Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Begins Thursday Morning

   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 Summer Solstice, as well as the other solstice and equinoxes of the year, for Earth's Northern Hemisphere.
(Graphic Source: © Copyright 1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Operations Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science 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

This morning, Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, while at the same time, Winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

For 2018, the season of Summer begins in Earth's Northern Hemisphere (and the season of Winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere) at the moment of the June Solstice: Thursday Morning, 2018 June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 10:07 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (the moment of the posting of this blog-post) .

In etymology, the word solstice comes from the Latin terms Sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still). In ancient times, astronomers / astrologers / priests recognized that on one day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere, on or near the day we now call June 21), the Sun would appear to stand-still as Sol reaches its highest point in the sky for the entire year. The motion of the Sun's apparent path in the sky (what is known astronomically, today, as the Sun's declination) would cease on this day, before appearing to reverse direction.

Although the Summer months in the Northern Hemisphere are known for the year's warmest weather, the Earth is actually at the point in its orbit farthest from the Sun (astronomically known as the point of aphelion) around July 5; the Earth's closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) each year is around January 2. Hence, in general, the distance from the Earth to the Sun is not the major factor determining the heat of Summer or the cold of Winter.

Solar radiation, and hence the heat from the Sun, depends on the length of daylight and the angle of the Sun above the horizon. The tilt of the planet's axis toward the Sun determines the additional and more direct solar radiation received by a planet's Northern or Southern Hemisphere, and hence, the warmer season of the respective hemisphere.

While the Sun does have motions, it is actually the motion of the Earth tilted on its axis 23.43715 degrees / 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 13.7 seconds away from the plane of the ecliptic (Earth's orbital plane around the Sun), while revolving around the Sun, that causes the Earth's seasons. Hence, as the Earth arrives at the point in its orbit around the Sun, when the north polar axis is most directly inclined toward the Sun, this marks the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alternately, the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (the Winter Solstice is always on or near December 20) occurs when the Earth reaches the point in its orbit when the North Pole is most directly inclined away from the Sun. And, conversely, at this time Summer begins in the planet's Southern Hemisphere.

No matter which hemisphere, the day of the Summer Solstice always has the most hours and minutes of daylight (the length of time between sunrise and sunset) for the year, while the Winter Solstice always has the least number of hours and minutes of daylight for the year. The exact number of hours and minutes of daylight, for a particular location, depends on the locale's geographic latitude on the Earth. Astronomers and long-distance radio enthusiasts, both of whom mostly depend on non-daylight hours to ply their craft, often prefer the days closer to the Winter Solstice.

The Vernal Equinox, when the season of Spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere (and the season of Autumn begins in the Southern Hemisphere), occurs between the Winter and Summer Solstices when the Earth reaches the point in its orbit around the Sun when the Earth's axis is inclined neither toward nor away from the Sun. Likewise, when the Earth reaches the point in its orbit around the Sun, between the Summer and Winter Solstices, when the Earth's axis is inclined neither toward nor away from the Sun, this is known as the Autumnal Equinox (beginning of Fall or Autumn) in the Northern Hemisphere; at this time Spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere. And, half-way between the beginning points of each season are Cross-Quarter Days, each related to traditional holidays: Groundhog Day (February 2), May Day (May 1), Lammas Day (traditionally, the first harvest festival of the year on August 1), and Halloween (October 31).

In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was known as Mid-Summer Day, in early calendars observed around June 24. At that time, May 1 to August 1 (i.e. the two Cross-Quarter Days) was considered the season of Summer. Such early European celebrations were pre-Christian in origin. Many will associate this ancient holiday with the famous William Shakespeare play, “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Some speculate that the play was written for the Queen of England, to celebrate the Feast Day of Saint John.

As with the Roman Catholic Church's decision to Christianize the pagan Winter Solstice festivals with the introduction of Christmas Day on December 25 (by an early calendar, December 25 was reckoned as the Winter Solstice), the Church began to associate the Mid-Summer festivals with the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24. In the Christian Bible, the Gospel of Saint Luke implies that Saint John was born six months before the birth of Jesus, although no specific birth dates are given.

The most famous celebration of the Summer Solstice occurs each year at the Stonehenge pre-historic monument in England. Constructed between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C. in three phases, the actual purpose of the landmark is still unclear. However, it seems to have been associated with burials, originally. It was also used as a type of astronomical observatory, particularly for observing the Sun, which was important to help early cultures make annual decisions regarding agriculture.

Stonehenge is known as a way for pre-historic peoples to mark both the Summer and Winter Solstices. From inside the monument, a viewer facing northeast can watch the Sun rise (weather-permitting) above a stone outside the main circle of rocks, known as the Heel Stone, on the day of the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Although today, due to serious erosion of the stones, visitors on the Summer Solstice can only walk around the landmark from a short distance away during this annual event.

Although not as prominent as Stonehenge, a calendar ring using smaller rocks was also constructed at Nabta Playa in southern Egypt, perhaps as early as 7,000 years ago! As with Stonehenge, some stones aligned with sunrise on the day of the Summer Solstice.

Today, a Stonehenge-like event occurs each year at the University of Wyoming (UW) Art Museum in Laramie, Wyoming, free-of-charge to the general public. At 12:00 Noon Mountain Daylight Saving Time (MDT) / 2:00 p.m. EDT / 18:00 UTC on the day of the Summer Solstice, visitors can see a single beam of sunlight shine through a solar tube in the ceiling of the UW Art Museum's Rotunda Gallery; the beam of sunlight then shines onto a 1923 Peace Silver Dollar embedded in the floor of the Museum's Rotunda Gallery. Visitors are encouraged to arrive at the museum by 11:30 a.m. MDT / 1:30 p.m. EDT / 17:30 UTC, to view this rather unique architectural feature.

The bright Star Spica (Alpha Virginis), the brightest star in the Constellation Virgo the Virgin and the 16th brightest star in Earth's night sky (Apparent Visual Magnitude: + 0.97), may have helped develop another one of civilization's early calendars. A calendar of ancient Armenia used the year's first sighting of Spica in the dawn sky, a few days before the Summer Solstice, to mark the beginning of the New Year for this particular calendar. The development of this calendar somewhat coincided with the beginning of agriculture in Armenia.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Summer Solstice: 
Link 1 >>> http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/SummerSolstice.html 
Link 2 >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_solstice  

Season of Summer: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer  

History of Mid-Summer: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer
 

Summer "Solstice Day" Annual Free-of-Charge Day (With Snowballs !), 1985 to 1991, at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center):  
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/06/snowballs-on-first-day-of-summer.html

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

News Release - University of Wyoming Stonehenge-type event:
Link >>> https://www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2018/06/uw-art-museum-to-celebrate-summer-solstice-june-21.html

Star Spica: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spica

Related Blog Posts ---

"Science Experiments Children & Teens Can Do At Home !" 2018 June 5.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/06/science-experiments-children-teens-can.html

 

"Snowballs on the First Day of Summer!" 2015 June 21.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/06/snowballs-on-first-day-of-summer.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              2018 June 21.

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           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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Science Experiments Children & Teens Can Do At Home !



A Solar Pinhole Viewing Box, used to safely view the Sun during a Solar Eclipse or Eclipse of the Sun, can also be used to determine the diameter of the Sun. This is one of several simple science experiments that young people can do themselves, at home! Internet links to instructions for this experiment, and more simple science experiments, can be found in a list of science projects near the end of this blog-post.
(Graphic Source: Eric G. Canali, former Floor Operations Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club.)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Officially, Summer does not begin until the moment of the Summer Solstice: Thursday Morning, 2018 June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 10:07 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). However, most school children and teenagers are about to begin, what is known as, “Summer Vacation.”

How can parents, grandparents, and legal guardians keep young people engaged in learning during the warm weather months, particularly students who may have an interest and aptitude in the sciences?

Most public libraries have free-of-charge Summer reading programs to encourage reading throughout the Summer. Often, public libraries have Summer reading program kick-off events, which include several children's activities, in June of each year.

In the case of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, their “Summer Reading Extravaganza” will be this Sunday, June 10 from 12:00 Noon to 5:00 p.m. EDT at the Main Library in the Oakland section of the city. For Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's West End Branch, their Summer reading program kick-off event will be the following Saturday, June 16 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EDT. Also, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides “STEM: Super Science” programs at several branch libraries, supported in part by the PPG Foundation.

Some schools, colleges, science centers / science museums, natural history museums, and even some public libraries offer science classes during the Summer months, sometimes referred to as “Summer Camps.” At Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Summer classes were known as the “Summer Science Academy.”

But, how can young students directly participate in some simple science experiments?

One way may be to visit a science center / science museum, which sometimes allows the public to help conduct science experiments. Several days of the week (particularly on Sundays), people could participate in science experiments in the Discovery Lab of Pittsburgh's Buhl Science Center (a.k.a. original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science).

But, there are several simple science experiments children and teenagers can perform themselves, right at home!

Here are Internet links to some Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Science Experiments recommended by Children's Services of the West End Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (the West End Branch, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, is noted for originating the Library Children's Story-Hour in 1899) ---

Balloon Rockets:
Link >>> http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/AtHomeAstronomy/activity_06.html

Meteors and Craters:
Link >>> http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/AtHomeAstronomy/activity_05.html

Finding the Size of the Sun and Moon:
Link 1 >>> http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/AtHomeAstronomy/activity_03.html
Link 2 >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/soleclipse/solarviewboxgraphic.gif
(Link 2 Graphic Source: Eric G. Canali, former Floor Operations Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club.)
Link 3 >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/soleclipse/solareclipseviewingtips.html

Solar Cooker: Link >>> https://climatekids.nasa.gov/smores/

Make Your Own Sundial:
Link >>> https://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2005/images/Sun_Dial_pdf.pdf

Projects for Younger Children ---

Building 3-D Constellations with Marshmallows:
Link >>> https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/astronomy-activities-for-kids-books-about-the-stars 

Constellation Flashlight:
Link >>> https://www.handmadecharlotte.com/diy-constellation-flashlight-discs/

Constellation Cards and Myths:
Link >>>  https://www.howweelearn.com/constellation-myths-kids/

More Science Experiments from Steve Spangler Science - Click on the following Internet links ---
Lists of free-of-charge Science Experiments (Click on a particular Science category in drop-down menu):
Link >>> https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/
Free-of-charge, 44-page (.pdf file), Summer Science Outdoor Activity Guide:
Link >>> https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/summer-science-fun/

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Book Lists compiled by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh ---
Link >>> https://www.carnegielibrary.org/stem-booklists/

Special Thanks: Beth Zovko, Children's Services, and Maria Joseph, Library Services Manager, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, West End Branch.

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              2018 June 5.

                             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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Friday, June 1, 2018

Astronomical Calendar: 2018 June

Tunguska Meteorite
Photograph from a Soviet Academy of Science 1927 expedition led by Leonid Kulik shows hundreds of trees fallen from a huge explosion, now known as the Tunguska Event, which occurred on June 30, 110 years ago. Occurring in a remote area of Siberia near the Stony Tunguska River in 1908, no known person actually observed the explosion, which is speculated to have been caused by an air burst of a meteor, asteroid, or comet fragment.
(Image Source: https://todiscoverrussia.com/tunguska-meteorite-in-siberia-is-the-mystery-unraveled/)

Astronomical Calendar for 2018 June ---
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2018.html#jun


 Related Blog Posts ---



"Science Experiments Children & Teens Can Do At Home !" 2018 June 5.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/06/science-experiments-children-teens-can.html


"Astronomical Calendar: 2018 May." 2018 May 1.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/05/astronomical-calendar-2018-may.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2018 June 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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Monday, May 21, 2018

Library to be Established on the Moon !


Artist's rendering of Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander, which will take a "Lunar Library," among other payloads, to the Moon in 2020. (Image Source: Astrobotic)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

In the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who grew-up on the North Side of Pittsburgh, funded the construction of 2,509 public libraries worldwide (including 1,689 in the United States), as well as several academic libraries. Now, a Pittsburgh aerospace company, Astrobotic, plans to fly a digital library to the Moon, as a way to preserve human knowledge.

The “Lunar Library” will be transported to the Moon on Astrobotic's first lunar lander, called the Peregrine Lunar Lander, in 2020, which will be the first commercial mission to the Moon. The Peregrine Lunar Lander will also include time capsules with children's messages and cremated remains (for a Moon “burial”), as well as a couple small Moon rovers and a scientific instrument for the Mexican Space Agency.

Astrobotic plans to provide cost-effective, frequent, and reliable transportation to the Moon for a variety of clients, including businesses and governments as well as academic and non-profit organizations. The cost to send an item to the Moon is $1.2 million per kilogram.

Although the Lunar Library will be digitized, it will not use regular digital media. Millions of pages of text and images will be laser-etched onto thin, tiny discs of nickel (each disc about the size of a U.S. dime-coin), termed “analog microfiche.” This analog microfiche, which will include the entire contents of Wikipedia and the Rosetta Project of the Long Now Foundation (a digital library of human languages), as well as other informational content to be announced closer to the launch date, is expected to be invulnerable to the Moon's variable temperatures and the cosmic radiation that hits the Moon.

It will require a 1,000-power magnification, optical microscope to read this analog microfiche. It is expected that this library of human knowledge could last on the Moon for billions of years!

This Lunar Library will be one of several “Arch Libraries” expected to be sprinkled around our Solar System over the next several years. The Arch Mission Foundation (Arch is pronounced “Ark”, of course, reminiscent of Noah's Ark) is creating these digital libraries to back-up and help preserve human knowledge, including Earth's cultural heritages and biological records, for future generations (and, perhaps, for alien civilizations visiting our Solar System sometime in the distant future).

The Lunar Library project will be the second project sponsored by the Arch Mission Foundation. An Arch Mission “data crystal,” which contained Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy of science-fiction novels, flew last February on the premiere flight of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Arch Mission Foundation:
Link 1 >>> https://archmission.org/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_Mission_Foundation

Astrobotic:
Link 1 >>> https://www.astrobotic.com/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrobotic_Technology

Peregrine Lunar Lander:
Link 1 >>> https://www.astrobotic.com/peregrine
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrobotic_Technology#Moon_missions

Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

Related Blog Post ---

"Web-Cast: 1st Test Launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Tue. Afternoon."

 2018 Feb. 6.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/02/web-cast-1st-test-launch-of-spacex.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2018 May 21.

                             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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Monday, May 7, 2018

NASA InSight Space Lander on Way to Mars

        
                                NASA InSight Mars Lander with labeled instruments.
(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/JPL-Caltech - http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA17358_fig1.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31906999)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

NASA's newest space probe to Mars launched this-past weekend from California, the first U.S. interplanetary launch from outside of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Aimed particularly to seek-out “Mars-Quakes,” this mission is scheduled to land on the Red Planet at the end of the Thanksgiving Weekend.

Called “InSight” (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), this probe will be a lander, not a rover. So, it will stay in one place to better study the interior of Mars, which is its primary mission. It is hoped that “Insight” will help provide insight into how all of the rocky planets in the Inner Solar System, and the Earth's Moon, were formed 4.6 billion years ago.

Despite thick fog before sunrise, which made it difficult for people to watch the launch, InSight was launched, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, from Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday morning (2018 May 5) at 4:05 a.m. Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT) in California [7:05 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 11:05 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)]. The West Coast launch site had less of a back-log of launches then did Cape Canaveral. InSight is expected to land on Mars on Monday Afternoon, November 26, around 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 20:00 UTC.

The launch was timed to allow InSight to travel when Mars and Earth are closest, something that only happens once every two years. InSight will fly 301 million miles / 485 million kilometers to reach Mars. The primary mission of InSight is expected to last one Martian year, about the same as two Earth years.

InSight will land in an area of Mars known as Elysium Planitia, not far north of the Gale Crater where NASA's Curiosity Rover (the last NASA mission to Mars in 2012) is still exploring. The landing site is also just north of a boundary between the older, cratered southern highlands and Mars' northern lowland plains.

Seismology, which has previously been studied on Earth and on Earth's Moon, is now to be studied on Mars. The primary purpose of the InSight mission is to better understand the Martian interior, particularly whether the planet's core has solid and / or liquid components similar to Earth's core (Earth's core is composed of a solid inner core and a liquid outer core).

Seismographs were included on the first American spacecraft to land on Mars, the two Viking probes which landed in July of 1976. However, these seismographs were mounted on the spacecrafts, and the results did not measure Mars-Quakes, only the Martian wind buffeting the two space probes.

The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) will be placed directly onto the surface to record any specific shaking of the planet. It is expected that faint seismic signals will simply record meteorite impacts, which could help determine the composition of the interior structure of Mars. Stronger tremors, or Mars-Quakes, would be evidence that the planet is geologically active.

Another important experiment on InSight is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument, which will seek heat coming from Mars' core. Nicknamed “the mole,” this "self-hammering nail" will burrow itself up to 16 feet / 5 meters below the Martian surface to sense heat.

A corner-cube retro-reflector, called the Laser Retro-Reflector for InSight (LaRRI) instrument has been installed on the top deck of the NASA InSight Mars Lander, for laser range-finding by Mars orbiters. Provided by the Italian Space Agency, this is a passive instrument that can still be used once the InSight Lander is retired. It could also form a node as part of a future Mars geophysical network.

Other experiments on InSight include the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), which will use InSight's X-band radio to provide a more precise measurement of Mars' rate of rotation and whether the rotation has a wobble. Weather at the landing site will be monitored by the Temperature and Winds for InSight (TWINS) instrument. And, two color television cameras (one which will provide stereoscopic views of Mars) are mounted on the Lander.

Two silicon wafers, etched with the names of 2.4 million public supporters of the InSight mission, are being sent to Mars with the InSight Lander. This was part of a public outreach program set-up by NASA, to allow members of the public to be a part of the project. Each letter, etched by an electron beam, measures only 1/1000 the width of a human hair, while each of the two silicon wafers measures 0.3 inch / 8 millimeters in diameter.

In addition to InSight, the Atlas V rocket launched two independent, miniature communications satellites, known as Cube-Sats, toward Mars. Each Cube-Sat is modular, about the size of a briefcase. These are the first two Cube-Sats bound for Deep-Space.

The mission of Mars Cube One (both A and B), the two MarCO Cube-Sats, is to follow the Insight Lander to Mars, while the two Cube-Sats go into orbit around the Red Planet. Mars Cube One will test miniature spacecraft technology, particularly communications technology, in the Deep-Space environment. The Cube-Sats will particularly be watching the three-legged InSight as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands on the surface via parachute and engine firings, the infamous 'Seven Minutes of Terror.'
                           
                                 
                              Laser Retro-Reflector for InSight (LaRRI) instrument installed
                              on the top deck of the NASA InSight Mars Lander, for laser
                              range-finding by Mars orbiters.
(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin - https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA22206, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66080315)

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

NASA Mars InSight Space Lander:
Link 1 >>> https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InSight

Mars Cube One (MarCO):
Link 1 >>> https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/missions/marco.php
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Cube_One

Retro-Reflector: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroreflector

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2018 May 7.

                             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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Astronomical Calendar: 2018 May

                     https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/pia22226.jpg
Illustration of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight Martian Lander), scheduled to be launched to Mars on May 5. (Image Source: NASA)
More Information: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2018.html#insight

Astronomical Calendar for 2018 May ---
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2018.html#may


 Related Blog Posts ---



"Science Experiments Children & Teens Can Do At Home !" 2018 June 5.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/06/science-experiments-children-teens-can.html

 

"Astronomical Calendar: 2018 April." 2018 April 2.

Link >>> http:/s/spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/04/astronomical-calendar-2018-april.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2018 May 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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

NASA 'Gateway' Moon Orbital Space Station: Start of Construction Contracts

Orion visiting Deep Space Gateway.jpg
The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in lunar orbit as imagined in 2017.
(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org; By NASA? - https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/picture1_3.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57804871)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

NASA has begun seeking construction contracts for construction of a new crewed space station, this time a space station orbiting Earth's Moon. The “Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway” is expected to be completed by 2025.

The announcement of the first contract being sought by NASA for the new space station was announced last week by NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier at the Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Once habitable, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is not to be staffed continually, as is Earth's International Space Station (ISS). Rather, it will be designed to house four astronauts / cosmonauts for 30 to 60-day missions, for the study of the deep-space environment – for observations outside of the Earth's magnetosphere which may not be possible in Earth orbit.

This new lunar orbital outpost will allow for future missions (including both human and robotic missions) on the Moon, as well as being a way-station for deep-space missions to Mars, and perhaps the Asteroid Belt.

As with the ISS, this new space station will be an international venture. In addition to NASA, other national space agencies involved in this project include the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), European Space Agency (ESA), Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

In addition to the aforementioned ISS partners, there is an interest to work with other nations, no matter how small their space agency. NASA Associate Administrator Gerstenmaier, during a Space Transportation Association luncheon on March 5, mentioned Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates as two countries that have expressed an interest in participating in this new project. Additionally, the several private space companies that are now working with NASA could also become involved in the project.

As with the ISS, China would not be involved with the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. China, which is considering building its own second space station in Earth orbit, as well as plans to land people on the Moon, has a space program which is controlled by the country's military. Only nations with non-military space programs can be involved in the ISS, and now with the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.

The first construction contract being sought by NASA is for the space station's high-power and propulsion element. The power and propulsion element will provide solar electric propulsion so the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway can maintain and adjust its lunar orbit.

The power element will also allow for communication between the space station and Earth, Moon, other spacecraft, and astronauts during extra-vehicular activity (EVA: i.e. space-walks). For greater efficiency of larger data packages, laser communication will be used instead of radio.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Space Systems / Loral are the five firms competing for the power and propulsion element contract. NASA expects to award the contract early next year.

Other modules for later contracts include the habitation space, an airlock, and a logistics module for experiments. The launch of the power and propulsion element, expected in 2022, will mark the beginning of construction of the space station.

The Orion space capsule, being developed by NASA and Lockheed Martin, will provide transport to the new space station aboard the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, also being developed by NASA. The first unmanned test flight of Orion is planned for next year, when the spacecraft will orbit the Moon. A crewed test flight of Orion is anticipated in 2023.

By having a space station in lunar orbit, NASA sees this as part of its goal of landing people on Mars in the 2030s. One advantage of such a lunar way-station is that the Moon's gravity can be used to slow-down spacecraft returning from Mars.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Lunar Orbital Platform - Gateway:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Orbital_Platform-Gateway

NASA's Deep Space Exploration Planning:
Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

Related Blog Posts ---

"50th Anniversary: Classic Science-Fiction Film "2001: A Space Odyssey"."

 2018 April 10.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/04/50th-anniversary-classic-science.html

 

"Web-Cast: 1st Test Launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Tue. Afternoon."

 2018 Feb. 6.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/02/web-cast-1st-test-launch-of-spacex.html

 

"Lasers in Space ?" 2017 November 13.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/11/lasers-in-space.html

"NASA Laser Com-System Miniaturized & Improved Data Precision."

2015 Oct. 24.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/10/nasa-laser-com-system-miniaturized.html


"NASA Orion Spacecraft: Near-Perfect Test Mission After Day-Delay."

2014 Dec. 5.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/12/nasa-orion-spacecraft-near-perfect-test.html


Lunar Laser Com-System Sets Data Transmission Record." 2013 Oct. 24.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/10/lunar-laser-com-system-sets-data.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2018 April 25.

                             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 --- < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer: original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >