Monday, March 31, 2008

Rocket testing on Sardinia

Successful KABOOM!! on Sardinia

Credit:Avio Space

Vega - Europe's new small launcher - successfully completed a static firing test at the Salto Di Quirra Inter-force Test Range in Sardinia, Italy.

This was the second and final firing test for the Zefiro 23, in which over 24 tonnes of propellant was consumed with a flame temperature of over 3000 K. The burn lasted approximately 75 seconds and initial results show the test to be a success.


For my friend Frannyy, who understands why this post is dedicated to him...:-)

Saturday, March 29, 2008



It is raining today and it was snowing yesterday here in Aasa, Norway. It made me think of how important water is and while I may curse at a rainy day, for others a rainy day may mean they would SURVIVE...

In Africa there are several regions that are suffering from not having enough fresh water both for drinking and agricultural use. But, there are other regions of the world that have or will have similar challenges in the future.

Unsustainable water withdrawals for irrigation.

Cartographer:Philippe Rekacewicz, Emmanuelle Bournay, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

The imbalance in long-term water budgets necessitates diversion of surface water or the tapping of groundwater resources. The areas shown with moderate-to-high levels of unsustainable use occur over each continent and are known to be areas of aquifer mining or major water transfer schemes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Sun

The Sun - Now!

Sun, soho, astronomy sun, astronomy

The spots are still there...:-)

This is the resulting disturbance of the ionosphere that we (NOAA) expected.

Thanks to Andy for the "disturbance". :-)

Mars: Grand Canyon

Valles Marineris - the Grand Canyon of Mars.

Hebes Chasma

Credits: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Hebes Chasma is an enclosed trough, almost 8000 m deep, in Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon of Mars, where water is believed to have flowed. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on ESA's Mars Express studied the area providing new pictorial clues to its history.

Gamma Burst

As far as the naked eye can see


Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

Major Gamma Ray Outburst

On March 19, 2008, Swift discovered a bright Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB 080319B). The image shows the X-ray afterglow as seen by the X-Ray Telescope (left) and the bright optical afterglow as observed by the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope on board Swift.

How far is it that we can see? 7.5 billion light-years.
How bright is the outburst? 2.5 million times more luminous than the brightest known super nova.
Where was it? In the northern constellation Bootes on March 19th 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Sun

Behold, behold!


A M2 class eruption just unleashed a coronal mass ejection into space. And it is not associated with the young solar cycle 24 but the good old cycle 23!

NOAA's space weather forecast predict the resulting solar wind hit the Earth 28 - 29 March.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Endeavour returns

Endeavour Returns Safely

Photo: ESA

An International Success - A Milestone for Europe

Columbus Laboratory is now installed. Scientific research results were brought back for the first time.

Columbus is designed to support some 100 experiments per year over ten years. These experiments address all the major research areas: biology, exobiology, human physiology, fluid physics, fundamental physics, technology, solar physics. More European-built elements are also under preparation to be launched to the ISS over the coming years, notably the European Robotic Arm, the Node 3 module and the Cupola observation post.

See a fascinating VIDEO of the landing. (NASA)

Xcor's Lynx

Xcor's Lynx

Cool Space Cat

Credit: Mike Massee/XCOR

Xcor's Lynx spaceplane is slated to launch in 2010. Roughly the size of a small private airplane, the craft is designed to make several flights a day into a zero-gravity environment.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tibetan Plateau

Tibetan Plateau - uplift in stages

Photo: Xixi Zhao

When the central part of the Tibetan plateau was uplifted more than 40 million years ago, Mount Everest and the rest of the Himalayas were still part of a deep ocean basin. Today the average altitude of the Tibetan Plateau is higher than 4500 meters (14,850 feet).

Information about the pace of the uplift is important for climate change studies: The rise of the Tibetan Plateau led to dramatic changes in the climate, both regionally and globally. For climate researchers trying to understand major episodes of global climate change in Earth's past, the timing of the uplift is a crucial piece of information.

Continuous monitoring of the uplift is possible today due to development of space geodesy techniques like Global Positioning System (GPS). Combining the geological history (uplift) and todays geodetic monitoring will improve our knowledge substantially.

GPS equipment at Namtso lake, Tibetan plateau


Photo: Bente Lilja Bye

Monday, March 24, 2008

Energy Hunt

Oil industry and environment

Marcel Mochet/Agence France-Presse

Norway, a country with merely 5 million inhabitants, is the third largest oil producing country in the world.

New York Time express critical views on Norway's pledge of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

In my opinion, this article reflects a defensive attitude from the US, being one of the countries not willing to commit itself to a common global effort to reduce emissions.

Norway being so lucky in the natural resources lottery, has a responsibility also outside its boarders. It is a matter of fact that most people do not live in Norway. We are all concerned about what will happen with the large developing countries like China and India. It is whether we like it or not how this region handles the energy challenge that will determine the environmental destiny for all of us. What countries like Norway can do is to set the stage by being a good example, support environmental friendly development, improve clean energy production and finally invest in new energy technology development.

Norway may or may not be successful in implementing its policies. It should be no excuse for each and every country to do the same as Norway - TRY!

Solar cycle

Solar Cycle

Image: Karel Schrijver (Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center)

solar cycle: A predictable 11-year cycle when defined by solar activity, including the number of sunspots, flares, and CMEs, which follow this cycle. When defined by the solar magnetic field directions, the cycle is 22 years long.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gamma Rays

As far as the naked-eye can see...

Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler, et al.

The extremely luminous afterglow of GRB 080319B was imaged by Swift's X-ray Telescope (left) and Optical/Ultraviolet Telescope (right). This was by far the brightest gamma-ray burst afterglow ever seen. halfway to the beginning of the Universe!

Record outburst of gamma rays recorded by Swift

This is an illustration of what we think cause of the immense gamma ray outburst - a star collapsing and becoming a black hole. (NASA).

Jule Verne

High precision required!

The image above shows the strategy to get this vehicle

attached to the International Space Station.

I'm all excited! :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


GOCE ready to go.

Credit: European Space Agency - ESA/AOES Medialab

ESA Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer - GOCE

This is one of the most important events for geodesy and earth observation in general in a long long time.

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is dedicated to measuring the Earth's gravity field and modelling the geoid with extremely high accuracy and spatial resolution.

Launching GOCE made it to my list of the Top 8 Earth Observation Events 2008. You can read more about GOCE here too.

Water and Methane

Water and Methane

Image: Artist's impression of HD 189733b / ESA, NASA and G. Tinetti (University College London, UK & ESA

Does NOT equal LIFE!

I've been asked to make more personal comments on the science I present here on my very personal SU blog. Unfortunately I've not the capacity to do that on a regular and serious basis! For me it is rather personal just to make the internet sites of my preference or general interest available to the public. Having made that clear, I have the following comment on the hot news - Extrasolar methane and water detected. :-)

I agree with Katharine Sanderson, Nature (link of this very post) in that just because we have detected methane - an organic compound - and water outside our solar system, we cannot jump to the conclusion that we have proof of life on other planets.

It is however rather FANTASTIC that we can "see" gases so far away. It is particularly the Hubble telescope and also the Spitzer telescope that enable us to do so. And a couple of clever scientists and some computer power, I assume. :-)

Extraterrestrial or extrasolar life is far fetched but we can suspect it all STINKS as my friend BumApples deducted. :-)

Extraterrestrial Life? - not proven YET!

Thanks for finding the little green ones, ShirlT!




Credit: Expedition 15 Crew, NASA

Soon More Day than Night :-)

The profile of the atmosphere and a setting sun are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 15 crewmember on the International Space Station (June 2007).

Known as the equinox, the geocentric astronomical event marks the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the south. Equinox means equal night and with the Sun on the celestial equator, Earth dwellers will experience nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

We that live far north will experience NO NIGHT AT ALL some time soon now. In St.Petersburg, Russia, they call these days of summer WHITE NIGHTS.

NASA suggest we celebrate equinox with this wonderful picture of the Earth's atmosphere!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Vanguard 1

Vanguard 1 - launching space geodesy

Space technology revolutionized geodesy. It started already with Vanguard 1 which has spent 50 years in space this year, still orbiting Earth. I suppose few of you know what geodesy is let alone understand how Vanguard 1 or any other space technology improved this particular branch of geoscience. I'll introduce you very quickly to geodesy so that you can see how this satellite was the first space technology that helped us better understand our own planet.

What is geodesy?

Geodesy is the science of determining the geometry, gravity field, and rotation of the Earth and their evolution in time. Traditionally, geodesy has been serving other sciences and have had many societal applications, including mapping. With the advent of satellite geodesy it developed into a science making unique contributions to the study of the Earth system, its inherit dynamics, and its response to climate change, as well as a tool underpinning a wide variety of other remote sensing techniques. Facilitated by the Global Navigation Satellite Systems such as GPS, a wide and growing set of applications associated with positioning and navigation is opening up.

Vanguard 1 provided new information about the Earth's shape and size.

The Earth - a pear formed lumpy body

Vanguard 1 with its small suite of instruments provided unprecedented information on Earth's size and shape, air density and temperature ranges, and the micrometeorite density in space. By tracking its orbit geodesists found that Earth is not round but slightly pear-shaped, with a small, symmetric equatorial bulge. It was also discovered that the Earth is a lumpy body. Today we monitor even time variations of this lumpiness.

Vanguard 1 was the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells.

Thanks to my friends Sebastian and Don for reminding me.

Methane in space

A "little fox" with methane spotted!

The organic compound methane was found in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star some 63 light years away.

Under certain circumstances, methane can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry - the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life.

This is the first time we have found organic matter outside our solar system.

Vulpecula - the little fox


The planet, HD 189733b, now known to have methane and water vapour is located 63 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula, the little fox. HD 189733b, a "hot Jupiter"-type extrasolar planet, is so close to its parent star that it takes just over two days to complete an orbit. "Hot Jupiters" are the size of Jupiter but orbit closer to their stars than the tiny innermost planet Mercury in our Solar System. HD 189733b's atmosphere swelters at 900 degrees C, about the same temperature as the melting point of silver.

The discovery was done with Hubble (and...)in a joint European and US scientific research project.

Here is a collection of links with more information:


European Space Agency

Tuesday, March 18, 2008



"Quasars reside in a variety of galaxies, from normal to highly disturbed. When seen through ground-based telescopes, these compact, enigmatic light sources resemble stars, yet they are billions of light-years away and several hundred billion times brighter than normal stars."

Astronomers believe that a quasar turns on when a massive black hole at the nucleus of a galaxy feeds on gas and stars.

Soon I will let you know what role they play for life here on Earth and interferometry (for InterpidDreamer in particular.)


Charles de "Geule"

Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Terminal 2, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, Paris, France (49° 00' N - 2° 31' E)

I fly. I fly often. No, I fly extremely frequent. Many of my meeting take place in wonderful Paris. The city love of my life. However, the airport...! If you know French you've noticed that I have called this airport not Charles de Gaulle, which is the correct name for it, but Charles de geule. That is translated to something like Charles-shot your mouth! or perhaps Charles-with-the-filthy-mouth. It is a name I used when I was learning French and stumbled more often than I do today when I spoke it. The French were laughing their harts out when they heard my "interpretation" of their great leader Charles de Gaulle.

Anyways, this airport is a piece of work. All the time. Really, they work on this airport constantly without pauses. And moreover, without signs! If the workers do decide to put up signs, they lead you in the EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION of where you not only want to go, but where you NEED TO GO TO CATCH YOUR FLIGHT!

Travel advise: Always bring a VERY DETAILED MAP of Charles de Gaulle when you go to Paris! I would even recommend a GPS with geodetic accuracy (mm) :-)

I saw La Terre vue du ciel for the first time at an outdoor exhibition in Oslo. As I also extremely frequently visit my friend XineAnns pages I was reminded of this photographers excellent work.

Monday, March 17, 2008

World Wide Web

Privacy, Please!

Sir Tim Berner-Lee created a map as a way of depicting the growth of the internet and the web. It shows a few streams feeding into a small lake marked "internet", and from there into a bigger lake marked "World Wide Web". The web river then meanders through a green and fertile land land before flowing into the "Sea of Interoperability."

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has fears over the future of the internet. The creator of the web has said consumers need to be protected against systems which can track their activity on the internet.

I couldn't agree more!

I think this map deserves a post over at Strange Maps, don't you agree BumApples? :-)

Earth Observation - Forestry

Keeping a sharper eye on Earth

ESA in partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, presented the preliminary version of the map to scientists last week. This new earth observation service will be launched this summer. Check out the sharpness you can expect here.(click on the map repeatedly to focus). It is particularly interesting to monitor the development of land cover. Be it urbanization or reduction of rain forest....

Fruit and Sun

SUN decides the shape of things...

Our closest star, the Sun, is of course pivotal for growing fruit and vegetables. Apparently we have now discovered what more specifically decides the SHAPE of things (fruit and vegetables...). The gene at hand is appropriately named SUN. I totally agree with this choice of name!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

China - Xian

Old and new China - Xian


Photo: Alfred Molon

Kaiyuan shopping mall downtown Xian, the ancient capital of China.

My valet was stolen here. It was sad because I had so many souvenirs in it. Like 10 different dollar currencies from my travels...And the most precious; an irreplaceable photo of my son when he was 3 years old. Devastating. On the other hand I got to cruise around Xian with the Chinese police reporting the theft. Invaluable experience!

Now I will help my friend Shirl to keep some of her ideas about old China. First my comment on how headless the Chinese city planners are...This is from outside Xian.

Photo: Bente Lilja Bye

A shopping mall like Kaiyuan look just like any other shopping mall on the inside. I went to this mall to buy more memory for my camera. Shouldn't have done. Because this is where my valet was stolen.

Photo: Bente Lilja Bye

Then here is the view FROM the Kaiyuan shopping mall. Ancient Bell Tower. All in all, Xian was very beautiful. :-)

Photo: Bente Lilja Bye

Saturday, March 15, 2008

ISS - Fridge

Cool Fridge

We hear all about the launching and spacewalks and what not in the media these days. But what on Earth - or rather in Space - are they DOING up there at the International Space Station?

Well, I have already expressed my enthusiasm over the different "toys" they get to play with. I will explore now the exact content of their playing. But first, one more gadget they need to play properly.

The ultimate fridge. I learned how to appreciate cooled drinks in the US. The drinks gotta be cool! Now this space fridge should do the job, don't you think?

I think technical drawings are true pieces of art!

Friday, March 14, 2008


Pi Day


K2K neutrino event at Super-Kamiokande reconstructed as a pi-zero.

Pi-zero decays to two gammas which make two electron-like rings. Color is time-of-flight subtracted time when light arrived at the photo detector.

This is where the "action" is - the "crime" scene of the neutrino event illustrated above. :-) Yes, you see a boat.


A T-shirt has been sent to Frannyy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Mars - Icy Promethei Planum

Looks great! :-)

Credit both images: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Sun

What a blast!

You are TapwaterJ! :-)

Coronal Mass Ejection - CME

CME blast -- This dramatic coronal mass ejection was captured 7 August 2002 as it blasted billions of tons of particles millions of miles per hour out into space. In order to see the corona, an occulting disk has to block out the Sun disk. This image consists thus of two images; one of the corona and an image of the sun taken approximately at the same time and then superimposed on the occulting disk. Credit: SOHO - ESA/NASA

Here comes the Sun!



Credit: Richard W. Castenholz, University of Oregon

Sausage-shaped cells are unicellular cyanobacteria (Synechococcus) and filaments are green nonsulfur bacteria.

Photosynthesis by plants, algae, and some bacteria supports nearly all living things by producing food from sunlight, and in the process these organisms release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

NEW: Some marine microorganisms get a significant proportion of their energy without a net release of oxygen or uptake of carbon dioxide. This discovery will influence the way we understand the photosynthesis. It will also have impacts on our understanding on how microorganisms in the oceans affect rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Magnetic Fields on Jupiter

Radio waves accelerate electrons within Jupiter's magnetic field in the same way as they do on Earth, according to new research published in Nature Physics this week. The discovery overturns a theory that has held sway for more than a generation and has important implications for protecting Earth-orbiting satellites.

to be cont'