OBJECTS IN THE HUNTER MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

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Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo http://www.deepskycolors.com/.

I’d like to get your mind working a little bit today, aside from seeing this incredible image from Mr. Andreo, I hope that you read this through because I think you may enjoy it.

As summer fades into fall so to the constellations of the summer night give way to the familiar Winter Hexagon of the Orion neighborhood. Orion is of course, one of the most familiar regions in the night sky but there may be something you haven’t yet given thought to that may just change how you look at this constellation.  Let’s have a look.

The Orion constellation is dominated by eight highly visible stars as well as the area around M42, the Orion Nebula, also known as the sword in the hunter’s belt. Orion is also home to some of the most amazing nebulae that the winter sky has to offer but that’s a post for a different time.  In this post we don’t care about what size and composition the stars are.  In this post we will just touch on the distance to the naked eye points of light that make up the hunter.

Have a look at this distance list of the major players in the constellation Orion. This list is compiled in distance order and not by the anatomic locations on the constellation.

BELLATRIX (left shoulder): 240 light years away.

BETELGEUSE (right shoulder): 427 light years away.

SAIPH (right foot): 720 light years away.

RIGEL (left foot): 770 light years away.

ALNITAK (left belt star as we see it): 800 light years away.

MINTAKA (right belt star as we see it): 900 light years away.

MEISSA (Orion’s head): 1000 light years away.

M42 ORION NEBULA: 1300 light years away.

ALNILAM (middle belt star): 1340 light years away.

Let’s break this down a little further then as soon as the opportunity arises, go outside and look up when you wake up for work or school and realize that many of the stars in the Orion constellation are closer to us here on Earth than they are to each other!

For example, if you lived on a planet around Bellatrix which is the left shoulder star across from Betelgeuse, and you wanted to visit some old friends on Earth you would have to travel 240 light years. After returning home to Bellatrix, you get the urge for a milkshake at that hopping 50’s diner on that planet around the middle belt star Alnilam; well, you would have to travel at least 1100 light years in the opposite direction.  I say at least because the actual distance between the two is actually greater once you include the side to side distance as well.  Remember, we’re just talking about raw straight line distance from us on Earth.  In fact, the only star in Orion closer to Bellatrix than the Sun is Betelgeuse……and just barely!

Let’s do it again from a different angle. Let’s assume that you lived on a planet in orbit around Betelgeuse and you wanted to hit up your favorite gym at that planet around Meissa the head star in Orion and the closest star to Betelgeuse in the constellation (as we see it).  If you just found a suitable gym here on Earth instead of traveling to Meissa you would save yourself a 575 light year trip each way!

One final thought experiment. Let’s assume all the stars in Orion cease to shine in unison, right now.  Your great grandchildren may see the 1st star, Bellatrix, Orion’s left shoulder, blink out of existence in 240 years but surely none of our grandchildren will be here to witness it.  187 years after that and nearly a half a millennium after it burned out, the red supergiant and right shoulder star, Betelgeuse disappears from the night sky.  293 years after that, we lose Orion’s right foot, Saiph and 50 years after that we lose the other foot, Rigel.  In the year 2784 the constellation of Orion will be unrecognizable as both stars representing its shoulders and feet are gone.  But the light from the three belt stars, the head star and M42 are still incoming.  30 years after losing Rigel we finally lose the first belt star, Alnitak, the left belt star as we see it from Earth.  100 years later the right belt star, Mintaka goes dark.  100 years after that and 1000 years after the stars went dark we lose Meissa, the head star in Orion.  We’ve now clicked into the next millennium, it’s the year 3014 and all that’s left from the incredible Orion constellation is the Orion Nebula region and Alnilam, the middle belt star.  As those distant generations view Orion in the digital records of history it’s all but gone.  About 300 years later, after that generation’s great grandchildren come and go, the region of M42 (assuming that entire region went out together) disappears leaving only the middle star in what once was the belt of the mighty hunter.  But that won’t last long, as just 30 years after being left alone, the light streaming to us from Alnilam runs out, making Orion once again, a ghost in mythology and folklore.

Pretty incredible right? I got the idea for this post from a tweet sent on August 27 of this year by NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock.  He posted an image of Orion with the words, “Some of these stars in Orion are closer to Earth than they are to each other.”  Needless to say, my mind has been running with that thought for a while now.  One of the hardest things to do is to look up at the night sky and see the many constellations and asterisms as three and four dimensional tapestries.  Exercises like this are not only fun and mind-blowing but it helps to give you a better understanding to the true vastness of the universe.  I hope you all enjoyed this short post and I hope it was effective in its delivery and content.  As always, feel free to let me know what you think!

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SPACEX READY TO FLY CRS4 TO THE ISS

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Photo Credit & Copyright: SpaceX.

LAUNCH ALERT: Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 06:16 UTC (02:16 EDT) a SpaceX Falcon 9, version 1.1 rocket will be launching from Cape Canaveral, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40 pronounced “SLICK-40”), Florida as part of CRS-4 (SpaceX-4 or SpX-4) to the International Space Station. This, the sixth dragon capsule (Dragon C-6) will be grappled and berthed to the Harmony module or “Node 2” on September 22, where it will deliver 4885 lbs. of supplies to the ISS. It is then scheduled to be released after about a month when it will return 3276 lbs. back to Earth. This will be Space-X’s 4th of 12 contracted ISS resupply missions and the Falcon 9’s 13th flight “F9-13.”

I do not believe that this flight will have the four landing legs affixed for a soft water landing test.

NOW FOR THE ROCKET: The Falcon 9R v1.1 rocket is a 2-stage partially reusable rocket with future ambitions of becoming fully reusable. The new version is 3.7 meters (12ft) in diameter and 68.4 meters (224.4 ft.) tall which is much taller than the Falcon 9 v1.0 or “Block 1” in order to house a longer fuel tank. It is also fitted with upgraded and reconfigured Merlin family main engines replacing the 9 Merlin-1C with the more powerful Merlin-1D engines that will provide a thrust of nearly 600,200kg (1.5 million lb.) at sea level which equates to a significant payload capacity increase. Each Merlin-1D provides 147,000 lb. of thrust at sea level or about 55% more thrust than the original 1C engines. The new merlin 1-D engines are also in a circular “octaweb” configuration and are equipped with the capability to throttle between 70% and 100%. All in all the Falcon 9 v1.1 is able to loft 13,150kg (28,990lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO); 4,850kg (10,690lb) into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) or 2.9 tons to escape velocity.

DRAGON SPACECRAFT = The Dragon spacecraft is about 23.6 ft. (7.2 m) tall with trunk attached and 12 ft. (3.7 m) wide. It’s comprised of two main sections; the pressurized cargo area which can carry 388 cubic ft. of cargo as well as the unpressurized cargo area. The trunk (unpressurized area) carries 494 cubic ft. of cargo as well as the solar arrays. OR: MAIN COMPOSITE PAYLOAD FAIRING = the composite payload fairing is 13.1 meters (43ft) in length and 5.2 meter (17ft) in diameter.

SECOND STAGE = is powered by a single Merlin-1D Vacuum engine with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). This stage can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into desired orbits. For maximum reliability, the second stage has redundant igniter systems and has a burn time of 375 seconds.

INTERSTAGE = a composite structure that connects the first stage to the second stage and holds the release and separation system. Its al all pneumatic stage separation system for low shock, highly reliable separation that can be tested on the ground, unlike pyrotechnic systems used on most launch vehicles.

FIRST CORE/BOOST STAGE = is powered by nine (9) Merlin-1D engines in their circular “octaweb” configuration with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). The core stage has a burn time of 180 seconds and is gradually throttled. Its 9 Merlin-1D engine system can sustain up to two engine shutdowns during flight and still successfully complete its mission. On select flights the engines on the first stage of the Falcon 9 are programmed to re-fire and before touch down four landing legs are released to bring the entire stage down to a vertical soft water landing. This is the first step in creating fully reusable rockets.

WATCH THE LAUNCH LIVE AT: Launch coverage begins at 01:00 EDT on Sat Sept 20. Monday, Sept 22 at 05:30 EDT coverage of ISS grappling of the Dragon begins. A few hours later at 09:30 EDT berthing coverage will begin.

http://www.spacex.com/webcast/

http://www.ustream.tv/SpaceX

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

http://www.youtube.com/user/NASAtelevision

http://www.livestation.com/en/nasa-tv

http://www.livestream.com/nasa

http://www.livestream.com/spaceflightnow

NASA/SpaceX CRS-4 mission page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/index.html

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NIGHT OF THE AURORA – UMBAGOG LAKE

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Image Credit & Copyright: Jon Secord. See below for info and all related links.

On Wednesday, September 10, 2014 the Sun unleashed a pair of coronal mass ejections (CME’s) that subsequently struck Earth on the 11th & 12th.  The resulting solar storms rained down on Earth’s Polar Regions, giving many observers in the U.S. and Europe a rare opportunity to view the legendary Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights.”  The ensuing solar storms raised the KP index to a level of KP7 or G3 on the NOAA scale.

Throughout the week I will be displaying some amazing aurora images from this event by a few of what I like to call the “Local Group” of photographers here in my immediate NH, MA, VT & ME region. I truly hope you enjoy them and visit their works as they’re some of the very best at what they do.  Also, when it comes to events like this these images are amazing but I urge every one of you to get out and see these events for yourself when possible because you have a finite amount of opportunities to do so in your life.

If you’re interested in viewing the aurora yourself check my short “Aurora Watcher’s Guide” which I just updated on September 14: http://danspace77.com/aurora-guide/

This amazing image was captured by Jon Secord on the evening of the 12th at Umbagog Lake, NH.  This lake is far upstate as it straddles the NH, ME border and is a great location to observe the night sky and get away from as much light pollution as you can. As I’ve said before, these images are a testament to the hard work, cost and hours that these guys and girls put into capturing these images. It’s not just the equipment; it’s not just knowing how to use your equipment and being in the right place at the right time. But it’s also planning and driving for hours to sit outside for hours so IF (always a big “if” with aurora) the aurora shows up you can then put your talent, ability and equipment to work. Congratulations to Jon on yet another great piece and if you like this image you will certainly like the rest of em so check the links below!

Jon Secord Photography: http://www.jsecordphoto.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jsecordphoto

Instagram: http://instagram.com/jsecordphoto/

500px: http://500px.com/Jon_Secord

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/104201638@N06/

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NASA’S COMMERCIAL CREW GIVES SPACEX & BOEING A GO FOR LAUNCH

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Image Credit & Copyright: NASA Commercial Crew Poster.

Today September 16, 2014 NASA announced that they have awarded their 6.8 billion dollar Commercial Crew contract to SpaceX and their Dragon V2 as well as Boeing and their CST-100 capsule. Of that 6.8 billion, spaceX was awarded 2.6 billion and Boeing 4.2 billion.

The mission of this initiative is to return human spaceflight to the United States and end our reliance on Russia to get to the International Space Station (ISS). As of now, assuming both parties pass all future mandated tests and trials, crew service to the ISS from the United States may be ready to begin by 2017.  There are no plans to take these vehicles anywhere other than the ISS at this time.  With NASA working at 104% thrust toward completion of the new Space Launch System (SLS) and the Lockheed Orion capsule readying for its first test flight atop a Delta IV Heavy possibly this winter, the Space Coast is a busy place once again!

SpaceX will launch their Dragon V2 on their Falcon9 rocket from the historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) as they have leased it for 20 years.

Boeing’s CST-100 will launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41). Boeing and Blue Origin (founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) are currently collaboration on an engine for the Atlas V’s first stage to replace the Russian RD-180’s currently in use.

The two major players beat out another favorite; Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser mini shuttle. SNC states that they hope to continue development of Dream Chaser without the support of NASA.  If I remember correctly, I think they are in dialogue with ESA as well as JAXA; so best of luck to them as it’s a beautiful vehicle.

Now that we can see the proverbial summit or light at the end of the tunnel, I hope that we also include European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronauts as well as Roscosmos cosmonauts in this endeavor as well. I personally believe that ending our reliance shouldn’t mean alienation and that just like Apollo-Soyuz and throughout the hardships of the Cold War we can continue to get along and work together in a place where borders cannot be seen out the window.

That being said, I don’t think there’s anything in this contract that states these vehicles can’t be used for privately funded tourism into orbit. Obviously these flights wouldn’t interfere with Commercial Crew flights but it seems like a natural progression to me.  Anyone have a few million lying around you want to grant to me?……..anyone?………

NASA Commercial Crew page: http://www.nasa.gov/content/ccp-index-page-2/#.VBg9M_ldUn1

NASA 10 things to know about Commercial Crew: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/CCP10things.pdf

SpaceX Commercial Crew announcement page: http://www.spacex.com/news/2014/09/16/nasa-selects-spacex-be-part-americas-human-spaceflight-program

Boeing Commercial Crew announcement page: http://www.boeing.com/boeing/Features/2014/09/bds_cst100_09_16_14.page

NASA Space Launch System (SLS): http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/

Lockheed Martin Orion Crew Capsule: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/what-we-do/space/human-space-flight.html

Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems: http://www.sncspace.com/

Blue Origin: http://www.blueorigin.com/

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NIGHT OF THE AURORA – UNITY POND, ME

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Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Taylor. See below for info and all related links.

On Wednesday, September 10, 2014 the Sun unleashed a pair of coronal mass ejections (CME’s) that subsequently struck Earth on the 11th & 12th.  The resulting solar storms rained down on Earth’s Polar Regions, giving many observers in the U.S. and Europe a rare opportunity to view the legendary Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights.”  The ensuing solar storms raised the KP index to a level of KP7 or G3 on the NOAA scale.

Throughout the week I will be displaying some amazing aurora images from this event by a few of what I like to call the “Local Group” of photographers here in my immediate NH, MA, VT & ME region. I truly hope you enjoy them and visit their works as they’re some of the very best at what they do.  Also, when it comes to events like this these images are amazing but I urge every one of you to get out and see these events for yourself when possible because you have a finite amount of opportunities to do so in your life.

If you’re interested in viewing the aurora yourself check my short “Aurora Watcher’s Guide” which I just updated on September 14: http://danspace77.com/aurora-guide/

This amazing image was captured by Mike Taylor on the evening of the 12th just after 20:30 along Unity Pond in central Maine.  The image shown here is a single frame from a time lapse that he’s working on and will be released shortly called “Shot In The Dark.”  I know many of you already follow Mike and if you don’t, you should as time and time again he comes through with work that’s simply amazing.

Mike Taylor photography: http://miketaylorphoto.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miketaylorphoto

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mtaylor_photo

Instagram: http://instagram.com/taylor_photo

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+MikeTaylorPhoto/posts

500px: http://500px.com/miketaylorphoto

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/miketaylorphoto/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/taylorphoto1/

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NIGHT OF THE AURORA – MOUNT WASHINGTON NH

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Image Credit & Copyright: Mount Washington Observatory. See below for info and all related links.

On Wednesday, September 10, 2014 the Sun unleashed a pair of coronal mass ejections (CME’s) that subsequently struck Earth on the 11th & 12th.  The resulting solar storms rained down on Earth’s Polar Regions, giving many observers in the U.S. and Europe a rare opportunity to view the legendary Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights.”  The ensuing solar storms raised the KP index to a level of KP7 or G3 on the NOAA scale.

Throughout the week I will be displaying some amazing aurora images from this event by a few of what I like to call the “Local Group” of photographers here in my immediate NH, MA, VT & ME region. I truly hope you enjoy them and visit their works as they’re some of the very best at what they do.  Also, when it comes to events like this these images are amazing but I urge every one of you to get out and see these events for yourself when possible because you have a finite amount of opportunities to do so in your life.

If you’re interested in viewing the aurora yourself check my short “Aurora Watcher’s Guide” which I just updated on September 14: http://danspace77.com/aurora-guide/

This first image comes from the crew of the Mount Washington Observatory “Home of the World’s Worst Weather” taken on Friday the 12th.  According to the website the settings on their Canon 60D were 17mm, f2.8, ISO400 with an exposure time of 15 seconds.

They also have an accompanying time lapse video of the event which shot with a GoPro Hero 2 and a Canon T3i: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf69enjayjg&feature=youtu.be

 

Mt Washington Observatory: http://www.mountwashington.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MWObs

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MWObservatory

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/MWOObserver?ob=1

SmugMug: http://mwo.smugmug.com/

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ULA TO LAUNCH THE MOST SECRET PAYLOAD IN NEARLY A DECADE

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Image Credit & Copyright: ULA of the AtlasV-401 TDRSK-L launch.

LAUNCH ALERT: Tuesday, September 16, at 21:44 UTC (17:44 EDT & 14:44 PDT) a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V-401 Rocket will launch the CLIO satellite for an unnamed U.S. government agency from Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41 or SLICK-41) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  This mission’s payload is one of the most secret since the launch of Paladium at Night (PAN or P360 or USA207) on September 8, 2009 as we don’t even know which government agency it’s working for or even what the name CLIO is for or represents.  The only thing known about this satellite is that it was built by Lockheed Martin and uses their A2100 series satellite platform.  This also means that launch coverage will likely be very short, cutting off before payload fairing separation takes place.

This launch will mark the 49th launch of an Atlas V rocket and the 25th for the 401 configuration.  This will also be the 60th launch from Cape Canaveral for the ULA.
The Atlas-5 (V) 400 Series rocket is a two-stage rocket that depending on the size of the fairing used stands between 57.3 m (188 ft.) and 59.1 m (194 ft.) with a diameter of 12.5ft (3.81m) and consists of an Atlas Common Core Booster with a Russian RD-180 engine and first stage with a United States RL-10 Centaur upper stage built by AeroJet-Rocketdyne. The vehicle is available in 4 different configurations which are built specifically for each individual mission. Its launch sites are Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Launch Complex-41 (LC-41) or Vandenberg Air Force Base, Launch Complex-3 (LC-3). Performance to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) ranges from 10,470 lb. to 16,970 lb. Performance to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) ranges from 20,650 lb. to 33,360 lb.

401 DESIGNATION CONFIGURATION SUMMARY: 4 = 4.2 Meter fairing (2-shell). 0 = 0 External solid rocket boosters. 1 = 1 Centaur second stage engine.

MAIN PAYLOAD FAIRING (PLF): The Main Payload Fairing for the Atlas-V-401 is a two-shell, 4 m (13.8 ft.) diameter fairing and is used to protect the spacecraft & Centaur during its ascent through atmospheric turbulence and into space. Once safely out of Earth’s atmosphere (Or at least most of it), the fairing is pyrotechnically jettisoned via a debris-free actuating system.

CENTAUR UPPER STAGE: The Centaur Upper stage is 3.1 m (10 ft.) in diameter and 12.7 m (41.6 ft.) in length. It consists of a single Cryogenic RL-10A-4-2 (RL-10) Aerojet Rocketdyne Engine that provides 22,300 lb. of thrust and utilizes liquid hydrogen (LH2) for propellant and liquid oxygen (LOX) as an oxidizer with a burn time of up to 740 seconds to include multiple engine firings. There are also four 27-N (Newton) thrusters and eight 40-N (Newton) thrusters used for attitude control. Both utilize hydrazine as propellant. The Centaur Forward Adapter (CFA) provides structural mountings for vehicle electronics within the spacecraft.

SOLID ROCKET BOOSTERS (SRB’s): Have a diameter of 158 cm (62.2 in) and a length of 20 m (65.6 ft.). The total number of SRB’s utilized is dependent on the individual mission and vary from none at all to 5. They are jettisoned after approximately a minute and a half of flight.

COMMON CORE BOOSTER (CCB) (First-Stage): The American Atlas-V Common Booster Core is 106.5 ft. (32.46 m) in length by 12.5 ft. (3.8 m) in diameter and is powered by a single two-chamber Russian RD-180 engine that utilizes Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1 or highly purified kerosene) as propellant and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer. It provides 860,300lb. of thrust at sea level and can burn for 253 seconds. The RD-180 engine is modeled after the 4-chanber RD-170 engines used by the Zenit rocket family.

Watch LIVE: (Webcast begins at 17:24 EDT) 1) http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/pages/Multimedia_Webcast.shtml 2) http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ula-spaceflightnow

ULA CLIO MISSION: ULA CLIO Brochure: http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Mission_Booklets/AV/av_clio_mob.pdf ULA CLIO Mission Page: http://www.ulalaunch.com/atlas-v-to-launch-clio.aspx?title=Atlas+V+to+Launch+CLIO&Category=1

Lockheed Martin CLIO: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2014/august/0821-ss-clio.html

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