Al? Found your telescope; it’s back here in the storage shed.

The telescope goes on display this week after being forgotten for decades. Restorers spent three years and $10,000 spent refurbishing it.

An old reflecting telescope that still works well enough to see five of Jupiter’s moons and surface stripes, it was found in a Jerusalem storage shed.

Einstein received the telescope in 1954, the year before he died as a gift from a friend named Zvi Gizeri, who apparently made it himself. It will be on display beginning Thursday at Hebrew University. Einstein willed his records to the school he helped co-found.

The long black tube about eight inches in diameter and 6 feet long stands on a base experts say may have been taken from the German army. It was this unique base, recognizable in a picture of Einstein with the telescope, and a signature from Gizeri on one of its mirrors, that confirmed its authenticity in 2004, when a biologist named Eshel Ophir made the connection.

The telescope was discovered in a storage shed in the late 1990s by a computer specialist at Hebrew University, however, he did not recognize it as Einstein’s, and left it in the shed.

Ophir made the connection accidentally, mistaking another forgotten telescope for the famous physicist’s. After searching through the archives and photos, Ophir realized the real Einstein telescope was actually the one his colleague had found unceremoniously years earlier. Ophir said he immediately took the telescope to the university’s Meyerhoff Youth Center to protect and clean it.

With the exception of a new eyepiece, the rest of the device, from lenses to optics, is original. Eisnstein likely used the telescope for recreation and not for professional purposes.


The Hubble Space Telescope was first talked about in a 1946 RAND report. Yes, that is correct, 1946. It took 20 years for the project to gather momentum. However, after the Apollo missions, more focus and budget money were given over to social programs and the amount for space exploration reduced.

Hubble was estimated to cost as much as $900 million and to get the project off the ground; the scientists in charge said it would cost $300 million, for no particular reason other than it seemed to be the politically acceptable number.

Thus, the mirror was shrunk in size, quality control sacrificed and poor lens grinding due to costs pressures incurred. If not for the fact that the telescope was made to be serviced in space, hence the later lens repair mission a few years after Hubble’s launch in 1990, it would have been a disastrous failure.

A new book by Robert Zimmerman, “The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It“, was published in May.

Cover Image

It looks to be an interesting account of the Hubble project along with the political intrigue and budget considerations as well as the science behind the program. It is on my list to buy as soon as I can catch up on some other books I’ve partially read.

Venus 05.30.08 The European Space Agency’s probe orbiting Venus, appropriately named Venus Express, took this picture of Venus at left on July 27, 2007.It is a false-color image in ultraviolet of the Southern hemisphere of the planet; the south pole is shown at the bottom.   

Cloud shape changes dramatically from the equator to the pole while the lower latitude cloud shape is fragmented due to vigorous convective movement. This movement is powered by the sun’s radiation heating the atmosphere. The bright white visible above the darker cloud deck is made of freshly formed droplets of sulphuric acid. Toward mid latitude, the convective clouds become streaky shapes. In higher latitudes, clouds appear dense and featureless, a type of haze. The dark, circular feature visible at the right edge of the image is a dark streak usually present in the polar region, indicating atmospheric spiralling towards the pole.

The image at right, taken July 22, 2007 shows the cloud cover over Venus’s equator; the bright white indicative of the sulphuric acid mentioned above.

All these images are credited to: ESA/ MPS/ DLR/ IDA.  


Venus2  05.30.08
Venus3  05.30.08 The image at left is of the equatorial area of Venus taken August 22, 2007.Again, sulphuric acid can be spotted in the cloud cover.

Just think of the acid rain this could create on Earth!  


The image at right was taken July 27, 2007, by the Venus Monitoring Camera on Venus Express, as were the other images in this post.It shows the transition between the equatorial area and the mid-latitude area; or, the convection clouds vs. the streaky clouds.   

Venus4  05.30.08
Venus5  05.30.08 The image at left is more recent, taken February 25, 2008. All these images are false-color UV.It is the south polar area showing dark streaks indicative of strong jet-winds around the pole.   

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took this picture of the Phoenix Lander gliding to the surface of Mars while it orbited overhead.

The Lander will soon be testing its robotic arm; first by unlatching its wrist and then flexing its elbow. This is critical to the success of the mission as the arm will be scooping soil samples of ice for analysis.Phoenix landing

 Image: NASA/ JPL/ Caltech/ Univ of Arizona











This image shows the Phoenix craft parachute during its descent on May. It landed near the Heimdall crater at at distance of 12 miles in front of the crater. NASA is using both the MRO and another vehicle orbiting Mars, Odyssey, to communicate with the Phoenix Lander. Commands have been sent for the Lander to take pictures of the area around it and to begin to move its robotic arm.

During the next three months, the arm will dig in the soil near the lander and scoop samples of soil and ice to instruments on the lander deck. Following the commands this morning, its movements will begin with unlatching the wrist, then moving the arm upwards in a stair-step manner. These movements are schedule for Wednesday, May 28.

Overall, the Lander team is quite pleased with the landing of the craft and the position where it is situated on the surface of Mars.

The image below was taken today and relayed with other information to the MRO this evening, which transmitted the image and data to earth from its orbit around Mars.

Lander image 052708

At fifty-three minutes past 6 pm, Central Standard Time, the Phoenix Lander confirmed to Mission Control that it landed in the northern polar region of Mars. The first successful landing without airbags to cushion the landing on the planet since Viking 2 landed in 1976. Thruster jets were used to control the landing. Over the next three months, its mission will be to use its robotic arm to dig for frozen water.

Phoenix 05.25.08

The photo at left is a picture of one of the feet of the lander and the photo below is of the surrounding Martian landscape. Credit for the photo’s: NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ Univ. of Arizona.

During its 422-million-mile flight from Earth to Mars, which launched on August 4, 2007, Phoenix relied on electricity from solar panels during the spacecraft’s trip, known as the cruise stage. The cruise stage was jettisoned seven minutes before the lander, encased in a protective shell to protect against heat from entry into the thin Martian atmosphere, entered the Martian atmosphere proceeding toward the surface of the planet. Batteries provided electricity until the lander’s own pair of solar arrays spread open.

Another critical deployment will be the 7.7-foot-long robotic arm on Phoenix, which will not be attempted for at least two days. Scientists will use the robotic arm during the weeks ahead to obtain samples of soil and ice and put them into laboratory instruments on the lander deck.

Pulled by Mars’ gravity, Phoenix was speeding along at 12,700 mph before it entered the atmosphere, which slowed the craft so it could pop out a parachute and fire thruster rockets to glide softly to the ground.

The journey took 10 months and spanned a distance of 423 million miles. NASA attempted a landing on Mars’ south pole in 1999, but a problem developed during the final minutes of descent and ended the mission.

NASA canceled its next Mars lander but successfully deployed Spirit and Opportunity to the planet’s equatorial region to search for signs of past surface water.Mars landing area

Phoenix was created from spare parts out of the failed Polar Lander mission and a mothballed probe. Unlike the rovers, Phoenix did not bounce to the planet’s surface in airbags, which are not suitable for larger spacecraft.

Instead, like the 1970s-era Viking probes and the failed Polar Lander mission, Phoenix used a jet pack to lower itself to the ground and fold-out legs to land on.

This is a picture of the landing site that the Phoenix lander is heading to on Mars. Phoenix landing site The landing should be at around 6:50 pm CST. 










You can watch the operations center here on NASA tv. 

Not much is happening right now, the odd communications, people sitting in front of monitors, a photographer walking around taking pictures. I would expect the excitement level to pick up closer to the landing time.

Here is a web link for the lander:

A discovery of silica deposits on Mars detected in 2007 is featured in a paper in the May 23, 2008 issue of Science.  The Mars rover Spirit detected these deposits which were formed by volcanic vapors or hot-spring-type events that could hold traces of past life. Mars sunset














The above image, taken in 2005, shows the sun setting above the Martian horizon casting a blue glow above the rim of Gusev Crater.

On Earth, these deposits are associated with living organisms and fossil remains of microbes. This means that the environment in this part of Mars could be friendly to microbial life. Silica is a medium that can capture and preserve traces of this microbial life.

The Spirit and Opportunity rovers have been operating on Mars since January 2004. On Sunday, May 25, a new Mars lander named Phoenix will arrive to take ice samples out of the Martian soil for analysis.