strike the Earth some time in 2029; this probability being up to 2.7%. It was discovered by Roy A. Tucker, David J. Tholen, and Fabrizio Bernardi on 19th June 2004 (hence the orginal 2004 designation).

    Asteroid 951 Gaspra - a much larger asteroid than Apophis - Gaspra was the first ever asteroid to be closely approached by a spacecraft, the Galileo spacecraft, which flew passed on its way to Jupiter on 29th October 29 1991 and luckily poses no threat to the Earth.

    It will fly by at only 18,300 miles above the Earth’s surface. At this relatively-low altitude, it will appear well inside the height of Earth’s manmade geosynchronous communications satellites. At its closest approach, the asteroid (with a width of 300 metres) will shine as bright as a 3rd magnitude star and make itself easily visible to the naked eye from cities across three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. After certain calculations, it turns out that there is a small chance (about 1 in 45,000 that is) that the encounter with Apophis in 2029 will bend its orbit sufficiently, so that when it returns to Earth it actually hits it on 13th April 2036 (or so the experts say). Should such an impact arrise, NASA estimates that it could hit the Earth with the equivalent energy of an 880 Megaton bomb! Just as a point of comparison, the 1883 super eruption of the volcano Krakatoa was the equivalent of approximately 200 megatons.

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  • Putting Man on the Moon - Perhaps a More Unusual Commentary

    Posted on April 12th, 2009 Dr. Mario M. Bisi 7 comments


    The U.S.A. started out the Space Race very much on the losing front. NASA suffered many losses to the Soviet Union (the Russians) in the early years. This began with the first successful satellite launch into space of Sputnik 1 by the Russians. Sputnik 1 was launched on the 4th of October 1957 and its successful launch ushered in the dawn of the Space Age. Later, the Russians were first to successfully launch a man (human) into Space. His name was Yuri Gagarin. The launch took place on 12th April 1961 aboard the spacecraft Vostok 3KA-2 (otherwise called Vostok 1).

    When it came to the moon, again, the Russians led the way (at least at first). The first unmanned moon (hard) landing was undertaken with the Luna-2 lander on 12th September 1959. This was the first successful lunar impact. Such a hard landing was not equalled by the USA until the success (but crash success) of the lunar impact Ranger 7 Mission on 28th July 1964. The first unmanned (soft) moon landing however, was actually by the USA Surveyor 1 Mission on 30th May 1966.

    Vostok 1.Ranger 7 lunar image.

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  • “C.A.T. Scans of the Solar Wind” - An Overview

    Posted on April 8th, 2009 Dr. Mario M. Bisi 1 comment


    This is an expanded version of my first astroengine.com guest article and is the first article to appear here; the topic on astroengine.com is “C.A.T. Scans of the Solar Wind”, and this is a more-detailed overview of that article…

    The Computer Assisted Tomography (C.A.T.) technique has been used for many years now and is most well known for use on people where certain health conditions need more thorough, detailed, and deeper scans into the human body and the need for three-dimensional (3D) reconstructed imaging. However, similar such scans can also be used on the solar wind to discover the shapes and sizes of structures near Earth and throughout the inner heliosphere in three dimensions. These scans have been carried out for some time, pioneered in the most part by those at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS), University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, CA, U.S.A. in close-collabration with the Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory (STELab), Nagoya University, Toyokawa, Japan

    The solar wind is an extension of the Sun’s corona and is the final part of the Sun’s “atmosphere”. It is best described as a supersonic outflow of coronal plasma (hot charged particles) out into interplanetary space and varies considerably in its density, velocity, and composition. The Sun’s magnetic field is “frozen-in” to the plasma as it travels out into the solar system, thus causing the solar wind to also have a magnetic field, and in addition, carries the explosive events of the Sun out into interplanetary space. These resulting features travelling out in the solar wind are known as transient events (in the broard sense); the most popularly defined being coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which can have various consequences at the Earth and on other planets such as by creating magnetic storms (at Earth, these are known as geomagnetic storms) and thus often resulting in magnificent displays of aurorae.

    The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)

    The Aurora Borealis by Dr. Mario M. Bisi - October 2003

    A photograph of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) from the mainland-Norway Tromsø EISCAT site in late October 2003 during the famous “Halloween Storms”, by Dr. Mario M. Bisi.

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