Moon Passes Stellar Trio

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 29, 2009 – 3:20 pm -

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

]Starting this evening (Friday) the near quarter Moon will glide past the brightest star in the constellation Leo. Regulus is about 76 light years away from Earth. Then by Sunday evening the Moon will have skipped over to meet up with the Lord of the Rings. The gas giant planet Saturn is about 1.2 billion km distant and will make a spectacular pair with our closest neighbour in the sky. if you have a telescope and have never seen Saturn then this is a great opportunity since you can use the Moon as a guidepost in finding it. You don’t need a big scope either, even the smallest one will do.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

To see this sky show face towards the southwest at around 10 pm local time. By Monday the Moon will continue its trek across the southern sky and enter the Virgo constellation and tuck underneath its lead star, Spica.  Throughout this week the Moon’s shape will change from crescent to quarter into waxing gibbous.
Skycharts for next week will follow so stay tuned.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Constellations, Planets, Stargazing, stars, The Moon, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Canadian Arrives at his New Space Pad

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 29, 2009 – 10:33 am -

Canadian Robert Thirsk has just passed through the hatch of the International Space Station and entered the history books. He is going to be living and working in space for half a year – arecord for a Canadian. BTW, the previous record was 17 days only. It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of dynamics are going to happen with his 5 crewmates which he will be living with so long. If all goes well he will be joined by fellow Canadian Julie Payette, when she arrives on the shuttle Endeavour in about 2 weeks.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Space Travel More Dangerous Than Thought

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 28, 2009 – 7:40 am -

Just yesterday I was doing a series of radio interviews with CBC studios across Canada talking about the Soyuz mission to the space station, and mentioned the inherent dangers of living in space long-term. If we want to go live and work in space permanently, and explore beyond the Moon there are some serious health considerations. Turns out Science@NASA website just published an article about a new study using a wired up mannequin that just finished a 4 month stint aboard the station. The answers it came back with are troubling for future human spaceflight. Radiation from the sun and deep space could be a show stopper if nothing is found to counter their effects. Tip of the hat to for this find.

Tags: ,
Posted in Space Exploration | 273 Comments »

Canadian Blasts Off!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 27, 2009 – 10:11 am -

Canadian veteran astronaut Bob Thirsk and his two fellow crew-members rocketed into Earth orbit successfully this morning aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. Thirsk is the first Canadian to spend 6 months in space and will be part of the first 6 man crew on the International Space Station when he arrives to dock with the lab on Friday morning. He is going to have a packed schedule while onboard, acting as chief medical officer, being in charge of robotic operations of Canadarm2, and will be responsible for the Japanese science module Kibo.

During this mission, the crew of Expedition 20/21 will devote hours to scientific research making full use of the station’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. Thirsk will conduct Canadian-led experiments that could lead to results for people who experience balance and movement control disorders, elderly people suffering from dizziness and fainting spells, or those afflicted with heart disease caused by a sedentary lifestyle.

“This is an incredible milestone for the Canadian Space Program,” said Steve MacLean, President of the CSA and a former Canadian astronaut. “Canada has a very strong track record when it comes to space science and space technology. The science performed will benefit all Canadians.”

For the latest information on Thirsk’s mission check out the Canadian Space Agency’s cool webpage filled with pix and videos.

Here is a short media report on the launch this morning…

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Space Exploration, Uncategorized | 105 Comments »

Secret Supernova in nearby Galaxy

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 27, 2009 – 6:30 am -

Backyard telescope users are familiar with galaxy M82 in the constellation Ursa Major, but it recently revealed a secret to astronomers. A supernova- giant exploding star – has been uncovered using radio telescopes, behind a veil of gas and dust at the heart of this nearby island of stars.  This is the cloest supernova detected in the last five years. Its home galaxy is an irregular galaxy in a nearby galaxy group located 12 million light-years from Earth. Despite being smaller than the Milky Way, it hides an active central star-forming region in the inner core that is only about a few hundred lightyears in size. In this stellar factory more stars are presently born than in the entire Milky Way. M82 is often called an ‘exploding galaxy’, because it looks as if being torn apart in optical and infrared images as the result of numerous supernova explosions from massive stars . Read the full story here


Tags: ,
Posted in Constellations, stars | 67 Comments »

Canadian Set to Go to Space

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 26, 2009 – 6:44 pm -

Final preparations are underway for sending 3 astronauts including Canadian veteran astronaut Robert Thirsk to the International Space Station. The launch is set for May 27th (Wednesday) 2009 at 6:34 a.m. EDT. Thirsk will become the first Canadian to launch aboard a Russian Soyuz vehicle and to participate in an Expedition mission to the orbiting laboratory. During his six-month mission, he will conduct Canadian science and technology experiments, act as a robotic specialist and will be responsible for the Japanese segment (Kibo).

Tags: , ,
Posted in Space Exploration | 125 Comments »

Space Station Flyovers

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 26, 2009 – 12:38 pm -

Skywatchers throughout North America will get to see the International Space Station (ISS) make very bright appearances in the evening sky for the next week or so. Look for a bright, unblinking star glide through the overhead sky. But you have to be quick because you only have about 2 to 3 minutes of viewing time while the orbiting laboratory is in full sunlight.  The ISS is bright as ever – sometimes surpassing even the planet Venus and Sirius- with the recent addition of new modules and solar panels. The trick of course is knowing where and when to look.  Find and click on your city here or space station icon on the right sidebar to findout the viewing details for your neck of the woods.

Check out this video I made last year on observing the space station, and watch for a cool flyby video clip in there taken by a skywatcher over Lake Michigan. I think it’s quite amazing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 137 Comments »

Skinny Moon Caught

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 25, 2009 – 10:03 pm -

click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge

Took these snapshots tonight with my off the shelf Canon TX-1 on a tripod. Beautiful sight over the rooftops and electrical wires in my neighbourhood in Montreal.  By 9 pm I could clearly see the dark side illuminated by the Earth – called Earthshine. You can check out this effect yourself tomorrow night when the moon will be a little further along its phase and bit higher in the dusky sky. It’s cool to think that the reason you can see the dark part of the disk of the Moon so easily is because of the highly relfective nature of Earth’s clouds and oceans. Nature is amazing!

Posted in Stargazing, The Moon, Uncategorized | 119 Comments »

A Lunar Hunt Tonight

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 25, 2009 – 10:56 am -

Courtesy of Starry Night Software

Courtesy of Starry Night Software

Here’s a skywatching challenge you can do from your doorstep just after sunset – as long as skies are clear of course. Try spotting a super-thin crescent Moon very low in the northwestern horizon.  it should be visible for an hour afer sunset. What makes it difficult to see is that it will be faint in the glow of the setting sun.  Astronomers call it a waxing crcent Moon that is just shy of 2 days old – meaning 2 days past new Moon. Watch the Moon over the next week as it climbs higher in the sky and gets fuller by the day. Makes for a beautiful sight I never get tired of.

Posted in Solar System, The Moon | 65 Comments »

Shuttle Finally Lands in California

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 24, 2009 – 1:55 pm -



Space shuttle Atlantis and the STS-125 astronauts are back to Earth  this afternoon, after a busy and successful mission. With NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope serviced, the crew ended the mission at Edwards Air Force Base in California after three days of wave-offs at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida due to bad weather.

Next up for the shuttle will be a big mission for Canada when veteran astronaut Julie Payette blasts off on Endeavour to visit the International Space Station.  By that time hopefully another Canadian, Robert Thirsk, will be aboard ISS to greet Payette. This will be the first time two Canadians will meet up in space. Thirsk is scheduled to liftoff  on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft in a few days.

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Space Exploration | 2,952 Comments »