Category Archives: Observing

The Perseids are Here!

My best recollection of the Pereids came from one night years ago now. I was in the back seat of my car, looking upwards through the hatchback window. No, not like that! I was the backseat passenger of a car load of students learning how to initiate intravenous therapy, actually the first class where the class was starting IV’s on each other. Anyway the 45-minute journey was an incredible Perseid viewing experience – as was the EMT class.

Ok, I digress. GO OUTSIDE AND LOOK TO THE NORTH! Not just now but tomorrow too!


Orbital mechanics is a very interesting topic.

Usually when you see an orbital track displayed on your computer you see a nice sine-wave pattern.

Take the International Space Station for example or perhaps the newly launched Sentinel-3B.

Then we have geostationary satellites like GOES-17, oh yes it is orbiting.

Have a look at the seemingly odd orbit of the recently launched TESS.

Thanks to N2YO for those great links and check that site out – great stuff!

Scott Manely has a good video out: T”he Most Confusing Things About Spacecraft Orbits”

May Skies

Hubble’s Tonight’s Sky May 2018

If you have good skies you should be able to catch the peak of the Eta Aquarids. The best time to catch these bits of debris from Halley’s Comet is 06 May in the hours before daylight.

The Morning Sky

If you get a chance to look at the sky before daylight you will be treated to (R to L): the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars all lined up across the sky. Provided the moonlight does not over whelm Saturn and Mars they all will be visible at the same time.

Jupiter in particular will be very bright so so worries there. You should also be able to see a few of the giant planet’s moons.

The above graphic is from Stellarium showing the line-up before sun rise (click to see a larger version).

Hopefully you won’t be clouded in, I think I am going to be.

Also apparently there is some ridiculous claims this line up is going to cause an increase in volcanism and earthquakes. In a word: NO. That’s just plain crazy.

What’s Up for April

Ahhh, April the temperatures are moderating and it is becoming more comfortable to be outside. Usually a lot of moisture in the air but still good viewing.

I can’t even get into the N2YO site at times – busy. Tiangong is very close to coming in, predictions are 01 April (tomorrow) at 16:45, I will update this later as the estimates become more clear.

Oh and the internet problems are still going on; although there is a work order in, I don’t expect resolution until Monday. I did have an epiphany of sorts and am connecting through my phone and it seems to be working.

Tiangong-1 Coming Down

The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is losing altitude at an ever increasing rate as the station and the Earth feel that mutual attraction. Of course Earth is going to win.

Right now the station is at about 221 km and losing about 0.20 km per orbit.  Yesterday that loss per orbit was about 0.13 km.

Currently the estimate is 03 April plus or minus a week.  Looking at ESA’s estimate above  the orbit is going to continue the increase in downward motion until  Tiangong-1 feels the increasing density of our atmosphere and begins to slow down appreciably.  When that happens we reach a tipping point of sorts and the spacecraft or what is left of it (yes there will be pieces) will pitch steeply and eventually hit the Earth.

Where will that tipping point be?  That’s the big question.   We are about to find out the answer.

You can follow orbital decay on  I think we are just days away.


It’s the Messier Marathon

Ever just gone outside with a telescope and took a look at all the different Messier objects viewable? Give it a try, even a decent pair of binoculars can be used in some cases. Pretty fun.

I might get to go out later tonight being I should have clear skies for a change. The weather has not be very co-operative in that regard lately.

NASA – In mid-March, skywatchers in the northern hemisphere can try to observe all 110 objects from the Messier catalog in one night. To celebrate the Messier Marathon, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is releasing 12 new images to add to its extensive collection of Messier objects observed by Hubble.

View Hubble’s full Messier catalog (excellent!).

View the original Messier catalog at SEDS (I love SEDS!)