Summer is the season for Noctilucent Clouds

Full Moon and Perigee Moon converge for a Supermoon

Track down two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta

Planetary pairings of Saturn and Mars, Jupiter and Venus

The Perseid meteor shower peaks

The Equinox restores balance to days and nights

Mars meets its rival, Antares

An early Harvest Moon occurs in September

Look out for Noctilucent Clouds
Full details in the Sky Guide » »

Solar Dynamics Observatory V Sundog

Posted by BC on February 24th, 2010

SDO and sundog - Anna HerbstOn 11 Feb 2010, the Solar Dynamic Observatory was launched on its mission to help with solar studies. Even before SDO made orbit, it gave onlookers a view of something rarely (if ever before) witnessed.

As SDO rose through the levels of Earth’s atmosphere, it encountered a sundog. (A sundog is an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs when sunlight is refracted by ice crystals in clouds.) Passing through the cloud formation, shock waves can be seen as SDO climbs higher into the sky. The shock waves obliterate the sundog. Watch the video taken by Anna Herbst of Bishop, California.

Solar Storm Watch

Posted by BC on February 24th, 2010

Corona - NASA

Keeping track of solar activity, whether strong activity or no activity, is a very necessary task. A strong solar flare could be devastating for space missions, disastrous for astronauts, and hazardous for Earth based electric grids.
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Video Documentary of STS-130 Launch

Posted by Lydia on February 22nd, 2010

Space Shuttle Over EarthHere is a very nice short video documentary (about ten minutes) in which you can actually see the heat buildup around the shuttle as it journeys out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

If you are wondering what that “flappy tape-like substance” is seen at around minute four of the video, the answer has been provided by Mr. Randy Moore of JCS: “that is the remains of kapton material that is installed over the ET (external tank) to Orbiter umbilical area. It’s known as umbilical purge barrier and is used to contain N2 purge of aft compartment and decrease ice buildup. The barrier blows off the Orbiter during the first minute of ascent. That piece of footage was actually from the 16mm film camera on STS-129.  The 130 film is not yet developed.

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Endeavour (STS-130) Returns to Earth – Updated

Posted by Lydia on February 19th, 2010

STS130 returnsLatest Update: We welcome home Endeavour after a successful 5.7 million mile mission. It was the 130th shuttle mission and Endeavour’s 10th trip to the ISS complex. This was an outstanding mission which successfully installed the Tranquility Mode and “opened up the ISS Cupula’s windows to the world”.  Houston will welcome the crew home on Monday at 1600 at Ellington Field’s NASA Hangar 990.

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Feb 18: 80th Anniversary of Tombaugh’s Encounter with Pluto

Posted by Lydia on February 18th, 2010

Portrait of Clyde TombaughIf you click to read more, you will find an interesting essay by Mr. Justin McCollum, member of Houston and Fort Bend Astronomy clubs. We salute the late Mr. Tombaugh and remember his accomplishments with awe and admiration. (He once replied when asked about his political views: “I am not a Republican or a Democrat … for several years now, I have been a Plutocrat.”)

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Engineering Snags Aboard the ISS

Posted by Lydia on February 13th, 2010

sts130-crew.jpgOops! (Houston, we have a problem.)

STS-130 crew flying high and proud aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor docked with the ISS Friday and went right to work attempting to install a cover between Tranquility and the observation deck.

Unfortunately it seems the presence of a metal piece is not allowing the metal bars to lock. The cover is of extreme importance as it will protect Tranquility’s seals and docking mechanisms from the cold.

On the ISS team’s agenda is the task of hooking up exterior fluid lines and configuring spacewalk tools in addition to resolving a minor issue with the power supply. Read the rest of this post …

Vesta Viewing

Posted by Lydia on February 12th, 2010

Vesta-image by KECKIIOfficially known as 4 Vesta, one may, weather permitting, pleasantly observe Asteroid Vesta as she meanders into Leo from February through June.

Haven’t got a telescope, you say? Well you are indeed in luck as Vesta is highly visible at this time through binoculars, shining at 6.1 magnitude and reaching opposition on the night of February 17th.

Asteroid 4 Vesta will remain an easy observing target for your viewing pleasure in March (magnitude 6.2), April at magnitude 6.8 and through June 1 at 7.7 magnitude.

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Tycho Brahe To Be Exhumed

Posted by Lydia on February 12th, 2010

tycho-brahe-portrait.gifThe world will soon know what killed Denmark’s most famous astronomer in 1601 as permission has finally been granted by Prague’s cultural department after years of requests to both the City Council and the Catholic Church, which owns Tyn Cathedral where Brahe’s remains lie.

Brahe’s remains will be examined by Danish and Czech experts who will perform extensive analyses on remaining bone, hair and clothing fragments to determine if he died as a consequence of bladder problems, kidney stones or intentional or accidental mercury poisoning. Read the rest of this post …

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