“SuperMoon” Over Cardinia Reservoir

So according to NASA:

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee): diagram. Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon’s orbit.

Saturday 19th March was meant to be one such and whilst a difference of about 14% isn’t that much to the naked eye I thought it’d be interesting to try and get some photos of the moon anyway. I looked at Google Earth and saw that the moon would be rising over Cardinia Reservoir as seen from the wall of the dam, so that seemed a perfect spot to go. I’d already been there that morning for a walk and got this shot of the early morning sun over the water with my Nokia N900 cameraphone:

Early morning sun over Cardinia Reservoir

So that evening Donna and I headed over to the reservoir with cameras and a tripod and got some nice shots of both the sunset (using the Nikon D90’s “LiveView” mode to avoid looking through the viewfinder) and the “supermoon” itself.

Sunset from Cardinia Reservoir Sunset from Cardinia Reservoir

The "SuperMoon" through trees at Cardinia Reservoir "SuperMoon" over Cardinia Reservoir

RIP Tudor Jenkins, Reader in Physics, University of Wales Aberystwyth

My friend Alun Jones forwarded onto me the sad news of the death of one of my former lecturers, Tudor Jenkins (here’s the archive.org link, in case the original goes away), affectionately called “Tuba Jenkins” by his students as he played the tuba for the Aberystwyth Silver Band (Seindorf Arian Aberystwyth).

Dr TUDOR E. JENKINS, MA, DPhil (Oxon), FInstP

It is with great sadness that we report the untimely death of Dr Tudor Jenkins, Reader in Physics at the Institute of Mathematics and Physics at Aberystwyth University. Dr Jenkins died on 3rd November after a short illness aged 60.

Originally from the Rhondda Fawr, Dr Jenkins read Physics at Corpus Christi College Oxford, and obtained a D.Phill at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford. He subsequently studied as a post-doctoral research assistant in Cardiff University before being appointed as lecture in micro electronics at St Andrews University in 1979. He joined the Department of Physics at Aberystwyth in 1983 becoming Senior Lecturer in 1990 and Reader in 2007.

A tribute by Professor Neville Greaves, Director of the Institute of Mathematics and Physics, is published on http://www.aber.ac.uk/aberonline/en/.

I remember I did his lasers course when I did my degree in Planetary and Space Physics at Aberystwyth back in the late 1980’s and whilst I wasn’t very good at that course I do remember his enthusiasm for physics and the fact he could inspire you to want to learn more. Turns out that he was recognised for that, in 2005 he won the Universities award for Teaching Excellence. This quote from the tribute also rings true to form:

Dr Tudor Jenkins was a committed and colourful colleague, famous for his often pithy Latin quotations with which he ended his e-mails. Looking forward to rationalising teaching modules for the 2009 session, he concluded wryly with Occam’s Razor: entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, which approximately translates as “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”. Tudor was always a pragmatist.

I also seem to remember that he had an enthusiasm for real ale.. 😉

Reflections On Apollo

A video screen telecasting Buzz Aldrin reflected in the helmet of a spacesuit in Washington (ABC News) It’s been 40 years since Apollo 11, something that I’ve known about for as long as I can remember as I was born not that long before it and, apparently, screamed all the way through the landing televised at the hospital. Sorry about that! 🙂

The fact that the Apollo programme ended so soon after Apollo 11 (Apollo 17 was the last mission, and the only one to carry a scientist, geologist Harrison Schmitt) was already foreshadowed in budget cuts in 1967, which to me seems a great shame given the fact that we were for the first time looking at leaving the cradle of the earth – something that humanity will have to do eventually before the sun dies (assuming we can survive the current issues facing us). I wonder what we would have found on the lunar surface if further Apollo missions had taken more scientists to the moon ? Would we have already explored the craters nearer the poles where we now look for water ice ? Would we have have a permanent base there ? Few people know that NASA had already planned, prior to Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, longer stays, a lunar flyer to let astronauts visit other areas on the surface and even a base on the moon as part of the Apollo Applications Program, though sadly only Skylab survived the axe to make it into space.

After Apollo 17 it took another 6 years for NASA to get back into space with STS-1, the first shuttle space flight, and we’ve still not been out of earth orbit since 1972, 37 years ago. It would be tragic if we ended up like the original settlers of Easter Island who used up all the resources needed for long distance travel and effectively stranded themselves.

Apollo From Orbit – Images from LRO

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has returned some initial images from a number of the Apollo landing sites on the moons surface, namely Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16 & 17. My favourite has to be the Apollo 14 image which includes the trails of the astronauts footprints from the LM to a set of scientific instruments.

Apollo 14 landing site taken by LRO

In case you can’t spot the details, here’s the annotated image.

Annoted image of Apollo 14 landing site image by LRO

Don’t forget these images were taken during the commissioning phase of LRO whilst it is in a highly elliptical orbit, NASA believe that once its in its science orbit (roughly 50 miles altitude above the lunar service) the resolution will by around four times greater!

(Via Emily Lakdawalla)

KDE in Space – Planck Researchers Using Kst

A press release from the University of British Columbia (found via a tweet on the Planck CMB telecopes Twitter feed) talks about their use of the KDE program KST, a real-time large-dataset viewing and plotting tool, chosen because of the amount of data that would be generated:

But the cameras will produce a large amount of scientific data to process–with the LFI instrument alone producing more than 100 Gigabytes a year. Traditional data plotting and analysis packages like MATLAB and IDL wouldn’t cut it.

Both UBC and the University of Toronto have been involved with the development of the KST project, and the Canadian Space Agency has contributed funding to it.

Fingers Crossed.. (updated)

We’ve got Kepler now starting it’s science mission after finishing commissioning, Atlantis at the Hubble Space Telescope for the final repair mission and in just over 1 hour the ESA will launch a single rocket with both the Herschel infra-red space telescope and the Planck CMB telescope. That’s two very expensive satellites sat on top of a rocket with a rather chequered launch history!

Best of luck folks (which is also what the Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” needs given it’s gotten itself stuck on Mars!)..

Update: So far so good, first and second stages ran and separated OK, third stage running at the moment prior to separation of Herschel and Planck.

Update 2: Third stage burn complete, in ballistic phase.

Update 3: Herschel separated from third stage!

Update 4: The cylinder protecting Planck has been jettisoned.

Update 5: Planck has separated from the third stage!

That’s it for me for tonight, it’s almost midnight here…

Update 6: ESA has established communications with both telescopes and currently they’re both looking good for their journey to L2.

Belle Monte-Carlo Production on the Amazon EC2 Cloud

A few weeks ago Martin Sevior and Tom Ffield of the University of Melbourne did a talk at VPAC called “Belle Monte-Carlo production on the Amazon EC2 cloud” based on a paper they’d presented at the International Conference of Computing in High Energy and Nuclear Physics. The presentation is now available on the VPAC website.

It’s all about testing the cloud computing model via Amazon EC2 for Monte Carlo production for the SuperBelle experiment at the KEK collider in Japan. My favourite comment is that for a real full production run on Amazon EC2 to be useful it would need to be able to return data from S3 to the KEK collider at 600MB/s (~4.7Gb/s) sustained.

I don’t know what Amazon would say to that – well, apart from maybe “no”. 🙂

NB: This is the talk I mentioned in the comments on Joe Landman’s blog post called “Cloudy Issues“.