TDRS-M Launch

NASA will be launching a tracking and data relay satellite from Cape Canaveral hopefully around 12:03 UTC / 08:03 ET.

NASA – TDRS-M, built by Boeing, will provide NASA’s Space Network the ability to support critical space communication into the mid-2020s, ensuring scientists, engineers and control room staff can readily access data for missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

Coverage starts at 11:30 UTC / 07:30 ET on NASA TV, there will be a live link here at 11:30 UTC if all goes as planned.

Currently the weather at the space center looks to be pleasant with air temperature about 25 C or so (~78 F). No rain in area. . . yet.

Eclipse 2017

The eclipse of 2017 is just a few days away and now I am going to be able to see part of it — weather permitting.  I’ll be well north of the line of totality but still will get to see a bite out of the sun.  I am so pleased, I’ve seen four solar eclipses of varying degrees, two of them were total and they are just fantastic!

If you are located in the US or parts of Canada, I hope you have good weather!

What if you don’t have glasses? Do not look at the directly without proper eye wear!  Fortunately those cardboard glasses are easy to get, I think even some of the public libraries will have some (they are for sure where I will be). Still you could be stuck with no glasses, like construction workers for example, well there is still a simple way to see what is going on. I’ve done this myself with success:

If you get to see the eclipse and can view it safely you will be treated to Bailey’s beads and The diamond ring effect. Here is a great look at them from the 2012 Australian Eclipse in a a video posted by William Hetzel:

Hubble Looks at NGC-5949

Very nice, first thing I did after seeing this is to go to DSO Browser, a very useful and fun site!

Hubble – The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a dwarf galaxy named NGC 5949. Thanks to its proximity to Earth — it sits at a distance of around 44 million light-years from us, placing it within the Milky Way’s cosmic neighborhood — NGC 5949 is a perfect target for astronomers to study dwarf galaxies.

With a mass of about a hundredth that of the Milky Way, NGC 5949 is a relatively bulky example of a dwarf galaxy. Its classification as a dwarf is due to its relatively small number of constituent stars, but the galaxy’s loosely-bound spiral arms also place it in the category of barred spirals. This structure is just visible in this image, which shows the galaxy as a bright yet ill-defined pinwheel. Despite its small proportions, NGC 5949’s proximity has meant that its light can be picked up by fairly small telescopes, something that facilitated its discovery by the astronomer William Herschel in 1801.

Astronomers have run into several cosmological quandaries when it comes to dwarf galaxies like NGC 5949. For example, the distribution of dark matter within dwarfs is quite puzzling (the “cuspy halo” problem), and our simulations of the Universe predict that there should be many more dwarf galaxies than we see around us (the “missing satellites” problem).

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Text credit: European Space Agency

Saturn in False Color

Very nice!

NASA – Clouds on Saturn take on the appearance of strokes from a cosmic brush thanks to the wavy way that fluids interact in Saturn’s atmosphere.

Neighboring bands of clouds move at different speeds and directions depending on their latitudes. This generates turbulence where bands meet and leads to the wavy structure along the interfaces. Saturn’s upper atmosphere generates the faint haze seen along the limb of the planet in this image.

This false color view is centered on 46 degrees north latitude on Saturn. The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 18, 2017 using a combination of spectral filters which preferentially admit wavelengths of near-infrared light. The image filter centered at 727 nanometers was used for red in this image; the filter centered at 750 nanometers was used for blue. (The green color channel was simulated using an average of the two filters.)

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is about 4 miles (7 kilometers) per pixel.

CRS – 12 Launch Replay


I like the clocks, the last launch I noted both in a spreadsheet using values every few seconds and graphed the result.  Sadly I did not get a full set start to finish because they switch the data stream to different parts of the spacecraft, i.e: the different stages 1/2.  Still it was an interesting exercise.

Space X Launch Later Today

Space X has a launch scheduled today at 16:31 UTC / 12:31 EDT from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Dragon cargo ship will be launched on a resupply mission – CRS-12 – to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for 16 August, that gives us a couple of days to spot the ISS going overhead.

We will have a live link for the launch at 16:15 UTC / 12:15 EDT.

Forecast from US National Weather Service:
A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Heat index values as high as 102. West southwest wind 5 to 10 mph.

Note: 11 am EDT / 15:00 UTC

Do not be surprised if the launch is delayed or postponed due to weather. The forecast appears fairly typical for Florida this time of year and a thunderstorm could pop-up.

Total Solar Eclipse Safety

On 21 August 2017 there will be a total solar eclipse stretching the breadth of the United States. There’s quite a bit of “doom and gloom” talk out there, a lot of it is baloney. What is very real is the danger from incorrectly observing the eclipse.

The video is all about how to watch the eclipse safely. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few solar eclipses both partial and total varieties and it is a fantastic experience and quite safe when done correctly.

You will not have to sit in your house with all the curtain’s drawn for the duration of the event for safety’s sake — and YES, that’s a real thing I know someone who does this!

An update on my Perseid watching; it was a bust, clouds.

Cosmic Ray Detector Heading to ISS

The mystery of cosmic rays will be explored in a new detector to be launched to the International Space Station.

The detector is called CREAM short for the Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass mission. The CREAM detectors have flown before on balloons as far back as 2004 and 2016 at altitudes of around 35 km (120,000 feet) so the technology is not new. This time around being at the ISS, the detector will be able to measure the highest energy cosmic rays so far.

Cosmic rays are constantly raining down on Earth mostly from outside our solar system. Most any astrophotographer has seen evidence of cosmic rays at white pixel anomalies in their photographs.

The launch date: 14 August 2017
More information on CREAM and cosmic rays.

August Skies

August is a GREAT month for watching the night sky. For me, there are two things I am looking for: first the Perseids. The meteor shower peaks on 12 to 13 August. The question is, and what has me concerned is the moon, more about this weekend. Second is the solar eclipse, no surprise there, I have plans even if it is cloudy — ham radio time!