Perseids Meteor Shower – 2019

   While August signals the end of summer vacation for students and teachers, for sky-watchers the month signals the beginning of the Perseid meteor shower. This annual event occurs when the Earth passes through the path of debris left behind by the Comet P/SwiftTuttle. The Perseids, like all meteor showers, are named for the region of the sky that the meteors seem to radiate from. The Perseids radiant is within the constellation Perseus.
   The meteor shower lasts slightly longer than a month, beginning around July 17 and ending around August 24. The best times for viewing, when the maximum number of meteors could be seen (under ideal conditions), is the peak night, on August 13th. The best time for viewing the meteors is after midnight and in the couple of hours before the Sun rises. At this time, our position on the Earth will face directly into the “cloud” of debris.
   This year the peak night is 3 days before full Moon which is good news because the waxing gibbous Moon will set at around 4-5 am local time as the area around the Pleiades and the radiant rise in the east. This leaves maybe 2 hours of viewing before the sky brightens too much.

  Where should you look to find Perseus and the meteors? For those viewing from mid-northern latitudes (40-50 degrees Perseus rises around midnight over the northeast horizon. By early morning, the Perseids radiant is very high, nearly overhead toward the northeast horizon.

One Perseid Down- Many More to Go?
Perseids: The Peak Night

Here is a wonderful short video about a falling star by Sascha Geddert.


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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

Moon on the Move – Actually It Doesn’t Stop!

   Over the next couple of evenings the waxing gibbous Moon will pass by two outer planets, Jupiter and Dwarf Planet Ceres. On the 8th the 8-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 2o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres, and on the 9th the 9-day old Moon will be about 2o from Jupiter.


   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

The Time of Apollo – 50th Anniversary

earth from moon   July 20th 1969 was the day the United States landed the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander the Eagle on the Sea of Tranquility. This was the first time someone from Earth walked on the Moon, with several successful missions to follow. Much of the Apollo missions were about beating the former Soviet Union, or probably more appropriate, being the first in some space exploration endeavor. This was the ‘Space Race’ and at least for landing people on the Moon, the United States won. Since then the focus of crewed (aka manned) space exploration has been confined to low, near Earth orbit – primarily with the Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions.
   I can very well remember sitting in the squadron barracks day-room in July of 1969 with other GIs watching the first men to step out of their lander and walk on the Moon. In the years that followed, I left the Air Force, completed undergraduate and graduate schools, and began my teaching career. Along the way I closely followed every NASA mission, crewed or robotic, and incorporated my excitement and passion of space exploration with my teaching. Now with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission it sort of brought home how much time has passed since the days of seemingly endless, almost routine, launches from the Florida coast.
   I don’t think my mother, who used to live in Lake Mary Florida (about 40 miles west from the Kennedy Space Center), ever caught on to the timing for my family vacations to visit with her! We would be there around the time of a rocket launch, or in the case of the Shuttle, launches and landings. From her house we could watch the lift-off on TV and then step outside to see the vehicle climbing into the atmosphere. Or there were times when we would be ‘boomed’ out of bed, and the the windows would rattle as the shuttle passed over head leaving behind it’s signature double sonic boom.

   Somewhat sadly I am part of the only generation to have witnessed earthlings walking on another world. So Far! That may change with the NASA Artemis program plans to land a crew on the Moon by 2024.

   The evening skies on July 20th 1969 and July 20th 2019.

   The four videos below will perhaps highlight and celebrate some of how I and probably many others feel about space exploration. The first video, Overview, is interviews with 5 Astronauts as they describe how viewing the Earth from space has changed them. The second video, The Time of Apollo, is from the 16mm film days, and is a somber look at the Apollo missions. It is narrated by Burgess Meredith (the Penguin in the TV Batman series!). The third video is a look at the Artemis program. The fourth video, Gagarin, is a video I produced with an original musical score by Daniel Eichenbaum. It is a look at our planet from orbit with quotes from Cosmonauts and Astronauts.

Additionally here is a link to my cloud drive where I have a collection of NASA Moon mission videos (mp4 format).

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

The Time of Apollo

Artemis Program to the Moon

Gagarin


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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

June 2019 Solstice

   Northern hemisphere spring comes to an end and the summer season begins on Tuesday June 21st at 8 UT (3 am CDT) when the Sun ‘reaches’ the celestial coordinates of 23.5o north declination and 6 hours right ascension. With respect to the Earth’s surface the Sun is described as over the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5o, north of the Earth’s equator. At this same time the Sun is just entering the boundaries of the astrological constellation Cancer the Crab. Interestingly about 19 hours later, Wednesday June 22nd at 3 UT (10 pm CDT June 21st) the Sun will actually be entering the region of the Gemini Twins as it crosses the boundary between Gemini and Taurus.

   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun, at this date, would be entering the astrological sign of Cancer the Crab.

   We know that it is the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun that causes the sun’s apparent eastward motion among the stars in the background. This is how the Sun ‘reaches’ a celestial coordinate, how it ‘crosses’ the boundaries between constellations, or how it is ‘in’ a constellation.

   With respect to the southern hemisphere this is the end of their summer and start of their fall season. So thinking globally my preference has been to use the name of the month to designate the season change. Hence the use of the term June Solstice rather than summer solstice.

   
   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

Sun Enters Taurus

   Tuesday May 14th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Aries the Ram and into the constellation of Taurus the Bull. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.


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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

April Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Monday April 1st. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.79 Earth diameters 252,520 miles (406,391 km) from the Earth.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth? 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*

   On the day of the apogee the 26-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be over the southeastern horizon 30-60 minutes before sunrise local time.

*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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

Planets Line Up in the Morning Skies

   Starting Monday April 1st, and continuing for a couple of weeks there will be an arrangement of 5 planets over the eastern to southern horizon in the hour or so before the Sun rises. Of these Neptune is the only one not bright enough to be visible to the unaided eye.

The Planets at 10-day Intervals During April
   The basic organization of our solar system is to have the other 7 planets follow orbits close to the plane of the ecliptic, and given how these planets are arranged and appear from the Earth this month makes it easy to visualize the ecliptic. This ‘view from above’ animated graphic shows the planets at 1-day intervals during April.

   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.