A Full Blue Moon

“Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.”
Lyrics from Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon

Friday night the world will experience something that happens about every 30 months. Despite the popular expression, a blue moon isn’t as astoundingly rare as one might expect.

Tonights moon is being called a blue moon because it is the second full moon occurring in one month — the first was on July 2.

A truly blue-colored moon is actually a rarity and is usually the product of a volcano or wildfire sending particles into the air. According to NASA, the particles only allow blue light to filter through. If you live in California near the wildfires, you might get a chance to just see a blue moon this evening.

When and if you see the moon this evening remember that others all over the world will be watching and most likely be looking up at the stars and the moon at the same time. Hoping to get a glimpse of a full blue moon,

Shine On

The Search For Our Past

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Carl Sagan

The Search For Our Past

Artist’s drawing of close cousin of Earth.

NASA announced that they have discovered a close cousin to the Earth. The discovery of this planet and its star closely resemble the Earth and our Sun.

“This discovery brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0” said John Grunsfeld, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “The sun that orbits this tiny planet is the same temperature as our own sun. The planet’s orbit takes 385 days. Essentially, it’s as close to an Earth twin as astronomers have ever discovered.”

But what does the discovery of this tiny planet mean? Will the discovery help us to learn more about the Earths beginning?

For thousands of years humans possess an innate need to explore. Whether through exploring and discovering new continents, or finding cures for diseases, humans will continue to explore. This is how we’ve built our civilization.

Science, curiosity, the need to think and study and explore our surroundings – these are quests that drive us to be who we are. We believe in these endeavors and we feel enriched and fulfilled by answers to our questions. Like ancient civilizations that took off to search for other worlds, we too are looking over the next hill. That next hill is space exploration and other galaxies.

Humans have always been a thinking, wondering entity. To establish understanding of our origins is a part of our evolution. Part of human and scientific progress has been the ability to evolve our thinking to include not just simple trains of thought, but larger concepts. Scientists are modifying their roles as astronomers, physicists, planetary geologists, and space engineers to incorporate the visions of historians, anthropologists, paleontologists, biologists and genealogists to help analyze the details, clues and evidence of basic questions such as:

  • Where did we, as humans, come from?
  • What is the fate of life as we know it?
  • Are we alone in the Universe?

Scientists seek to observe the birth of the earliest galaxies in the universe, to detect all planetary systems in the solar neighborhood and to find those planets that are capable of supporting life, and to learn whether life began elsewhere in the solar system. They do this in order to understand and explain the origin of galaxies, stars and planetary systems, and life itself.

Wanting answers to these questions is just part of human nature. Part of the never-ending search for our past.

Shine On

The Hubble Telescope

“I’m such a long-term investor,
I’ve never really let go and celebrated
what I did with the Hubble telescope.”
Story Musgrave

Hubble Image

Hubble image of the Pillars of Creation.

The Hubble Space Telescope turns 25 today. When it was launched in 1990, the department I worked with at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was responsible for the designing and overseeing the building of the camera for Hubble: The camera was the Wide Field and Planetary Camera (WF/PC).

Unfortunately, within weeks after the launch of the telescope, the returned images indicated a serious problem with the optical system. The cause of the problem was that the primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape. Although my department was not responsible for this miscalculation, we were all devastated by this error.

My boss was chosen to be part of the task force, The Allen Commission, to locate and correct the problem with Hubble. After several meetings, my boss and I had been discussing over lunch some of the details from the commission meetings. He often would run things by me, because I’m the “think outside the box” type of person. I kiddingly suggested that Hubble needed contact lenses to correct the problem. When I mentioned this to him, his eyes lit up and I could literally see the lightbulb go off above his head. He told me I was a genius, but I didn’t quite understand what I had said.

A few years later, after sharp beautiful images of the solar system were published, my boss sent me some of the images to thank me for helping him solve the Hubble problem.

The Hubble Telescope and its images have helped change our understanding of the age of the universe, the evolution of galaxies and the expansion of space itself. I’m pretty sure, if I had never mentioned to my boss about how to fix Hubble, that someone else would have eventually come up with the same idea. However, I like to think that because of my, Forrest Gump moment, I may have played a small part in the repair of the Hubble telescope.

Shine On