Astronomy with a minimum of terminology and technology.
By: LowerCal, 3:30 AM GMT on August 08, 2007
What is "Casual Astronomy"?
Cool Astronomy Links
(Scroll down for later dates.)
Space Transportion System Mission 118
You can follow the progress of the Space Shuttle mission online at the NASA - Space Shuttle page. There are links in the "WATCH NASA TV NOW" section of that page where you can watch video (sometimes live).
You can see when the International Space Station or the Space Shuttle is predicted to pass through your sky during the next 10 days if you enter your location at heavens-above.com and then next to "Satellites, 10 day predictions for:" click "ISS" or "STS-118". You should check the predictions each day though. The shuttle has to change its orbit to approach and depart the station and it may "boost" the station's orbit while it is docked - ISS Height Profile. If the time of your visible pass(es) is near docking or departure you can see both objects following almost the same orbit, one after the other!
image credit: NASA MSFC
Here is an excellent article for the meteor shower - SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Blog - Prepare for the Perseids!
I'll repeat some information from one of my earlier blog entries:
Night of August 12/13
The Perseid Meteor Shower
Maximum hourly rate in dark country skies about 100 per hour.
image of the 2004 Perseid meteor shower accumulated over six hours
What follows are viewing schedules for the shower. Good viewing times are when you can see 1/2 the maximum hourly rate or more. The viewing times vary according to how far north or south you are. For each shower I've made schedules for three locations: at latitudes of about 50°N (Seattle), 30°N (New Orleans) and 10°N (Trinidad).
From the latitude of Seattle you can see Perseid meteors the entire night of August 12/13.
Best time is the hours before dawn on the 13th.
Some meteors visible before end of dusk.
10:15 pm (End of Dusk) Meteors visible at nearly 1/2 the maximum rate.
03:45 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at near the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.
From latitude of New Orleans you can see Perseid meteors the entire night of August 12/13.
Best time is the hours before dawn on the 13th.
09:15 pm (End of Dusk) Occasional meteors visible.
01:15 am Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
05:00 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at greater than 1/2 the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.
From latitude of Trinidad you can see Perseid meteors after 10:45 pm on the night of August 12/13.
Best time the hours before dawn on the 13th.
10:45 pm Occasional meteors visible.
02:15 am Meteors visible at 1/2 the maximum rate.
04:45 am (Start of Dawn) Meteors visible at near the maximum rate. The number of visible meteors decreases as dawn begins to lighten the sky.
For Better Viewing
Find a Dark Location - A dark country location without "security" lights is best. If that's not convenient try to find a location where you can't see any lights or lighted surfaces. A nearby park or maybe even your backyard would qualify. On a beach facing the water could be a good alternative.
Where to Look - Meteors can appear in any part of the sky. To see the most meteors face the darkest part of your sky and look at least 45° above the horizon.
Be Comfortable - A reclining chair will keep you from getting a stiff neck and tired feet. A sleeping bag will keep you warm. (Even in the summertime you can get chilly at night if you are just lying still.) Insect repellent will keep you from being distracted by those little pests (thanks plywoodstatenative).
An easy to read introduction to meteors with an interesting summary of these and other showers is Astronomy - Meteors and meteor showers - Francis Reddy.
The primary sources of most of what you'll read about meteor showers are these two sites
The American Meteor Society
The International Meteor Organinzation
***** Update August 18
STS-118 will undock from the ISS tomorrow morning at 8 am EDT for a possible early landing on August 21.
Closing the hatches today at 5:10 p.m. allows Endeavour to undock from the station Sunday in preparation for a possible landing on Tuesday. The earlier landing is being considered in the event Hurricane Dean threatens the Houston area. It would allow an opportunity for the shuttle to land before Mission Control would be shut down to prepare for a storm.
Managers will continue to review the forecast for Dean as they assess their options.
NASA - Space Shuttle page
Shuttle & ISS #1 by Westerberg Sunday August 19, 2007
Evenings of August 19-25
NOTE: Shuttle landing was rescheduled to August 21.
Easily visible passes over Southern California by Space Shuttle Mission STS-118 and the International Space Station will happen on the evenings of August 19, 20 and 21. STS-118 is scheduled to land on August 22 but the ISS will make bright solo overpasses on the evenings of August 22 and 24.
The ISS will travel southward over the Florida Peninsula's eastern coast on the evenings of August 23 and 25. The ISS will pass very high and bright over Northeast and East Central Florida but will be easily visible for the entire peninsula, even Key West.
To find the exact time and direction you can sight the ISS enter your location at heavens-above.com and then click "ISS" next to "Satellites, 10 day predictions for:".
Lunar Eclipse by dnedawg
Early Morning Hours of August 28
Total Lunar Eclipse
The entire entire eclipse, start to finish, will be visible from the West Coast. In the East the later stages of the eclipse will not be visible. The easternmost US (Maine) will only briefly see totality before the the moon sets as the sun rises. Farther west more of the eclipse will be visible during the early morning hours.
Adjust the following times for your time zone: (EDT = PDT + 3 hours)
The distinct partial phase begins at 1:51 am PDT
Totality begins at 2:52 am PDT
Totality ends at 4:22 am PDT.
The distinct partial phase ends at 5:24 am PDT.
Excellent article on the eclipse - SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Blog - Lunar Eclipse on August 28th.
Animated graphic of the Moon's appearance during the eclipse - Shadow & Substance Home Page.
As this global eclipse map NASA map for 2007 August 28 lunar eclipse shows the entire progression of the eclipse can be seen from westernmost North America to easternmost Australia. Africa, Europe, the Middle East and western Asia will see none of this eclipse. The rest of the world will see only parts of the progression.
The NASA - Total Lunar Eclipse: August 28, 2007 page has even more information plus diagrams for each time zone from Eastern Daylight Time through Hawaiian Standard time.
Aurigid Meteor by mcgino Saturday September 1, 2007
Early Morning September 1
Aurigid Meteor Shower
See this article for the original expectations and links to the reports on the actual event - SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Highlights - Earth Hits Aurigid Meteors!
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Updated: 12:09 AM GMT on September 11, 2007