September 19, 2019

21.09.11: Stalking the Re-Entry of UARS.

UARS…Have you seen me in orbit? (Credit: NASA/GSFC).

A unique re-entry event is about to occur this week, one that, if you’re lucky, you may need only your eyes to witness. UARS, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite has been on the shortlist for imminent re-entry over the next few days. Launched in 1991 from the payload bay of the Space Shuttle Discovery, UARS is a 6 ½ ton observatory built to study the Earth’s atmosphere, particularly the ozone layer. The satellite was decommissioned in 2005, and has since spent its maneuvering fuel. A debris avoidance maneuver for the International Space Station was conducted in 2010, and CALsky has pegged re-entry to occur on or around 02:30 UTC on September 24th.

UARS decay, predicted versus observed. (Via @UARS_Reentry)

Interestingly, various projections peg a re-entry at 12:00 UTC on the 25th, while observed passes peg an earlier re-entry at about 13:00 UTC on the 23rd… and well, you get the idea. Recent solar activity may be the culprit in hastening the satellites premature decay. We here at Astroguyz HQ are watching on every pass, both illuminated and in the Earth’s shadow; we just got sight of UARS this AM for the 1st time over Hudson Florida, and it was really moving, like USA-193 before its demise in 2008. Speaking of which, one wonders if the DoD is planning to bring down UARS preemptively on its final orbits, much like the aforementioned hydrazine containing satellite? Hey, I’m just sayin…

Can you see it? UARS near Jupiter this AM from Astroguyz HQ… (Photo by Author)

UARS was about half as bright as the planet Jupiter this AM, and we didn’t see any evidence of flashing, although observers worldwide have reported such, and a tumbling motion may evolve rapidly over the next few days. Heavens-Above was right on the money this mornings for predictions; for the US South-East, the next passes centered on Florida are;

21-Sep 20:54-20:58 EDT (in shadow)

22-Sep 06:12-06:16 EDT (illuminated)

22-Sep 20:26-20:30 EDT (illuminated-in shadow)

23-Sep 05:43-05:46 EDT (In shadow)

23-Sep 19:55-19:58 EDT (Illuminated-In Shadow)

24-Sep 05:10-05:13 EDT (In Shadow)

This will be the biggest object to re-enter since Mir and the largest uncontrolled re-entry since Skylab in the 1970’s, although we haven’t seen the attending hysteria connected with UARS that Skylab sparked. Are we a better informed, more intelligent public than we were in the days of Charlie’s Angels and the Love Boat, or are we simply more absorbed by the mis-adventures of Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga? Whatever the case, our unofficial estimate is that there is about a 1-in-180 (24 hours x 60 minutes/about 2 passes a day of 4 minutes each) chance that UARS will re-enter over your horizon if you live between latitude 57 degrees north and south of the equator, which covers a good swath of the human species…follow @Astroguyz on Twitter for all the action-packed updates and keep watching the skies!

Review: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach.

Consider our bags packed!

Behind every modern day manned mission to space is a fascinating tale of how we got there and what it’s truly like to live and work in such a bizarre and hostile environment. If the average American does bother to watch NASA TV, they rarely stop to think of what amount of planning and preparation goes in to putting humans into space. [Read more...]

May 2010: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

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.