Tag Archive: astronomy

Live near DC? Be sure to check out the sky at 10:11 pm tonight.



PRESS RELEASE from National Capital Astronomers


Friday evening, June 21st, the International Space Station will fly high above the National Capital area, very likely becoming the brightest object in the sky, except the Moon. Weather permitting, the space station should be easily seen using just the naked eye. Even if numerous clouds are present, the station is now so bright that she can be dramatic between clouds, or behind light cloud.

ISS will rise between the WNW and the northwest about 10:11 pm EDT, moving up and slightly to the left. About 4 minutes later, very high in the southwest, she will culminate at about 68 degrees over azimuth 219. About 2 seconds later, ISS will pass about 1 degree above the very bright star, Arcturus, alpha Bootis. About 42 seconds later, she will pass about 20 degrees above the Moon in the SSE, being about 47 degrees altitude above azimuth 157 degrees. About 14 seconds later, ISS will disappear into the shadow of the Earth, being about 40 degrees above 151 degrees. 

It is not possible to give the exact time of the passage, but there is an excellent chance that these times are within just a very few minutes of the actual flyover. 

ISS will appear as a bright moving point, perhaps similar in appearance to a distant airliner. Very distant, as she will come no closer than 279 miles, and will be moving 5 miles per second.
Credit is due to the Flight Dynamics Office of the Johnson Space Center for supplying data used in producing these indications of visibility.


This image from Mars has been generating some controversy, mostly because NASA identified the shiny object as “part of the rock” while the rest of us squint and imagine loftier origins.

What’s your take?

130103-coslog-plastic-1215p.photoblog900(photo credit NBCnews.com)

Of course, this follows the last head-scratcher from October…NASA decided this must have been plastic that shook loose from Curiosity itself.

imagesizer(photo credit NBCnews.com)

Gotta wonder how many ‘unusual’ objects the rover isn’t picking up given what a tiny percentage of the surface it can examining.

Watch the ISS fly by today!

iss2_sts114Friday afternoon, December 14th, the ISS will fly high above the National Capital (DC) area, likely becoming the brightest object in the sky. The space station should be easily seen with the naked eye, even if there’s light cloud cover. ISS will appear as a bright moving point, perhaps similar in appearance to a distant airliner. Very distant, as she will come no closer than 318 miles, and will be moving 5 miles per second.

ISS will rise in the W/SW sky about 5:43 pm EST, moving up and to the right. About a minute later, she will pass about 11 degrees right of the very thin Moon at a low altitude. About two minutes later, she will be due West at an altitude of 35 degrees. A minute later, she will culminate fairly high in the northwest. Two minutes after culminating, ISS will disappear into the shadow of the Earth low in the northeastern sky.

It is not possible to give exact times of the passage, but these times should be plus/minus just a few minutes of the actual flyover. If you’re outside no later than 5:40pm and hang out for 10 minutes, you likely can’t miss it.

On a personal note, I’ve witnessed this flyover a couple of times. She looks like a bright sphere, kinda like a UFO. It is awe-inspiring to see for ourselves that we’re up there!

If you want to see the schedule for upcoming flyovers, you can enter your zip code here and get the local times to eye the sky.

Source: Internal email from NASA (not confidential)
Image from Astronomy Picture of the Day by NASA

Time to break out the hot chocolate and bundle up for a long night. Tonight is the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower (BBC News). This year should be even better since it coincides with the new moon. This is definitely worth braving the cold!

Take a look at UniverseToday’s map (below)…the red X marks the spot where the meteors will originate. Even if you can’t find the spot, keep your eyes on the east/northeast sky and you’re likely to catch the action. You might have 10 minutes without anything, but you might have 10 minutes with 30 meteors. Keep in mind a lot of your visibility can be affected by air and light pollution. Here’s Visual Astronomy’s tips on getting around that.

geminids-580x397Best times to be watching the sky is from twilight until the wee hours. 2pm is predicted (EarthSky) to be the best local time (anywhere you live) since it marks the point where Gemini is directly overhead of your location.

If you’d rather stay inside, NASA will be airing the shower live on their Ustream channel from Marshall Spaceflight Center (starting at dusk) as well as answering questions LIVE (starting 11pm EST) via NASA chat.

And if you’re a stargazing buff, check out the International Meteor Organization for all the boring data like vectors and radiants.