In the Sky This Week – August 8, 2017
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Venus is a bit lower in the eastern predawn sky, and Orion is fully visible now before sunrise. The waxing gibbous Moon, just days after full,  rises in the east with the sunset, and sets in the west with at dawn. Jupiter is low in the western sky, and visible for only a short time. Saturn is high in the southern sky after sunset, and sets about 2:00 AM. The Perseid Meteor shower peaks the evening of August 11-12th; the Moon will be at Third-Quarter on August 14th. Apps used for this post: Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. NASA Eyes on the Solar System: an immersive 3D solar system and space mission app – free for the PC /MAC. Also in In the Sky This Week Weekly post on what you can see in the sky. In the Sky This Week – June 22, 2017 In the Sky This Week – June 27, 2017 In the Sky This … Continue reading

What’s in the Sky July 25, 2017
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Venus is still bright in the eastern predawn sky, but a little bit lower each morning. The constellation Orion is rising with the dawn; a little more of the constellation visible each morning. A wafer-thin waxing crescent Moon will be visible for a short time after sunset in the west on July 25th. Jupiter is visible low in the southwestern sky, and will be a little lower in the sky each evening after sunset. Saturn is high in the southern sky, and is a great target for telescope observers. Jupiter will be a scant 3° South of the Moon after sunset on July 28th. The Moon will be at First Quarter on the evening of July 30th, surrounded by Jupiter and Saturn, and the Southern Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower peaks on July 29-30th; this would be a great evening to host an astronomy outreach event! Apps used for this post: Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. NASA … Continue reading

Across the Universe: Immigrant Stars
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The following column was published in The Tablet in November 2010 Orion is rising at around 8 pm this time of year, a harbinger of winter. If you have dark skies, no clouds, and a good southern horizon, look about midnight low in the sky for a pair of stars beneath Orion’s feet. They point to a globular cluster of stars called M79. It’s a pleasant sight in a small telescope. Globular clusters consist of half a million stars grouped into a ball only a few light years across. They’re thought to be the framework around which galaxies formed some ten billion years ago; thus they are mostly found orbiting about the centers of galaxies. But this time of year the center of our Milky Way galaxy, with most its globular clusters, lies on the opposite side of the sky from us, among the stars visible only in summertime. So what’s M79 doing here, all by itself, on this side … Continue reading

NASA Tests Solid Rocket Boosters for its Space Launch System
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NASA tested a Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) for the world’s most powerful rocket: the Space Launch System (SLS) on the morning of June 28, 2016. This was the second qualification ground test at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah, and the last full-scale test of the SRB before the first uncrewed SLS test flight in 2018. This flight will include NASA’s Orion spacecraft, and will mark a key milestone in NASA’s future plans for operations beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and voyages and Mars The booster was tested at 40 degrees Fahrenheit –the low end of its accepted propellant temperature range. After ignition, temperatures inside the booster reached nearly 6,000 degrees. The test lasted for two-minutes, and provided NASA with data on 82 qualification objectives needed for flight certification. Solid Rocket Booster Details Length: 177 feet Diameter: 12 feet Weight: 1.6 million pounds each Propellant: polybutadiene acrylonitrile (PBAN) Thrust: 3.6 million pounds each Operational time: 126 seconds SLS Homepage: … Continue reading

Travelogue: Orion Spacecraft ESA European Service Module Media Event at NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station
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Launches and the conditions in space put incredible stresses on spacecraft components. Before a spacecraft takes flight, it must go through an exhaustive series of testing procedures. Many of those tests are done at Ohio’s NASA Glenn Research Center – Plum Brook Station; stresses akin to those experienced by spacecraft are simulated at this facility. I was fortunate enough to be “media guest” at the Nov. 30th ESA Service Module event – which was broadcast on NASA TV. Below is a NASA press release on the testing that will be done on the ESA European Service Module. After, I’ll share photos of the facility, and comments on discussions I had with NASA officials. NASA is about to begin testing the heart of Orion’s power systems at the world’s largest, most powerful space environment simulation facility early next year. Test engineers at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Space Power Facility (SPF) in Sandusky, Ohio, are preparing to put a full-size test version … Continue reading

Orion Test Flight a Success
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Dec 5, 2014 7:05 a.m. EST NASA’s Orion spacecraft was launched successfully on board a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37. The Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), is the first test flight of NASA’s new deep space capsule, and is a critical next step in NASA’s future journeys to asteroids and Mars. During the The 4.5 hour flight, Orion orbited the Earth twice, reaching a peak altitude of 5,800 km (3,600 miles). The spacecraft reached reentry speeds of up to 32,000 km/h (20,000 mph), exposing the heat shield to temperatures around 2,200 °C (4,000 °F) – 80% of the temperature it would experience during reentry from a lunar mission. The Orion capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean approximately 600 southwest of San Diego. More on Orion: http://www.nasa.gov/orion/ … Continue reading