Jumbled Thoughts - 13 May 2013

A solar flare observed in late 2012.  The ejected material, seen on the left, is several times larger than the Earth.  (Image credit: NASA)

Congrats to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station for executing a quick repair of their leaking coolant system.  Although they never found the source of the leak, the five and half hour spacewalk by American astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Christopher Cassidy culminated in the successful replacement of a coolant pump.  Since the issue hasn't cropped up again since the new pump's installation, it seems that the old one must have been the problem.  The solar panel now seems to be maintaining proper coolant pressure, which should allow the panel to return to normal operation.  What caused the leak isn't known, but I imagine the old pump will be returned to Earth for a close examination.

Station problems haven't been the only thing keeping the ISS astronauts busy.  Astronaut Chris Hadfield has been hard at work extending his already-impressive resume.  In addition to being the first Canadian to command the station, he's now the first to record a music video in orbit.  Playing the guitar and belting out the lyrics, Hadfield has produced an amazing cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity.  Of course, it's not too difficult to impress when the Earth looms out the window of every shot.  Nevertheless, my untrained ear is quite impressed with his rendition.  This is a must-watch video...

The Sun has just experienced its most powerful solar flare yet this year.  The so-called X-class flare is classified among the most powerful category of solar flares.  Although by no means the most powerful flare we've ever observed, an event such as this one is a reminder of the incredible power of the Sun.  Material ejected during this flare left the surface of the Sun travelling up to seven million kilometers per hour.  It's not coming towards Earth, but several spacecraft, including MESSENGER and the Spitzer space telescope, might have to shut down and ride out the storm.

Source: NASA