Newsletter, August 8, 2016

(Archival version of original email version)

Hello and good day everyone,

Welcome to the fifth edition of Two Planet Post (2PP), the newsletter from Two Planet Steel. Here are the postings:

Speedster grazes around the Sun at 1,300,000 mph !!!

August 4, 2016. A Kreutz type "sungrazer" comet raced toward the Sun at close to 1,300,000 mph! Its trajectory took it close enough to the star to evaporate it without hitting our great ball of fire. Over 2000 Kreutz sungrazers have been found, mostly by amateur astronomers looking at images from the ESA's and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Just three of them, Rainer Kracht, Michael Oates, and Zhou Bo, have spotted 452 and counting. The sungrazers start their speed-building swoop to the Sun from an enormous distance away (roughly 170 times the average distance between the Sun and the Earth). An animated gif of August 4th's suicide comet rushing to the center from the lower right, was made by Joy Ng from SOHO images that block out a direct view of the Sun (the white circle in the middle locates the size and position of the Sun). If you did not already know, our Earth ambles around the Sun at 66,600 mph.

Jupiter's aurora:

This beautiful image of Jupiter was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in June 2016. The dramatic whirls around Jupiter's North Pole are giant aurora rendered in false color. Their light is actually in the ultra-violent, so human eyes cannot see them directly. Earth's northern lights are also aurora but have lower frequencies than those of Jupiter (so we can see them). Aurora occur when charged particles (usually electrons) reach a planet from space. The source of the charged particles for Earth is mostly solar storms. However, Jupiter, with its large magnetic field, collects most of the charged particles emitted by its moons, particularly Io, Europa and Ganymede. These separate moon sources account for the three main whirls seen in the image. 2PP has prepared a gift item for you, a pdf file you can download. On the first page is an enlarged version of the above photo. On the second page is an explanation of what you are looking at.

Rocket reusability, a big-leap or a modest step-up?

The push for rocket reusability is a push for a big reduction in rocketry costs and, hence, a push for a big leap in what can be done with rockets: For example, a big leap would enable the settlement of Mars by a lot of people. Spacex is making progress toward rocket reusability. Since the successful Falcon 9 booster landing on the sweetly named, ocean-going platform OCISLY (Off Course I Still Love You) on May 27th, Spacex had one more Falcon 9 launch in both June and July and each with an attempted booster landing. There have now been eight attempted booster landings. They have had varying degrees of success. All eight have been successful in that they came down on their target, which is impressive when you stop to think about the smallness of the targets and the great speeds and distances involved. Three of the boosters' landings had serious fires or explosions that rendered these boosters kaput. The remaining five boosters landed at least superficially intact. Although the next step for the last booster landed is not known, of the other four, Spacex has given a positive intent to relaunch only one, while the other three had some damage from the impact of their landings. Of these three, one has already started an after-life in Texas performing reusability test re-firings, and the first landed booster will stand as a showpiece outside Spacex's Hawthone factory. The final approach to the latest, July 17th, landing appeared (to this observer) to be much slower and gentler than the seven previous landings. Perhaps this soft landing, signals a significant tweak to booster flight parameters by Spacex, in order to reduce hard impact, landing damage, and make inspection, repair and turn-around easier and so enable more booster reuses. Reusability will most likely be achieved but it is not clear how big the cost savings gained will be or whether we will get a small step-up or a big-leap in opportunities.

Planet Stamps:

The USPS released a collection, "Views of Our Planets," of eight different stamps for our eight known planets on May 31, 2016; while the popular no-longer-planet, Pluto, got is own separate stamp issuance on the same day. The stamps are mounted on stylish 4 x 4 sheets, with each planet appearing on two of these stamps. The original planet images the stamps are based on were made by various NASA cameras and sensors between 1989 and 2012. Antonio Alcala, the art director for the collection, chose to use false-color images for Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus, which adds both visual interest for the sheet and also extra information for Uranus which is a featureless, pale-blue sphere when seen in true-color light. The stamps have been popular and now can be hard-to-buy at your local post office but you can still order them online.

If a friend of yours is interested in settling Mars then forward this edition to them. They can subscribe by emailing, its free and helps the Mars buzz grow.


Rif Miles Olsen, PhD,
Founder, Two Planet Steel

Mars buzz is growing.

More is coming in the next edition of Two Planet Post.

The Two Planet Post is published roughly once a month to point you to notable Mars and Earth happenings. The Two Planet Post will give you news strictly about Two Planet Steel, also news from around the solar system that is either especially important to Two Planet Steel or important or entertaining and about Mars or the Earth's environment and energy. The Two Planet Post will sometimes branch out to bring your attention to beyond-Mars planetary exploration news as well as science and technology news, comments, anecdotes, cartoons, videos and jokes that you might enjoy.

Image credits: The speedster, Kruetz family comet image and the Jupiter with aurora image were made with at least partial funding from NASA; while the image of a sheet of planets was made by the USPS. Since NASA is a US federal government agency, NASA images, without recognizable humans within frame, do not have any copyright rights at all, the same holds for images from the USPS. The image of four used rocket boosters in a hanger is from Spacex. Spacex has relinquished its copyrights, to the extent this is possible under US law, from many of its images posted at its website, including the four booster image featured here. Also, the Two Planet Post logo in the banner head uses two well known images of Earth and Mars from NASA's media archives.