India’s PSLV-C38 Mission/Cartosat2E Launch

Image credit & copyright: India Space Research Organization (ISRO). Live streaming links below (hopefully).

LAUNCH ALERT! Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 23:59 EDT (03:59 UTC on the 23rd), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will be launching a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in its “XL” configuration, designated “PSLV-C38” carrying the Cartosat-2 series Earth observation satellite along with 29 other co-satelites from the First Launch Pad (FLP), at the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India.

PSLV-C38 will be the 40th flight of the PSLV rocket and its 17th flight in the “XL” configuration.

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SpaceX Iridium NEXT 11-20 Launch From CA

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX & Iridium Corp.

LAUNCH ALERT: How about two launches in a weekend and three in one month from SpaceX from two different coasts?! Sunday, June 25, 2017 at 13:25 PDT (16:25 EDT & 20:25 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 (B1036)will rise from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Launch Complex-4E (SLC-4E) carrying 10 Iridium NEXT 11-20 communication satellites for the Iridium Corporation.

This will be SpaceX’s 9th launch of 2017 and the 37th Falcon 9 flight overall; however, the parameters of this mission will allow for a soft landing on SpaceX’s West Coast, Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).  If successful this will be SpaceX’s 13th landing overall; 8 on drone ships and 5 on land. At this time, SpaceX has no Return To Landing Site (RTLS) capability at Vandenberg AFB.

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SpaceX BulgariaSat 1 & Booster Re-Flight

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX.

LAUNCH ALERT: Friday, June 23, 2017 at 14:10 EDT (18:10 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 (B1029.2) will rise from Kennedy Space Center’s legendary Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) to deliver the BulgariaSat 1 communication satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

This will be SpaceX’s 8th launch of 2017 and 36th Falcon 9 flight overall; however, the parameters of this mission will not allow for a Return To Landing Site (RTLS) where the first stage of the Falcon 9 returns to, and lands back at Cape Canaveral at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) (former LC-13) but it will allow for a soft landing on SpaceX’s East Coast, Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY).  If successful this will be SpaceX’s 12th landing overall; 7 on drone ships and 5 on land.

With this flight, SpaceX will also attempt to re-fly a Falcon 9 first stage, as booster B1029 was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-4E and landed on SpaceX’s West Coast drone ship; Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) on January 14, 2017 for the Iridium NEXT 1-10 mission.

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Images credit & copyright: Daniel LaShomb.

Earlier this week I took a drive to Sugar Hill, New Hampshire to see how the lupines were looking and wasn’t disappointed as they appeared to be in full bloom. These images that I captured here show the plight of night sky imaging because even though I’m happy with these shots, it was a miserable night sky.  First, getting the Milky Way over St. Matthews Chapel while the lupines are in bloom has a few parts to it.  Obviously they need to be in bloom but you also need to have no moon and in this image the moon had just risen stage left which meant no night sky imaging this night.  You may notice a small section of the Milky Way at the extreme left of the top image as well.  I needed about two more hours before the Milky Way moved into position and as I said, the moon had erased that opportunity.  So what’s that mean?  Well, it means that I’m on the clock as the lupines peak for only a few weeks a year and new moon week is coming up.  Throw in a clear night that I’m not working and this should be the year that I get the shot as I’ve been trying for three years.  Why can’t they just bloom in August?

I captured the next set of images the same night at Coffin Pond in Franconia, New Hampshire. I’ve shot the Milky Way here a few times so I wasn’t too disappointed when I saw that the moon had already risen and all but erased the night sky.  After a day or so, these images really grew on me as they create a dream-like view where it almost looks as if you can see the faint Milky Way and stars during the day when it is in fact the moon rising to the left.  Add in the foggy surface of the water and Coffin Pond really comes to life.  Just get out and shoot; you never know what you’ll come up with.

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China’s Long March 2D to Launch the HXMT X-ray All-Sky Survey

Images credit & copyright: Xinhua.

Launch Alert! Friday, June 16, 2017 at 09:20 UTC (05:20 EDT) a Chinese Long March 2D rocket, also known as Chang Zheng-2D or CZ-2D will lift off from China’s Jiquan Satellite Launch Center, carrying the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) to conduct an all-sky survey in X-rays.

This will be the Long March-2D’s 33rd flight since its debut on August 9, 1992.

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Soyuz Progress MS-06 (Progress 67) Station Resupply

Images credit & copyright: Roscosmos.

Launch Alert! Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 05:20 EDT (09:20 UTC) a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket will deliver a Progress MS cargo ship designated “Progress MS-06” (67P or Progress 67 by NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS) from Launch Complex 31/6 (LC-31/6) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. When it docks to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on Friday, June 16, it will deliver roughly 2,400 lb. (1,110 kg) of food, fuel and supplies.

This will be the 156th Progress flight and the 67th to the ISS in its nearly 40 year history.

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V838 Monocerotis Evolved

Image credit & copyright: I created these collages using NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images.  Non-annotated version below.

It was January 2, 2002: A new light appears in the constellation Monoceros that until this moment hadn’t even been known to exist.  Today, what caused this event is still a mystery but none the less, you are witnessing something fascinating.  What looks like a cloud of expanding material from a disturbed star isn’t actually expanding at all; it’s relatively stationary.

Immediately after the event was noticed astronomers eagerly worked to collect data on the new light and almost immediately things such as gamma ray bursts and supernovae were ruled out and it was then determined that what they were looking at was a nova from a previously unseen distant star about 2-3,000 light years away.  Later investigation would reveal that this result was not the case and improved data moved the star to roughly 20,000 light years away thus, it was not a white dwarf but a star much larger and brighter than our Sun.  That also placed this incredible object into the category of variable star, of which, it was the 838th discovered in the constellation Monoceros.  The name V838 Monocerotis was then born.

It wasn’t long before V838 brightened from obscurity to naked eye visibility; only about 1 month.  During this time it was 600,000 times brighter than our Sun and it grew to the size of roughly Jupiter’s orbit making it one of the brightest and largest stars in the Milky Way.  Soon after this massive brightening it faded away just to have yet another brightening that March, this time in infrared wavelengths.  It then dimmed again and wouldn’t you know it; it brightened yet again in infrared in April before finally disappearing as if it had never been there.  Well, as far as amateur astronomers are concerned.

What caused this to happen?  The answer to that is nobody truly knows.  The leading theory is that 2 massive stars actually came into contact and merged to form a single massive star.  Reddining and outbursts would almost certainly accompany this process as well.

A second theory is a process known as Common Envelope Events (CEEs).  This is when a star robs material from its counterpart and can’t handle it all so the two stars actually then share the material together in a “shared envelope” of material.

A third though unlikely theory is that the star was caught swallowing up its planets.

This shell of material isn’t expanding at all: Here’s the mind blowing aspect to this object.  Or should I say, one of the mind-blowing aspects.  This material we’re looking at wasn’t expelled by the star and it actually isn’t expanding.  The gas and dust seen here is likely leftovers from the formation of the star (s) and an expansion as large as this is nearly impossible to have happen in a decade or even a few thousand years.  At these distances you cannot see material movement on timescales such as this.  M1 the Crab Nebula has been observed in detail for over 100 years and there hasn’t been much change seen at all and its expanding outward from the star at 3 million miles per hour!  This illusion of expansion is actually caused by light.  You are watching waves of light move throughout the cloud, as it moves it travels outward from the star creating the illusion of an expanding shell when in fact the shell isn’t a shell but instead a fairly static material cloud.  You’re actually watching the speed of light as it travels through the region.  That’s something to wrap your head around.

Name: V838 Monocerotis, V838 Mon, Nova Monocerotis 2002, Nova Mon 2002, GSC 04822-00039.

What is it?: Red Variable Star.

How far away is it?: About 20,000 light years.

Discovery Date: January 6, 2002.

Apparent Magnitude: An extremely dim 15+.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn).

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 07h 04m 04.85s / DEC −03° 50′ 50.1″.

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