Wednesday, January 17, 2018

VIDEO: Michigan Meteor Causes 2.0 Magnitude Earthquake

Michigan Meteor 2018

DETROIT,  Michigan - A meteor caused a 2.0 magnitude earthquake Tuesday night just northwest of Detroit, Michigan.

NASA and the Detroit National Weather Service confirmed that a bright fireball which streaked over Michigan skies just after 8 p.m. Eastern Time was indeed a meteor.

"After reviewing several observational datasets, the NWS can confirm the flash and boom was NOT thunder or lightning, but instead a likely meteor," NWS Detroit stated on Twitter.

Michigan Meteor Earthquake Map 2018

Later in the night, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that the impact of the shooting star caused a 2.0 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter about 40 miles northeast of Detroit near New Haven, Michigan.

Image and video credit: Mike Austin

Sunday, December 31, 2017

First Full Moon Of 2018 Is A Supermoon On New Year's Day

First Full Moon Of 2018 Is A Supermoon On New Year's Day

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The first Full Moon of 2018 is a Supermoon that will occur on New Year's Day, Monday, January 1, 2018, beginning with a moonrise over the Atlantic at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (with a few minutes of variation depending on your exact location).

The Full Moon will technically be 99.9% full at 12:33 a.m. before it sets the following Tuesday morning at 7:35 a.m.  

A Full Moon in January has seasonal names such as a "Wolf's Moon" or "Old Moon."

What's so special about this New Year's Day 2018 Super Moon?

According to NASA, a Super Moon occurs because the Moon is in an elliptical orbit around the Earth.  When the Moon is closest, it is at its orbital perigee, which is why a Super Moon is also known as a Perigee Moon. 

A full moon at its closest point to Earth definitely will be big and bright. But it won't look much, if any, different than a "normal" full moon and will not have any readily observable effect on our planet except perhaps slightly higher tides.

When is the best time to watch the 2018 Super Moon?

Low hanging moons near the horizon appear larger to humans.  So the Super Moon will appear biggest to the naked eye on the U.S east coast during and just after the moonrise around 5:30 p.m. on January 1, 2018. 

If you live in a different time zones, the moonrise time would be around the same time in your local time.

Where is the best place to watch the Super Moon?

The Super Moon will be visible around the world.  The best place to watch is wherever the viewer has a good view of the horizon, lack of artificial lighting, and no local cloud cover.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017: The First Day Of Winter

Winter Solstice 2017

The Winter Solstice falls on Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 11:28 a.m. Eastern Time (4:28 p.m. Universal Time), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

What is Winter Solstice 2017?

The Winter Solstice, as pictured in the above NASA image, is caused by a tilt of the earth's rotating axis and marks the first day of winter. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere for locations like Melbourne, Florida, but the reverse happens in the southern hemisphere for locations such as Melbourne, Australia.

The Winter Solstice can occur on December 20, 21, 22, or 23, depending on calendar events such as leap year and when the Solstice begins relative to Coordinated Universal Time.

According to NASA, it is not the Sun that is moving north or south through the seasons, but a change in the orientation and angles between the Earth and its nearest star. The axis of the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees relative to the Sun and the ecliptic plane. The axis is tilted away from the Sun at the December solstice and toward the Sun at the June solstice, spreading more and less light on each hemisphere. At the equinoxes, the tilt is at a right angle to the Sun and the light is spread evenly.

But how can it be called the First Day of Winter 2017 and Mid-Winter at the same time?

Although the December Solstice marks the beginning of Northern Winter, it is often called Mid-Winter. The difference lies in the definitions created by culture, agriculture and astronomy. According to astronomers, December 21st marks the beginning of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The official start and end of Winter can vary by country - not because Winter starts a week or so earlier in one country than another in the same hemisphere, but because the recognition of the start of Winter is often influenced by historical or cultural reasons particular to that country.  Most countries recognize Winter as starting on dates ranging in November and ending sometime in March.

Why does there seem to be such a lag time between the longest night and the coldest days?

Blame the oceans, which heat up and cool down slowly.   Although the Winter Solstice marks the lowest exposure of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to the Sun's heating radiation, the oceans are still warm in the Northern Hemisphere from the summertime, and that delays the peak heat by about a month and a half.

Winter Solstice Sunlight On Earth
Winter Solstice Heating Radiation On Earth. Credit: NASA

Similarly, in June the water still cold from the Winter, and the average warmest days are still a month and a half ahead.

Summer Solstice Sun Energy On Earth
Summer Solstice Heating Radiation On Earth. Credit: NASA

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.