July 15, 2019

Astro-Vid of the Week: Watch the Launch of Soyuz Live!

The crew of Soyuz TMA-12M (Credit: NASA).

The population of humans in space is about to increase by three tomorrow night, when Soyuz TMA-12M takes to skies over the Baikonur cosmodrome in a brilliant night launch. The launch is set to occur at 21:17 Universal Time (UT) or 5:17 PM EDT on Tuesday, March 25th for a four orbit, six hour “fast-track” docking on Wednesday at 3:04 UT/11:04 PM EDT. [Read more...]

October 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

A recent personnal 1st; an ISS Solar Transit!

(Photo by Author).

October is one of our favorite months, crowned as it is by a holiday that sees suburbanites re-enact pagan ancient Cross-Quarter festivities. We’re talking Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows Eve, whatever your household preference. Now is a good time to roll out the ‘scope, put on some H.G. Wells War of the Worlds rebroadcasting, and show the neighborhood hob-goblins the wonders of the night sky. What follows is a rundown of the witchery that we’re brewing up here at Astroguyz HQ;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Comet C/2010 X1 Elenin was to break naked eye visibility this month as it climbs through the constellation Leo in the 1st part of October, but of course now all bets are off since the comet disintegrated last month into tinier fragments. (No, Bruce Willis wasn’t the cause). Elenin will safely pass 0.23 AU from the Earth on October 16th, and reach a northerly declination in the dawn skies of +30.9 degrees on October 28th. The surprise wild card event, however, *may* be the peak of the Draconid meteors on the 8th. Also sometimes known as the Giacobinids, this usually obscure shower generally rates nary a second thought most years but has been known for storm level outbursts of over a 1,000 meteors per hour or more. There is some buzz in the meteor modeling community that 2011 may be just such a year…but those rates may be diminished by the Moon reaching Full on the 11th, which is also visually smallest Full Moon of the Year. On the 21st, the Orionid Meteors peak, a less dazzling but more dependable shower with a ZHR=20-30. On the 29th asteroid 1036 Ganymed (largest Amor asteroid) reaches opposition at magnitude +8 after a series of stellar occultations in the Cassiopeia-Perseus-Andromeda region. Finally, on the 28th occultation of Mercury by the 2 day old Moon occurs low in the dusk for Australian and New Zealand viewers, (The rest of us will just see a close conjunction), and on the 29th, the planet Jupiter reaches opposition.

This Month in Science: This month, we dig into some our favorite reads as we review Magick, Mayhem, & Mavericks, a look at the messy history of the realm that is physical science. Also this month we look at Falling to Earth, the biography of an Apollo 15 astronaut, and review Science Illustrated, a bi-monthly science magazine. Another gem has hit our inbox in the form of Miss Leavitt’s Stars, a fascinating biography of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Finally, the star party is on at Starkey Park in New Port Richey on the 22nd, although we “may” be missing in action that night because of the following…

This Month in Science Fiction: The Necronomicon, Central Florida’s premiere science fiction convention, occurs on October 21-23 in Saint Petersburg Florida, and yours truly will be a humble member on a panel or three. Come out, dress like a Klingon, join the fun, and peek through our telescopes. We’ll be setting up for both solar and night-time viewing, and its sure to be more fun than a barrel of Ewoks! Also, in our we’ve-been-towing-it-around-for-years-and-now-we’re-finally-reading-it file, we’ll be reviewing  Alpha Centauri by William Barton and Michael Capobianco. Hot off the pre-release press we’re also furiously reading Hearts of Smoke and Steam, Book 2 of the Society of Steam series due out in November from Pyr Books!

Launches in October: This month, all eyes will be on the Russian Soyuz and the hoped for “Return to Space” after their loss of an unmanned Progress vehicle this summer. Not that the pressure is on, or anything…the first Soyuz mission to watch is the Galileo IOV aboard the 1st Soyuz launch out of Kourou French Guiana on the 20th. This will be followed by a Delta 2 launch with the NASA-NPP spacecraft plus accompanying Tweetup out of Vandenberg AFB 25th. Also on tap is a Proton with the Glonass satellite out of Baikonur 25th. To Be Determined launches to watch include a manned Soyuz to headed to the ISS, a Proton with ViaSat 1, Soyuz with Globalstar, and Zenit rocket carrying 3SLB/Intelsat 18, all from Baikonur. Follow us @Astroguyz on Twitter for all the updates!

Astro-Atta-Boy: We finally caught Clash of the Titans, the 2010 remake, not the cheesy 1980’s take on the mythological tale that depicts a bunch of miniatures flying around. Say what you will about this adaption of the Perseus myth from Greek mythology, it does have a pretty good depiction of a total solar eclipse as part of the plot line, probably one of the best on screen we’ve seen since the film Lady Hawke, and way better than Mel Gibson’s eclipse in Apocalypto. Do I sense a blog post on eclipses in film and fiction in the works?

Astro Bloopers: Alright, when the rumors hit the cyber-sphere that George Lucas was once again tweaking the Star Wars saga for Blu-Ray release, we thought to ourselves; could it be that he’s finally going to correct the hoary old “parsec” error from episode IV: A New Hope? After all, it is kind of an embarrassing thing for such a seasoned sky-pilot as Han Solo to say… but alas, it wasn’t to be. No sooner than we made light mention of the possibility, than the self-appointed trolls that guard the flame of all that is Lucas attempted to defend the quip with several ill-conceived ad hominem attacks. Sorry guys, we may not know every world and creature in the Star Wars pantheon, but we do know science. A parsec is a measure of distance, and saying that “it made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs…” is a nonsensical statement, akin to “I went from here to New York in 12 miles…” and what’s more, a parsec is an Earth-based measure of distance, hardly fitting for a “galaxy far, far away…” George really missed his chance on this one…

Astro Quote of the Month: “I have seen the dark universe yawning where the black planets roll without aim; where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge, luster, or name.”

-HP Lovecraft, Nemesis, 1918

 

September 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

Comet Garradd passing M71 in August. (Photo by Author).

Ahhhh, September…. The heat of August is behind us, as a young astronomer’s fancy turns to thoughts of dark skies and equinoctial nights. I swear, if they ever discover a planet that sports a perpetual New England Fall climate, I propose that a multi-generational interstellar ark be built, immediately. In the meantime, here are the events that you can expect to see coming to an Astro-Blog near you; [Read more...]