Soyuz From Vostochny Cosmodrome

Images credit & copyright: Roscosmos.

Launch Alert! Tuesday, November 28 at 05:41 UTC (12:41 EST) a Soyuz 2-1B will lift off from Site-1S at Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome for the second launch in the new site’s history carrying the Russian M2-1 Meteor polar-orbiting satellite as well as a number of secondary payloads.

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The Legendary Delta II to Take Flight from CA Next Week

Images credit & copyright: NASA & United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Launch Alert! Stay up late or get up early because on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 01:47 PST (04:47 EST & 09:47 UTC) the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will be launching the legendary Delta II rocket, flying in its 7920-10C configuration carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) into a Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) from Space Launch Complex 2 West (SLC-2W or Slick 2), Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), CA.

NOTE: With Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 17B (SLC-17B) having been inactive since 2011, Vandenberg’s SLC-2W is the only location that the Delta II launches from.

This will be ULA’s 123rd launch overall, the Delta II’s 154th flight overall and its 53rd for NASA.

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Cygnus, S.S. Gene Cernan to Resupply Station

Images credit & copyright: NASA & Orbital ATK.

LAUNCH ALERT: Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 07:14 EST (12:14 UTC) an Orbital ATK Antares 230 rocket will be launching from Launch Pad 0A (LP-0A) at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the South end of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), Virginia, carrying the Cygnus cargo ship (S.S. Gene Cernan/Cygnus 9) as part of Orbital ATK-8 (OA-8) to resupply the International Space Station (ISS).

After rendezvous with Station on Monday, November 13, it will be grappled via Canadarm2 and berthed to the Earth facing (nadir) side of Station’s Unity Module (Node-1) where it’s scheduled to remain until approximately December 4 before being loaded with waste and released to disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere.

This will be the 7th launch of the Antares rocket, the second launch of Antares in its 230 configuration, the 8th of 10 contracted launches of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft and the 5th “enhanced” version of Cygnus.

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Messier 104, Sombrero Galaxy

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

The Sombrero Galaxy or M-104 is located about 28 million light years away in the constellation of Virgo. In this Hubble Space Telescope, 6 photo mosaic, we view this spiral galaxy edge-on (actually a very shallow 6 degrees north of its equatorial plane). Because of this positioning, astronomers can glean quite a bit of detail as to the thickness, density and composition of the massive ring of gas and dust or “dark stratum” as William Herschel noted, that surrounds the galactic plane. The massive central bulge is the other easily noticeable feature that helped to deliver the nickname, Sombrero Galaxy.

Also surrounding the galaxy (above and below the galactic plane) is an extremely vast system of globular clusters that number around 2000. That’s roughly 10 times more globular clusters than our Milky Way galaxy. They are similar however, in the fact that they are an estimated 10-13 billion years old and are some of the oldest features in the galaxy. Also housed in the galaxy is, at its center a Super-massive Black Hole with a mass of a monstrous one billon Suns.

A little known fact here is that Charles Messier only catalogued 103 objects in his collection of non-comets though the current catalogue runs through 109. Well, in 1921 Nicholas Camille Flammarion, a French astronomer and a colleague to Charles Messier found a short list of 6 objects that messier had been observing but had not yet added into his catalogue. One of those objects was a hand written note about the galaxy but it took time to find that out. After much research it was determined that the object described in the notes concurred with the object associated with NGC 4594 in the New General Catalogue (an updated and modern list of John Frederick William Herschel’s Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars). It was then they were added into the Messier Catalogue with the other 5 objects as M104 through M-109.

The following is a beautiful thought put to paper by Mr. Camille Flammarion that after reading, I thought appropriate to include:

“What intelligent being, what being capable of responding emotionally to a beautiful sight, can look at the jagged, silvery lunar crescent trembling in the azure sky, even through the weakest of telescopes, and not be struck by it in an intensely pleasurable way, not feel cut off from everyday life here on earth and transported toward that first stop on the celestial journeys? What thoughtful soul could look at brilliant Jupiter with its four attendant satellites, or splendid Saturn encircled by its mysterious ring, or a double star glowing scarlet and sapphire in the infinity of night, and not be filled with a sense of wonder? Yes, indeed, if humankind — from humble farmers in the fields and toiling workers in the cities to teachers, people of independent means, those who have reached the pinnacle of fame or fortune, even the most frivolous of society women — if they knew what profound inner pleasure await those who gaze at the heavens, then France, nay, the whole of Europe, would be covered with telescopes instead of bayonets, thereby promoting universal happiness and peace.” — Camille Flammarion, 1880
– He also has a writing called “End of The World”….look it up sometime.

Name: Messier 104, M104, NGC 4594 or the Sombrero Galaxy and sometimes called Dark Saturn.

What is it?: Spiral galaxy viewed edge on.

How far away is it?: 28 million light years or 9 megaparsecs distant.

How big is it?: This image is roughly 10 arcminutes (82,000 light years or 25,000 parsecs) wide so the galaxy itself is around 50,000 light years across or about 8×4 arcminutes.

Apparent magnitude?: Around 9 or +9 so although it’s too dim to view naked eye, it’s attainable in small to medium telescopes.

Discovery: May 11, 1781 by French astronomer, Pierre Mechain.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Virgo.

Where is it? (RA/Dec J2000): R.A. 12h 39m 59s.43 / Dec. -11° 37′ 23″.

NASA Hubblesite page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/pr2003028a/

Hubblesite News Center page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2003/28/fastfacts/

NASA Astronomy Picture of The Day (APOD) page for this photo: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110515.html

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SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch Koreasat 5A

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX. Live streaming links and mission information at the bottom. Check back for updates.

Launch Alert!: Monday October 30, 2017 at 15:34 EDT (19:34 UTC) a SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket (Booster B1042.1) will lift off from Kennedy Space Center’s legendary Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) carrying the Koreasat 5A communications satellite built by Thales Alenia into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Stats: This will be SpaceX’s 16th launch of 2017 and the 44th Falcon 9 flight overall. The parameters of this mission will allow for a landing on their East Coast Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY), allowing them to forego landing back at Cape Canaveral at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) (former LC-13) or losing the booster to the sea. If successful this will be SpaceX’s 19th landing overall; 12 on drone ships and 7 on land.

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Orionids Meteor Shower Looks Good This Weekend

Image Credit & Copyright: Brad Goldpaint of the Perseid meteor shower (check below for Brad’s links).

Basics: Friday, October 20 to Sunday, October 22, 2017 the annual Orionids meteor shower will be at its peak.  As with all meteor showers there’s an estimated viewing window or, “active dates” which in this case runs the entire last half of October and even into November a bit.  Peak viewing however is usually narrowed down to a few days or even a single night through the following morning.

This year’s peak hourly rates will be around 30 per hour and you will want to be looking in the general direction of Orion in the north.  This is a primarily Northern Hemisphere show and this year that big floodlight in the night sky (the Moon) will still be in its new moon phase so it will have no impact at all.  My “Just the Facts” section is below if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing.

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Now is the Time to Observe Uranus

Image credit & copyright: NASA/JPL Voyager 2.

Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 13:21 EDT (17:21 UTC) the ice giant, Uranus will reach opposition which means now is the time to observe the seventh planet. Located in the constellation Pisces, the 15, 759 mi. (25,361 km) diameter green/blue sphere is directly opposite the Sun from our vantage point here on Earth which gives us a full disk view while being placed at its closest point to earth (roughly). As this event falls on new moon night, the 5.7 magnitude Uranus will be within naked eye visibility range which is a relatively rare treat.

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