Catching a Ride on the Starlink Satellite Train: Midnight Marvel, or Night Sky Menace?

Have you seen Starlink? It all started, as all good breaking astronomical events seem to do, late on a Friday night. We got the notification first from veteran satellite tracker Dr. Marco Langbroek over in the Netherlands via the venerable See-Sat-L message board, and on Twitter soon after:

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Friday’s SpaceX Dragon Launch CRS-17 to Light Up the U.S. East Coast

CRS-16

Update: The CRS-17 launch has slipped to Friday, May 3rd, to give NASA time to evaluate electrical issues aboard the International Space Station. Follow us (@Astroguyz) on Twitter for further updates on the visibility prospects of the mission leading up to launch.

Ever seen a rocket launch before? Catching one is easier than you might think. You just need to be looking in the right direction at the right time, and have clear skies. If you happen to be watching from the U.S./Canada eastern seaboard before dawn this Friday (May 3rd), you just might catch the spectacular dawn launch of a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket with Dragon on the CRS-17 (also known as SpX-17) mission headed to the International Space Station.

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Astro-Challenge: Spotting Slender Moons

Jimena Moon

Up for a challenge? Some of the toughest targets for a backyard observer involve little or no equipment at all. Northern hemisphere Spring brings with it one of our favorite astronomical pursuits: the first sighting of the extremely thin, waxing crescent Moon. This unique feat of visual athletics may be fairly straight forward, requiring nothing more than a working pair of Mk-1 eyeballs… but it’s tougher than you think. The angle of the evening ecliptic in the Spring is still fairly high for mid-northern latitudes, taking the Moon up and out of the weeds when it reaches waxing crescent phase.

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SOFIA Follows the Sulfur for Clues on Stellar Evolution

The high-flying SOFIA telescope is shedding light on where some of the basic building blocks for life may have originated from. A recent study published on The Astrophysical Journal: Letters led by astronomers from the University of Hawaii, including collaborators from the University of California Davis, Johns-Hopkins University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Appalachian State University, and several international partners (including funding from NASA), looked at a lingering mystery in planet formation: the chemical pathway of the element sulfur, and its implications and role in the formation of planets and life.

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China’s Chang’e-4 Lands on the Far Side of the Moon

Since the turn of the century, China has worked hard to become one of the fastest-rising powers in space. In 2003, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) began sending their first taikonauts to space with the Shenzou program. This was followed by the deployment of the Tiangong-1 space station in 2011 and the launch of Tiangong-2 in 2016. And in the coming years, China also has its sights set on the Moon.

But before China can conduct crewed lunar missions, they must first explore the surface to locate safe landing spots and resources. This is the purpose behind the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (aka. the Chang’e program). Named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, this program made history yesterday (Thursday, Jan. 3rd) when the fourth vehicle to bear the name (Chang’e-4) landed on the far side of the Moon.

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Top Astronomy Events For 2019

Transit of Mercury

You might’ve heard the news. We wrote a book this past year: The Universe Today’s Ultimate Guide to Observing the Cosmos: Everything You Need to Know to Become an Amateur Astronomer.  Judging from reader feedback thus far, one of the most popular parts of the book is Chapter 10, where we list the top astronomical events by year for the coming six years. True story… we picked six (2019 to 2024) to stretch out the list to touch on the April 8th, 2024 total solar eclipse. Continue reading “Top Astronomy Events For 2019”

SpaceX to Launch 64 Satellites, Including Orbital Reflector

orbital Reflector
An artist’s impression of Orbital Reflector unfurled in space. Credit: Orbital Reflector/Nevada Museum of Art

UPDATE – SpaceX has now set a firm date and time for the Spaceflight SSO-A launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base for Monday, December 3nd at 18:31 Universal Time (UT).

A unique smallsat mission promises to be the latest satellite “brighter than a Full Moon!” in the night sky… or not.

The Mission: We’re talking about Orbital Reflector, conceived by Trevor Paglen and fielded by the Nevada Museum of Arts. Dubbed as the “first art exhibit in space,” the $1.3 million dollar project seeks to put a smallsat payload with a deployable reflector in low Earth orbit. Continue reading “SpaceX to Launch 64 Satellites, Including Orbital Reflector”