Following the Jovian Moons Through 2021 Mutual Eclipse Season

Jupiter

Watch as the Jovian moons perform a spectacular celestial dance in 2021.

Wondering where all the planets have gone? With the the exception of Mars high in the dusk sky, all of the other naked eye planets (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn) are currently hiding low in the dawn… but that’s about to change.

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BluShift Aerospace Launches Stardust 1.0 Rocket

Stardust 1.0 launch

Maine-based BluShift Aerospace launches of a unique rocket from a Cold War Air Force base.

A small company took a major step towards the reality of a ‘Spaceport Maine’ this past weekend. After several attempts, the Maine-based company BluShift Aerospace successfully launched its first rocket from Loring Commerce Center in Northern Maine this past weekend, with the liftoff of Stardust 1.0.

The day dawned clear, but a chilly -14 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 degrees Celsius). The launch of the single-stage 20-foot high Stardust 1.0 rocket went off at 2:47 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)/19:47 Universal Time (UT) on Sunday, January 31st, reaching an apogee of 4,054 feet (1,236 meters). For the first launch, the rocket was actually purposely under-fueled to stay under FAA time and height restrictions for amateur rocketry, though the company has big plans for Stardust and a new generation of rockets, leading up to orbital launches from Maine in coming years.

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Low-Cost Approach to Scanning Historic Glass Plates Yields an Astronomical Surprise

Yerkes

A new process highlights an innovative way to get old glass plates online… and turned up a potential extra-galactic discovery over a century old.

You never know what new discoveries might be hiding in old astronomical observations. For almost a hundred years starting in the late 19th century, emulsion-coated dry glass plate photography was the standard of choice used by large astronomical observatories and surveys for documenting and imaging the sky. These large enormous glass plate collections are still out there around the world, filed away in observatory libraries and university archives. Now, a new project shows how we might bring the stories told on these old plates back to light.

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Will Solar Cycle 25 Dazzle or Fizzle in 2021?

Solar flare

A new study suggests that Solar Cycle 25 may be more powerful than previously predicted.

It’s the big question in solar astronomy for 2021 and the new decade. Will Solar Cycle 25 wow observers, or be a washout? A new study goes against the consensus, suggesting we may be in for a wild ride… if predictions and analysis of past solar cycle transitions hold true.

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Japan to Launch ‘Wooden Satellite’ in 2023

woodsat

What a proposed wooden satellite could (and could not) accomplish.

A strange satellite proposal made at the end of 2020 by a Japanese company had many space pundits scratching their heads into 2021.

The proposal came out of Kyoto University in partnership with Sumitomo Forestry in Japan, though most of the information on the project comes from a BBC post quoting Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and Kyoto University professor Takao Doi, who flew aboard the U.S. space shuttle on missions STS-87 and STS-123 to the International Space Station. STS-123 delivered and installed JAXA’s Kib? module in 2008.

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Astronomy 2021: Top Events for the Coming Year

Comet NEOWISE

Eclipses, meteor showers, occultations and more in store for the next year of astronomy 2021.

Ready for another exciting year of skywatching? 2020 produced several memorable astronomical events, including a surprise naked eye comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the sure-fire Geminid meteors, and a fine, once in a lifetime close pairing of Jupiter and Saturn rounding out the year.

The Sun also awoke from its slumber, as Solar Cycle #25 (finally) got underway in earnest, with the last half of 2020 producing some of the most massive sunspots of recent years. Expect more of the same in 2021, along with increased aurora activity, as we head towards the peak of the 11-year solar maximum in mid-2025.

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Our Guide to This Month’s Total Solar Eclipse Over South America

2020 closes out with the final total solar eclipse of the decade, as totality crosses the southern tip of South America on December 14th.

Did you happen to catch last Monday’s slight penumbral lunar eclipse? Sure, a penumbral may be the most anti-climatic of all of the varieties of eclipses… but this event also sets us up for the ultimate in astronomical events, as a total solar eclipse crosses South America on December 14th, 2020.

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