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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Starlink 13 This Morning

   This set of Starlink satellites, number 13, was launched a few days ago, June 13th, and the stream of satellites passed over my location in western Missouri early this morning. The stream, SpaceX’s 9th launch, consisted of 58 Starlink satellites, and 3 SkySat Planet Satellites (Hi-res Earth surface pictures) following a path from the southwest to the northeast. The stream went past the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp. Apparent magnitude was at least 2nd as they appeared at least as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper (1st – 2nd apparent magnitudes), but not as bright as Vega (0.0 apparent magnitude).
   The two pictures below are time-exposures, and I processed them into black and white and made some contrast adjustments. The camera lens was centered around the ‘Summer Triangle’ and aimed nearly straight overhead toward the west.
   My personal challenge is to find a camera setting or video setting to capture the stream as individual ‘dots’.
Stay tuned!
   Keep up with viewing Starlink, the ISS, and many other satellites by checking with the Heavens Above web site or cellphone App. Note: the link is set for my latitude and longitude. This may be changed to your location at the Heavens Above web site.


   
   
   

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 Starlink Satellite Swarm

   Growing up during the 1960s I often spent many evenings outside with my father watching for satellites to pass over where we lived. I learned how to differentiate between an airplane and a satellite by watching the object as it approached the horizon. An airplane lights may be followed all the way to the horizon while the reflected sunlight from a satellite appears and disappears above the horizon as the satellite moves out of and then back into the Earth’s shadow. This was the early days of satellite technology and the time of communication satellites like Telstar, as well as satellites we presumed were Russian spy satellites.
      In today’s world satellites and space exploration have lost some of the public awareness and popularity. However there are many easy to see satellites including the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, a variety of communication satellites, and most recently the Starlink Satellites.
   The Starlink is a satellite built by SpaceX for the intention of providing satellite Internet access. Initially the focus will be on satellites providing Internet connection for much of North America but with the eventual launching of around 12,000 satellites the entire globe may have satellite Internet access.
   Currently the Starlink satellites appear in groups of 50 or so and look like a string of bright pearls stretched across the sky. Watch the video below of the Starlink Satellites passing over England.
   The Starlink Satellites move rapidly compared to the ISS and the group last night, in my pictures, were around 2nd magnitude or brighter. The group moved out the northwest past the Big Dipper and Arcturus toward the southeast. The satellites appear as streaks of light because the pictures were time exposures lasting 5 or 6 seconds each.

Use the Heavens Above web site for maps and times for viewing the ISS, Starlink and other satellites.
Use the NASA ISS Sightings web site for specific viewing times and directions for your location.
Use this web site, What the Astronauts See Right Now, for a simulated view from the ISS looking down at the Earth’s surface it is orbiting over.

   
   
   

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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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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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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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
明けましておめでとうございます
Felix Novus Annus
Feliz Ano Novo
С Новым годом
Feliz Año Nuevo
Heri ya Mwaka Mpya
Gott Nytt År
สวัสดีปีใหม่
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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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.