October 20, 2017

Astro-Challenge: Exploring Reiner Gamma.

Finding Reiner Gamma…note that the shot through the Astroguyz 8″ SCT is flipped and inverted!

(Credit: Wide shot by Author, closeup from Lunar Orbiter 4 in 1967/NASA).

The waning gibbous Moon may provide a good cause to do some early AM astronomy this week. Amidst the familiar features such as craters, rays, and lunar mountains are more mysterious anomalies, one of which we’d like to bring to your observing attention this week. Reiner Gamma is a curious feature located at 7.5°N 59°W on the edge of the Oceanus Procellarum. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: Aphelion, an Occultation, a Launch and a Close Double.

Sunday night’s occultation path across the US…(Credit: NASA/IOTA).

We bring you this week’s edition of astronomy events a tad early to point your eyes skyward towards an interesting event; the occultation of a 10th magnitude star constellation Virgo. The asteroid is 52 Europa, and the event will last for up to 18 seconds for viewers from Montana across the central US down to our very own neck of the woods in Central Florida. [Read more...]

13.04.11: Here Be Shuttles!

The Orbiter that started it all; Enterprise during a drop test. (All photos courtesy of NASA).

The Space Shuttle program may be winding up, but you may soon have a chance to see one of these storied orbiters, in person. Yesterday, NASA officials announced the final resting places for the three remaining orbiters in the shuttle fleet; and the big winners are:

- Atlantis will go to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida;

- Endeavour will go to the Los Angeles California Science Center;

- Discovery will go to the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly Virgina.

And that will leave the Space Shuttle orbiter Enterprise, which never flew into space, to be transferred from the Smithsonian to the New York City Sea, Air, & Space Museum.

  

Discovery in orbit…

A mock trainer, Shuttle Orbiter Pathfinder, currently resides at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Also, hundreds of other select pieces of shuttle hardware and memorabilia will be located to other institutions throughout the nation. The announcement coincided with the 30th anniversary of the launch of STS-1 and Space Shuttle Columbia back in 1981, and the 50thanniversary of manned spaceflight with Yuri Gargin’s first epochal launch aboard Vostok 1 in 1961. During that time, the fleet has experienced highs with the launch and repair of the Hubble Space Telescope, the deployment of the Chandra and Compton observatories, and the completion of the International Space Station as well as lows with the tragic loss of the Columbia and Challenger spacecraft along with their gallant crews. As we near the end of the program, look for a personal retrospective on the Space Shuttle and these historic orbiters. (Remember, we launch a shuttle but land an orbiter!) it seems weird that we’ve been flying Space Shuttles for over half of our personal existence on this planet, and a generation has come of age knowing nothing but. Hopefully, a brave new launch vehicle will be well established and performing routine space flights by the next decadal anniversary in 2021!  

    

…Liftoff of Shuttle Atlantis!

20.02.11: A Snapshot of a Primordial Galaxy.

When it comes to the Hubble Space Telescope, the hits just keep on a’ comin’… earlier this year, researchers pushed the refurbished telescope to its limits, revealing what may prove to be most distant galaxy (or indeed object) yet seen. At 13.2 light years distant, the smudge pictured above would have been from a time when the universe was only about 500 million years old.

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The Smart Phones Strike Back: The STS-132 NASAtweetup!

Astroguyz in uber-nerd mode! (All Photos by Author).
Astroguyz in uber-nerd mode! (All Photos by Author).

    I got into Twitter about a year ago with some apprehension; did I really want to know (or care?) what someone’s cat did today? Was “micro-blogging” a cop-out to serious writing? After all, a scant decade ago, we barely knew what e-mail was. Here it is a year later, and we’re hooked. Twitter has produced tangible benefits, such as the opportunity to attend the launch of STS-132 last week and the NASAtweetup! Fans of this space will note that we attended our first Tweetup at the Johnson Space Flight Center in March. While that was a stellar session, we’d always wanted to do a launch event, and not be stuck viewing from the peanut gallery or a Home Depot parking lot in Orlando, but up close with the “serious” media.  [Read more...]

Astro Event of the Week: Spot Atlantis on its Final Flight!

(Credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller).

(Credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller).

 Atlantis posed for flight!

   This week sees the first in a series of finales; three shuttle missions remain, and the first shuttle up for its final voyage is Atlantis and STS-132. This is a resupply mission to the International Space Station, as NASA prepares to enter life aboard the ISS without a shuttle next year. Atlantis first took to space on October 3, 1985 and has performed such notable feats as the launching of the Magellan & Galileo spacecraft as well as the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and last year’s final repair of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard STS-125. Atlantis takes its name from the famous sailing ship that first scouted out Wood’s Hole in the early 20th century, the RV Atlantis. After STS-132, Atlantis will have logged nearly 300 days in space. Atlantis will be kept for a STS-335 Launch On Need standby for the final STS-134 flight of Endeavour later this year, which is also the last of the shuttle program.

The good news is several sighting opportunities should be possible for both Atlantis and the ISS during its 13 day planned mission. Launch is scheduled for 2:20 PM EDT on Friday, May 14th, and the shuttle will pass over Europe as it lifts into orbit that evening at dusk. Interestingly, it looks like the Sun angle may be setting up for some transit sighting opportunities over the US Southeast during this mission. Docking will occur on day three, which will be on the 17th if everything launches on schedule. Lit dusk passes on the pair will favor the US eastern seaboard, and generally, the farther north you are, the higher the STS-ISS pair will be. Around late June, the ISS will enter a summertime orbital phase where its orbit will actually be permanently illuminated at times, and even now, the nights aboard the ISS are drawing up short. Do track sites such as Heavens Above, CALsky, Spaceweather, and this space for updates… it’s worth it to see Atlantis do its thing one more time!

(Note: An orbital ballet of sorts is also in progess at the ISS; today, the Progress 36 module undocks from the nadir port of the Zvezda  module. Progress will deorbit and burn up over the Pacific in June. Then, on Wednesday, cosmonaut Kotokov will pilot the Soyuz TMA-17 and undock from the aft end of the Zarya module and move it to replace Progress, freeing it up for the installation of the MRM-1  carried aboard Atlantis. Talk about a cool valet job!)

The astro-word for this week is: Space Tweetup! A space tweetup is an alignment of two or more space enthusiasts for a space flight cause via that most venerable of 140 character platforms, Twitter. A Tweetup may be virtual, as in “let’s watch a launch via NASA TV and tweet about it” or in person, as in next week’s NASA tweetup for the STS-132 launch, of which Astroguyz is proud to be a member. NASA obviously “get’s it,” and is eager to promote new technology and engage its legion of fans, many whom feel disenfranchised with the “old school” media. People often ask me, “Why bother with Twitter?” I reply that events like the NASA tweetup have given me the opportunity to gain access normally reserved only for a select few, and an ability to connect to readers in a way not possible previous. It’s hard to imagine that scant decades ago, the monthly astronomy magazine bulletins would tell us about the comet that had long since come and gone; through Twitter communities, I can not only act on alerts for new objects, but share images straight from the eyepiece in real time. I highly encourage anyone interested to apply for a NASAtweetup; it’s open to all, and they’ve had events at the Kennedy and Johnson Space Center and in Baltimore at the Goddard Space Center thus far. And if you can’t make it, you can always participate vicariously online!

May 2010: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

 

(Photo by Author).

(Photo by Author).

The awesome dawn launch last month of STS-131, as seen from Astoguyz HQ…Can you spot the SRB?

 

   May brings ultimate news to the Astroguyz camp, with the selection for yet a second NASAtweetup, this time to the final launch of the shuttle Atlantis! Expect us “to be all STS-132, all the time” as we track events leading up to and during the launch. With that in mind posts will be noticeably space shuttle oriented, so be forewarned. So without further digression, here’s what you can expect from an Astroguyz soapbox coming to a viewing device of your electronic choosing…  

Coming to a Sky near You: You’ve heard of em’, but have you ever tried spotting a quasar yourself? This month, we show you what it takes to cross this elusive class of objects off of your life list. And of course, we’ll keep you abreast of the latest STS/ISS sightings, as the pair couples and uncouples in low Earth orbit. For those fortunate to be positioned from northern Africa through Southeast Asia, the 2 day old Moon will occult Venus on the 16th. The rest of us will see a close conjunction of the pair. On the lunar surface, we explore Aristarchus, a crater home to the most recorded Transient Lunar Phenomena. On the final day of the month, the Moon once again meets up with S Scorpii in an interesting occultation of the close binary star. On that same date, we’ll point you towards an offbeat reader submitted event; Jupiter’s moons positioned in 1,2,3,4 order. Our own Moon will reach New on the 14th and Full phase on the 27th

This Month in Science: Did we mention that we’ll be attending the NASA STS-132 Tweetup? Expect you-are-there tweet-reporting, videos, deep ponderous thoughts, and a full length after-action post. For those who didn’t get picked (hey, this was us more often than not!) we’ll give you a complete guide to off-site observing, good for both manned and unmanned launches both out of the KSC and the Cape. We also resume our exposé on Great Orbiting Observatories, this month delving into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. And speaking of UV, we review the UV flashlight from INova, and why you need one of these curious devices…

This Month in Science Fiction: This month, we take advantage of the spring publishing lull to work through some of our backlog. Expect a review of Solis by A.A. Attanasio, a book that we can’t believe let sit on our shelves all these years before finally cracking. We also review what’s rapidly become our favorite in Sci-Fi podcasting, the Drabblecast. In the hot-off-the-press-department, our advance copy of Dervish House by Ian MacDonald, soon to be released by Pyr just hit our doorstep and we’ve delved headlong into this tale of a futuristic Istanbul.

Launches in May: What with all this talk of adventure in a time of NASAtweetups, you might get the impression that STS-132 launches on May 14th at 2:19 P.M. EDT! This mission will be deploying the Russian-built Mini Research Module to be attached to the Zarya Module, as well as carrying further maintenance supplies and spare parts to the ISS. The flight is also notable as it is more than likely the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis, unless it launches in the very unlikely event of a rescue op during the final two missions. Astroguyz will be on hand to witness the final flight of Atlantis as she rides into orbit one last time. About a week prior, Falcon 9 will launch out of the Cape on May 8th at 11 AM EDT, on the qualifying flight of Space Xs Dragon spacecraft. This flight test is crucial to demonstrate that private companies can indeed fill in the gap left by the termination of the shuttle program and take up the duty of unmanned resupply of the ISS. Another interesting launch of note occurs on May 17th at 5:44 PM EDT, when Japan’s Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter departs Tanegashima Space Center for a journey to the cloud-shrouded world.  Follow these latest mission updates courtesy of SpaceFlightNow.

Astro Bloopers: Alright. This month’s snafu is spaceflight related, and the offense was committed twice in the past month by two separate organizations, both of which should have known better! The problem occurred with a common misconception of the Kennedy Space Center versus Cape Canaveral; both tend to be interchanged by the media, but are in fact separate installations! KSC is the launch site for manned missions such as the Shuttle and the Apollo missions; the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the home of unmanned satellite and deep space probe launches. NOVA recently got the two exactly wrong in a recent otherwise outstanding episode, and then CNN bumped the lunacy up a notch during Obama’s visit to the Space Coast, referring to the KSC as the Kennedy Space Station! And they complain about us upstart blogs…what are they, missing a science reporter?

This Month in Astro-History: On May14th, 1973 Skylab was launched. The first manned space station for the United States, Skylab utilized left over Apollo hardware to cobble the station together and saw its first crew of three opening it for business on May 25th of the same year. Two more crews followed until abandonment in early 1974. Astronauts conducted several science experiments while in space, including solar observations and microgravity experiments. Ideas to eventually reoccupy Skylab when the Shuttle came online in the 80’s never materialized. Skylab re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere amid much media craziness on July 11th, 1979.  

Astro Quote of the Month: “Everything really is made from one fire, the fire of all the stars. In that furious light, the stars forge the elements, strew them into the black void, and then stand around and watch the frantic atoms huddling together in the cold limits, sharing their small heat and enormous dreams.”

Solis, A.A. Attanasio.

Will the Leonids Perform in 2009?

This week marks the return of the Space Shuttle Atlantis to orbit for its second to last flight, as well as the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. This is the notorious shower that has produced storm level peaks in access of 10,000 per hour in 1966 and 1833. This storm emanates from material shed by comet 51P Temple-Tuttle, and generally peaks once every 33 years or so around November 17th. Most years, the Leonids are a feeble 10 meteors per hour shower barely warranting attention.

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The Ares X-1 Test Launch!

The “rubber hits the road” tomorrow for NASA’s next generation of spacecraft with the first test launch of the Ares X-1 rocket. Liftoff is scheduled for Tuesday, October 27 at 8:00 AM EDT from launch pad 39B. The shuttle Atlantis is also currently sitting at launch pad 39A for launch on November 16th to the International Space Station (ISS). Tomorrow’s Ares X-1 will be an unmanned launch and perform a short duration ballistic flight to test key systems over a 30 minute mission. Viewers along Florida’s Space Coast should get a good show, weather willing.

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15.10.09:Watch the Hubble Repair Online!

Its out! After much waiting, PBS’s flagship science program NOVA has at last begun putting the new season up online for viewing! This will assure that those of us who now exclusively get their media via the Internet, such as ourselves here at Astroguyz HQ, receive our weekly fix. And the change-over could not have been timelier; the first episode we previewed was Hubble’s Amazing Rescue, the STS-125 mission to save the Space Telescope earlier this year. The episode follows the dangerous repair mission from the tank training on the ground to the problems encountered and overcome while in orbit. The personalities of astronauts Mike Massimino (a.k.a. The “Tweeting astronaut”) and Megan MacArthur shine through in this engaging episode. And hey, we learned a thing or two; I’d heard about the nut capture plate for instance, but had never seen it in action. Lots of stunning IMAX footage was shot during this amazing mission for eventual use on the big screen. Be sure to give the NOVA site a peek as new episodes are now going up!

TopStars and the Hubble Space Telescope Heritage.

Now that the final servicing mission to the Hubble is winding down, it’s an excellent chance to reflect on the heritage of the Space Telescope, as well as announce an exciting program connected to the Hubble starting this year.

I first heard about the Hubble Top Stars program through Western Governors’ University (WGU rocks!) where I’m currently enrolled in my quest for a Bachelor’s Science Teaching degree. Top Stars is run by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and is sponsored by NASA. Top Stars is looking for submissions on the best examples of using Hubble for inspiring science, technology, or engineering in education. The winners will receive a high quality Hubble print, official recognition and teleconferencing opportunities with NASA engineers. [Read more...]

Viewing the STS-125 launch and a Servicing Mission 4 Update.

On Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 2:01PM EDT local the Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a historic mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope(HST) one last time. The day was blistering hot at the Kennedy Space Center(KSC), but the launch went off without a hitch. I’d like to share our notes on the launch viewing experience, as well as give you an update as to what’s happening in orbit.

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Astro-Event of the Week: 05.11.09: See STS-125 dock with Hubble!

First; the good news. This week’s potential launch of Atlantis on STS-125 for it’s much delayed servicing mission (the 4th and final) to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) will provide spectacular views, both of the initial launch along the Space Coast of Florida and the dawn and dusk skies as it chases the orbiting observatory. Now for the bad; the current orbit of Hubble is positioned such that most of the northern hemisphere won’t see the action! The HST is inclined at a 28.5 degree orbit, far different than the normal 51.6 degree orbit the shuttle orbiters must attain to dock with the ISS.

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