Millions of people around the planet have seen NASA’s Perseverance Rover descent and touchdown video – I’ve watched it over and over! I tweeted that this landing made me feel like a kid during the Apollo era again! Cameras were not part of the rover’s initial design – and were allowed to be added with the ideas that “they won’t do any harm to the rover, and IF they work, great… you get what you get.” Well what NASA got was a video seen across the globe, and a HUGE positive media boost – not to mention the invaluable engineering data these cameras have provided. Can I just put out there that cameras should be default part of EVERY NASA mission from now on? Look at the Juno mission to Jupiter – the insanely popular citizen-scientist processed images and videos from Juno were obtained from a camera that was not originally part of the mission’s specs, but were added as … Continue reading →
About Bob Trembley
Bob is a lifelong amateur astronomer, and the 2019 outreach officer for the Warren Astronomical Society, and a volunteer NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. Bob does a lot of astronomy outreach - he lectures about astronomy and space science, and sets up his telescopes at schools, planetariums, conventions, and other venues. From 2014-2016, he was the editor of the Warren Astronomical Society's newsletter.
Bob is fantastically interested in asteroids and near-Earth objects (NEOs), and a HUGE fan of Kerbal Space Program; he is determined to improve the teaching of astronomy and Space History throughout Michigan, and the U.S. Follow Bob on Twitter, Facebook, The Web, and YouTube.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lands on Thursday Feb. 18th, and NASA is inviting the public to take part in virtual activities and events as the rover nears entry, descent, and landing. Touchdown on Mars is scheduled for approximately 3:55 p.m. EST Thursday! This will be the second landing on Mars using the sky crane maneuver to lower the heavy rover down to the surface. The waxing crescent Moon appears high in the west-southwestern sky after sunset on Feb. 16th. The Moon appears near Mars high in the southern sky after sunset on Feb. 18th, then by the star Aldebaran on Feb. 19th and 20th. Mercury and Saturn appear low above the east-southeastern horizon before dawn this week; by early next week those two planets will be a bit higher above the horizon, and Jupiter will join them. In a previous post, I wondered if a space telescope observing the Sun would catch a glimpse of these planets… sure did! … Continue reading →
The waxing crescent Moon appears in the southwestern sky around sunset on Feb. 13th. Mars appears high in the southern sky after sunset, near the constellation Taurus and the Pleiades star cluster; the constellations Orion and Canis Major appear to the east of Mars in the southeastern sky. The Orion nebula makes a great observing and astrophotography target after sunset till about 1:00 AM. This week, the bright star Capella appears low above the north-northwestern horizon before dawn. The Moon is a waning crescent – visible low to the east before sunrise. The new Moon occurs on Feb.11th – deep sky astrophotographers rejoice as the Moon will not be visible. After Feb. 11th, the Moon will be a waxing crescent – visible to the southwest in the early evening. If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2021 page – it will show you what the Moon … Continue reading →
From now through next week, there will be an astounding mega-conjunction of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the in the east-southeastern sky morning sky. The planets change positions quite a bit each morning, with Venus dancing with Saturn on Feb. 5th and 6th and then with Jupiter on Feb. 11th. Mercury joins the planet party on Feb. 8th, gaining altitude each morning until it appears much higher above the horizon than the other three planets by Feb 16th. This mega-conjunction would be even better if it was visible to us humans living on the planet, but that pesky atmosphere makes the planets invisible to all but the most determined daytime planet hunters (and I do happen to know some of those). On Feb. 16th Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are all aligned along the plane of the Ecliptic… and then there’s Mercury – hanging out high above Jupiter. Seen from this vantage point, Mercury’s orbital inclination is highly evident! Maybe … Continue reading →
I know quite a few astrophotographers! During online meetings of the Warren Astronomical Society, members show astrophotos they’ve recently captured and processed; even their “bad ones” are awe-inspiring! Here’s a beautiful pic by Adrian Bradley: A couple of these astrophotographers regularly livestream their telescope sessions for the public to view: Doug Bock & Dr. Brian Ottum. A few results from the Virtual open house of the Warren Astronomical Society on November 28, 2020NGC 7635 Bubble nebula, M 15 Globular Cluster, M 42 the Orion Nebula, NGC 7380. pic.twitter.com/cXBkgJPdfq — Doug Bock (@Mars_1956) December 1, 2020 All three of these astrophotographers that I just shamelessly plugged helped with the Astronomy at the Beach event last September. Venus appears very low above the southeastern horizon before sunrise – appearing lower each morning. Jupiter and Saturn are now lost in the glare of the Sun. Mercury is visible in the southwestern sky at dusk – appearing slightly higher each evening. Mars appears high … Continue reading →
Venus appears very low above the southeastern horizon before sunrise. Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury continue to form a triple conjunction in the southwestern sky at dusk – Saturn may be a bit difficult to see; Mercury appears slightly higher above the horizon each evening. Mercury appears in the southwestern sky at dusk – the Moon joins Mercury on the evening of Jan 15th. Mars appears high in the southern sky after sunset; the constellations Orion, Taurus and Canis Major appear lower and to the east of Mars. If you look almost straight up at 3:00 AM, you can sky-hop from the Big Dipper to Arcturus and Spica. The Moon is a waning crescent – visible low to the east before sunrise. The new Moon occurs on Jan. 13th – the Moon will be hidden in the glare of the Sun. After Jan. 13th, the Moon will be a waxing crescent – visible toward the southwest in early evening. If … Continue reading →
For the images in this week’s “In the Sky” post, I turned light pollution off in Stellarium – these images show a multitude of stars you cannot see from an urban or suburban locations. I remember camping at a VERY dark sky location in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and not being able to find any familiar guide stars because there were SO MANY stars! This is one of the best reasons to get away from the city lights, and visit a dark sky location! Mercury is visible low above the southwestern horizon at sunset – appearing a bit higher above the horizon each evening. Jupiter and Saturn are also visible low above the southwestern horizon at sunset – appearing a bit lower each evening. The three planets join to form a triple conjunction on Jan 10th, but it may be a challenge to observe due to the nearness to sunset. Mars appears high in the southwestern sky after sunset, and through … Continue reading →
Jupiter and Saturn appear above the southwestern horizon at dusk – they continue to move away from each other with each night. As the Earth’s orbit brings the Sun between us and the pair of planets, they set shortly after sunset, and will not be visible after the first week of 2021. Mars and Uranus appear above the southeastern horizon at dusk – they appear above western horizon around midnight; Mars sets in the west shortly before 2:00 AM. Venus appears in the southeastern predawn sky all week – appearing much lower than it has been in recent weeks. The constellation Orion appears in the southeastern sky at 8:00 PM – the Moon appears in the constellation Gemini from Dec. 29-30th. The constellations Ursa Major and Leo appear in the east-northeastern sky at 1:00 AM – the Moon appears in Leo from Jan 2-4th. The full Moon occurs on Dec, 30th – rising at sunset, visible high in the sky … Continue reading →
One of the more positive aspects of 2020 has been several successful sample return missions: the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HAYABUSA2 mission has successfully returned 5.4 grams of rocks and dust from the asteroid Ryugu, the China National Space Administration’s ChangE5 mission returned 1,731 grams of lunar regolith, and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample head was overflowing with material taken from the surface of asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is due back at Earth in 2023. These missions have me seriously excited, and I hope they are the beginning of a near-future filled with sample return missions! After yesterday’s “Great Conjunction,” Jupiter and Saturn will move slightly away from each other every night – they’ll be great observing targets for that new telescope you got for Christmas! When I created this image, I saw a pattern of stars above Jupiter and Saturn that I did not recognize – I clicked on one and found it was a string of #Starlink satellites. Mars, … Continue reading →
Jupiter and Saturn appear in the southwestern sky at dusk, getting closer getting closer to the Dec. 21 conjunction with each passing day! The waxing crescent Moon joins the pair of planets on Dec. 16 & 17. Venus appears in the southeastern predawn sky all week, getting closer to the horizon with each passing day. Mars, Uranus, the Pleiades star cluster and the bright star Aldebaran appear in the east-southeastern sky after sunset this week. The constellation Lyra, with the bright star Vega appear above the western horizon after sunset this week. The Moon is a waxing crescent- visible toward the southwest in early evening. The first quarter Moon occurs on Dec, 21st – visible high in the southern sky in early evening. If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2020 page – it will show you what the Moon looks like right now. If you … Continue reading →
A small satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle – detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology – has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development. On Nov. 24, the Lunar Trailblazer, a mission selected under NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program, passed its Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C) milestone, obtaining agency-level endorsement to begin final design of hardware and build. The milestone also provides the project’s official schedule and budget determination. “Lunar Trailblazer will confirm whether water on the Moon is tightly bound in crystalline rock, as recently suggested by NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) observations, or loosely bound and mobile as a function of temperature,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This SIMPLEx mission bolsters our portfolio of targeted science missions designed to test pioneering technologies while … Continue reading →
Jupiter and Saturn appear in the southwestern sky at dusk, getting closer together with each passing evening. Mercury and Venus appear in the east-southeastern predawn sky all week – Mercury may be difficult to spot this week being so near the horizon. Mars appears high in the southeastern sky after sunset – the waxing gibbous Moon appears near Mars on Nov. 25th The constellations Orion and Taurus appear in the eastern sky a few hours after sunset, and move across the southern sky to appear in the western sky before sunrise. The Moon is a waxing gibbous – visible to the southeast in early evening, and up for most of the night. The full Moon occurs on Nov. 30th – it rises at sunset, is visible high in the sky around midnight, and is visible all night. If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2020 page … Continue reading →