Civilian space travel launches tonight for three day orbit

 Inspiration4 crew with their Crew Dragon spacecraft. (Photo credit: Inspiration4)
Inspiration4 crew with their Crew Dragon spacecraft. (Photo credit: Inspiration4)

Watch the first all-civilian space launch and flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida  beginning Sept. 15 at Space.com.

Called Inspiration4, the mission is organized by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman,  to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Isaacman, the mission commander, will be accompanied by three other crewmembers for a three-day flight around the earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will be using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Lift off is scheduled from Launch Complex 39A at the NASA Space Center during a five-hour window beginning 8:02 p.m. EDT (0002 Sept. 16 GMT). However, the action can be seen at watch launch here and the Space.com homepage starting at 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT), courtesy of SpaceX. Splashdown is expected to be in the Atlantic Ocean.

Netflix will also stream a live webcast of the launch countdown on YouTube beginning one hour before liftoff, and you can watch that live here.

Also on the mission are geoscientist/science communicator Sian Proctor as pilot, plus physician assistant Hayley Arcenaux as chief medical officer and data engineer Chris Sembroski as a mission specialist.

The mission is expected to pave the way for future private space travel. To see an interview with Issaacman and Arcenaux visit video.

 

 

 

The Perseid meteor shower is back

 

The Perseids produce more than 40 meteors per hour. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Put August 11 on your calendar to watch the night sky. The best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, will be entertaining night sky watchers with at least  40 fireballs an hour when they peak next week. However, they have been known to rack up as many as 100 meteors per hour.

As debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs  annually when earth’s orbit takes it near the comet’s path from the end of July to mid-August. The meteors are already zooming across the sky but in 2021 the peak is Aug. 11-13.

If you like company or have trouble seeing them, tune into NASA which has invited everyone to watch with them. Watch time is Aug. 11-12 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. CDT on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

If weather is a problem,  there is likely to be a second chance Aug. 12-13. The livestream is hosted by the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

A crescent moon will be setting early so moonlight shouldn’t be a factor. Watch between midnight and  dawn away from city lights. Some folks  stretch out on blankets but if the ground is dewy damp pull out a lawn chair.

Don’t worry if you don’t see any meteors right away. It takes a few minutes to adapt to the night sky. The meteor shower radiant appears to be above Perseus.

Good sky-watching references include Time and Date and Earth and Sky.

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June Supermoon connected to honeymoon and roses

Full moon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)
Full moon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)

The Supermoon looming large at the horizon June 24, 2021 is the “Strawberry Moon.”  It is also called the “Roses Moon.”  Either name implies a reddish or rosé colored moon. It may take on that hue as it rises  similar to a sunrise or sunset because of the time of year.

At the Summer Solstice the sun is high in the sky and the moon is low. Thus the moon will be seen through enough more of the atmosphere to appear to have a tinge of color.

Full moons are given names of crops, animal behavior and farming lore appropriate for their time of year. But not as well known is the connection to honey.

According to some NASA findings on European full moon names, the June full moon is also called the “Mead Moon” and “Honey Moon.. Also noted is that the term “honeymoon” goes back to the 1500s in Europe.

Expect to see the moon appearing full Wednesday through Friday. It’s listed by some sky publications as a “Supermoon” because its orbit takes it close (perigee) to earth.

For good info on perigee, Supermoons and new moons that are full visit Time and Date.

Meteorites skim planet Earth this week

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

The Eta Aquarids, the first half of Halley’s Comet’s two rounds of meteor showers, peak May 4-6, 2021. The two meteor showers are debris from Comet Halley as Earth  passes through the comet’s path around the Sun.

Seen in both hemispheres, the Southern Hemisphere arguably offers a better view now when its radiant, the Aquarius constellation, is overhead and Northern is better for its second round, the Orionids, in October. But both meteor showers are popular with sky watchers.

After acclimating your sight to the night, look in the southern sky for Eta Aquarii, the constellation’s brightest star. Depending on the weather, you may be treated to more than 30 meteorites per hour.

The moon, now in its waning crescent phase should not be a factor, particularly if watching for the meteorites early on May 6 before dawn.

For moon phases visit Moon Phases 2021 – Lunar Calendar (timeanddate.com). For times to watch in your area, check Time and Date. For more information visit NASA In Depth. For more Eta Aquarid and Comet Halley info see Space.

 

Supermoon

Full moon over Chicago (J Jacobs photo)
Full moon over Chicago (J Jacobs photo)

Forget about turning off the light that may be keeping you up on April 26-27. It’s streaming in through the windows from upstairs, outside. However, the source will have seemed larger earlier in the evening.

What’s shining through the windows if the sky is clear, is not merely a full moon. The orb outside is a Supermoon. It really isn’t larger. It just plays tricks on the eyes and perspective as it appears huge when first appearing at the horizon and in early evening.

The April full moon, also known as the “Pink Moon”  is a Supermoon because it will be closer to Earth than most other full moons. The exception being the full moon in May 26, called the “Flower Moon” that will be even closer.

Some astronomy sites only designate the April and May full moons  as Supermoons. Other sites include June 24’s which is also close. Still other sites include the March full moon which was fairly close.

For times to watch or photograph the moon check. EarthSky. The site also has the April, May June, 2021 Supermoons’ distances from the moon to Earth with April 27 at 222,212 miles (357,615 km), May 26 at 222,089 miles (357,462km) and June 24 at 224,662 miles (361,558 km).

If interested in how this all happens, you should know about the lunar perigee. It’s when the moon’s orbit brings it to its closest point to Earth. The opposite is apogee.

Of course, the third factor is where the earth is in relation to the moon and the sun to be a full moon. So, the April Supermoon actually happens about 12 hours short of it lunar perigee and May’s Supermoon falls about nine hours after perigee. The reason some sites refer just to April and May’s full moons as Supermoons is because less than 24 hours occur between the perigee and full moon phase.

Next, don’t be surprised if bothered with sinus trouble and  have a full-moon sized headache. Because the pull of the full moon, particuclarly the Supermoon, does influence the tides, lore has it that their affect on humans and animals can also be felt.

For more information visit Time and Date and see TimeandDate /picture tips and visit NASA. moons. For an expert opinion on which full moons to include in the Supermoon category, visit Space.

 

 

Watch for Lyrid meteors this week

 

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Assuming the weather cooperates, early risers should have no trouble spotting a fireball zooming across the sky shortly before dawn in the next few days. The Lyrids meteor shower is happening now.

They seem to be shooting out (radiant) from the Lyric constellation just northwest of its bright Vega star. They are debris from the comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), first noted more than 2,500 years ago.

The best days to look for them are April 21-22 when the Lyrids are expected to peak at about 18 meteors an hour. Pre dawn is the best time to watch because the moon is waxing gibbous so its illumination won’t be a factor after it sets.

For the time to watch in your zone visit Time and Date. For more information on where to look visit Space which has a map to help find the radiant. For more basic meteor and Lyrid information visit NASA Lyrids.

 

A different kind of helicopter

 

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, 2021, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. (photo credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, 2021, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. (photo credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Escape from our earthly pandemic April 12, 2021 via NASA.

Tune in to NASA Live or NASA online early, actually very early, Monday morning when, if all goes as planned, Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter, will be seen moving and hovering beginning at 3:30 a.m. EDT.

A post flight briefing is planned for 11 a.m. EDT, April 12.

Ingenuity’s inaugural flight will livestream to (hopefully) demonstrate the first powered flight on another planet.

Don’t expect the kind of helicopter tour often touted for visiting Hawaii or the Grand Canyon. Ingenuity will be starting out slow and low in Mars’ freezing temperatures and thin air. If all goes well, it will move just a few feet up and hover a few seconds before landing.

‘That will be a major milestone: the very first powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, ” said a NASA statement.

Ingenuity demonstrations are expected to continue with greater altitude and distance for approximately 31 Martian days (sols). Then, Perseverance will continue its exploratory mission.

The helicopter was attached to the Perseverance rover that landed at the Jezero Crater on Mars, Feb. 18, 2021. Perseverance released Ingenuity upon reaching what was considered to be a good “helipad.”

For this and more NASA events visit NASAonline.

 

Full moon will appear super

The Moon, or Supermoon, is seen as it rises behind the U.S. Capitol, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. A Supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Moon, or Supermoon, is seen as it rises behind the U.S. Capitol, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. A Supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky)

If the light of the moon was keeping you up last night it’s because the first full moon of spring is March 28 but looks full March 27 and March 29.

And because this spring (Northern Hemisphere) full moon is closer to earth than the ones in January and February it appears brighter and is considered by some sky watchers as a “Supermoon.”

Actually, its perigee (closest part of its orbit) is March 30 so it still will continue to appear very bright and mostly full.

Don’t worry if your area is cloudy. The full moons  in April, May and June will be even closer and will look like Supermoons.

Called  the Worm Moon, Crow Moon or Sap Moon by some native American tribes, this full moon also sets Easter, which, in 2021, is April 4.  See Tonight | EarthSky

Fun Fact:  Do you know what syzygy means?  It’s when three bodies, such as the Sun, Earth, and the Moon, are in alignment. See Time and Date for the term and alignment.

Time and Date also does an excellent job of explaining how long the moon really is fully illuminated and why due to the earth’s tilt it may not appear at total illumination, noting that the degree of illumination somewhat blends what appears to be a Full Moon and the last stage of a Waxing Gibbous Moon or the beginning of a Waning Gibbous Moon.

On NASA’s site a sidebar tells that the term “supermoon” was “coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs when the Moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth.’

The site also connects the first spring moon’s names from native Americans and different religions. It notes that this weekend’s Full moon is also called the Pesach moon on the Jewish calendar, Paschal moon for Western Christianity and Medin in SRI Lanka.

For more word definitions and moon phases visit Space.

The Snow Moon

Full moon over Chicago (J Jacobs photo)
Full moon over Chicago (J Jacobs photo)

According to several astronomy sources it was northeastern native Americans who dubbed February’s full moon the Snow Moon.

Given the amount of snow that covered much of the United States in February, the moon is well named. It’s also called the Storm Moon and Hunger Moon.

That orb will be lighting up the landscape Thursday, Friday and Saturday but best time to view will be Friday night from when it appears above the horizon in the east as the sun sets to midnight when it is overhead.

Some studies mentioned by EarthSky have been done on the relationship of full moons to sleeplessness from the light point of view. Hopefully, scientists will also look at the tidal pull of full moons on sinuses.

More information on the Snow Moon can be found at TimeandDate, NASA and Old Farmers Almanac.

Best meteor shower this year

 

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Look up early, early morning after midnight, Sunday, Dec. 13 or Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The Geminids will be flying across the sky.

Considered the best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids turn out about 120 meteors per hour.

Fortunately the moon, now in its new phase, won’t be a factor. But weather, at least in the Chicago area, is.

However, the Geminids whose radiant is the bright Castor star in the constellation Gemini (The Twins), can be seen in both hemispheres. Its parent is 3200 Phaethon.

Best viewing is away from street and commercial lights so consider bringing a friend to keep you company.

For more information visit NASA Solar System Exploration, TimeandDate, and EarthSky.