A Disco Ball In Orbit!

   The Humanity Star satellite was launched from New Zealand earlier this month and has an orbital life expectancy of around 9 months – (spoiler alert!!) meaning it’s coming back down!
   The satellite is a 1-meter diameter geodesic dome shape made of highly reflective materials. While in orbit the Humanity Star will spin and reflect enough sunlight making it bright enough to be seen which means this could prove to be perhaps as fun as tracking ISS and Hubble. Right now the satellite is only visible from latitudes greater than 46 degrees north or south but the orbit will gradually change making it visible from all latitudes.
   The web site has an interactive tracking map.
      “The Humanity Star was created by Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck. It was born of the desire to encourage people to consider their place in the universe and reflect on what’s important in their own lives and the lives of humanity as a species.”
http://www.thehumanitystar.com/

   
   
   

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.

August Moon at Ascending Node – and Oh Yeah, A Total Solar Eclipse!

   Monday August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   On August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic at 10:34 UT (5:34 am CDT) within the constellation Leo the Lion. 8 hours later, at 18:30 UT (1:30 pm CDT), the Moon will reach new phase. This close timing between the new Moon phase and a node crossing means only one thing – eclipse!!

   My eclipse viewing area will be at an Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District. From that location totality will be approximately 80 seconds. This short video showing totality for 80 seconds, was clipped and edited from a video shot during the November 2012 total solar eclipse viewed from Australia.

   Read a bit more about this eclipse from a previous post.

      Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit 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.

ISS Last Night

   Last evening was my first opportunity to see the ISS in at least a month so I quickly set up my camera aiming it toward Venus and Mars. However my aim was off by quite a bit so I hurriedly readjusted the camera, 3 times, to capture these pictures. All were taken with ISO 800; F5; 18mm; 2.5 second. Pictures were stacked, merged, using Starstax.

   
   
   

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.

ISS This Evening

   Despite a temperature of 6oF and standing in a couple of inches of snow it was worth it as Venus and Mars shined brightly over my neighbor’s laser light show and I waited patiently for an ISS orbit over my home this evening. This orbit had the International Space Station rising in the northwest and setting in the southeast in a 6-minute visibility that took it nearly to the zenith with its maximum altitude of 85o above the horizon. It’s orbital track had the ISS pass along one side of the ‘Summer Triangle’, the stars Vega and Deneb. As it nears the zenith the ISS will pass very close to the star Alpheratz, the upper left corner star of the asterism “Square of Pegasus”. Alpheratz is actually a star in the constellation of Andromeda the Princess, but it it is commonly used to complete the ‘Square of Pegasus” asterism.

   Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 800; F6.0; 3.2 sec. Pictures stacked using StarStaX. StarStaX is available as Freeware for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

   
   
   

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.

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.

It’s EarthKam Week

   This week I am privileged to be able to once again take part in the Sally Ride EarthKam Mission with students in the Lee’s Summit School District and Aerospace students at the Center for Advanced Placement Studies (CAPS) in the Blue Valley KS School District.
earthkam-ani    What is EarthKam? In short it is an opportunity for students to request images of the Earth’s surface to be taken by a camera on the International Space Station. The previous time I participated with the program was last January and during that week the daytime orbits we could request images from were all from the equator and southward. We got some great pictures of mountains and islands, and of course clouds!

   
   
   
   

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.

Far Out!

On Tuesday July 14th the New Horizon spacecraft makes it one and only flyby of Pluto coming the closest at 6:49 am CDT (11:49 UT) with a distance of 12,500 kilometers (7,750 miles). As it passes through the Pluto system that includes the dwarf planet Pluto, and 5 known moons the spacecraft will be traveling at approximately 14 km/second (31,000 miles per hour.)

NASA’s New Horizons web site
Pluto at Opposition
What’s Your Pluto Time?

Watch this short song/video written and performed by Dani Robinson, a student in my Astronomy class, this past year.

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.