NSTA @ Nashville


   I’m in Nashville Tennessee for the next several days at the NSTA national conference. Planets and stars will still be in the skies but not as easy to see from downtown Nashville as it is where I live. On the morning of April 1st the waning waning crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from Dwarf Planet Pluto. Too dim to be seen without a large telescope it is, nonetheless, a neat idea that when you look toward the Moon you are also looking in the direction of Pluto. It’s out there!
   And here is a sequence of graphics showing the pre-sunrise morning sky at 5:30 am EDT for each day during the conference, and one night view on April 1st showing Jupiter. Both Pluto and the Moon are located just above and to the left from the handle of the teapot asterism for Sagittarius the Archer.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Tweets From ISS

iss-pic   If you have followed my postings you know that I am an avid fan of watching for the International Space Station passages over my part of the world. I especially enjoy capturing the ISS as it travels past celestial objects like the Moon.
iss-crop   In an interesting twist it is possible to take advantage of the ‘bird’s-eye’ view from the ISS and see what the ISS astronauts see as they orbit the Earth. Listed below are some of the web sites with pictures taken by ISS astronauts, however I wanted to call attention to this web site – ISS EXPS 40 & 41. This web site has a map of the world that links tweets from the astronauts to accompany the pictures they took of the Earth’s surface.
   Additionally the web site shows the position of the ISS updated every minute so you can track its current flight and position as you browse the pictures.
Click here to go to the ISS Exps 40 & 41 website.

Some ISS sighting web sites:

NASA Space Station Live
ISS Sightings
Heavens Above

Pictures from Astronauts on the ISS:

Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
ISS Astronaut Pictures of Earth

   
   
   
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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

A Song For My Science Class

   One of my college classes is Physical Science, which is essentially a general science course covering Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Astronomy. Part of the class, 10% of the grade, is from having students do independent projects on topics relating to the class content. They may do anything from research, article summary’s, writing poems, developing lesson plans, and basically using their own interests in selecting the projects. One of my students wrote and performed a song that fits very nicely in the section we covered on Earth Science – plate tectonics, plate boundaries, subduction, faults (not mine!), and volcanoes.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Earthrise

Apollo 8 Mission flight animation

Apollo 8 Flight Path: Earth-Moon-Earth

   On today’s date, 23 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission entered lunar orbit following a 3-day flight that started with lift-off on 21 December.
Lunar Orbits

Lunar Orbits

After entering lunar orbit the 3-man crew orbited the Moon 10 times over a period of 20 hours. It was during the 4th orbit on 24 December, due to a combination of things, that brought the Earth rising above the lunar horizon into view through two of the view ports on the Apollo 8 spacecraft, leaving us with a remarkable and historic picture known as Earthrise.

   Use these links to see the two animated graphics above full size: Mission Flight Path Lunar Orbital Insertion.

See this picture full size.   Click here to see images and videos from the Apollo missions at the Apollo Image Gallery.

Splashdown!

Splashdown!

   The video (22 min) below is from NASA and contains highlights of the Apollo 8 mission from lift-off through lunar orbits to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Click here to go to the Moving Video Archive to download a copy of the video in different formats and sizes.
   
   
   

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Comet ISON Update-Updated x2

ison1dec   1 December:The end of a comet? According to blog posts from the NASA SOHO web site Comet ISON has faded considerably and there may be nothing left but pieces of the nucleus and dust.

   29 November: Comet ISON has survived perihelion and should become visible as the second animated graphic below shows. However how bright or what it will look like we will know about in a couple of days.
   This animated graphic directly below is made from images taken by the SOHO satellite’s coronagraph, a telescope with an occulting disk at the front end to ‘eclipse’, block, the Sun. In this graphic the dark disk represents the occulting disk and the white circle is the disk of the Sun. Comet ISON appears from the right side and as it becomes blocked by the occulting disk the tail of the comet is still visible. After perihelion the comet reappears on the other side of the Sun with a more fan-shaped tail.’
   This graphic comes from the Space Weather website. Click here for more information about a coronagraph.

comet-ison

Click on graphic to see an animated full size version.

Click on graphic to see an animated full size version.

   28 November, at 23 UT (5 pm CST) Comet ISON will reach perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun. If the comet survives ‘swinging’ around the Sun and passing within less than 1 million miles from the Sun it will reappear on the Earth side of the Sun. From perihelion onward the comet will be outbound from the inner solar system and by 26 December will be at its closest to Earth – approximately 0.426 AU (63,728,693 km or 39,599,174 miles)

   Superstitious? The banner graphic at the top of the page shows Comet ISON as may appear on Friday 13 December. If my software is simulating the view correctly then the comet on that date will still be showing a tail reaching to Gemma, the ‘crown jewel’ in Corona Borealis the Northern Crown, and Comet ISON should be between 5th and 6th magnitude. At that magnitude range the comet will be visible to the naked-eye under dark skies and with optical assistance should be a great sight.

Click here to view or download the animated graphic from the Huffington Post page on Google+.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Comet ISON Simulator

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Here is a really neat interactive online Comet ISON simulator showing the path of Comet ISON from a space view of the inner solar system, and an Earth view – a Planetarium-like view of the horizon and starry sky where the comet is located. The simulator has a timeline along the bottom that highlights various points along the comet’s path including when it is predicted to become naked-eye visible.

Click on picture by Damian Peach to see it full size.

   The comet has brightened considerably as it approaches perihelion in less than two weeks. Here is a beautiful picture of the comet from yesterday by Damian Peach.

   Thanks to Universe Today and editor Fraiser Cain for the heads up on this Comet ISON addition to the online Solar System Scope simulator.

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

3-D Model of Comet ISON’s Path

comet path   Here is a neat 3-D paper model of the path Comet ISON follows as it makes its way through the inner solar system. Follow the comet from its inbound approach and perihelion through part of its outbound path as it leaves the inner solar system.

    Use the link below to download the 4-page PDF document from the NASA Goddard web site.

http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a011200/a011222/Paper_Model_of_Comet_ISONs_Orbit.pdf

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.