It’s Earth Hour for 8 Billion Angels

   Saturday March 28th is the annual Earth Hour celebration. Started in 2007 the Earth Hour celebration is a world-wide citizen-powered effort to call attention to our planet’s environment and the need to better take care of our home (our only home).
   Earth Hour, although one hour, is an ongoing effort to encourage taking action about climate change as well as the destruction of nature and decreases in biodiversity.
   So on Saturday evening March 28th, at 8:30 pm (your local time), turn the electrically powered lights off in your house for one hour. But don’t stop there. Act locally and think globally! Get involved – stay involved.
   With lights out this may be a good time to step outside, weather permitting, and take a look at what could possibly be darker night skies with lights off in your neighborhood. That’s the 4.5-day old waxing crescent Moon near the inner planet Venus. And Venus is just a few days away from passing across the open star cluster, the Pleiades.

   From the Earth Hour web site:

This year, we are facing Earth Hour in exceptional circumstances with countries around the world experiencing a health crisis with the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). In light of the latest developments, the Earth Hour global organizing team is recommending all individuals to take part in Earth Hour digitally this year.

   The Best of the Earth Observatory
   Choose the best among 32 pictures of Earth as seen by the many Earth-orbiting satellites. If you are not familiar with the Earth Observatory web site it is an incredible resource of images of our home planet.

   That’s us, and we have a home that is danger from not only climate change, the destruction of nature, and decreases in biodiversity, but our only home is also loosing to the demands of an increasing population and its effect on the local environment. At the 8 Billion Angels web site there is information about the effect a growing population is having on our planet. Be sure to watch the video trailer and perhaps consider organizing a community viewing.
click on graphic to go to the Earth Overshoot web site   Continue learning about our impact on the Earth by visiting the 8 Billion Angels companion web site Earth Overshoot.


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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Yuri’s Night 2019

yuri   April 12th 1961 Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave the surface of the Earth and orbit our planet. Coincidentally 20 years later, on the same date in 1981 the United States launched its first space shuttle, the Columbia.
   However April 12th is a date for celebrating the accomplishments of the Russian space program and the cosmonaut who became the first to orbit the Earth. So, on April 12th people around the world will take part in local events in what is known as Yuri’s Night. Use the link to the Yuri’s Night web site to learn more about this event and to see if there is a Yuri’s Night event in your area.

yuri   8 years ago during the 50th anniversary I had an opportunity to work with a group of musicians (Dark Matter) in producing a series of videos about the solar system and our home planet that were then projected as full-dome videos on a Planetarium dome ceiling. Accompanying the videos were two musicians playing their respective instruments (Flute and Clarinet) along with electronic notes, live sampling of their music, and sounds of the interior of a spacecraft. Below is a version of that performance that was entered into a worldwide contest – placed in the top five by the way.
   Please excuse the quality of the video graphics – a result of my video abilities and state of video editing capabilities ‘way back then’.


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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Happy New Year

   Start off this New Year with something unusual, something that “only happens once in a blue moon.” How? There are two full Moons this month, with the first full Moon on January 1st, and the second full Moon, the ‘Blue Moon’, on the 31st.
   A Blue Moon month is a somewhat unusual Astronomical event described as a month with two full Moons that occur about every 2 1/2 years. What makes this Blue Moon month more interesting is that the full Moon of January 1st will also be a ‘super-Moon’ as the time for full Moon is close to the time for when the Moon is at perigee or its closest for this particular orbit. And to make this year a little more unusual is that during March there will be again two full Moons, second Blue Moon month.
   Even more exciting is that the second full Moon of January will pass through the Earth’s shadow giving us an opportunity to view a total lunar eclipse. Due to the timing for the eclipse viewing from my location will be limited to seeing about the first half the lunar eclipse as the Moon will be setting while still totally eclipsed. For the western Missouri and Eastern Kansas area the Moon enters the Earth’s darker shadow at approximately 5:48 am CST and totality begins at 6:51 am CST, and maximum at 7:29 am CST, five minutes after sunrise.
   For information about the eclipse for your location use the Hermit Eclipse Web Site.
Happy New Year
Gëzuar Vitin e Ri
سنة جديدة سعيدة
З Новым годам
Sretna Nova godina
Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
Bonne année
Glückliches neues Jahr
Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος
שנה טובה
Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh
Buon anno
Felix Novus Annus
Feliz Ano Novo
С Новым годом
Feliz Año Nuevo
Heri ya Mwaka Mpya
Gott Nytt År
Yeni Yılınız Kutlu Olsun

Thank you for your support.

   Here are a couple of short videos for your New Year’s enjoyment!

   So, where would you park the Space Shuttle??

   The consequences of a Black Hole.

   New Year’s Day includes a full Moon, the first of two full Moons this month. So as a way to ‘ring’ in the new year and hopefully not offend anyone, you will find below some of the Moon cartoons I have collected over the years and more than likely used in my classes! Apparently I was into cows at one point!!

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new year

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.

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.

Juno at Jupiter-Update

   The Juno Spacecraft is now fully engaged in making its planned orbits around the outer planet Jupiter. Since arriving and orbital insertion the spacecraft has made 6 orbits around Jupiter sending back amazing images and advancing our knowledge of the planet and its role in the solar system.
   Showing my age but I can remember how excited I was during the Voyager 1 and 2 flybys of the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune during the 1980s. It was 40 years ago, Voyager 1 September 5th1977 – Voyager 2 August 20th 1977, when the spacecraft were launched. While both were targeted for a Jupiter and Saturn flyby Voyager 2 eventually had its mission rearranged so that it would fly past all four of the outer giant planets in a mission called the ‘Grand Slam’ or ‘Grand Tour’. The images from those flybys were just as exciting as the images we see from the current Juno mission albeit improved after 40 years of imaging technology advances.
   So Where are the two Voyagers now? Click here to find out.
   Click here to go to the NASA Video web site to see a short video (15 minutes) about the Voyager mission to the outer planets. This is part of a video series I often used in my Planetarium and classroom during the 1990s – so please realize that the graphics and animations, as well as some descriptions and some explanations are not necessarily as ‘advanced’ as things are now. However two of my heroes, Dr. Edward Stone, and Dr. Andrew Ingersoll, are featured making comments about some of the Science and discoveries.
   Below is a well done video compilation of images taken by the Juno Spacecraft. Click here to go to the Vimeo web site for the original video.


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.

Mars, Phone Home!

mars-solar-conjunction-above   Thursday July 27th the planet Mars will be at solar conjunction, on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Mars will reappear on the west side of the Sun as a morning planet next month and gradually will become more visible in the morning skies.
    So while Mars is out of sight for observers it is also out of ‘radio sight’ for all of the spacecraft at Mars – either on the surface or in orbit. Between July 22nd to August 1st mission controllers will stop sending messages to the spacecraft at Mars, however the orbiters will continue their science observations and collecting data. The rovers on Mars on the other hand will not rove until after the radio silence period, but will still be able to carry on with some investigations.

   Click here to read more about how NASA prepares for the radio silence.



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.