August 20, 2019

Astro Event of the Week 9-16th, 2008.

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Astroguyz… each Monday, our goal will be to present some new and interesting celestial event that you can see from your own backyard. If the event is happening anytime from Monday evening, US East Coast time, up through early next Monday, you’ll read about it here. We’ll also tie in a vocabulary “astro-word of the week.” So, as Fat Albert says, “If you’re not careful, you just might learn something before it’s done!”

Anyway, enough with the mission statement; lets get down with this weeks event. On Saturday, June 14th, the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery will be landing at the Kennedy Space Center after a fruitful expedition to the International Space Station. This means that after undocking at 07:42AM EDT on Wenesday, June 11th, favorably placed observers will have a chance to see both the ISS and the Shuttle streak overhead as a pair of -1 magnitude stars. This is an event that should not be missed! It can be caught easily with a hand held camera . Dawn and dusk offer the best illuminations. For local passage times, check out Heavens-Above, Calsky Alerter, or download the freeware program Orbitron. We personally like Orbitron as we can run it in the field, away from an Internet connection. Just remember to update the TLE (Two Line Elements) within about 24 hours of undocking. Folks based along northern South America or Central America stand a chance of seeing reentry on Saturday, assuming clear skies and that NASA does not divert the landing. Check the NASA landing and reentry page for the latest updates.

Speaking of orbiters, the word of the week is Apogee. The Shuttle, and any orbiting body for that matter, traces out an egg-shaped path, or an ellipse in its course around the Earth. Its farthest point is known as apogee and closest is known as perigee. The Shuttles’ general apogee can be out to 400 miles. When an object is orbiting the sun, the farthest point in its orbit is known as the aphelion. Orbiting the Moon, it’s known as aposelen, and orbiting another star is apastron. Think gee as in geography for Earth!

Next week, put your sunscreen on… it’s a very early summer solstice!

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