Casual Astronomy, Spaceflight News and Lower California Weather

Shuttle Launch 2:20pm EDT (see blog entry) ••••• Visible Spacecraft Flyovers (see comment 303) ••••• Super Thin Evening Crescent Moon (see blog entry) ••••• Brilliant Venus WNW after Sunset, Sets Late Evening ••••• Very Bright Sirius WSW at Dark, Sets Late Evening ••••• Bright & Reddish Mars High WSW at Dark, Sets WNW Early Morning ••••• Bright Saturn High SE at Dark, Sets West before Dawn ••••• Brilliant Jupiter Rises East Early Morning, ESE at Dawn

By: LowerCal, 1:30 PM GMT on April 07, 2010

CURRENT MOON

moon phases

Scroll past the links below to find special events for current and future dates. Scroll farther to find past events.

Today - SpaceWeather.com
also 365 Days of Astronomy
& Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
This Week - SkyandTelescope.com - This Week's Sky at a Glance
also Jack Horkheimer - Star Gazer, Current Scripts
& This Week In Space on YouTube
This Month - SkyandTelescope.com - Sky Tour Podcasts
also HubbleSite - Tonight's Sky: Your guide to constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and events
Anytime - Stellarium (free planetarium for your computer)
also Sky & Telescope Interactive Sky Chart (online planetarium)

Visible Satellites:
Simplest - Satellite Flybys by SpaceweatherPhone.com
More satellites and more info - Heavens-Above.com

Launches:
Spaceflight Now - Worldwide Launch Schedule,
Vandenberg AFB Launch Schedule &
Wallops Flight Facility Launch Webcast & Blog
Reentries - Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies - Upcoming & Recent Reentries

Live Aurora Cams:
Kiruna, Sweden &
Sodankyla, Finland

Most events described below can be viewed with your eyes alone. Occasionally simple binoculars will improve the view and that will be noted.

***** Current & Future Events *****

Shuttle Atlantis Launch, STS-132 Mission & Landing + Double Spacecraft Flyovers

Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

Mission: STS-132
Spacecraft & Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
May 14
1820 GMT ±5min
2:20pm EDT ±5min (local time)
11:20am PDT ±5min.

Docking with ISS (International Space Station)
May 16
1427 GMT
10:27am EDT
7:27am PDT.

Undocking from ISS
May 23
1520 GMT
11:20am EDT
8:20am PDT.

Landing at Kennedy Space Center
May 26
1244 GMT
8:44am EDT (local time)
5:44am PDT.

Find (when published) landing options at NASA - Launch and Landing
and the landing paths (when published) at NASA - STS-132 Landing Ground Tracks.

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

You can follow the progress of the Space Shuttle mission online at
Spaceflight Now | STS-132 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center
and
NASA - Space Shuttle.

You can dig for more info at
Spaceflight Now - Index of /shuttle/sts132
and
CBS News Space Place - Space Shuttle Status Report.

Live online coverage of the mission will be on NASA TV - see the NASA TV Schedule.


WunderPhoto: SPACECRAFT by Westerberg Wednesday June 20, 2007

Between launch and docking with the ISS & undocking and landing it may be possible to sight both craft in the sky at the same time. Shuttle Atlantis and the ISS will be making visible passes over North America between launch and docking.

Check satellite pass predictions at
Heavens-Above
or try the simpler tool at
Satellite Flybys by SpaceweatherPhone.com.


) Thinnest Evening Crescent Moon (the original meaning of "new moon")

WunderPhoto: One day old Moon by LaddObservatory Friday June 15, 2007

May 14, 15 or 16
Low in the western sky soon after sunset.

Earliest and thinnest sightings will be possible from the North Atlantic and North and Central America the evening of May 14. New Zealand will not see the new moon until the evening of May 16.

See the visibility maps at Moonsighting.com.


Tanegashima H-IIA Launch

Photo credit: JAXA

Missions & Spacecraft: AKATSUKI Venus Climate Orbiter & IKAROS Solar Power Sail Demonstrator
Launch Vehicle: H-IIA 202
Launch from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
May 18
6:44am JST (Japan Standard Time, local time)
May 17
2144 GMT
5:44pm EDT
2:44pm PDT.

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

More details on the mission are at
Spaceflight Now | H-2A Launch Report | Mission Status Center
and
JAXA | AKATSUKI Special Site.

A live webcast of the launch will start half an hour before the launch at
JAXA - Live Broadcast.


Cape Canaveral Delta IV Launch

Photo credit: NASA
Mission: Global Positioning System (GPS) 2F-1
Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Medium+ (4,2)
Launch from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
May 21
0329-0341 GMT
May 20
11:29-11:41pm EDT (local time)
8:29-8:41pm PDT.

Launch status updates are at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule
with more details on the launch blog at
Spaceflight Now | Delta Launch Report | Mission Status Center
as the launch approaches.

You may find more information as the launch approaches at
United Launch Alliance
possibly including a live launch webcast.


Cape Canaveral Falcon 9 Launch

Photo credit: SpaceX

Mission: Falcon 9/Dragon Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) Demo
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Spacecraft: Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit
Launch from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
May 23
1700-2100 GMT
1:00-5:00pm EDT (local time)
10:00am-2:00pm PDT.

Launch status updates are at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule
with more details on the launch blog at
Spaceflight Now | Falcon Launch Report | Mission Status Center
as the launch approaches.


***** Past Events *****

Venus & Mercury Sittin' in a Tree... (See comment 1 for the rest of the rhyme.)

WunderPhoto: Venus and Mercury by leddyed Thursday April 1, 2010


April 4, 30 minutes after Sunset
Image created with Stellarium (a free download).

The brilliant white planet Venus shares the western evening twilight with the fading pinkish-gold planet Mercury for the next week or two.

How Venus and Mercury will appear March 27 through April 16 -
SkyandTelescope.com - Homepage Observing - Mercury Takes the Spotlight.


Shuttle Discovery Dawn Launch, STS-131 Mission & Landing + Double Spacecraft Flyovers

Image credit: NASA, Patrick McCracken (Atlantis, February 7th, 2001, STS-98)

Mission: STS-131
Spacecraft & Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch from Kennedy Space Center, Florida
April 5
1021 GMT ±5min +3min
6:21am EDT ±5min +3min (local time)
3:21am PDT ±5min +3min.

Docking with ISS (International Space Station)
April 7
0744 GMT
3:44am EDT
12:44am PDT.

Undocking from ISS
April 16
0755 GMT
3:55am EDT
12:55am PDT.

April 17
1425 GMT
10:25am EDT
7:25am PDT.

1252 GMT
8:52am EDT
5:52am PDT.

Landing at Kennedy Space Center
April 18
1229 GMT
8:29am EDT (local time)
5:29am PDT.

April 19
1253 GMT
8:53am EDT (local time)
5:53am PDT.
1248 GMT
8:48am EDT (local time)
5:48am PDT.

See comment 119.

Find (when published) landing options at NASA - Launch and Landing
and the landing paths (when published) at NASA - STS-131 Landing Ground Tracks.

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

You can follow the progress of the Space Shuttle mission online at
Spaceflight Now | STS-131 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center
and NASA - Space Shuttle.

You can dig for more info at
Spaceflight Now - Index of /shuttle/sts131 and
CBS News Space Place - Space Shuttle Status Report.

Live online coverage of the mission will be on NASA TV - see the NASA TV Schedule.


WunderPhoto: SPACECRAFT by Westerberg Wednesday June 20, 2007

Between launch and docking with the ISS & undocking and landing it may be possible to sight both craft in the sky at the same time.

Check satellite pass predictions at
Heavens-Above
or try the simpler tool at
Satellite Flybys by SpaceweatherPhone.com.


Launch of CryoSat-2

Image credit: ESA

Mission: Cryosat
Launch Vehicle: Dnepr
Launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
April 8
6:57pm AQTT (Aqtobe Time, local time)
1357 GMT
9:57am EDT
6:57am PDT.

ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat mission is dedicated to precise monitoring of the changes in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and variations in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that overlie Greenland and Antarctica.

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

The launch can be watched live via ESA's CryoSat website.


Venus & Mercury + a Very Thin Crescent Moon

April 15, 30 minutes after Sunset (Central Time Zone)
Image created with Stellarium (a free download).

The evening of April 15 a super thin New Moon crescent will stand near Mercury. On that evening binoculars will help you pick out Mercury and the New Moon in the bright sky above the western horizon shortly after sunset.


Lyrid Meteor Shower Peak

WunderPhoto: Searching for Shooting Stars by johnlanoue Monday October 8, 2007

Before Dawn April 22 East of the International Date Line
Before Dawn April 23 West of the International Date Line


This shower is best seen from the Northern Hemisphere.

The Lyrid meteor rate is variable with a recent average of 18 per hour visible from ideal locations but up 90 per hour have been recorded. The best visibility will be after moonset (~2:30am local daylight saving time) until the onset of dawn (~5:00am local daylight saving time). The hours of peak incoming rates will coincide with the best visibility times the morning of April 22 from eastern North America through Hawaii & Alaska and the morning of April 23 from the western Pacific through Bangladesh & eastern Russia.

Source and more information at
Lyrids, IMO Meteor Shower Calendar 2010 | International Meteor Organization.

More information at
Viewing Activity from the 2010 Lyrid Meteor Shower.

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 would be another 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.

General Meteor Shower Information
An easy to read introduction to meteors with an interesting summary of annual showers is
Astronomy - Meteors and meteor showers - Francis Reddy.

Two primary sources of information on meteor showers are
The American Meteor Society and
The International Meteor Organinzation.


Cape Canaveral Atlas V Launch

Photo credit: domain-b.com

Mission & Spacecraft: X-37B OTV-1 (classified)
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V 501
Launch from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida
April 21
2244-(April 22)0107 GMT
6:44-9:07pm EDT (local time)
3:44-6:07pm PDT.

April 22
2352-(April 23)0001 GMT
7:52-8:01pm EDT (local time)
4:52-5:01pm PDT.

Launch status updates are at
Spaceflight Now | Tracking Station | Worldwide launch schedule.
More details appear on the launch blog at
Spaceflight Now | Atlas Launch Report | Mission Status Center.

As the launch date approaches you may find more information at
United Launch Alliance, Launch Information
including a link to a live webcast.


Dark Moon (a.k.a. astronomical new moon)

Exact at
May 14
0104 GMT
May 13
9:04pm EDT
6:04pm PDT.

Lower and thinner morning crescent moons the week before. Higher and thicker evening crescent moons the week after.




Image from: Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy

The gravitational pull of the Moon accounts for about 2/3 of the influence on Earth's tides with the Sun accounting for the remaining 1/3. On this date the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are aligned resulting in stronger tides - higher highs, lower lows and faster flows (see SPRING-TIDES). (Due to the huge mass and volume of the ocean's water the tidal effect lags behind the phases of the Moon. The delay can be as long as three days at some times and places.)

Also see The Moon And Tides.


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Updated: 1:39 PM GMT on May 14, 2010

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