Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, as seen from the Moon

Jupiter and Saturn as seen by LRO
Click for full image.

With Jupiter and Saturn closer to each other in the sky than they have been in about 800 years, the science team for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) decided to aim that lunar orbiter at the two gas giants to get a picture.

The photo to the right, cropped and expanded to post here, was also enhanced by the science team to brighten Saturn so that it would match Jupiter. As they note at the link,

[LRO] captured this view just a few hours after the point of closest separation (0.1°) between the two giant planets. With the sharp focus of the NAC [camera], you can see that the two planets are actually separated by about 10 Jupiter diameters

Both planets however look fuzzy in the image, probably because the camera was not designed to obtain sharp images from this distance. Nonetheless, this is a very cool photo.


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  • LocalFluff

    Christmas time! So let’s take a look at a great conjunction that might have happened at, or that foreboded as a prophecy, the birth of the Lord’s son as one of us.

    In May year 7 BC (so a bit off season) not only Jupiter and Saturn, but also Mars were all in conjunction. That only happens every 800 years, so unheard of in the memory and registers of all astrologers. ALL superior planets in conjunction. And as seen from the temple of Jerusalem, they did so above Bethlehem on the horizon. Becoming visible just after sunset, so visible only there over Bethlehem. And night to night moving towards the Sun, the symbol of the King.

    That was (perhaps, I’m convinced) the astrological interpretation at the time. “The uncertainty of science” perhaps Bob would say :-)
    There’s this idea that the three planets’ conjunction is the source of the euphuism of the three wise men. Anyway, here’s a historian/astrologist making a presentation of this idea, with more subtleness (like Venus at the same time being in vertical retrograde).

  • Bob L.

    I got my very old telescope out and took a look at this. It was great!! I could see the moons of Jupiter and ring of Saturn pretty clearly. Could just barely see the cloud bands of Jupiter. Awesome!

  • Ian C.

    Cool image definitely.

    If we were to send private cameras to the lunar surface or obit, I think the NOAA (or some other authority part of the interagency consultation) has reservations about what we could see clearly. They want to prevent private or foreign entities from doing unregulated Earth observation (EO), at least when launched from US soil or with US-based launchers. If I remember the specs correctly, you can either do lunar stuff or far away stuff, but nothing that allows EO (without them having closer control).
    Think they came up with it after SpaceX’s 1st Falcon Heavy launch, where there were cams on the LV pointing toward Earth. Possible that they’ve updated their specs so that EO sats can do their job. Anyone knows more?

  • Ian C: The Trump administration quickly came down hard on these out-of-control regulators, and stopped that nonsense about imaging almost immediately.

  • Edward

    Ian C. asked: “Think they came up with it after SpaceX’s 1st Falcon Heavy launch, where there were cams on the LV pointing toward Earth. Possible that they’ve updated their specs so that EO sats can do their job. Anyone knows more?

    See this post:

    During this controversy, SpaceX would broadcast video from the booster stage but did not broadcast images from the upper stage after separation. This helped to demonstrate the absurdity of NOAA’s power grab. My recollection is similar to Robert’s, that its attempt to grab power so embarrassed NOAA that it was easily forced to backed down.

  • Ian C.

    Bob, Edward,

    Thanks. The last time I’ve dealt with camera stuff is around 2 years ago. The FAA wanted us to make sure cams don’t have specific angles of view and aren’t activated below a specific altitude. And I think that was after the outcry over NOAA’s insistence to regulate cams.

    Those specs weren’t a burden for the mission. And I have a lot of understanding for them actually. Once launched and being a foreign (private) entity, one’s actions are outside America’s control — and why should she allow foreign entities to launch from her soil and then potentially turn against her? Compliance with reasonable regulations is fine with me — but perhaps that’s just the European statist bootlicker in me speaking. :)

  • Edward and Ian: See this follow-up post, only two weeks later:

    Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross puts his foot down

    I should add that the later streamlined regulations attempted to eliminate this same NOAA office that tried this absurd power grab. I am not sure if that actually ended up happening in the final regulations, but regardless this particular power grab by NOAA was ended.

    Others I am sure will follow.

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