Casual Astronomy, Spaceflight News and Lower California Weather

Vandenberg Launch Success! (see comment #275) | Venus, Mercury and Jupiter in the Mornings | Mars and the Moon Friday Night | Night Launch from Cape Canaveral Early Saturday Morning

By: LowerCal, 4:24 PM GMT on February 20, 2008

What is "Casual Astronomy"?
Cool Astronomy Links
(Scroll down for future dates, farther down for past dates.)

March
Morning Planets - Jupiter, Venus and Mercury
For the Northern Hemisphere brilliant Venus appears low in the ESE while bright Jupiter appears slightly higher in the SE. Mercury will not climb much higher and will remain in close proximity to Venus for another month.

For the Southern Hemisphere the view is much better. The planets will appear in the E, higher in the sky with Jupiter highest.


March 14
Mars and the Moon
The Moon travels with the planet Mars in the sky this night.



Photo credit: Patrick AFB
March 15
Night Launch! Delta 2 - GPS 2R-19 (M6)
Launch at 2:09-2:23am EDT Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

Updates at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule.

Links to a live webcast and a wealth of information on GPS 2R-19 (M6) and other Delta II missions at
United Launch Alliance.


March 19 or 20
Equinox exact at:
March 20, 05:48UTC,
March 20, 1:48am EDT and
March 19, 10:48pm PDT.


The Sun rises directly east and sets directly west everywhere on Earth today. (This can be blinding for urban commuters so be careful.) The length of day is also equal to night - (equinox).

An ancient stone passage tomb at Loughcrew, Ireland will be open to the public for sunrise March 20-22. If you can't make it you can watch the Spring 2005 video.



Photo credit: NASA/Amanda Diller
March 11-27
March 11-26
Night Launch! Shuttle Endeavour - STS-123
Launch at 2:28:12am EDT Kennedy Space Center, FL.
Docking with ISS March 12 at 11:27pm EDT.
Undocking from ISS March 24 at 7:55pm EDT.
Landing at 8:35pm EDT Kennedy Space Center, FL.

Docking with ISS March 12 at 11:25pm EDT.
Undocking from ISS March 24 at 7:54pm EDT.
Landing at 8:33pm EDT Kennedy Space Center, FL.

You can follow the progress of the Space Shuttle mission online at
Spaceflight Now | STS-123 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center and
NASA - Space Shuttle.
There are links in the "WATCH NASA TV NOW" section of that page where you can watch video (sometimes live).

You can dig for more info at
Spaceflight Now - Index of /shuttle/sts123 and
CBS News Space Place - STS-123 Status Report.

Videos and more interesting and informative links at
Patrap's Endeavour Night Launch blog entry.

See the ISS and Shuttle Pass Over You!
Shuttle & ISS #1 by Westerberg Sunday August 19, 2007

You can find out exactly when and where the International Space Station or the Space Shuttle is predicted to pass through your sky during the next 10 days. Enter your location from a list at heavens-above.com (if you register first you can save your location and don't have to reenter it every time). Then next to "Satellites, 10 day predictions for:" click "ISS" or "STS-123". To see the ground track with time marks for your local time zone: click the date of the pass you're interested in then click "Click here" under "Ground Track".

You should check the predictions each day though. The shuttle has to change its orbit to approach and depart the station and the station's orbit may be "boosted" while it is docked (see 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/beside the other!


March 18-19
Saturn, the Moon and Regulus
The evening of the March 18 the bright star Regulus will appear between the Moon and the planet Saturn. The following evening the Moon has moved on and Saturn will appear in the middle.



Image credit: ESA - D. Ducros 2007
March 8
Night Launch! Ariane 5 - ATV 1 "Jules Verne"
Launch at 10:59pm EST (12:59am March 9 Local Time) Kourou, French Guiana
Launch at 11:03:04pm EST (01:03:04am March 9 Local Time) Kourou, French Guiana.
Docking with ISS April 3.

Live web coverage starts at 10:03pm EST (one hour before the launch) -
ESA - ATV - Watch the ATV launch - LIVE.

Launch schedule updates at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule.

Mission home page -
ESA - ATV.

This mission of the ATV will function as a cargo carrier to the ISS. For possible sightings of a double flyover after launch and before docking check
Heavens-Above.


Upcoming (and Downcoming)
Men and Manmade Objects
Going up -
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule
Coming back down -
Upcoming Reentries


2008
Outline of Sky Events for the New Year
SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Highlights - Sky Highlights of 2008

SkyandTelescope.com - Observing Highlights - Eclipses in 2008

SkyandTelescope.com - Meteors - Meteor Showers in 2008

The question, "How could I make a valuable contribution to the science of astronomy as a simple naked eye observer?" is answered in
SkyandTelescope.com - Stargazing - The Scientific Value of Visual Observing
which may lead you to the following, in order:
SkyandTelescope.com - Meteors - Meteors: A Primer,
SkyandTelescope.com - Meteors - Basics of Meteor Observing and
SkyandTelescope.com - Meteors - Advanced Meteor Observing.


***** Past Dates *****

Lunar Eclipse 2 by Jaffa Saturday March 3, 2007

Night of February 20/21
Full Moon (exact at 10:30pm EST)
Total Lunar Eclipse (Maximum at 10:34pm EST)
The full moon will be rising in the east very close to the time of sunset. At that time the Moon will seem huge and unusually colored. It could be yellowish to orange; however, part or all of the Moon's disk may even be dark red, brown or gray if the deepest phase of the total lunar eclipse is in progress!

As the eclipse begins the bright star Regulus will be the Moon's close companion. The Moon will slowly fall behind as they journey across the sky. As the eclipse is ending the Moon will be closer to the bright planet Saturn. Astronomy.com Chart

This will be an early morning event for central and eastern Asia, Europe and Africa. It will be a middle of the night event for South America. Across North America it will be an evening event. For Oceania and parts of eastern Asia this will be a nonevent with no phase of the eclipse visible.

This will be the last total lunar eclipse until December 21, 2010.

Quick reference -
NASA - Map of Eclipse Times and Areas of Visibility

Comprehensive page including schedules and diagrams for specific time zones -
NASA - Total Lunar Eclipse: February 20, 2008

Web articles:
Astronomy.com - Lunar eclipse visible for North America and
SkyandTelescope.com - Homepage Observing - February 20th's Eclipse of the Moon.

Since this is the other of the two times (new and full moon) during the month when the Sun, Earth and Moon are nearly aligned tidal behavior will be strongest -- higher highs, lower lows and faster flows. The fact that the Moon will actually pass through the Earth's shadow during this full moon indicates the alignment is even closer than usual.


Morning February 27
Mercury Meets Venus
As the planet Mercury continues to climb higher in morning skies it passes closest to the planet Venus on this date. Mercury will not climb much higher and will remain in close proximity to Venus for another month.

Brilliant Venus appears low in the ESE while bright Jupiter appears slightly higher in the SE.


Morning Show Image
from SpaceWeather.com 2008-03-01 (MORNING SHOW)
Mornings March 2-6
Photo Ops
The crescent moon will join the morning planets - upper right of Jupiter March 2, migrating to upper right of Mercury and Venus March 5 and lower left March 6.


Iridium Flares by fixer Saturday March 1, 2008

thru March 8
Light Pollution Survey AKA Star "Count"
Your answers are valuable even if you can only see a few stars.

The "count" doesn't actually require counting stars. All you need to do is match your view to one of the charts in
the Family Activity Packet: Observation Guide or
the GLOBE at Night - Magnitude Charts.
See comment #137 re. the photo above and how to "count".

Find out how you can add your "count" to others from all over the globe at
GLOBE at Night - Home page.


One day old Moon by LaddObservatory Friday June 15, 2007

March 7
New Moon (exact at 12:14pm EST)
The new moon will be preceded by progressively thinner morning crescents and followed by progressively fatter evening crescents (photo ops).

The following evening you could be one of the first people on Earth to spot the thin new cresent with some help from Moonsighting.com (scroll down to March * March 8).

Since this is one of the two times during the month (new and full moon) when the Sun, Earth and Moon are nearly aligned tidal behavior will be strongest -- higher highs, lower lows and faster flows.



Photo credit: Vandenberg AFB
February 26
February 29
To Be Determined (TBD)
Mid March

March 13

Atlas 5 - NROL-28
Launch at 12:00-4:00am Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.
Launch at 2:00-4:00am [3:02am?] Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

Success! See
Spaceflight Now | Atlas Launch Report | Mission Status Center.

Updates at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule.

Links to a live webcast and other information at
United Launch Alliance.




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Updated: 1:47 AM GMT on March 29, 2008

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