All this weekend and throughout next week try and grab the next clear night and head outside to watch the International Space Station zip across your skies above. If you are lucky you may even be able to catch it twice in one night! This is one skywatching event you don’t need binoculars or telescopes to enjoy and you can even see it from light polluted city centres. If you have never seen a satellite before this will be a great opportunity because the orbiting labs trajectory will take it up very high in the sky making it easy to see above buildings and trees. Also making it a grand sight is that construction is so near completion that the station is about as big as a football field so that it is very reflective to sunlight, making it superbright in the sky. Just look for a bright white star glide across the starry sky in a out 2 to 4 minutes. Remember that this satellite – with a crew of 6 astronauts - is traveling about 27,000 km per hour at 400 km above our heads. It takes it only 90 minutes to make once orbit around our planet. When and where to watch?
Click on the Space Station icon on the right-hand sidebar or go to my Sky Tonight page and click on your city of choice or choose Elsewhere, and get your customized viewing table. For an explanation of how to read your viewing timetable chart click on the image to the left. It is a sample chart for Toronto that gives you a brief rundown on what the main sections mean. Just click on the Space Station Icon on the right-sidebar and click on you city listed or click elsewhere. The ISS will be best placed for anyone living in North America so enjoy the show!
Posted in Satellites | 386 Comments »
Today, April 24th is International Astronomy Day. This annual event, celebrating its 37th year, began as a high profile way of drawing public attention to the science and the hobby through star parties, indoor exhibits and activities. It has since mushroomed in size and scope and is celebrated in dozens of countries around the world. Local astronomy clubs will be sharing the wonders of the universe so take a look to see what events are happening in your neck of the woods. This is a great chance for you to learn about the night sky and about telescopes. If you are in the market to buy one then a star party – filled with dedicated, seasoned amateur astronomers – is the best place to find out and try telescopes. Come on out and explore the Universe.
Click here for some of the main events in the U.S.A. and Canada. Otherwise just Google your town name and ‘astronomy day’ and hopefully you get local events pop up.
Tags: Astronomy Day
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Face the southern horizon tonight and look for the Moon pairing up with the lead star in the constellation Leo, the lion. Also if you look carefully you may notice that the Moon is also sandwiched between two bright star-like objects – planets Mars and Saturn – both a bit of a distance away from Luna but still a pretty show.
Tags: Leo, Mars, Regulus, Saturn
Posted in Constellations, Stargazing, stars | 1,056 Comments »
As the Hubble Space Telescope achieves the major milestone of two decades on orbit, NASA is celebrating Hubble’s journey of exploration with a stunning new picture.
NASA is releasing a new Hubble photo (see above) of a small portion of one of the largest known star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Three light-year-tall towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble’s classic “Pillars of Creation” photo from 1995, but even more striking.
NASA’s best-recognized, longest-lived and most prolific space observatory was launched April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research from planetary science to cosmology. Over the years, Hubble has suffered broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror, and the cancellation of a planned shuttle servicing mission. But the ingenuity and dedication of Hubble scientists, engineers and NASA astronauts allowed the observatory to rebound and thrive. The telescope’s crisp vision continues to challenge scientists and the public with new discoveries and evocative images.
“Hubble is undoubtedly one of the most recognized and successful scientific projects in history,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Last year’s space shuttle servicing mission left the observatory operating at peak capacity, giving it a new beginning for scientific achievements that impact our society.”
Hubble fans worldwide are being invited to take an interactive journey with Hubble by visiting http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/Hubble20/ . They can also visit http://www.hubblesite.org to share the ways the telescope has affected them. Follow the “Messages to Hubble” link to send an e-mail, post a Facebook message, or send a cell phone text message. Fan messages will be stored in the Hubble data archive along with the telescope’s science data. For those who use Twitter, you can follow @HubbleTelescope or post tweets using the Twitter hashtag #hst20.
Here is a video zoom in on the photo’s location in the night sky. Very cool, check it out !
- adapted from NASA News announcement
Check out more detailed close-ups of this milestone image and more in-depth info on how it was taken on NASA’s webpage.
Tags: Carina nebula, Hubble
Posted in Space Exploration, stars | 28 Comments »
Check out this amazing video compilation of the first set of imagery from NASA’s new solar space telescope.
Posted in Uncategorized | 45 Comments »
Skywatchers get ready for the Lyrid meteor shower peaking tonight into Thursday morning. This small annual shower will havemodest number of shooting stars falling at rates of 20 per our between 2 am and 4 am. Best way to see them is to face the southeast and look up to the overhead sky. Get comfy on a reclining chair with warm blankets- and be patient! It will take your eyes about 15 minutes to adapt to the darkness so that you can see the fainter meteors. Each meteor appears to radiate out from the constellation Lyra – the shower’s namesake – very close to the lead star Vega – one of the most brilliant stars in the entire sky. Best location to see the show is outside of the city – as far away from light pollution as you can get. From suburbs you will probably see closer to 5 to 10 metoers per hour at peak times. But the Lyrids are known to be quite unpredictable and there has been burst of activity where meteor numbers skyrocket up towards 100 per hour! Will it happen this year? The only way to know is if you go outside and look up.
For more in-depth info on the Lyrids check out my National Geographic article
Posted in Meteors | 218 Comments »
Over the next week or so check out the planet Mars as it positinos itself next to the beautiful Beehive cluster (M44). The pair will easily fit inside the view of an average pair of binoculars. Both call the constellation Cancer – the crab – their home and are easy to track down in the southwest these nights. While Mars looks like a bright orange coloured star to the naked eye -thanks to the planets iron oxide rich deserts – surface details can only be seen under high magnification in medium sized telescopes. The Beehive cluster however can be glimpsed easily from a dark sky location without optical aid, but really looks like a swarm of bees when you magnify the 500 light year distant cluster even a little. The cosmic odd couple are now only separated by about 1.5 degrees – equal to 3 full Moon disks. By Wednesday and Thursday nights the Moon will join in on the fun and pass just underneath them; making for a pretty show.
Tags: Beehive, M44, Mars
Posted in Planets, Stargazing, stars | 395 Comments »
Check out the Moon late tonight paired up with the bright cluster M35. Both will be in the constellation Gemini-located at the twin’s feet. While the cluster is visible to the naked-eye from a dark sky, a pair of binoculars will really bring out the details in the 2,800 light year distant cluster nicely, especially from a light polluted suburban backyard. This open star cluster consists of several hundred stars and measures about 24 light years across. In our Earthly skies it takes up about the same chunk of sky as the full Moon does. M35 is one of the eternal favourite targets of beginner stargazers looking for deep sky treasures.
Best time to look for the cluster would be after local 9 pm, before which the sky will be to bright to make out details . Remember that low magnification is all you need when using a telescope to get the whole cluster in your field of view.
Posted in Constellations, Stargazing, The Moon, stars | 306 Comments »
Update: Bad weather has forced the shuttle to delay landing until Tuesday morning. Stay tuned for more details… If you happen to be in the right place in North America you can watch the space shuttle Discovery deorbit Monday Tuesday morning above your backyard as it heads for a landing in Florida. Check out the NASA shuttle flightpath and the link below and see if your lucky…
Here are the milestone geographic points that space shuttle Discovery will fly over for its first landing opportunity (credit: NASA):
1. South of the Queen Charlotte Islands (western Canada)
2. Over British Columbia, northeast of Vancouver
3. Over southern Alberta province
4. Over Montana, flying over Fort Peck Lake (Mach 22)
5. Across the western border of North Dakota, then over northern South Dakota tracking northwest to southeast, directly over the capital of Pierre
6. Across Iowa directly over Sioux City and southwest of Des Moines and Council Bluffs, Iowa (Mach 18)
7. Over the heart of Missouri, between Kansas City and St. Louis (Mach 16)
8. Over the eastern border of Arkansas and Tennessee, east of Memphis (Mach 14)
9. Over NE Mississippi, northeast of Tupelo (Mach 12)
10. Over Alabama tracking northwest to southeast from Birmingham to Columbus, Georgia (Mach 10)
11. Over southwest Georgia south of Americus
12. Over Florida, almost directly over Jacksonville (Mach 4)
13. West of St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, onto KSC
You will find more NASA maps here of all the landing attempts here:
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