Following the Moon for Amazing May Astronomy

Moon and Venus

The May Moon Meets Venus and Mercury, at dusk en route to eclipse season and more.

Wonder where all the solar system action is hiding? While the dusk sky may seem devoid of planets (save for Mars), that’s all about to change this evening. The watch-phrase for astronomy in May 2021 is to ‘follow the Moon’ as it makes several spectacular planetary passes, then kicks off the first eclipse season of the year.

Continue reading “Following the Moon for Amazing May Astronomy”

Catch Comet R4 ATLAS as it Nears Earth

R4 ATLAS

The coming weeks are a great time to catch comet C/2020 R4 ATLAS… while you can.

Looking to do some springtime astronomy? With temperatures warming up in the northern hemisphere in April through May, galaxy season is upon us. At dusk, the area in the Bowl of Virgo asterism rising in the east is rife with clusters of galaxies that spill over into the adjacent constellations of Coma Berenices and Boötes…

But this May, keep an eye out for a fuzzball interloper that is not a galaxy: Comet C/2020 R4 ATLAS.

Continue reading “Catch Comet R4 ATLAS as it Nears Earth”

Galileo Sunspot Sketches Versus Modern ‘Deep Learning’ AI

Solar flare

A new study turns modern ‘deep learning’ techniques on Galileo’s early sketches of the Sun.

It’s a fascinating thought to consider.

What exactly did the Sun look like, centuries ago? What would we see, if astronomers back in the time of Kepler and Galileo had modern technology monitoring the Sun across the electromagnetic spectrum, available to them?

Continue reading “Galileo Sunspot Sketches Versus Modern ‘Deep Learning’ AI”

New Binocular Nova Cas 2021 Flares in Cassiopeia

Nova Ca 2021

A ‘new star’ erupted into visibility over the past weekend, and continues to brighten.

It began, as all modern astronomical alerts seem to, with one tweet, then two. Early on the morning of Friday, March 19th, we started seeing word that a nova was spotted in the constellation of Cassiopeia the Queen, near its border with Cepheus. At the time, the nova was at magnitude +10 ‘with a bullet,’ and still brightening. A formal notice came that same night from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) with Alert Notice 735 on the discovery of the first nova in Cassiopeia for 2021, Nova Cassiopeiae 2021, or N Cas 2021.

Continue reading “New Binocular Nova Cas 2021 Flares in Cassiopeia”

Tracking Satellites Through GEOSat Eclipse Season

Geosat flare

You can spot ‘GEOSat’ satellites in far-flung orbits… if you know exactly where and when to look.

Watch the sky long enough, and you’re bound to see one.

Seasoned observers are very familiar with seeing satellites in low Earth orbit, as these modern artificial sky apparitions lit by sunlight grace the dawn or dusk sky. Occasionally, you might even see a flare from a passing satellite, as a reflective solar panel catches the last rays of sunlight passing overhead just right…

Continue reading “Tracking Satellites Through GEOSat Eclipse Season”

Phobos and Deimos: Two Moons, From One Source?

Phobos

Running the clock back on the enigmatic pair of Martian moons Phobos and Deimos gives researchers insight to their possible origin.

A recent study provides crucial clues on the possible ‘origin story’ for the two tiny moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos.

Modern astronomy provides us with a snapshot, a look at the present state of affairs across the solar system… but what were things like in the distant past? The existence of the two tiny moons seen orbiting Mars presents a particular dilemma for astronomers. Close up, Phobos and Deimos resemble tiny misshapen captured asteroids… but how did they get into the neat, tidy orbits that we see today?

Continue reading “Phobos and Deimos: Two Moons, From One Source?”

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.

Continue reading “Following the Jovian Moons Through 2021 Mutual Eclipse Season”

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.

Continue reading “BluShift Aerospace Launches Stardust 1.0 Rocket”