Category Archives: General

It’s the Solstice!

Later today it is the December solstice. Darker and colder in the north and brighter and warmer in the south; darker/lighter in terms of time of course.

The solstice, thanks to the tilt of the Earth the Sun appears to reach its most southern point before starting to move north once again until June when the northern point is reached.

Last year I wanted to put a stick or some other such thing out to mark the point of the shadow. I did that, mowed it over before the June Solstice. This year the solstice occurs after sunset.

The time of the solstice is 22:23 UTC / 13:27 ET today – 21 Dec 2018.

The day of the December solstice is NOT always on the 21st. Why? See here.

Delta IV Heavy Staggered Start

I was watching coverage of the NROL-71 launch and United Launch Alliance usually precedes launch coverage with informative topics. One of the ones today was the fireball at launch time, just before leaving the ground.

What happened with the launch? As the rocket was about to fully light – we got to the fireball part – then everything stopped.

At this point I am guessing a 24 hour turn-around but that could be very optimistic so the delay could be longer.

A Busy (LIVE) Day

It’s a busy day of LIVE feeds (replays later in the day) tomorrow.

First at 08:30 UTC / 05:30 ET coverage of the Expedition 58 crew launch to the ISS *

Then at 16:40 UTC / 11:40 ET (coverage begins 5 minutes later) of the arrival of the OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at Asteroid Bennu *

Finally at 18:32 UTC / 13:32 ET SpaceX will launch from Vandenberg AFB in California.

* These feeds are from the same source and will remain active for most of the day.

Tuesday 04 December at 18:50 UTC / 14:50 ET Arianespace launches VA-246

Assembling a Rocket

“How Do You Assemble the Largest Rocket Ever Made?” Very carefully.

It’s going to be a busy week with a few live coverage events starting with the launch of Expedition 58 to the International Space Station followed by the arrival of OSIRIS-REx at the asteroid Bennu. Plus a SpaceX launch – see note below.

Then we have a Space X launch of a cargo-spaceship to the International Space Station (a busy place) and the launch of a couple of communications satellites aboard an Ariane V rocket. I believe one of the satellites is a replacement of an Indian satellite for one that failed to reach orbit last April.

So lots of live feeds with replays added later in the day.

Note: Space X is also launching the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission to low Earth orbit tomorrow, so that clears up some scheduling. That launch is from Vandenberg AFB in California.

Antares Launch

The image above – click it for a larger version – showing the Antares launch over Washington DC was NASA’s Image of the Day recently. Little wonder, what a great shot, I wanted to share it in case you missed it.

Here’s the caption from NASA: The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard, is seen above the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, on Nov. 17, 2018. The rocket launched from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia that morning. Northrop Grumman’s 10th contracted cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew.

Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

I Like a Good Mystery Now and Then

Image: NSO

UPDATE 2:  News reports say the Observatory is re-opening this week and the shut down was due to “criminal activity”. That’s about all we know for certain at the moment. I’d wager that unless what ever “criminal activity” means it better be big and made public because the conspiracy theory side of things is running amok as things stand now and ANYTHING less than “significant” will just feed that narrative.

There is a mystery in the United States astronomical community.

What is going on here? Hmmmm?

This from the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy:

AURA Addressing Security Issue at NSO Facility

September 14, 2018

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is addressing a security issue at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) facility at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and has decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure until further notice. All other NSO facilities are open and operating normally. AURA, which manages Sacramento Peak with funding from the National Science Foundation, is working with the proper authorities on this issue.


As with any “hush-hush” sort of thing rumors are sure to get going and really big things move the rumor-mill into full fledged conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories? Of course we have conspiracy theories, a bit of inappropriate language taints what could have been a great article it’s still pretty good, have a look.

There are a multitude of stories on this, I like the Daily Mail account.

Here is the FB page.

Sooner or later we’ll find out what happened, until then enjoy the mystery.

It’s Difficult to Get to Sun

Getting to the Sun or Mercury for that matter is not as easy as one might think. I looked around for an old explanation I wrote some years ago and then NASA put out this short video that fill the bill quite nicely.

In this case it is the Parker Solar Probe taking flight Saturday morning and much the same idea goes for the upcoming BepiColumbo mission to Mercury.