Wednesday, April 21, 2021

UPDATE: Watch Live: SpaceX Crew-2 Launch Early FRIDAY AM

The crew for the second long-duration SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2

NASA's SpaceX Crew Dragon Crew-2 are pictured at the SpaceX training facility in Hawthorne, California. Standing from left-to-right: Mission Specialist Thomas Pesquet of the ESA (European Space Agency); Pilot Megan McArthur of NASA; Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA; and Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide of the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

(Image Sources: SpaceX, NASA)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

UPDATE: Due to unfavorable weather conditions along the SpaceX Crew Dragon flight-path on Thursday, the SpaceX Crew-2 launch has been delayed until Friday Morning, 2021 April 23 at 5:49 a.m. EDT / 9:49 UTC; NASA-TV coverage begins Friday morning at 1:30 a.m. EDT / 5:30 UTC. Originally, the Crew-2 launch had been scheduled for Earth Day (Thursday Morning, 2021 April 22) at 6:11 a.m. EDT / 10:11 UTC, with NASA-TV coverage beginning at 2:00 a.m. EDT / 6:00 UTC. Crew-2 docking with the International Space Station is now scheduled around 5:10 a.m. EDT / 9:10 UTC on Saturday Morning, 2021 April 24; the docking had previously been scheduled at 5:30 a.m. EDT / 9:30 UTC on April 23.

The second operational launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with four Crew-2 astronauts, to the International Space Station (ISS), will occur early on Friday morning. An Internet link to live coverage of the launch can be found near the end of this blog-post.

This SpaceX launch includes two NASA astronauts: Pilot Megan McArthur and Commander Shane Kimbrough, along with two international partner astronauts: Mission Specialist Thomas Pesquet of the ESA (European Space Agency) and Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide of the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). SpaceX was founded in 2002 by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule with the Crew-2 astronauts, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is scheduled to launch early on Friday Morning, 2021 April 23 at 5:49 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 9:49 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The launch will occur from Launch Complex 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, at Cape Canaveral on Merritt Island, Florida. This is the same launch pad which saw the launch of the Apollo missions to the Moon, 1968 to 1972, and the Space Shuttle missions beginning on 1981 April 12; Space Shuttle missions concluded on 2011 July 21.

NASA-TV, available through the NASA Internet web-site, will provide live coverage of the launch, beginning on April 23 at 1:30 a.m. EDT / 5:30 UTC (Internet link to the NASA-TV web-page near the end of this blog-post). NASA will provide coverage of the pre-launch, launch, docking, and arrival activities for the second crew rotation flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the ISS at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT / 9:10 UTC on Saturday Morning, 2021 April 24.

Crew Dragon Crew-1, the first SpaceX operational launch and mission occurred in November of last year, when four astronauts traveled to the International Space Station for a half-year stay. The very first SpaceX astronaut mission to the ISS was a demonstration mission, launching two astronauts, on 2020 May 30. The Crew-2 astronauts will join the other members of Expedition 65, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency), for a six-month mission.

The main mission for Crew-2 is studying how human tissue is affected by micro-gravity. It is a mistaken belief that astronauts are “weight-less” or experience “0-G” (i.e. no gravity). Actually, some gravity always exists, even in Outer Space. Although it may seem that Earth gravity barely affects astronauts, this is not quite true. Astronauts, experiencing micro-gravity, are actually in free-fall (actually falling towards the Earth, but staying in Earth orbit due to the speed of ISS). With the ISS flying at an average altitude of 250 miles / 400 kilometers above the Earth, the astronauts only weigh about 10 per-cent less than what they would weigh on Earth. Also, gravity ensures that the International Space Station stays in orbit of our planet.

The micro-gravity research also will look at possible causes for suppressed immune response in micro-gravity. If micro-gravity affects the immune systems of astronauts, this would be an additional problem for long-term space travel.

Another important goal of the Crew-2 mission is updating the ISS solar power system. A Roll-out Solar Array (iROSA), compact solar panels that roll-out like a large exercise mat, is scheduled to be installed outside the ISS during this mission.

Originally, this launch was to occur just a couple hours prior to the official peak of the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower, which peaks at 8:00 a.m. EDT / 12:00 UTC on Earth Day (Thursday Morning, 2021 April 22). The Lyrid Meteor Shower consists of particles and dust from Comet Thatcher, which enter Earth's atmosphere as Earth traverses the particle stream in Outer Space.

Although for some people in eastern North America, this meteor shower peak occurs after sunrise. The best time to view most meteor showers is between Midnight and Dawn, when Earth is rotating into the meteor shower. So, people who wish to view this year's Lyrid Meteor Shower should do so a few hours before sunrise on Earth Day. However, this year the brightness of the waxing gibbous Moon may drown-out some of the dimmer meteors, so only bright meteors may be visible.

Internet Link to NASA Live-Stream of SpaceX Launch:

Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

Internet Links to Additional Informaion ---

 SpaceX Crew Dragon Crew-2 Mission -

Link 1 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/coverage-set-for-nasa-s-spacex-crew-2-briefings-events-broadcasts 

Link 2 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/crew-2-microgravity-science-space-station

Link 3 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/crew/index.html 

Link 4 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Crew-2 

SpaceX >>> https://www.spacex.com/

NASA >>> https://www.nasa.gov/

Related Blog-Post ---

"Live Web-cast Sun. Night: Historic SpaceX, 1st Operational Astronaut Launch." Sun., 2020 Nov. 15.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/11/live-web-cast-historic-spacex-1st.html 


"UPDATE: Web & Cablecasts: Historic SpaceX Astronaut Launch Sat. Afternoon." Wed., 2020 May 27.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/05/web-cablecasts-historic-spacex.html 


"SpaceX Public, On-Line Simulator: Docking w/ Space Station." Tue., 2020 May 19.

 Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/05/spacex-public-on-line-simulator-docking.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

                 Wednesday, 2021 April 21.

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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Watch Live: Mars Helicopter Takes Historic 1st Flight Early Mon. AM

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. This image was captured by the Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover on the following sol, April 8, 2021.

 Ingenuity Helicopter / Drone on the surface of Mars, preparing for first test flight.

(Image Sources: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory / California Institute of Technology, Arizona State University)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Early Monday morning (2021 April 19) will be the re-scheduled attempt at the first test flight of the Ingenuity Helicopter / Drone above the surface of Mars. Results and an event "live-stream" of this historic, first powered flight, over the surface of another planetary body, will be available on-line to the general public, just a few hours after the attempt of the first autonomous flight, due to the distance between Earth and Mars.

An Internet link to the live-stream is located near the end of this blog-post.

NASA states that this attempt will occur “no earlier than” April 19. The time of the re-scheduled attempt on April 19 will be around 3:15 to 3:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 7:15 to 7:30 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). However, the public on-line, live-stream will not begin until about 6:15 a.m. EDT / 10:15 UTC, due to the distance between Earth and Mars.

When the first attempt occurs, it will only last 30 seconds, to enure that flight in the very thin Martian atmosphere is possible. Later in the following weeks will come four more test flights, in which Ingenuity will fly over the Martian surface, not far from the Perseverance Mars Rover.

Engineers at the Space Flight Operations Facility of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California are being very careful with the Mars Helicopter Technology Demonstration Project. If anything happens that tips Ingenuity on its side, there is no one on Mars to up-right the helicopter. This would, probably, mean the end of this technology demonstration project.

This is the reason for the delay in the first test flight attempt, which was originally scheduled for April 11. On April 9, NASA determined that Ingenuity had a command sequence problem. So, the first flight attempt was delayed until JPL engineers had a chance to understand the problem and create a solution. A helicopter spin-test was recently completed by JPL.

The Perseverance Rover will provide flight operations support for Ingenuity, as well as taking images and other environmental data during the flight. Perseverance will also provide the communications link between Ingenuity and the Earth. To provide a safe buffer zone for the helicopter, Perseverance will be located approximately 330 feet / 100 meters from the take-off site.

If the first Mars Helicopter flight does occur on April 19, in addition to the the live-stream of the event that morning, a JPL news conference regarding the historic event will occur later in the afternoon, at 2:00 p.m. EDT / 18:00 UTC.

NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter / Drone project is the first attempt at powered, controlled flight over the surface of another planet. Making this attempt even more challenging is the fact that Ingenuity must be autonomous. No one at JPL's mission control will be guiding the helicopter, because it takes too long for control commands to be communicated by radio.

Ingenuity is a technology experiment which is separate from the other science experiments on Perseverance. Should the Mars Helicopter test succeed, this could add a new, aerial dimension to future exploration of the Red Planet, and perhaps other planets and moons with an atmosphere.

The Mars Helicopter was launched to Mars, tucked under the Perseverance Rover, on 2020 July 30. They landed together at the Octavia E. Butler Landing Site (named for the renowned American science-fiction author) in the Jezero Crater on Mars on 2021 February 18. Ingenuity separated from Perseverance and was deployed on the Martian surface on April 3. The helicopter's rotors were successfully unlocked on April 8.

On Ingenuity is a small piece of history from the beginning of powered flight on Earth: a piece of fabric from the wing of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers' airplane which was the first to succeed in the first controlled, powered flight on Earth.

Internet Link to NASA Live-Stream of Ingenuity Helicopter First Flight Attempt:

Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

Internet Links to Additional Informaion ---

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter / Drone -

Link 1 >>> https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter/#Quick-Facts 

Link 2 >>> https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press_kits/ingenuity/landing/ 

Link 3 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingenuity_(helicopter)

Perseverance Mars Rover -

Link 1 >>> https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/ 

Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseverance_(rover)

Planet Mars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

Related Blog Posts ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2021 April / 1st Flight of Mars Helicopter in April." Thur., 2021 April 1.

 Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/04/astro-calendar-2021-april-1st-flight-of.html  


"NASA Laser Retroreflector Going to Mars on Perseverance Rover." Wed., 2020 Oct. 7.

 Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/10/nasa-laser-retroreflector-going-to-mars.html

 

"Thur.-AM U.S. Joins China & U.A.E in Race to Mars; Watch Launch Live."

Mon., 2020 July 27.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/07/thur-am-us-joins-china-uae-in-race-to.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

                 Sunday, 2021 April 18.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Astro-Calendar: 2021 April / 1st Flight of Mars Helicopter in April

                    Ingenuity Helicopter with fully deployed legs.png

NASA's Ingenuity Robotic Helicopter is shown on Mars, attached to the underside of the Perseverance Rover in fully vertical position with fully deployed legs before detaching from the rover. NASA plans to conduct the first test flight of Ingenuity sometime this month, no earlier than April 11.

More information: https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter/

 (Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA - https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/multimedia/raw-images/SI1_0039_0670409192_132ECM_N0031392SRLC07000_000085J, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=102686127)

Astronomical Calendar for 2021 April ---
Link >>> https://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2021.html#apr

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2021 March / Space Station Space-walk March 5 AM."

Monday, 2021 March 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/03/astro-calendar-2021-march-space-station.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
            Thursday, 2021 April 1.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Spring Begins w/ Vernal Equinox Early Saturday

http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/pix/graphics/solsticeimage008.png
This diagram shows the position of the Earth, in relation to the Sun, at the time of the Vernal Equinox at the official beginning of the season of Spring in the Earth's Northern Hemisphere (Autumn in Earth's Southern Hemisphere), as well as the other equinox and solstices of the year.
(Graphic Source: ©1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Operations Manager of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science and technology museum from 1939 to 1991, and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club; permission granted for only non-profit use with credit to author.)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Spring begins early Saturday morning at the moment of the Vernal Equinox in Earth's Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere of Earth, this marks the astronomical beginning of the season of Autumn.

                                                Vernal Equinox on Earth

The Vernal Equinox occurs on Earth at precisely: 5:37 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 9:37 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Saturday Morning, 2021 March 20.

As the diagram at the beginning of this blog-post demonstrates, on the day of Equinox the Sun appears directly overhead at local Noon on the Equator. At the moment of Equinox, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of Earth are illuminated equally. And, the time of Equinox is the only time when the Earth Terminator (dividing line on Earth between daylight and darkness) is perpendicular to the Equator.

This, and the reason for seasons on Earth in the first place, is due to the fact that Earth rotates on its axis, which is tilted at a 23.439281-degree angle from the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, which is part of the Ecliptic of our Solar System. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, this axial tilt causes one hemisphere of the planet to receive more direct solar radiation during that hemisphere's season of Summer and much less direct solar radiation a half-year later during that hemisphere's season of Winter. As mentioned, during an Equinox (about half-way between Summer and Winter, and about half-way between Winter and Summer) both planetary hemispheres receive an equal amount of solar radiation.

Although "Equinox" in Latin means equal-night, the day of the Equinox does not actually have an equal amount of daylight and nightfall, as it appears on the Earth's surface. If the Sun was just a pin-point of light in our sky, as all other stars appear, day and night would be equal.

But, because the Sun is a disk, part of the Sun has risen above the horizon before the center of the Sun (which would be the pin-point of light); so there are extra moments of light on the Equinox. Likewise, part of the Sun is still visible, after the center of the Sun has set.

Additionally, the refraction of sunlight by our atmosphere causes sunlight to appear above the horizon, before sunrise and after sunset.

March 16 marked the Equilux ("equal-light"), the actual day with equal hours and minutes of the Sun above the horizon, and equal hours and minutes of the Sun below the horizon. The Equilux occurs twice each year, approximately 3-to-4 days before the Vernal Equinox and 3-to-4 days after the Autumnal Equinox (Equilux is on September 25, while the Autumnal Equinox is ~ September 22 or 23).

An urban legend that has been making the rounds for decades, now exacerbated by the Internet and Social Media, has it that eggs can be stood on their ends only during an Equinox, whether the Vernal Equinox in the Spring or the Autumnal Equinox in the Fall. This is completely false!

Depending greatly on the size and shape of the particular egg, eggs can be stood on their ends any day of the year! Astronomy has nothing to do with whether an egg can stand on its end. If an egg can stand on its end on the Equinox (and, due to the shape and size of some eggs, this is not even possible), it can stand the same way any other day of the year.

In the last few years, with the help of the Internet and Social Media, another urban legend has become prevalent. Now it is claimed that brooms can stand, on their own, on their bristles, only on an Equinox day. This is also false! Again, as with eggs, if a broom can stand on its bristles by itself (this usually only works with newer brooms, with more even and stiff bristles) on an Equinox, it can do so any day of the year!

In ancient times, the Vernal Equinox was considered the beginning of the new calendar year, as Spring brought new life after the cold Winter months. The calendar year was then defined as the time from one Vernal Equinox to the next. This is known as the Tropical Year: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds.

This was when most of Western Civilization used the Julian Calendar, recommended by astronomer Sisogenes and approved by Roman leader Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Due to the difference between the Julian Calendar and the calendar we use today, known as the Gregorian Calendar, the Vernal Equinox then occurred on March 25, later observed by Christians as the Feast of the Annunciation (observed nine full months before Christmas Day). As part of the Gregorian Calendar reform, in October of 1582, Roman Catholic Pope Gregory XIII chose the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (January 1) as the beginning of the New Year in the Roman Catholic Church's Liturgical Year.

The Vernal Equinox continues to be considered the beginning of the New Year, or an important holy day, in several other places on Earth ---

* Beginning of New Year (using the Solar Calendar) - Nowruz: Afghanistan and Iran / Persia.

* Holy Day for adherents of the Zoroastrian Religion (the three Magi, who the Christian Bible reports visited the Christ Child after following the Star of Bethlehem / Christmas Star, were adherents of the Zoroastrian Religion).

* Holy Day for adherents of the Bahá'í Faith: Baha'i Naw-Ruz, one of nine holy days of the Bahá'í Faith.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) observe Sun-Earth Day on or near the Vernal Equinox. This is a joint educational program started in 2000, to popularize the knowledge about the Sun, and the way it influences life on Earth, among students and the public. This is part of Solar Week, which is the calendar week that includes the Vernal Equinox.

The first week of Spring, beginning with the Vernal Equinox, has been declared by physicians as Medicine Cabinet Clean-Up Week. To avoid prescription drug abuse, particularly important at this time of the opioid crisis, physicians encourage everyone to get rid of unused and no-longer-needed medications and other drugs, which may have lingered in the household, as part of an annual Spring cleaning. Several states have prescription drug take-back locations, where these drugs can be dropped-off.

The week of the Vernal Equinox is the also the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival held each year in Washington, DC, which begins on March 20. This festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the City of Washington. The festival runs through April 11 this year and will be available both on-line and with events in Washington, according to the National Cherry Blossom Festival web-site: “with an innovative format that honors the tradition of the Festival, while prioritizing the health and safety of participants amidst the coronavirus pandemic.”

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Vernal Equinox: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_equinox

Season of Spring: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_%28season%29

Equinox: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox

Earth's Seasons: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season

Tilt of a Planet's Axis: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_tilt

 Related Blog-Post ---

"Mon.: Winter Begins & Great Conjunction: Jupiter & Saturn; Tue: Ursid Meteors." Sun., 2020 Dec. 20.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/12/mon-winter-begins-great-conjunction.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

                 Saturday, 2021 March 20.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

Monday, March 1, 2021

Astro-Calendar: 2021 March / Space Station Space-walk March 5 AM


This photograph shows NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins, during a Christmas Eve space-walk outside of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013. A NASA female astronaut and a Japanese astronaut will take part in a 6.5-hour space-walk on Friday, 2021 March 5 beginning around 7:00 a.m. EST / 12:00 UTC. Live coverage will be available on NASA-TV. For more information on this space-walk, as well as how to watch the space-walk live, go to this Internet link:

Link >>> https://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2021.html#sw72

(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA - http://www.nasa.gov/content/astronaut-mike-hopkins-on-dec-24-spacewalk/#.Ur3p8Oig5w0, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30360835)

Astronomical Calendar for 2021 March ---
Link >>> https://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2021.html#mar

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2021 Feb. / 3 Probes Visit Mars This Month."

Monday, 2021 February 1.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/02/astro-calendar-2021-feb-3-probes-visit.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
            Monday, 2021 March 1.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Watch Live: Mars Landing of NASA's Perseverance Rover Thur. PM

Expected landing site on Mars for NASA's Perseverance Rover, including the Ingenuity Helicopter Drone. Landing sites of some previous NASA missions to Mars are also shown.

(Image Sources: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory - California Institute of Technology, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/JPL-Caltech - https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA24377.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99368524)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

NASA's Perseverance Rover, with the Ingenuity Helicopter Drone, is set to land on Mars Thursday afternoon. Live coverage of the landing on NASA-TV and several other Internet platforms will be available (Internet links to live coverage, further into this blog-post).

The landing is scheduled to air “live” from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California on Thursday Afternoon, 2021 February 18 at approximately 3:55 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 20:55 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Actually, in this case “live” means 11 minutes and 22 seconds after the event occurred on Mars, due to the time it takes a radio signal to travel (at this particular time) from Mars to Earth.

NASA will begin live coverage on Thursday, beginning at 2:15 p.m. EST / 19:15 UTC. In addition to NASA-TV, which can be reached at the following Internet link:

NASA-TV LIVE COVERAGE: Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

Additional Live NASA Coverage ---

LIVE Landing Broadcast: Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars

Channels that will carry the live broadcast include:
YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, DailyMotion, Theta.TV, and NASAApp

Spanish-languageshow
NASA

Clean-feed of mission control on YouTube
NASA JPL Raw

360-degreestream on YouTube
NASA JPL

Live NASA coverage is expected to include the following key milestones, toward the landing, at the estimated times shown ---

Cruise stage separation: The part of the spacecraft that has been flying Perseverance – with NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to its belly – through space for the last six-and-a-half months will separate from the entry capsule at about 3:38 p.m. EST / 20:38 UTC.

Atmospheric entry: The spacecraft is expected to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere traveling at about 12,100 miles-per-hour / 19,500 kilometers-per-hour at 3:48 p.m. EST / 20:48 UTC.

Peak heating: Friction from the atmosphere will heat up the bottom of the spacecraft to temperatures as high as about +2,370 degrees Fahrenheit / +1,300 degrees Celsius at 3:49 p.m. EST / 20:49 UTC.

Parachute deployment: The spacecraft will deploy its parachute at supersonic speed at around 3:52 p.m. EST / 20:52 UTC. The exact deployment time is based on the new RangeTrigger technology, which improves the precision of the spacecraft’s ability to hit a landing target.

Heat shield separation: The protective bottom of the entry capsule will detach about 20 seconds after the parachute deployment. This allows the rover to use a radar to determine how far it is from the ground and employ its Terrain-RelativeNavigation technology to find a safe landing site.

Back shell separation: The back half of the entry capsule that is fastened to the parachute will separate from the rover and its “jet-pack” (known as the descent stage) at 3:54 p.m. EST / 20:54 UTC. The jet-pack will use retrorockets to slow down and fly to the landing site.

Touch-down: The spacecraft’s descent stage, using the skycrane maneuver, will lower the rover down to the surface on nylon tethers. The rover is expected to touch-down on the surface of Mars at human walking speed (about 1.7 miles-per-hour, or 2.7 kilometers-per-hour) at around 3:55 p.m. EST / 20:55 UTC.

“Perseverance is NASA’s most ambitious Mars rover mission yet, focused scientifically on finding out whether there was ever any life on Mars in the past,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. “To answer this question, the landing team will have its hands full getting us to Jezero Crater – the most challenging Martian terrain ever targeted for a landing.” 

Along with the first aerial demonstration drone on a planet other than Earth, this mission is specifically designed to look for signs of previous, microbial life on the Red Planet. Astrobiology is the main mission for Perseverance, originally called the Mars 2020 mission.

Additionally, this will be the first mission which collects and stores Martian rocks and sentiment for eventual return to Earth. It is expected that a future NASA spacecraft, in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA), will pick-up the stored Martian soil and return it to Earth for detailed analysis, sometime in the future.

Perseverance will land in an ancient crater on Mars called Jezero. It is here that scientists speculate that ancient rivers sent water and sentiment into an ancient lake. If life ever had a start on Mars billions of years ago, this is a likely location where evidence of such past life may be found.

Only about half of the missions sent to Mars, over the last 50 years, have been successful. And, the landing of Perseverance will be one of the most challenging. Jezero Crater has steep cliffs, sand dunes, and boulder fields which make a landing here problematic.

“The Perseverance team is putting the final touches on the complex choreography required to land in Jezero Crater,” said Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “No Mars landing is guaranteed, but we have been preparing a decade to put this rover’s wheels down on the surface of Mars and get to work.”

The Ingenuity Helicopter Drone is a demonstration project, to learn if powered flight is possible in the thin atmosphere of Mars. If this demonstration project proves successful, larger and more sophisticated helicopters may be included in future missions to Mars, as well as to other planets and moons.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

NASA Mars Perseverance Rover:

Link 1 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/perseverance 

Link 2 >>> https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/timeline/landing/watch-online/ 

Link 3 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseverance_(rover)

NASA Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Drone:

Link 1 >>> https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter/ 

Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Helicopter_Ingenuity

Mars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars 

Related Blog-Posts ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2021 Feb. / 3 Probes Visit Mars This Month." Mon., 2021 Feb. 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/02/astro-calendar-2021-feb-3-probes-visit.html 

 

"NASA Laser Retroreflector Going to Mars on Perseverance Rover." Wed., 2020 Oct. 7.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/10/nasa-laser-retroreflector-going-to-mars.html 

 

"Thur.-AM U.S. Joins China & U.A.E in Race to Mars; Watch Launch Live." Mon. 2020 July 27.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/07/thur-am-us-joins-china-uae-in-race-to.html

 

Public Invited to Vote to Name NASA's Mars 2020 Rover--By This Monday, Jan. 27." Thur., 2020 Jan. 23.

 Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/01/public-invited-to-vote-to-name-nasas.html

 

For Students: Mars 2020 Name the Rover Essay Contest By Nov. 1." Tue., 2019 Oct. 15.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/10/for-students-mars-2020-name-rover-essay.html

 

"Place Your Name on Mars 2020 Rover Microchip By This Monday, Sept. 30." Thur., 2019 Sept. 26.

 Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/09/place-your-name-on-mars-2020-rover.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

                 Wednesday, 2021 February 17.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Predictions Vary Widely on Strength of New Sunspot Cycle

             Sunspots 1302 Sep 2011 by NASA.jpg

Major sunspots photographed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.

(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2042428/Best-auroras-seen-Britain-thanks-huge-solar-flares.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16800815)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Will the Sun continue to propagate weak solar activity, or will the Sun suddenly become much more active, affecting the Northern Lights, radio reception, orbiting satellites, and the power grid?

Last September, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that a new 11-year sunspot cycle had begun on the Sun, and this cycle would likely be as weak as the previous cycle. However, in December, a new report issued by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) contradicts the September report arguing that the new solar cycle could be one of the strongest in history!

Sunspots, which have been observed on other stars (hence, known as star-spots) in addition to our Sun, are complex and temporary phenomena caused by the twisting of magnetic fields in the photosphere of the Sun. They usually come in pairs, with each having an opposite magnetic polarity. Sunspots appear as black or gray spots on the Sun because they are cooler than the rest of the photosphere.

But, sunspots are far from cold. Sunspots measure +4,892 to +7,592 degrees Fahrenheit / +2,700 to +4,200 degrees Celsius, while the rest of the Sun's photosphere usually has a temperature around +9,932 degrees Fahrenheit / +5,500 degrees Celsius. Hence, by comparison, sunspots appear black or gray because they are cooler.

When viewed on the surface of the Sun, sunspots appear as a black spot, known as the umbra, often surrounded by a gray area known as the penumbra. Great care must be taken when attempting to view sunspots, as eye-sight could be damaged if proper precautions are not taken anytime you look directly at the Sun. Galileo, who first used a telescope to view sunspots, was not aware of the danger, and his eye-sight suffered as a consequence.

Many people use special filters on telescopes to observe sunspots. These filters are safe, so long as they are from a well-respected telescope vendor, are specifically designed for solar observing, and are undamaged. Further, only use solar filters that are placed over the telescope objective (where the Sun-light enters the telescope). Solar filters produced many years ago, that are installed at the eye-piece of the telescope, are very dangerous and can fail, as the strength of the magnified Sun-light cracks the filter, allowing unfiltered Sun-light to enter a person's eye.

The best way to observe sunspots is to project the image of the Sun from a telescope onto a projection screen, where people can safely see the sunspots on the projection screen. From 1941 to 1991, this method was used to show the public sunspots, using the rather unique 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center).

Scientists now believe that Solar Cycle 24 ended in December of 2019. It takes several months to confirm the ending of a solar cycle, hence scientists did not announce this until September. Solar magnetic North and South Poles change or "flip" magnetic polarity as a solar cycle changes.

Solar Cycle 24 peaked in April of 2014, after beginning in 2011. While, on average, a sunspot cycle runs for 11 years, Solar Cycle 24 was also one of the shortest, running for less than 9 years.

Only a total of 116 sunspots were counted during that short time period, making Solar Cycle 24 one of the weakest in memory. Further, in 2019 there were more than 281 days (77 per-cent of the year) when the side of the Sun facing Earth had no sunspots at all! It has been more than a century since we have observed that long of a period without sunspots.

In September, NASA and NOAA predicted that the new Solar Cycle 25 would only have a total of 115 sunspots. However, NCAR scientists claim solar and sunspot activity could come roaring back during the new cycle, with sunspots totaling between 210 and 260! They note that the last time there was a 9-year cycle, in the 1950s, was followed by Solar Cycle 19, one of the strongest in the 20th century.

In a mathematical analysis, looking at 270 years of sunspot records (since 1755), NCAR determined that the shorter one solar cycle is, the greater the chance that the following solar cycle will be much stronger. This study, “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude,” was published in the 2020 November 24 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Solar Physics.

If the new NCAR hypothesis turns-out to be true, this would be strong evidence supporting the NCAR theory that the 11-year sunspot cycle is produced by overlapping 22-year magnetic cycles on the Sun. From a series of papers published over the last decade, NCAR has been promoting this new theory. They believe that a better understanding of this 22-year Hale Cycle could lead to a more accurate prediction of the timing and nature of sunspot cycles.

NCAR Deputy Director and solar physicist Scott McIntosh told NCAR and UCAR News:

Scientists have struggled to predict both the length and the strength of sunspot cycles because we lack a fundamental understanding of the mechanism that drives the cycle. If our forecast proves correct, we will have evidence that our framework for understanding the sun’s internal magnetic machine is on the right path.”

Study co-author Bob Leamon, a researcher at the University of Maryland Baltimore County adds:

When we look back over the 270-year long observational record of terminator events, we see that the longer the time between terminators, the weaker the next cycle. And, conversely, the shorter the time between terminators, the stronger the next solar cycle is.”

In his previous works, Dr. McIntosh has found that magnetic field bands, which wrap around the Sun as part of the extended 22-year solar cycle, migrate from high latitudes toward the solar equator over a 20-year or-so period. As these magnetic field bands cross the mid-latitudes, often sunspots emerge. When these magnetic field bands, which have opposite polarities in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, meet and destroy each other at the equator, a new magnetic cycle and a new sunspot cycle begin.

The National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor, and NASA's Living With a Star Program supported this new research.

 Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Sunspots: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunspot

 Solar Phenomena: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_phenomena 

Earth's Sun: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun

Additional Information Regarding NCAR Hypothesis:

Link 1 >>> https://earthsky.org/space/sunspot-cycle-25-among-strongest-on-record-says-ncar 

Link 2 >>> https://www.universetoday.com/149468/will-solar-cycle-25-dazzle-or-fizzle-in-2021/

NASA: Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/ 

NOAA: Link >>> https://www.noaa.gov/ 

NCAR: Link >>> https://ncar.ucar.edu/

 Related Blog-Posts ---

"Strong Solar Flare Seen, Although Approaching Sunspot Minimum." Sat., 2017 July 15.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/07/strong-solar-flare-seen-although.html

 

"Largest Sunspot in 24 Years Returns for 2nd Month." Sun., 2014 Nov. 23.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/11/largest-sunspot-in-24-years-returns-for.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

                 Wednesday, 2021 February 10.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc