The Diamond Ring

ESA brings us this wonderful image of a solar diamond ring for Valentine’s Day. This one is from the Solar Eclipse of 21 August 2017 photographed by during an eclipse expedition to the USA as part of ESA’s CESAR (Cooperation through Education in Science and Astronomy Research) educational initiative. CESAR engages students in the wonders of science and technology – astronomy in particular.

As it happens there will be a solar eclipse tomorrow. This eclipse will be visible to most of Antarctica and southern regions of Chile and Argentina, I know we have readers from the very south of Argentina so here is a map showing when and approximately what you will see.

The map and more information from Wikipedia here.

Progress MS-08 Launch – Replay

The replay above from Space Videos.

So the Progress MS-08 cargo spaceship is on the way to the International Space Station loaded with 1,390 kg / 3,064 lbs of food and supplies including propellant to maneuver the station.

The delay means the cargo spaceship won’t dock until Thursday so we could get a chance to see the pair fly overhead.

Check: Heaven’s Above, N2YO, or SpaceWeather to flyby information.

Launch time: 08:58:45 GMT / 03:58:45 EST / 14:58:45 p.m. Baikonur time

I will start this early so you will see NASA TV until launch time, time well spent.

Replays when available.

Mother of Hubble

Mother of Hubble, the telescope not Edwin.

In honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science which was yesterday this video looks at one of the pioneers in the field and the first Chief of Astronomy at NASA, Nancy Grace Roman.

We need more like her! I am pleased we have many women in the field and I hope to see many more in the future.


The launch of the Russian cargo mission to the International Space Station has been scrubbed for today.

The launch was scheduled for 08:58 UTC / 03:58 EST or 14:58 local time at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan has been scrubbed.

The cause for the delay is not readily available and an alternate launch date/time is “under review”. I don’t imagine it will be very long.

If you are following the SpaceX Tesla Roadster and Starman you might be interested to know that Stellarium can follow them too.

To make sure it is added, open the Stellarium, Open the configuration options (F2), select the Plug-in’s tab, choose Satellites (on the left) and then click the configure button on the bottom.

Then go to the Satellite tab and on the left side you will see a button that says “all” and under that is a box you can type in (you will see a list below the box) type TESLA ROADSTER and you will see it pop up on the list and you should be good to go.

It might seem complicated to do, but it’s really pretty easy. I want to capture the orbital diagram from above, I just need to remember how to do it. Maybe I cannot, I’ll keep trying.

February Skies

The thumbnail reminded me Valentines Day is coming up. If you are inclined to participate in the spirit of the day and have not made plans, you’d better hurry otherwise you will be in the same boat as I am.

Sentinel-3B Nears Completion

Sentinel-3B being readied for a launch hopefully in early April 2018.

ESA – The Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite at Thales Alenia Space’s premises in Cannes, France. Carrying a suite of cutting-edge instruments, the Sentinel-3 satellites have been designed to measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. The mission also provides essential information in near-real time for ocean and weather forecasting.

Image: ©ESA–S. Corvaja

Nearing Solar Minimum

I’ve been watching the Sun for the past few days and was not seeing any spots. We are nearing solar minimum so a spotless sun is not unusual every now and then plus I was only using binoculars and sometimes miss spots near the limbs. I looked three days running and saw nothing; I was not able to look yesterday as I was in the midst of a 25 cm snowstorm.

This morning I saw on NASA the Sun was spotless for nearly two weeks and now finally there are a couple of groups coming into view. Does this mean we’ve reached bottom in the solar cycle and we’re starting to climb? No, notice how the sunspots are near the equator of the Sun, typically we would want to see high-latitude formation as a new cycle indicator and there just isn’t anything going on in those locations.

We can also look at a plot of the solar cycle progression over a few cycles. If we do that over the long-term we find the average cycle lasts about 11 years.  So, between solar cycle peaks (or valleys) there is an average of 11 years and the time from the top of a cycle and the bottom of a cycle is about 5.5 years and looking at the chart below from the US Space Weather Prediction Service we see it has been about four-years since the peak.  Remember that 11 years  is an average and the actual can vary.  It’s a good time to keep watching every now and then we could be on a short cycle.  Watching where the sunspots form will tell the story.


This image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows streaks forming on slopes when dust cascades downhill. The dark streak is an area of less dust compared to the brighter and reddish surroundings. What triggers these avalanches is not known, but might be related to sudden warming of the surface.

These streaks are often diverted by the terrain they flow down. This one has split into many smaller streaks where it encountered minor obstacles.

These streaks fade away over decades as more dust slowly settles out of the Martian sky.

The map is projected here at a scale of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 28.1 centimeters (11.1 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning); objects on the order of 84 centimeters (33.1 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Views of Starman

UPDATE: For those wondering about that center section that was to land on the drone ship – the effort was not successful but that’s a minor detail really in an otherwise spectacular mission.

I am looking for ephemeris for Starman and the Tesla Roadster.

Live views of Starman from SpaceX. Starman is the SpaceX spacesuit and is situated behind the wheel of the Tesla Roadster currently flying along in outer space after being put there by the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.