A Missouri Morning with the ISS

   This morning opened up with a colorful sunrise as the background for the ISS as it orbited toward the southeast. High overhead toward the south was the near last quarter Moon brightening the sky in that direction. However this was not a morning for taking pictures of the Moon.
   Right on time the ISS appeared over the northwest horizon and steadily moved past Polaris, the North Star, then past the Big Dipper’s Dipper heading toward the star Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman. On its way toward the southeastern horizon the ISS went past Venus, Mercury and the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
   While waiting and taking random pictures in different directions I managed to catch a Taurid Meteor!

   
   
   

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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Venus, the Bull, and a Comet (yes!)

   The next several days offer some exciting opportunities for viewing: a few of the visible planets; the waning phases of our Moon and a few conjunctions with stars and planets; Venus crossing the stars of the Hyades open star cluster; and Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE).
   Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is one of the many comets discovered by the NASA NEOWISE mission.
   NEOWISE is a space-based telescope used to find and track ‘Near Earth Objects’, comets and asteroids, that may pose a threat to our planet.
   Click on this link to go to the SkyLive web site for viewing information about Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

   
   
   

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 2020

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 human 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’s Night to Host Global Webcast on April 11, 2020

Due to health concerns, and in cooperation with local health officials, the large Yuri’s Night parties planned in Los Angeles, CA, at the Kennedy Space Center in FL, and in London have been cancelled. This is the same of many events around the world this year. Although some events may be rescheduled for later in the year, our dedicated crew of volunteers is working hard to develop at Global Webcast for April 11 so that we can all celebrate together! This online event will be free and available to anyone around the globe. It will be an opportunity for people around the world to connect with each other while avoiding crowds. Join us on April 11! Details and more information will be available at

http://party.yurisnight.net/globalwebcast

         Dark Matter
yuri   9 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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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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Send Your Name to Mars

   As the next mission to the planet Mars progresses toward a July 2020 launch NASA has invited the public to send your name onboard the Mars 2020 Rover.
Use this link to go directly to the send your name website.

   
   
   

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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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.

It’s The Final Countdown or Cassini Spacecraft’s Grand Finale

   Two months from this posting, September 15th, the Cassini spacecraft will end its mission at the planet Saturn by diving into the planet’s atmosphere and self destruction.
   This animated graphic shows the hourly position of the Cassini spacecraft as it makes a distant flyby of two of Saturn’s smaller moons, Atlas and Janus on July 19th. (the moons and spacecraft have been greatly enlarged to make them visible)
20 Years Ago
   On October 14, 1997, NASA launched Cassini, its largest interplanetary spacecraft, on a nearly seven-year voyage to Saturn. The voyage to Saturn was a two-part mission that included an orbiter and the Huygens probe. The Cassini orbiter was designed to explore Saturn’s system as it looped over, under, and around the planet’s many moons and rings. The Huygens probe was designed and planned for a study of the atmosphere and surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, as well as a parachute-assisted soft landing on the surface. On September 15th the exploration phase of the Cassini mission will end as the spacecraft runs out of fuel and descends into Saturn’s atmosphere. As frictional forces tear the spacecraft apart, instruments on-board will send back data about the planet’s atmosphere.
35 Years Ago
   Typically, little is known about what happens after or before the active part of a mission. We know that the follow-up to a mission is the data analysis, which usually takes many years. What is generally not acknowledged is the lead-up to the official mission, which begins with the launch. The Cassini Mission was first proposed in 1982, 15 years before the actual launch. Several years of planning and coordination between NASA and the European Space Agency followed. By the end of the 1980’s, the mission had been approved and was finally launched in 1997. Thirty-five years will have passed since the inception of the Cassini mission and the demise of the spacecraft when it enters Saturn’s atmosphere.

    Where is Cassini Now?
    Cassini grand finale fact sheet
    Cassini mission
    Cassini mission timeline poster
    Four Days at Saturn video
    Grand finale

   
   
   

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.

It’s Earthkam Week!

   Several times each year there is an opportunity to request pictures of the Earth to be taken by a camera on the ISS (International Space Station). This is one of those weeks, which actually started last Friday and ends this coming Saturday April 8th. Earthkam is open to educators (parents, teachers, scouts, etc.). On the mission web site there is an application form and there are lessons and activities as well as an archive of the many pictures taken by participants.
   This week I am working with students in several classes at Lee’s Summit High School, and a group of 5th grade students at Westview Elementary School tomorrow afternoon.

   Here are some of the pictures so far.

   
   
   

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.