Category Archives: Astro Science

The Savvy Satellite Spotting Guide

Satellite-splashStare into space on a clear, dark night and you’ll see them. Tiny dots of light moving across the sky. Some appear for a minute or so, others take several minutes to move from horizon to horizon. Many people have never seen them. Are they airplanes or meteors? No. Top secret military vehicles? Maybe. Aliens from another galaxy? Definitely not.

You’ve probably heard of airplane spotting. Welcome to the world of satellite spotting!

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45th Anniversary of Apollo 11

45 years ago today on Sunday, July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first two humans to step foot on another world. Watch the CBS News footage with Walter Cronkite. Video provided by NASA. The 60’s video technology and news graphics are interesting on their own! At 9:30 in the video, CBS shows live shots of crowds at the JFK arrivals terminal and Disneyland watching the events on jumbo screens. 

I was 4 years old and remember being at my grandparent’s house in Pittsburgh, PA. My parents woke me up at what seemed like an amazingly late hour (it was shortly before 11 pm EDT).

Where were you when Apollo 11 landed? If you weren’t born yet, do you remember first learning about it?

Site of the week: Earth Wind Map

Earth Wind Map:

Earth Wind Map –

Take a large, spinning, spheroid object with an atmosphere (like the earth), add some heating from a nearby star (like our sun), and the atmosphere of the spheroid will do some some pretty interesting things.

Take a look at this amazing website that shows the almost-live (updated every 3 hours) animated movement of our atmosphere around the planet. French scientist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis would have been proud! Perhaps you’ve heard of the Coriolis Effect? Now you can watch Coriolis do its thing!

Once you arrive at the Earth Wind Map, play with it! Use your mouse to move the earth to a different position; the mouse scroll-wheel (or Apple double-finger swipe) zooms the planet in or out. Click on “earth” in the lower-left corner to customize the view and dataset.

You can choose the altitude of the winds you want to display. The choices range from the surface (Sfc) up to 10hPa (10 hectoPascals or roughly 87,000 feet). You can also overlay world-wide temperature, precipitation, cloud moisture or sea-level pressure data. Simply amazing.

Earth Wind Map was created by Cameron Beccario. Cameron maintains a Facebook page where you’ll find updates and comments about the project.

Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary

This video is spreading in typical viral fashion. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s just awesome.

In December of 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon and became the first humans to view an “Earthrise.”  Using a combination of Apollo 8 data and data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the rocket scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center show us exactly what the astronauts were seeing and saying when the iconic earthrise images were taken. Trust me; if you’re a space geek, you’ll want to see this.

Amazing Timelapse of the Mauna Kea Observatories


Frame grab from Sean’s video

Time lapse virtuoso Sean Goebel produced a stunning video of the Mauna Kea, Hawaii observatories in action. Two and a half minutes of pure enjoyment. Filming the feature took Sean seven nights over several months. I have to assume he also spent months post-processing the thousands of images he shot.

The lasers featured in the video are used to measure atmospheric turbulence. Adaptive optics on the telescopes use the measurements to compensate for the turbulence to produce clear images.

You’ve never seen the Earth & Moon like this!

Juno & Jupiter – NASA JPL

On October 9th, NASA JPL’s Juno spacecraft did something really cool.  In order to reach Jupiter in 2016, Juno did a close fly by of earth to boost its speed by nearly 9000 mph. During this gravitational slingshot, Juno’s Magnetic Field Investigation cameras caught a time-lapse of the Big Blue Marble and its moon.

From NASA’s JPL Juno page:

“If Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise said, ‘Take us home, Scotty,’ this is what the crew would see,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. “In the movie, you ride aboard Juno as it approaches Earth and then soars off into the blackness of space. No previous view of our world has ever captured the heavenly waltz of Earth and moon.”

Yep. It’s pretty cool.

NASA’s Project Morpheus test flight – Success

Project Morpheus - NASA JSC

Project Morpheus – NASA JSC

NASA scored a win yesterday as their Morpheus Lander prototype successfully flew without a tether. Morpheus is being designed to land on the moon, Mars and even asteroids.

This successful test took place as the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.

Project Morpheus website

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