Airglow Sky


Image credit & copyright: Knate Myers.

Here’s yet another gem from photographer Knate Myers. This was shot at the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico which is still on my bucket (aka things I will likely never get do) list. If you remember, the VLA is where a large portion of the 1997 Carl Sagan film “Contact” was filmed. I really hope you guys enjoy this photo and go check out his work to include his timelapse work because it’s amazing.

The following is an excerpt from the NRAO & VLA website in regards to the VLA: The Very Large Array, one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km (22 miles) across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 meters (422 feet) in diameter.

Knate Myers:








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Arianespace, Ariane 5 Dual Payload Launch This Week

Lanceur en ZL

Image credit & copyright: Arianespace.

LAUNCH ALERT: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 21:55 UTC (17:55 EDT) Arianespace will launch the beautiful and massive heavy lift, Ariane 5 ECA rocket, designated VA232. This mission will deliver a dual payload of Intelsat 33e and Intelsat 36 communication satellites into orbit.

Launch will take place from Launch Site, Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-3 (ELA-3) at the Arianespace Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This will be the 87th launch of the Ariane 5 and its 4th launch in 2016.

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Orion’s Forgotten Gem


Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Brace yourselves, winter is coming; and we all know what that means. That’s right, long dark nights and new opportunities to aim our telescopes at some of the greatest features in the North in the Orion Neighborhood (winter triangle or winter hexagon).  Year after year, everyone’s favorite deep sky object seems to be the king of nebulae; the Orion Nebula or M42.

This year I want you to attempt something you may not have tried before, observing M43. This beautiful region isn’t the brightest but it’s a beautiful cavern carved out of the surrounding nebula by star N U Orionis (HD 37061) and even though it appears to be alone, this region is loaded with protostars just looking for their chance to awaken and shine their light into the universe.

To find M43 just find the Orion Nebula (M42). If you envision the Orion Nebula as a great flame, with the four star Trapezium being its source, look to the other side of the thick wall of material and M43 is sitting right there next to it.  You may only be able to see the host star in many smaller instruments but have a look.


There are other locations throughout M43 that you won’t be seeing in a telescope but thanks to Hubble we can observe them online where your jaw can drop safely in the comfort of your own home. The above section of M43 shows an apparent thick region of star forming material pocketed by protostars coming to life and carving out caverns in the surrounding material.  Eventually, all of the material will have been dissipated and the stars will illuminate the nearby universe.

NAME: Messier 43, M43, NGC 1982, De Mairan’s Nebula.

WHAT IS IT?: Emission nebula.

HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 4 light years in diameter.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: About 1,500 light years.


WHERE IS IT? (General): Orion (The Hunter).

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 05h 35.6m / Dec −05° 16′.

Hubblesite News Center page for this image:

Hubble page for the second image:


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When the Seven Sisters Rise, Summer Falls


Image credit & copyright: Marco Lorenzi.

If you’ve been looking, this striking, easily observable open star cluster has been rising heliacally (before the Sun) in the east within their home constellation of Taurus the Bull. For those of us here in the northern hemisphere, that visual indicates that the end of summer is near and the fall/winter constellations of the Orion neighborhood will be growing higher and earlier in the eastern sky.

This beautiful image of the Pleiades was captured by the great astrophotographer, Marco Lorenzi and it shows that the Seven Sisters are in fact more of a family gathering of a couple hundred young stars that were likely all birthed from the same star forming region about 100 million years ago. The remnants of that cloud can be seen in the wispy cloud-like highlights all throughout the cluster.

As this group travels through space at about 25 miles per second, they will eventually begin to grow apart and possibly resemble something along the lines of the Big Dipper which is believed to have once been an open star cluster as well, and in time, the cluster will be no more.

NAME: Messier 45, M45, Pleiades, Seven Sisters.

WHAT IS IT?: Open star cluster.

HOW BIG IS IT?: About 2 degrees on the night sky.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Centered about 430 light years.

APPARENT MAGNITUDE: An easily visible 1 or +1.

WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Taurus (The Bull).

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 3h 47m 24s / Dec +24° 07′ 00″.

Marco Lorenzi; Glittering Lights:


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Delta IV to Serve the U.S. Air Force


Image credit & copyright: United Launch Alliance (ULA). Much more information to include rocket data and links for live stream below.

LAUNCH ALERT: Friday, August 19, 2016 at 00:47 EDT (04:47 UTC) the United Launch Alliance (ULA), will be launching the twin AFSPC-6 satellites on a Delta IV rocket in its Medium + (4,2) configuration for the U.S. Air Force from Space Launch Complex-37 (SLC-37) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida.

This will be the ULA’s 110th launch.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket is an expendable 2 stage rocket that can fly in five different configurations.

The Delta IV Medium (Delta IV M).

Three variants of the Delta IV Medium-Plus (Delta IV M+).

The three Delta IV Medium-Plus variants are the Delta IV M+ (4,2), the Delta IV M+ (5,2) and the Delta IV M+ (5,4).

The massive and powerful Delta IV Heavy (Delta IV H).

The entire vehicle stands 207 ft. (63 m) tall and is capable of being launched from two locations; Space Launch Complex-37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), FL and Space Launch Complex-6 (SLC-6 or Slick 6) at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA.

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SpaceX JCSAT 16 Launch


Image credit & copyright: SpaceX.

LAUNCH ALERT: Sunday, August 14, 2016 at 01:26 EDT (05:26 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust (FT) rocket will be launching from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) Florida to deliver the JCSAT-16 communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit for the SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation.

This will be Space-X’s 28th Falcon 9 flight (F9-28) and the 8th flight for the Falcon FT. The parameters of this mission 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 6th landing overall; 4 on drone ships and two on land.


Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS): Were built at the Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, Louisiana, the same place that NASA’s Pegasus barge is being refitted to support the SLS program. Pegasus carried lots of equipment throughout the years but most famously the space shuttle external fuel tanks from NASA’s Michaud Plant in Louisiana to KSC.

SpaceX’s barges are 300 by 100 ft. with “wings” that extend that width to 170 ft. It has also been fitted with thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs that are able to hold balance and position to within 3 meters even in storm conditions. ASDS’s are painted black with the SpaceX “X” logo, a yellow inner ring and outer white ring acting as a bull eye. The East Coast ASDS is “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)” and the West Coast’s ship is “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).”

In total there have been three ASDS’s. The first of which was Marmac 300, a deck barge named “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).” That ASDS was used for two east coast landing attempts (CRS 5 & 6), deconstructed and retired. East Coast duties were then transferred to Marmac 304 named “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY).” A third ASDS, Marmac 303 was constructed and stationed on the West Coast where it fields launches from Vandenberg AFB, CA. Its name, “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).”

These fun yet odd names come from Scottish Sci-fi legend Iain Banks’s “Culture” series of 10 novels. They are spacecraft known as General Contact Units (GCU’s) from the novel “Player of Games.” Other spacecraft in the series (which get to name themselves) are even more entertaining such as “Size Isn’t Everything,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Death and Gravity.” Here’s a fun Wiki page with more info:

The Rocket: The greatly improved Falcon 9R FT rocket is a 2-stage partially reusable rocket with future ambitions of becoming fully reusable. The new version is 3.7 m (12 ft.) in diameter and 70 m (229.6 ft.) tall which is about 1.6 m (5.6 ft.) taller than the Falcon 9 v1.1 or “Block 2” in order to house a higher volume fuel tank. It is also fitted with upgraded Merlin family main engines. They have replaced the 9 Merlin-1D (and before them were the 1C engines), with the more powerful Merlin-1D+ engines that will provide a thrust of nearly 694,000kg (1.53 million lb.) at sea level. Each Merlin-1D+ provides 180,000 lb. (81,600 kg) of thrust at sea level, which equates to roughly a 20% increase in overall performance. If you add that with the new process of densifying the fuel and improving the overall airframe, the total gain in performance is about 33%.

Dragon Spacecraft (when in use) = 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 (when in use) = the composite payload fairing is 13.1 meters (43ft) in length and 5.2 meter (17ft) in diameter.

Second Stage: Powered by a single Merlin-1D+ Vacuum engine with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). The Merlin 1D+ are basically the same Merlin-1D engines used previously but instead of utilizing them at only 80%, they will now be operating at 100%. 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.

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 Merlin 1D+ engines are basically the same Merlin-1D engines used previously but instead of utilizing them at only 80%, they will now be operating at 100%. 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.

The first stage is fitted with four independently steerable grid fins that help control pitch, yaw and roll during vertical decent. It’s also fitted with four landing legs that will extend before touchdown.

Watch Live:

SpaceX Webcast:

SpaceX YouTube (Hosted Webcast):

SpaceX YouTube (Technical Webcast):


45th Space Wing L-1 Weather Forecast:

SKY Perfect JCSAT Corp, JCSAT-16 Mission:


SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 page:

Elon Musk Twitter:

SpaceX Twitter:

SpaceX Facebook:

SpaceX YouTube:

SpaceX Google Plus:

SpaceX Flickr:

SpaceX launches (Wiki):

SpaceX booster landing attempts (Wiki):

SpaceX Stats:

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The Coiled Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy NGC 1097

Image credit & copyright: European Southern Observatory (ESO).

50 million light years away in the southern constellation, Fornax (furnace) is this beautiful barred spiral galaxy cataloged as NGC 1097. The sweeping blue spiral arms dotted with pink star forming regions and vast dust lanes are a sight to see.

In this image you can see a smaller elliptical satellite galaxy cataloged as NGC 1097A near the top of the image and in addition to that you may have noticed the beautiful bright ring near the core of this galaxy. This ring is roughly 5,000 light years in diameter and is bursting with stellar formation.  This ring is being powered by a supermassive black hole with a mass of 140 million times that of our Sun.

Below is an image of this beautiful galaxy in infrared provided by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged a wild creature of the dark -- a coiled galaxy with an eye-like object at its center.

NAME: NGC 1097.

WHAT IS IT?: Barred spiral galaxy.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: About 50 million light years.

HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 80,000 light years in diameter.


WHERE IS IT? (General): Southern constellation Fornax (Furnace).

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 02h 46m 19.0s / Dec −30° 16′ 30”.

ESO source for this image:

Spitzer page for the infrared image:

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