Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gemind December 2017 Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight

Geminid meteor shower

The Geminids meteor shower, which began on December 4 and runs through December 17, 2017, peaks tonight, December 13th through 14th, 2017.

The Geminids meteor shower is considered the best meteor shower of the year because it is the most consistent and active annual meteor shower which can be seen from almost any point on Earth.




"With August's Perseids obscured by bright moonlight, the Geminids will be the best shower this year," said Bill Cooke with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "The thin, waning crescent Moon won't spoil the show."

Where to watch the December 2017 meteor shower:

The Geminids meteor shower is the most intense meteor shower of the year and can be seen from almost any point on Earth, depending on local cloud cover and artificial lighting.

What time is the 2017 Geminids meteor shower?

The shower will peak overnight December 13-14 with rates around one per minute under good conditions, according to Cooke. Geminids can be seen on nights before and after the December 14 peak, although they will appear less frequently.

"Geminid activity is broad," said Cooke. "Good rates will be seen between 7:30 p.m. on December 13 and dawn local time the morning of December 14, with the most meteors visible from midnight to 4 a.m. on December 14, when the radiant is highest in the sky."

Expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour between midnight and 4 a.m. on the morning of December 14, but only from a dark sky. 

Where to look for Geminids meteor shower?

Geminids meteors stream from a point called "the radiant" in the constellation Gemini. They will rise in the east around 9 p.m. and be directly overhead at 2 a.m. The meteor shower sets in the western sky just before sunrise.

Where do the Geminids meteors come from?

Most meteor showers come from comets, which spew ample meteoroids for a night of 'shooting stars.' The Geminids are different. They are produced when Earth plows through a cloud of debris from an oddball object named 3200 Phaethon, which some astronomers describe as a cross between an asteroid and a comet.

Once thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. It is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun.

There were no recorded Geminids before the mid-1800's. The first Geminids shower suddenly appeared in 1862, surprising sky watchers who saw 15 or so shooting stars each hour.


Photo and video credit: NASA

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

President Donald Trump Signs Directive For U.S. Moon Missions

President Donald J. Trump Signs Space Directive 1

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.

Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 at the White House Space on Monday which changes national space policy by providing for a U.S.-led program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.



“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints -- we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way.”

Photo credit: NASA

Friday, November 17, 2017

Secretive SpaceX Launch Code-Named 'Zuma' Postponed Again


Update:

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a mystery satellite with the code-name 'Zuma' has been postponed again until SpaceX engineers can review data of a hardware issue with the fairing. No new launch date has been announced.

Previous story:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a mystery satellite with the code-name 'Zuma' has been rescheduled to liftoff at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, November 17, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window will remain open for 2 hours.

Launch Weather 90% 'GO'

According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 90% chance of favorable weather for the launch. The primary concerns are cumulus clouds.

Attempted Ground Landing

After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.  Landing Zone 1 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 13, a Cold War-Era U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range last used in 1978.

Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

Payload

There is little information about this payload other than it is a government payload contracted through Northrop Grumman. The mission was added onto SpaceX's public launch manifest less than 30 days prior to launch.

Secretive SpaceX Launch Code-Named 'Zuma' Postponed Again


Update:

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a mystery satellite with the code-name 'Zuma' has been postponed again until SpaceX engineers can review data of a hardware issue with the fairing. No new launch date has been announced.

Previous story:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a mystery satellite with the code-name 'Zuma' has been rescheduled to liftoff at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, November 17, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window will remain open for 2 hours.

Launch Weather 90% 'GO'

According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 90% chance of favorable weather for the launch. The primary concerns are cumulus clouds.

Attempted Ground Landing

After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.  Landing Zone 1 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 13, a Cold War-Era U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range last used in 1978.

Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

Payload

There is little information about this payload other than it is a government payload contracted through Northrop Grumman. The mission was added onto SpaceX's public launch manifest less than 30 days prior to launch.

2017 Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight


The 2017 Leonid meteor shower will peak during the early morning hours of Saturday, November 18, which is predicted to produce up to 10 meteors per hour this year. The Leonid meteor shower is active every year from November 5th through the 30th.

When to Watch The 2017 Leonid Meteor Shower:

Around 3 hours before sunrise at the viewer's location, the Leonid meteor shower should be visible from any populated area on Earth with clear dark skies. However, Northern Hemisphere observers will have more favorable viewing because the radiant's location in the constellation Leo. 

How to Watch The 2017 Leonid Meteor Shower:

For optimal viewing, find an open sky, lie on the ground, and look straight up into the dark sky. It is important to be far away from artificial lights.  Your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so allow plenty of time for your eyes to dark-adapt. A moonless night will produce less light to wash out the meteor shower spectacle.

Where does the Leonid Meteor Shower come from?

Leonids are made up of bits of debris from the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years, this comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its orbital track. Many of these debris streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth's orbit. Whenever the Earth hits one of these streams, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo.


Image and video credit: NASA

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Secretive SpaceX Launch Code-Named 'Zuma' Rescheduled for November 16, 2017


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a mystery satellite with the code-name 'Zuma' has been rescheduled to liftoff at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, November 16, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window will remain open for 2 hours.

Launch Weather 80% 'GO'

According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 80% chance of favorable weather for the launch. The primary concerns are thick clouds and cumulus clouds.

Attempted Ground Landing

After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.  Landing Zone 1 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 13, a Cold War-Era U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range last used in 1978.

Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

Payload

There is little information about this payload other than it is a government payload contracted through Northrop Grumman. The mission was added onto SpaceX's public launch manifest less than 30 days prior to launch.

Monday, October 30, 2017

SpaceX Rocket Launch From Cape Canaveral October 30, 2017

SpaceX Koreasat

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Koreasat 5A communication satellite is scheduled to liftoff at 3:34 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, October 29, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Launch Weather 90% 'GO'

According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 90% chance of favorable weather for the launch. The primary concern is cumulus clouds.

Attempted Landing On Drone Ship

Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt a landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship. 

But a successful landing after launch may be difficult because the Geo Stationary Transfer Orbit requires the first stage rocket to reach a significantly higher altitude than other recovered missions. This means that Falcon 9's first stage rocket will becoming down faster with less fuel to slow its descent than missions to lower orbits.

Payload

The Koreasat 5A satellite is designed to provide direct-to-home television broadcast and other communications services for Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Guam, Indochina, and South Asia.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lego 'Women of NASA' Set To Hit Store Shelves November 1st

Lego 'Women of NASA' Set

Just in time for the holidays, LEGO Women of NASA will be available for purchase worldwide beginning on November 1st, 2017.

Girls aspiring in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) can follow in the footsteps of four pioneering women of NASA with this fun and inspiring LEGO set.


Build the Hubble Space Telescope and learn astronomy with the ‘Mother of Hubble’ Nancy Grace Roman. Develop the software for space missions with computer scientist Margaret Hamilton. And launch the space shuttle with Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, and Mae Jemison, the world’s first woman of color in space. 

Nancy Grace Roman’s build features a posable Hubble Space Telescope with authentic details and a projected image of a planetary nebula.

Margaret Hamilton’s build features a stack of book elements, representing the books of listings of Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) onboard flight software source code.

Sally Ride and Mae Jemison’s build features a launchpad and Space Shuttle Challenger with three removable rocket stages.

In the original proposal, five NASA women were included but the set include just four, as Katherine Johnson chose not to be part of the set.

Under the headline “Ladies rock outer space”, LEGO fan designer Maia Weinstock presented her idea for a Women of NASA LEGO set to the LEGO Ideas crowdsourcing platform. There it gained lots of support from other fans and was selected for production for its inspirational value as well as build and play experience.

As a science editor and writer, with a strong personal interest for space exploration as well as the history of women in science and engineering, Maia Weinstock’s Women of NASA project was a way for her to celebrate accomplished women in STEM professions.

“In all realms of science, engineering, and technology, pioneering women have historically been underappreciated for their often groundbreaking work. We have also seen that when girls and women are given more encouragement in the STEM fields, they become more likely to pursue careers in these areas,” said Maia Weinstock.

“With this project, I wanted to spotlight a fantastic group of women who have made seminal contributions to NASA history. My dream would be to know that the first human on Mars — or an engineer or computer scientist who helped her get there — played with the LEGO Women of NASA as a child and was inspired to pursue a STEM career as a result.”

Image credit: Lego

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Watch The 2017 Orionid Meteor Shower Tonight


The 2017 Orionid Meteor Shower can be seen any night now through November 7 and peaks during the early mornings of October 20, 21, and 22.

Fall's best meteor shower promises to be even more spectacular in 2017 thanks to dark skies from moonless nights during the best viewing times.


When is the best time to watch Orionid meteor shower?

The best time to look for Orionid meteors is 4 a.m. when Earth encounters the densest part of Halley's Comet's debris stream.

What are the best dates to watch the Orionid meteor shower in October 2017?

Dark night skies are best for watching meteors, so the Moon plays an important role as to which dates are best for meteor shower viewing. The Moon will set before 4 a.m. of every morning during days closest to the peak from October 18 through October 22.

How to watch the Orionid meteor shower:

Observing is simple: set the alarm a few hours before dawn, go outside and look up in the direction of the constellation Orion. No telescope is necessary to see Orionids shooting across the sky.  It is important to be far away from artificial lights.  Your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so allow plenty of time for your eyes to dark-adapt.


Where to look for the Orionid meteor shower tonight:


Find Orion's noticeable three-star belt in the night sky, then follow his raised arm to his elbow to see the origination point of the Orionids. Orion will be almost straight above the viewer's head 1 to 2 hours before sunrise.

The Orionid Meteor Shower is named after the constellation Orion because the meteors appear to come from just north of Orion's bright star Betelgeuse. It is made up of debris left by Halley's Comet with a debris field that is so wide that encompasses the entire distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Image and video credit: NASA/JPL

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Atlas V Launches After 5th Attempt

Atlas V 421 configuration rocket

UPDATE: United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V rocket on the fifth attempt after it was scrubbed due to weather and  hardware issues.


A new launch date and time has been set for 3:28 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, October 15, 2017 from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launch Weather

The most recent forecast issued by the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts only a 70% chance of overall permissible weather conditions for Sunday's launch.  The primary weather concern for launch is cumulus clouds.

Payload

The Atlas V 421 configuration rocket will carry a National Reconnaissance Office (NROL-52) satellite.

Few details have been released about the mission other than that it is "in support of national defense." NROL-52 will mark ULA’s seventh launch of 2017 and the 26th launch for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

Image credit: ULA