A Missouri Morning with the ISS

   This morning opened up with a colorful sunrise as the background for the ISS as it orbited toward the southeast. High overhead toward the south was the near last quarter Moon brightening the sky in that direction. However this was not a morning for taking pictures of the Moon.
   Right on time the ISS appeared over the northwest horizon and steadily moved past Polaris, the North Star, then past the Big Dipper’s Dipper heading toward the star Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman. On its way toward the southeastern horizon the ISS went past Venus, Mercury and the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
   While waiting and taking random pictures in different directions I managed to catch a Taurid Meteor!

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Last Night Had It’s Hang-ups!

   Last evening was another opportunity to image the ISS as it passed over my part of the world. So I did!
   While out in the backyard I aimed my camera nearly straight up to get a picture of one of my favorite parts of the sky. This is near the star Altair in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. Near Altair is the ‘tiny’ constellation of Delphinus the Dolphin. Looking further upward from the kite or diamond-shape stars there is another smaller constellation, Sagitta the Arrow.
   If you find Sagitta use the two stars at the end as ‘pointer stars’ and they will direct your eyes to a neat little star cluster, Brocchi’s Custer, also known as the Coathanger Cluster.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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An Evening Comet

   Despite clouds along the northern horizon the comet was still easy to see with the naked eye. Well not really easy, easy, but it was certainly visible as an elongated fuzzy object. I was observing near a family using a telescope and they were the first to spot the comet. So, by using the pointer stars of the Big Dipper I looked down from the bowl toward the horizon and there was the comet. In one of the pictures below you can see the pointer stars near the top of the picture.
All pictures have been processed to adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, temperature, and all have been resized.
   While waiting for the sky to darken enough the ISS orbited overhead moving across the stars of the ‘Summer Triangle’ passing closely by the stars Vega in Lyra the Harp and Deneb in Cygnus the Swan (aka the ‘Northern Cross’).
   Adding to the viewing were the planets Jupiter and Saturn rising in the southeast along with the stars of Sagittarius and Scorpius, and the summer Milky Way.
   The morning after there were a few clouds blocking a view of the comet, however the waning crescent Moon and Venus were shining brightly and hard to miss.


   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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A Tail of Two Comets

   April 1990 Comet Austin (1989c1) now getting brighter approaching naked-eye visibility.
   April 2020 Comet ATLAS (2019c1) predicted to brighten to naked eye visibility has now apparently broken apart.

   30 years ago, April 1990, I wrote the first of what was to become a continuing column about Earth and Space called Scope on the Skies for Science Scope Magazine. This is the Professional Journal for Middle School Science Teachers and is published by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA)

   That April 1990 column, Comet Watch – “Comet Austin”, was about a potential naked-eye visible comet discovered by New Zealand Astronomer Rod Austin during December 1989. The comet was appropriately named Comet Austin 1989c1. The comet increased in brightness over the months following its discovery reaching around 4th magnitude and naked-eye visibility the following May of 1990.

   This month as Comet ATLAS (2019c1) was showing signs of becoming a bright comet it broke apart. This was reported a few days ago and the break-up has since been tentatively confirmed.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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ISS and a Plane

   This past Thursday evening and Friday evening the ISS (International Space Station) orbited over the midwest United States. Thursday evening was very clear allowing me the opportunity to catch the ISS as this picture shows. As the ISS appeared over the western horizon a passenger jet flew over on its way to MCI Airport. I was using a remote for the camera and was regularly hitting the shutter release button planning on catching the plane as it went past Orion’s Belt. Somehow I didn’t depress the button enough creating the gap over the belt stars. Nonetheless the path the ISS followed took it below Orion’s feet past Sirius in Canis Major, and then close by Procyon in Canis Minor and eventually across Leo the Lion.
   Last night, Friday, it was overcast so no picture.
   Camera Info: Canon Rebel EOS T7i; 18mm; ISO 1600; f/4.0; 3 sec.
   Software for Image Stacking (PC version): Sequator. Here is a good explanation about using Sequator.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Two ISS Midwest Flyovers

   Approximately every 90 minutes the International Space Station (ISS) completes an orbit around the Earth. At the correct times, around sunset and sunrise, the large solar panels on the ISS reflect sunlight downward toward the Earth’s surface. Depending on the orientation of the solar panels and where you are you may be able to see the reflected sunlight off the solar panels. To the naked eye the ISS may appear as bright as Venus, around a -4 apparent magnitude.
   This evening, March 21st and tomorrow evening the 22nd the ISS will be visible, weather permitting, as it passes over the midwest United States. Use the links below to see visibility opportunities for your location.


   The ISS travels in excess of 17,000 miles per hour and it takes maybe 6 minutes or so to cross the United States from west to east.

   Two excellent websites for ISS viewing information are below. You will need to input your location information at both sites.

   ISS Sightings
   At the NASA web site you will get a list of the next several dates and times for viewing the ISS that includes it’s rising and setting times and directions of travel (always west to east), and some other information. Pay attention to the maximum altitude and length of time above the horizon.

   Heavens Above
   The Heavens Above website provides a list of viewing opportunities like the NASA web site but in addition you may see a star map showing the ISS path across the starry sky. You will find that this web site has quite a lot to offer with viewing information ranging from the ISS to Iridium satellites and other satellites, planet information, and so on. Well worth bookmarking.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Christmas Morning with the ISS and the Moon

   Happy Holidays.
    This was the sky this morning with the International Space Station passing from west to the northeast and along the way passing my chimney and the North Star. The ISS, as it was rising, passed near the waning gibbous Moon, as the Moon was setting. However, the camera was aimed toward the North Star away from the Moon as the ISS past by the Moon.


   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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ISS, Taurus and Orion

   This morning (17 September) was another morning with clear skies and another chance at catching the ISS as it orbited overhead. This time the ISS came out of the northwest and reached around 70o above the horizon as it headed southeastward. It passed by the open star clusters the Pleiades and the Hyades and then passed below and parallel to the belt of Orion toward Sirius where the ISS disappeared behind some trees.
   This picture is made from 22 stacked pictures.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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ISS this Morning

   This morning was one of the first clear skies in a long time, or at least since the last time I got up at 4:30 am on a Saturday morning. The circumpolar picture is made up of 234 stacked pictures. Cassiopeia is to the upper left. North star should be obvious!
The sequence when the ISS passed the ‘Twins’ used 14 pictures.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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EarthKam Week

   This past week I had the privilege of working with two dynamic teachers and their Science classes in participating in the Sally Ride EarthKam Mission. As with previous missions the students work with a Google Earth type of map that shows the different orbital tracks the ISS will follow during the week. I remind them that is is sort of a ‘Forest Gump’ activity because like with the box of chocolates, you never know exactly what your picture will look like. How? Because of the weather or how accurately the location is selected. As a result of 176 requests 77 did not get taken and only 42 of the remainder of requests showed land features. The rest were clouded over.

   Below are the pictures as a slide show. Hover the cursor over a picture to see any information from the requester. SL is Summit Lakes Middle School and WVE is Westview Elementary School. This may be followed by requester name and possibly name of picture request location.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.