October 20, 2017

20.03.11: An Occultation Update.

Mu Geminorum ingress…(Photo by Author).

This Super-moon Sunday, we’d just like to give a brief self promotional shout-out to an astronomical success we had last weekend. Last Sunday we managed to catch the occultation of the 4th magnitude star Mu Geminorum by the waxing gibbous moon from Astroguyz HQ here in Hudson, Florida; [Read more...]

Review: Discoverers of the Universe by Michael Hoskin.

Out from Princeton Press.

Few realize that we owe much of our knowledge to an astronomical dynasty of the 18th-19th century. This week, we review Discoverers of the Universe by Michael Hoskin. This fascinating book covers the life and times of astronomers William and Caroline Herschel and the eventual hand off of the mantle of British astronomy to William’s son John. Much has been written about the pursuits of the Herschels, but Discoverers gives it to you in the kind of detail that we observational astronomers love. [Read more...]

17.03.11- Mercury: At Last!

Brave New World: Mercury as seen from Messenger during 2nd flyby departure.

 (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington) 

Tonight marks a pivotal moment in solar system exploration. At 12:45 AM UTC on March 18th, NASA’s Mercury Messenger spacecraft will burn its engines for approximately 15 minutes to enter an elliptical orbit around the planet Mercury. Since its launch from Cape Canaveral on August 3rd, 2004, Messenger has flown by the Earth once and Venus twice for a gravitational assist, swung by the innermost world three times, sampled the near solar environment, searched for Vulcanoids, and even done a wide field pan for any tiny Mercury moonlets that may have been missed. [Read more...]

13.03.11: STRESS: A New Way to Hunt Exoplanets.

Our Milky Way as seen from STEREO. (Credit: NASA/JPL).

A new and innovative tool in the hunt for extra-solar worlds just came to our attention recently. Traditionally, to find these elusive beasts, astronomers utilized ground-based instruments to detect transits, Doppler shifts, and even the occasional odd gravitational lensing event. [Read more...]

10.03.11: A Planetary Exploration Wish List.

What extra cool orbiters or landers would you like to see funded? Earlier this week, the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board unveiled its exhaustive 400 page report that outlines a vision for unmanned space exploration of the solar system from 2013 through 2022. This was presented at the ongoing Lunar & Planetary Science Conference, and as suspected there were big winners, a few potential losers, and a lot of maybes that have to whittle down their budget-busting prices a bit.

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05.03.11: A New Breed of Sundog?

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is well on the path to producing some ground-breaking solar science this Solar Cycle #24, and that trend started the minute it left the launch pad. On February 11th, 2010, SDO lifted off atop an Atlas V rocket, and gave viewers a memorable sight.

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02.03.11: Rise of the Robonauts.

The International Space Station (ISS) has a new permanent resident, one that will assist astronauts and become a valued member of the space station team. Robonaut 2 (R2) arrived at the ISS this week, delivered by STS-133 on the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Initially, Robonaut 2 will be a stationary resident, to be installed in the Unity Node until it can perform more complex mobile tasks.

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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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19.02.11: V1647 Orionis-A Request for Observations.

This past Tuesday, a call for observations went out from the American Association for Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) for observations past and present of a very poorly understood variable. In AAVSO Special Notice #235 Dr. Colin Aspin of the University of Hawaii has requested images past and present of the area surrounding M78 and the object known as McNeil’s Nebula.

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18.02.11: A Titan(ic) Flyby.

Titan (Lower Left) paired with Saturn as seen from Cassini last year. (Credit: NASA/Cassini/JPL/The Space Science Institute).

Far out in the depths of the solar system, one of our most distant orbiting ambassadors is completing a flyby of the largest known moon. On Friday, February 18th at 11:04AM EST NASA’s Cassini orbiter will skim the Saturnian moon at a distance of just 2,270 miles above the enigmatic moon Titan. [Read more...]

14.02.11: Sol Unleashes A Powerful Radio Flare.

Our nearest star unleashed the most powerful solar flare of 2011 thus far yesterday, and amateur and professionals alike were on hand to bear witness to the event. On Sunday, February 13th at approximately 1738 Universal Time, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory detected the burst emanating from the large Earthward facing sunspot group 1158. Likewise, radio amateur astronomers detected a large simultaneous spike in the 19 to 21 MHz frequency range.

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AstroEvent: When will Epsilon Aurigae Brighten?

One of the strangest variable stars is worth watching this spring.  Back in 2009, we alerted viewers to monitor the curious variable Epsilon Aurigae. Once every 27.06 years, this star dips nearly a magnitude in brightness down to about +3.8, markedly discernable to the naked eye. This drop lasts for over a year before Epsilon Aurigae returns to its former self. This spring should witness such an occurrence.

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13.02.11: A Monster in M87.

NASA’s Chandra X-Ray observatory recently peered into the heart of the M87 galaxy in the constellation Virgo. Well known to backyard observers as one of the highlights of the Virgo galaxy cluster, M87 harbors something truly spectacular; one of the most massive black holes known. In fact, researchers American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle Washington earlier last month upgraded to WOW factor of the M87, calculating a mass of 6.6 billion suns.

[Read more...]

10.02.11: A Valentine’s Day Rendezvous.

There. Out there. That faint moving smudge in the image above is about to become the target of a cometary flyby of historic proportions next week.

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07.02.11: Seeing the Sun in STEREO.

Current Positions of NASA’s STEREO A & B Spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/STEREO).

Amid the Super Bowl madness that was this past weekend, a quiet milestone was reached in the realm of Spaceweather; NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft achieved a 360 degree coverage vantage point in respect to our sun. [Read more...]

06.02.11- A “Sail-Flare” Contest!

NanoSail-D2 unfurled in the lab! (Credit: NASA/MSFC/D. Higginbotham).

I have wanted to give a shout out to a cool contest that came to our attention a few weeks back, and this weekend seemed as good a time as any. Last month, NanoSail-D2, everyone’s favorite solar sail test-bed in low Earth orbit, stunned the satellite-spotting community with its amazing comeback. [Read more...]

02.02.11: A Russian Satellite Goes Astray.

A good GEO-IK2 pass Thursday, February 3rd around 6:18PM EST. (Created by Author using Orbitron).

The first launch of February sees a payload stuck in an elliptical transfer orbit, and an interesting opportunity for amateur observers. Yesterday, at 14:00 UT/9:00 AM EST, a Russian Rockot launch vehicle carrying GEO-IK2 lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. A military research satellite, GEO-IK2 has the dual role of providing research into plate tectonics and geodesics for both civilian and military applications (re: pinpoint positioning technology and mapping). Lifted aloft by the two-stage ballistic missile, a Breeze KM upper stage was to fire and deploy GEO-IK2 into a 600 mile orbit… and that’s where the finicky fate of rocket science struck[Read more...]

01.02.2011: NEOWISE: Mission Accomplished.

Comet 65P Gunn as captured by NEOWISE. (Credit: NASA/JPL/CALTech).

An orbiting sentinel recently completed its secondary science mission. WISE, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, recently completed an all sky survey for Near Earth Objects (NEOs). Launched in December 2009, WISE’s primary mission was an all sky survey in the infrared spectrum. [Read more...]