J. P. Major

J. P. Major
Dallas, Texas, USA
December 26
Editor / Author
Astronomy news and photos from around our solar system! More on Twitter @JPMajor


FEBRUARY 21, 2012 12:17AM

Titan RGB (2-19-12)

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Titan RGB (2-19-12)

Color-composite image of Titan from raw data acquired by Cassini during its latest flyby on Feb. 19, 2012.

Cropped and rotated.

Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI. Edited by J. Major.

Photo from orbit by John Glenn, Feb. 20, 1962.

Those were the words enthusiastically said by astronaut John Glenn as he became the first American to orbit the Earth, 50 years ago today. The photo above was taken by Glenn through the window of the Friendship 7 spacecraft, in which he… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 19, 2012 6:04PM

One Very Attractive Simulation

Here’s a fascinating physics model by computer artist Mark J. Stock, showing the 3-dimensional movements of 1 million bodies, each given their own gravity:

One can easily imagine witnessing the birth of galaxies after the Big Bang, millions — even billions — of years passing before… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 19, 2012 1:24AM

More ISS Awesomeness!

This just in: new time-lapses from the ISS, by way of the Image Science & Analysis Lab at Johnson Space Center and The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Enjoy! (Descriptions from JSC.)

The above sequence of shots was taken February 4, 2012 from 07:55:38 to 08:11:19 GMT, on… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 16, 2012 11:06PM

An Artistic Array of Rays

MESSENGER image of Xiao Zhao crater

Named after a 12th century Chinese artist, Xiao Zhao is a young 15-mile (24-kilometer) wide crater on Mercury. Its broad, bright rays indicate its youthfulness, as the lighter material ejected by the initial impact has not yet had enough time to grow dark.… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 14, 2012 7:13PM

A Little Lunar Levity


Sometimes astronauts just wanna have fun!

This video was taken during the Apollo 17 mission on December 11, 1972, when astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt  went off in search of lunar samples during an EVA (short for Extra-Vehicular Activity.) Enjoying the/… Read full post »

Here’s a gorgeous new time-lapse video created by the talented Randy Halverson and featuring a dramatic score by composer Bear McCreary, recently of Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead fame. (Can’t see the video above? Watch in HD here.)


Randy describes the video (fr… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 11, 2012 7:09PM

A Growing Sunspot: AR1416

Active region 1416 doubling in size over the past several days (SDO/HMI)

This animation, made from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows active region 1416 as it rotated into view over the past week, doubling in size as it approached the center of the Sun’s disk./… Read full post »

Hubble image of Jupiter's aurora (March 2007)

Acquired in March 2007, this eerie image from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys’s ultraviolet camera show glowing auroral emissions, always present in Jupiter’s polar regions.

The aurora is hundreds of kilometers wide and… Read full post »

Expedition 30 photo of Chicago on the night of Feb. 2, 2012. (NASA)

Here’s a view from the ISS, looking down at the brightly-lit Chicago metropolitan area on February 2, 2012. Lake Michigan is the dark expanse seen below the clouds — perhaps a dense fog bank — at bottom cente… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 9, 2012 11:15PM

Mercury's Xiao Zhao Crater

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Mercury's Xiao Zhao Crater

Named after a 12th century Chinese artist, Xiao Zhao is a relatively young 15-mile-wide crater on Mercury. Its extensive, bright rays indicate its youthfulness, as the lighter material ejected by the initial impact has not yet had enough time to… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 7, 2012 6:42PM

Titan. In color.

Color-composite raw image of Titan, captured Jan. 30. (NASA/JPL/SSI/J. Major)

On Jan. 30, the Cassini spacecraft executed a flyby maneuver of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, passing within 19,340 miles (31,130 km) of its surface.

This color composite image of the cloud-covered moon was cre… Read full post »

Chevrolet's commercial plays on 2012 fears (and rips off Ian O'Neill's pyramid image)

So the buzz is buzzing about Chevy’s Super Bowl ad and its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the aftermath from the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. Of course the message is typical — drive a Chev/… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 4, 2012 5:07PM

Frost Avalanche on Mars

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Frost Avalanche on Mars

Part of the February 2012 PDS release, this image from the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows an "avalanche" of CO2 frost, dust and possibly water ice from the face of a cliff in Mars' north polar region.
Read full post »

Frost, dust and soil falls from the edge of a steep Martian scarp. (HiRISE image)

As spring comes to Mars’ north polar latitudes, the added sunlight warms layers of subsurface CO2 ice, which can rapidly sublimate and force its way outwards and upwards. When this occurs along the edges of… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 3, 2012 12:45AM

Two New Moons For Jupiter

Images from the Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile pick out a newly-discovered irregular satellite of Jupiter. (Courtesy of Scott S. Sheppard, CIW)

Jupiter is our solar system’s resident behemoth. It’s an enormous planet that has more mass than all the others… Read full post »

See you on the dark side of the Moon*! NASA’s GRAIL mission has beamed back its first video of the far side of the moon. The imagery was taken on Jan. 19 by the MoonKAM aboard the mission’s “Ebb” spacecraft.

GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 1, 2012 12:20AM

Titan's Purple Haze

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

Titan's Purple Haze

A portrait captured by the Cassini spacecraft on January 30, 2012.

This image is a color-composite made from raw images acquired by the spacecraft in red, green, blue and clear brightness channels.

Cassini was approximately 188,434 kilometers away… Read full post »

JANUARY 31, 2012 11:53PM

A Backlit Titan

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

A Backlit Titan

Titan shows off its high-altitude haze in a backlit portrait captured by the Cassini spacecraft on January 30, 2012.

Color-composite made from raw images acquired by the spacecraft.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Edited by J. Major.

JANUARY 31, 2012 5:35PM

Moonset Over The Atlantic


No words necessary.

Via the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Tagged: ISS, moon, NASA, orbit, space station, time lapse

Read full post »

Asteroid 433 Eros as seen by NASA's NEAR spacecraft on Feb. 29, 2000. (NASA/JPL/JHUAPL)

It’s huge – 21 miles across! It’s bright – magnitude 8.7, maybe more! And right now it’s coming close to Earth – the closest it’s come in 37 years! Why haven’t they/… Read full post »

JANUARY 28, 2012 4:15PM

The Orion MPCV in The Big D

Lights In The Dark posted a photo:

The Orion MPCV in The Big D

NASA's next crew vehicle, the Orion MPCV, swung into Dallas, TX today for a weekend display outside the American Airlines Center. Here it was on January 28, where a good-sized crowd of people had gathered to see the future of… Read full post »

JANUARY 26, 2012 10:00PM

If You Like Pluto, Put a Ring on It

Hubble image of Pluto and its four known moons. NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is currently speeding through the outer solar system toward its July 2015 date with Pluto, when it will take a good close look at the dwarf planet’s mysterious surfac… Read full post »

JANUARY 25, 2012 9:32PM

Hello, Earth!

NASA satellite image of Earth. January 2012

It’s the 2012 version of the “Blue Marble“! Here’s an amazing new high-definition portrait of our planet, made by NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite launched back on October 28. This is a composite image created from multiple/… Read full post »

JANUARY 24, 2012 2:31PM

Solar Storm in Progress!

Yesterday’s solar flare sent out a huge cloud of charged solar particles our way, and this afternoon it impacted our magnetosphere… sparking a brilliant display of aurorae in northern skies such as those above the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko, Sweden.

The video above is a time-lapse mad/… Read full post »