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Finding New Planets in Old Data

Planets Found in Decade-Old Hubble Data

"In a painstaking re-analysis of Hubble Space Telescope images from 1998, astronomers have found visual evidence for two extrasolar planets that went undetected back then. Finding these hidden gems in the Hubble archive gives astronomers an invaluable time machine for comparing much earlier planet orbital motion data to more recent observations. It also demonstrates a novel approach for planet hunting in archival Hubble data."

45 Years ago today, on 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 snapped the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. While a remarkable image at the time, the full resolution of the image was never retrieved from the data stored from the mission. In 2008, this earthrise image was restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA Ames Research Center. We obtained the original data tapes from the mission (the last surviving set) and restored original FR-900 tape drives to operational condition using both 60s era parts and modern electronics. The following links provide background on the image, its restoration, and reactions to its release.

- Newly Restored Lunar Orbiter Image of Earth and Moon (Detail)
- How the Photo Was Taken
- House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
- Nimbus II and Lunar Orbiter 1 Imagery: A New Look at Earth in 1966
- Dumpster Diving for Science, Science Magazine
- What Lunar Orbiter 1 Was Seeing on 23 August 1966

Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by N. G. Moss, T. M. Harper, M. B. Motta, A. D. Epps

"While some candidate craters were observed that appeared in LROC data but not in Lunar Orbiter data, these were all very near the edge of discernable feature size and are almost certainly explained by various differences between the images (e.g. sun angle or viewing geometry). While our initial search did not find any discernable new cratering, we have shown that data from the original analog Lunar Orbiter tapes, as recovered by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery project, possesses the characteristics necessary to discern new craters at reasonably small sizes. If the entire Lunar Orbiter data set was recovered in this manner it may be possible for future researchers to apply automated methods to detect changes with much better chances of success." More

Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by A. Epps, M. Sandler

"The goal of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is to digitize and archive the magnetic tape records generated by the five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft in the mid-1960s. The readout scanners utilized onboard the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft employed a phosphor-covered anode bombarded by an electron beam to focus a spot of light on 70mm film developed onboard the spacecraft. This light was modulated by the density of the image and read by a photomultiplier tube. Each individual pass of this scanning procedure across the 70mm film produced a thin strip of a larger image, referred to as a "framelet". The product of the spacecraft's readout system was a video waveform that was modulated and transmitted to three DSIF stations and recorded onto 2-inch magnetic tape via Ampex FR-900 data recorders. This document discusses the process by which these video signals were converted into digital images." More

The Pacific Star Project recently launched a balloon with several digital cameras bought on eBay that were controlled by a hacked script and packaged inside a homemade insulated payload container. The cameras made it to an altitude of 24 miles where they took some amazing photos.

Seventh Graders Find a Cave on Mars

NASA: California middle school students using the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave. The students in science teacher Dennis Mitchell's class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., were examining Martian lava tubes as their project in the Mars Student Imaging Program offered by NASA and Arizona State University. Students in this program develop a geological question, then target a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image that helps answer the question. Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2001, returning data and images of the Martian surface and providing relay communications service for the twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. See full story

The most powerful camera aboard a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars will soon be taking photo suggestions from the public.

Since arriving at Mars in 2006, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has recorded nearly 13,000 observations of the Red Planet's terrain. Each image covers dozens of square miles and reveal details as small as a desk. Now, anyone can nominate sites for pictures.

"The HiRISE team is pleased to give the public this opportunity to propose imaging targets and share the excitement of seeing your favorite spot on Mars at people-scale resolution," said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the camera and a researcher at the University of Arizona.

The idea to take suggestions from the public based on the original concept of the HiRISE instrument, when its planners nicknamed it "the people's camera." Scientists anticipate that more people will become interested in exploring the Red Planet as their suggestions for imaging targets increase the camera's already bountiful science return. Despite the thousands of pictures already taken, less than one percent of the Martian surface has been photographed.

Live Webcast From McMoon's

Keith Cowing's note: On Thursday, 10 December 2009, we conducted a live webcast from the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at "McMoon's" i.e. Building 596 at the NASA Ames Research Park.

Dennis Wingo and I give you a tour of our project including a walk through of the abandoned McDonald's that has been our base of operations since 2008. We show you how we rack tapes, play them back, capture the data on a computer, and then stitch the image framelets together. You can look over our shoulders and see the imagery as it appears on one of our old TV monitors. We've picked an especially interesting tape to show you. Eventually this image will be posted online at LPI and submitted to the NSSDC.

This project has been funded and supported by a bunch of imaginative folks at ESMD, IPP, NLSI, ARC, SkyCorp, SpaceRef Interactive, and Odyssey Moon with assistance from a range of people ranging from retired Lunar Orbiter project personnel and Lockheed Martin employees to local high school and college students. Soon, we expect to have two tape drives fully operational and to be able to produce images on a daily basis.

Oh yes, in case you are wondering, I donate my time (and money) to this project. What fun. Its like bringing a time machine back to life in a high tech junkyard. We are looking to begin some pervasive EPO in coordination with NLSI and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in the very near future.

"Dennis Wingo: I thought this was interesting and since I am always looking for spares for our LOIRP FR-900's I check it out on eBay. ... When I looked I was pretty certain that these were boards from our FR-900 machines. It had the right part numbers, so I called Ken Zin at home the night before Thanksgiving and asked him to verify, which he did and noted that these are newer version boards of the ones that we have!! So I bid on them and won them today." [More at MoonViews]

Dennis Wingo from the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), hosted at NASA Ames Research Center in the NASA Research Park, will be teaching a class at HackerDojo in 4 November 2009.

HackerDojo is located at 140 South Whisman Road in Mountain View, CA (Map) from 6 to 7:30 pm.

We hope to stream this presentation live.