Sunday, August 1, 2021

Astro-Calendar 2021 Aug. / Boeing Starliner Launch Aug. 3

 CST-100 Starliner integration with Atlas V for Orbital Flight Test (KSC-20191121-PH-CSH02 0080) (cropped).jpg

Boeing CST-100 Starliner space capsule, which is expected to have another, non-crewed test launch on August 3 (back-up launch date August 4). A previous test launch in December of 2019 failed to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). It was originally scheduled to launch on July 30, but that launch was scrubbed at the last minute, due to the ISS being thrown out-of-control by jet thrusters, which inadvertently activated following the addition of a new Russian space station module. The Boeing Starliner is another commercial spacecraft expected to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS, in addition to the SpaceX Crew Dragon. In this photograph, the Starliner is being placed atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/Cory Huston - https://www.nasa.gov/feature/boeing-cst-100-starliner-takes-next-step-for-orbital-flight-test (image link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87867676) 

More info on the Boeing Starliner: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_Starliner 

More on the July 30 launch delay: Link >>> https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/space-station-mishap-prompts-nasa-postpone-launch-boeing-starliner-2021-07-29/

NASA Live-Stream coverage of Starliner launch, now scheduled for Tuesday, 2021 August 3, 1:20 p.m. EDT / 17:20 UTC (Live-Stream coverage begins 12:30 p.m. EDT / 16:30 UTC): Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive   

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

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2021 July / Good View of Mercury July 9." Thur., 2021 July 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/07/astro-calendar-2021-july.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
            Sunday, 2021 August 1.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
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        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
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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

Monday, July 26, 2021

50th Anniversary: Pittsburgh Native Walks on Moon

 

Pittsburgh native James Irwin gives a military salute to the American Flag at the Hadley-Apennine landing site of Apollo 15 on the Moon, on 1971 August 2. Seen next to James Irwin is the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), which landed him and Dave Scott on the Moon, and the Lunar Rover [officially known as the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)]; Apollo 15 was the first mission to use a Lunar Rover.

(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA Johnson Space CenterRestored by Bammesk - This file was derived from: AS15-88-11866 (21648389932).jpgOriginal by: Project Apollo Archive at https://www.flickr.com/photos/projectapolloarchive/21648389932/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91388729)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Fifty years ago, on 1971 July 31, August 1 & 2, Pittsburgh native James B. Irwin became the eighth human to walk on the Moon. Accompanied to the lunar surface by Dave Scott, with Alfred Worden remaining in the Command Module, this was the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon, which included the first use of an automobile on the Moon called a Lunar Roving Vehicle.

It was 50 years ago today (July 26) that Apollo 15 launched toward the Moon from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Apollo 15 was the first (of three flown) NASA “J Mission” to the Moon, which provided for a longer stay on the Moon as well as more of an emphasis on scientific exploration than earlier Apollo, lunar landing missions. James Irwin was the Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 15 mission, while David R. Scott (the seventh person to step onto the Moon) was mission Commander and Alfred M. Worden was the Command Module Pilot.

Of course, the new part of the Apollo 15 mission was the introduction of the electric battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (better known as the Lunar Rover or 'Moon Buggy') on the surface of the Moon. Originally conceived in the early 1960s as a closed-cabin vehicle, somewhat like a normal automobile but with the addition of a mini-laboratory (titled MOLAB for Mobility Laboratory), weighing as much as 6,000 pounds / 2,700 kilograms, by the time the contract was let to Boeing for three Lunar Rovers for three missions, it had been decided that such a heavy vehicle was unnecessary since Federal funding cuts would not permit the establishment of a lunar base in the foreseeable future. So, a scaled-down, four-wheeled Lunar Rover was developed weighing 460 pounds / 210 kilograms.

Each Lunar Rover could carry a maximum payload of 1,080 pounds / 490 kilograms, including seating for two astronauts along with equipment and lunar samples. The top speed for the Lunar Rover was designed to be 8 miles-per-hour / 13 kilometers-per-hour, although on the last Apollo mission to the Moon, Apollo 17, the speed reached 11.2 miles-per-hour / 18.0 kilometers-per-hour.

Each of the three Lunar Rovers, which all remain on the Moon, drove an average of 18.6 statute miles / 30 kilometers, without incident. The Apollo 15 Lunar Rover traveled a total of 17.25 statute miles / 27.76 kilometers within 3 hours and 2 minutes of travel time. The Apollo 15 Lunar Rover traveled a maximum 3.1 statute miles / 5.0 kilometers from the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) which landed James Irwin and Dave Scott on the Moon; the longest single traverse was 7.75 statute miles / 12.47 kilometers.

Due to the newness of the Lunar Rover, and the unknown reliability in the lunar environment, this limited the usefulness during the mission. In case the Lunar Rover stalled, the astronauts had to be close enough to walk back to the LEM.

Each Lunar Rover was tucked into Apollo 15's Lunar Excursion Module's Quadrant 1 Bay. To commemorate the first driving vehicle on the Moon, the LEM, with the call-sign Falcon (named after the U.S. Air Force Academy mascot), included a plaque which read: "Man's First Wheels on the Moon, Delivered by Falcon, July 30, 1971".

The Lunar Rover allowed James Irwin and Dave Scott to do more scientific exploration and collect lunar samples from a greater distance from the LEM, than previous missions. The Lunar Rover was used on three separate Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) trips, with Dave Scott as the driver and James Irwin as the navigator.

In addition to proving the concept of the Lunar Rover, Apollo 15 achieved all of the mission objectives. This included surveying and sampling an area of the Hadley Rille and Apennine Mountains region of the Moon, installing lunar surface experiments, and evaluation of the capability for Apollo equipment to provide extended stay-time for astronauts on the Moon. According to the “Apollo 15 Mission Report”: Apollo 15 "was the fourth lunar landing and resulted in the collection of a wealth of scientific information. The Apollo system, in addition to providing a means of transportation, excelled as an operational scientific facility."

James Benson Irwin was born in Pittsburgh on 1930 March 17. He lived his first eleven years in the South Hills section of the City of Pittsburgh, first in the Beechview neighborhood and later a mile east in the Brookline neighborhood. When James Irwin was eleven years-old, the Irwin family moved to Florida.

His father was a steamfitter running the power plant at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute, which includes the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Art, the main branch of Carnegie Library, and the Carnegie Music and Lecture Halls. James Irwin wrote in his autobiography, To Rule the Night, that he was enthralled by Carnegie Institute's world-class collection of dinosaur skeletons. He wrote, "Some of my earliest memories are of waiting for Dad in this tremendous place". Later in the autobiography, he wrote how his imagination was stirred by his visits to Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

By age 12, James Irwin had told his mother that he wanted to be the first person to walk on the Moon! This would have been in 1942, just after the United States had entered World War II. As mentioned, he was the eighth human (of 12 Apollo astronauts) to walk on the Moon.

He attended middle school and high school in Salt Lake City, graduating from East High School in 1947. According to Delta College Planetarium Manager / Astronomer Mike Murray (who lived a few blocks from East High School, 2002 to 2015), East High School has a small historical display regarding James Irwin. Later in 1947, Jim Irwin attended the annual church picnic, at the church he had attended in Pittsburgh, the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Beechview.

James Irwin attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Naval Science in 1951. He went on to earn Master of Science degrees in Aeronautical Engineering and Instrumentation Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1957; the University of Michigan was the first U.S. college to offer an Aeronautical Engineering degree, beginning in 1914.

James Irwin received flight training in Texas, first at the Hondo Air Base and then at Reese Air Force Base. In 1961, he graduated from the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School (Class 60C). In 1963, he graduated from Aerospace Research Pilot School (Class IV).

Before joining NASA on 1966 April 4 (when he was in the fifth group of astronauts selected by NASA, one of 19 astronauts selected for Moon mission training), James Irwin was Chief of the Advanced Requirements Branch at Headquarters Air Defense Command. He also was a developmental test pilot for the Lockheed YF-12 Mach 3 fighter-interceptor.

As a training instructor, James Irwin suffered compound fractures, amnesia, and nearly lost one leg after the crash of a training airplane flown by one of his student pilots; the student also survived the crash. U.S. Air Force orthopedic surgeon John Forrest was able to prevent the amputation of James Irwin's leg.

While in the military, James Irwin accumulated more than 7,015 hours of flying time (5,300 hours in jet aircraft). He received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, two Air Force Commendation Medals, and an Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation while with the 4750th Training Wing.

At NASA, James Irwin served as part of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 10, the “dress-rehearsal” in lunar orbit for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. He was then assigned as back-up Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 12, the second crewed mission to land on the Moon, before being assigned to the Apollo 15 mission.

James Irwin accumulated more than 295 hours of space flight. More than 18 of those hours were in Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA), outside the LEM on the Moon..

He retired from NASA and the U.S. Air Force in 1972 as a Colonel. He had not been very religious since about the age of 10. This all changed when he returned from the Moon. He said that during the Apollo 15 mission, “I felt the power of God as I'd never felt it before.” He also said, “Jesus walking on the Earth is more important than man walking on the Moon."

In 1972 he created the High Flight Foundation in Colorado Springs, which helped him spread the Christian Gospel around the world. For nearly 20 years, he and his family traveled the globe sharing his unique experience and a message of hope and encouragement.

Starting in 1973, James Irwin led several expeditions to Mount Ararat in Turkey, in his search for the remains of Noah's Ark. He considered the biblical scripture in the Book of Genesis to be real, literal history. During one expedition in 1982, he was injured during the descent down the mountain and had to be carried on horse-back.

After a two-year, first marriage in 1952, James Irwin married the former Mary Ellen Monroe in 1959. Although there were marital problems in the second marriage, particularly during the NASA years, their marriage survived until James Irwin's death in 1991. They considered James Irwin's born-again, Christian faith, following the return from the Moon, had helped to solidify the marriage. With his second wife, he had five children: Joy, Jill, James, Jan, and Joe.

James Irwin was the first, and youngest, of the Apollo astronauts to die. He passed-away from his fourth heart attack on 1991 August 8 at age 61. NASA physicians believed that space travel had nothing to do with his heart attacks. They noted that a tendency for cardiac arrhythmias, during strenuous exercise, had been observed during pre-flight testing.

The mother (Eleanor Alsnauer) and maternal grandparents (Louis and Margaret Alsnauer) of the author (Glenn A. Walsh) knew James Irwin when he was young. The Irwin family lived just a couple blocks from the Alsnauer family in Pittsburgh's Beechview neighborhood.

Both families attended the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on the edge of the Beechview Business District. James Irwin and Eleanor Alsnauer both attended Lee Elementary School, just a block up the hill from the Alsnauer residence. Even after the Irwin family moved out-of-town, both families would continue to correspond, including with annual Christmas cards.

The author remembers the Saturday afternoon, in April of 1966, when his grandfather showed him the news article, from the Tuesday, 1966 April 5 edition of The Pittsburgh Press (Page 8), reporting that James Irwin had been selected as one of the astronauts to train for missions to the Moon. The author's grandfather knew that the author had a great interest in the American Space Program, even at the young age of 10.

                            

                                        James B. Irwin in his official NASA photograph. 

                                                           (Image Sources: NASA, New Mexico State University)

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

James Irwin:

Link 1 >>> https://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/bio/Pghastronauts.html#irwin 

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

"Pittsburgh Native Named Astronaut."

The Pittsburgh Press 1966 April 5. Page 8.

 Link >>> https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=djft3U1LymYC&dat=19660405&printsec=frontpage&hl=en 

Apollo 15:

Link 1 >>> http://www.astronautix.com/a/apollo15.html 

Link 2 >>> https://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/apollo/apollo-program/landing-missions/apollo15.cfm 

Link 3 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo15.html 

Link 4 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_15 

Related Blog-Posts ---

"American Lunar Society Founder on 50th Anniversary: 1st Humans Orbit Moon." Mon., 2018 Dec.24.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/12/50th-anniversary-incredible-legacy-of.html 


"45th Anniversary: Apollo 8 Orbits the Moon Christmas Eve." Tue., 2013 Dec. 24.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/12/45th-anniversary-apollo-8-orbits-moon.html 


"American Lunar Society Founder on 50th Anniversary: 1st Humans Walk on Moon !" Tue., 2019 July 16.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/07/american-lunar-society-founder-on-50th.html 


"45 Years Ago: Man Lands on the Moon !" Sun., 2014 July 20.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/07/45-years-ago-man-lands-on-moon.html 


"50th Anniversary: NASA's Most Successful Failure." (Apollo 13) Mon., 2020 April 13.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/04/50th-anniversary-nasas-most-successful.html

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

                 Monday, 2021 July 26.

                             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, July 19, 2021

LIVE-STREAM Early Tue.: Blue Origin Flight to Space w/ 'Mercury 13' Woman & Jeff Bezos

                      New Shephard - Upright View.jpg

 This photograph shows the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, without the crew capsule, as displayed at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 2017. Blue Origin will launch the first crewed New Shepard rocket to the edge of Outer Space from western Texas early Tuesday morning.

(Image Source: Wikipedia.org, By ThePenultimateOne - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61440254)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The “billionaire space race” continues Tuesday with the first crewed launch by Jeff Bezos' commercial spaceflight company, Blue Origin. The four passengers on this flight (a full complement in the New Shepard space capsule would be six passengers) include Jeff Bezos and 82-year-old Wally Funk, one of 13 women who had qualified for NASA's Mercury Spaceflight Program in 1961. Blue Origin will Live-Stream the launch early Tuesday morning.

Internet link to the Blue Origin Live-Stream is near the end of this blog-post.

The Blue Origin spaceship, New Shepard, is scheduled to launch at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 8:00 a.m. Central Daylight Saving Time (CDT: launch site is in the Central Time Zone) / 13:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Tuesday Morning, 2021 July 20, weather-permitting and provided there are no technical problems.

As of Sunday, weather conditions looked favorable for an uneventful launch. Although there is a small chance for thunderstorms in the early morning hours of Tuesday, any storms are forecast to clear-out before launch time.

Live-Stream coverage will begin at 7:30 a.m. EDT / 6:30 a.m. CDT / 11:30 UTC. The Blue Origin Launch Site One is located on a portion of the Corn Ranch, 25 statute miles / 40 kilometers north of the west Texas town of Van Horn. As with the Virgin Galactic flight on July 11, the Blue Origin flight will be a short sub-orbital flight.

Sir Richard Branson flew his Virgin Galactic space-plane to the edge of Outer Space nine days earlier. Jeff Bezos purposely chose to wait to launch the first crewed flight of New Shepard, mission NS-16, because July 20 coincides with the 52nd anniversary of the first landing of humans on the Moon.

The Virgin Galactic space-plane flew 53 statute miles / 85.295232 kilometers above mean sea-level, just above the 50-statute mile / 80-kilometer altitude determined as the beginning of Outer Space by the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The New Shepard spacecraft plans to go a little higher. Blue Origin intends to meet the altitude definition of Outer Space determined by an international aeronautic standards and record-keeping body, Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI): 62 statute miles / 100 kilometers above mean sea level, known as the Karman Line.

The Virgin Galactic space-plane launch on July 11 was a “drop-launch” from a larger aircraft, similar to the launch of the X-15 experimental rocket-plane, which was tested by the U.S. Air Force and NASA in the 1950s and 1960s. The New Shepard space vehicle is more like a traditional rocket.

New Shepard will launch like a rocket. Powered flight is expected to last about 110 seconds, reaching an altitude of 25 statute miles / 40 kilometers above mean sea-level. From that point, the spacecraft's momentum is expected to carry it in un-powered flight to the destination of 62 statute miles / 100 kilometers above mean-sea-level.

The crew module will, then, separate from the propulsion module (i.e. rocket) at a point close to the peak altitude of the mission. At that point, as the crew module begins to fall back to Earth, the crew will encounter about three minutes of micro-gravity (a.k.a. “weightless-ness”) and observe the curvature of the Earth from the edge of Outer Space, as well as the blackness of space.

Then, the crew module will return to Earth, via three large parachutes, landing close to the launch site on the ground, as Russian Soyuz space capsules land. The only exception to the Soyuz-type landing on ground is that New Shepard includes thrusters which ignite, just before the landing, to help to soften the landing. The total duration of the flight of the crew module is expected to be about ten minutes.

The rocket will make a vertical landing near the launch site, similar to the vertical landing of the first stage of SpaceX rockets. Both the crew capsule and the rocket are designed to be re-usable.

Unlike all past human space missions, there will be no pilot or flight engineer aboard the New Shepard crew capsule. This flight will be completely automated, from beginning to end!

In the case of a rocket malfunction or other emergency, New Shepard has, what is described as, a “full-envelope” launch escape system. Solid propellant separation boosters can separate the crew module from the propulsion module, and the crew capsule would then use parachutes to return to Earth.

As mentioned, Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000 as well as Founder of the well-known Amazon on-line market company, will be aboard the very first crewed launch of New Shepard. He will be accompanied by his brother, Mark Bezos.

Wally Funk, now 82 years-old, will become the oldest person to ever fly in Outer Space. The late U.S. Senator John Glenn currently holds this record, when he launched as a Payload Specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery (mission STS-95) on 1998 October 29, when Senator Glenn was age 77. Of course, John Glenn is well-known for being the first American to orbit the Earth in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 (three orbits in the 4 hour and 55-minute flight) on 1962 February 20, when John Glenn was age 40.

In 1961, Wally Funk was at the top of her “Mercury 13” class of 13 women who all qualified to fly as part of the Woman in Space Program. Ms. Funk is a very experienced pilot with 19,600 flight hours.

However, NASA never pursued flying women in space in the 1960s, even though Russian female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova flew, alone, for almost three days in Earth orbit beginning on 1963 June 16. NASA did not launch a woman into space until 1983 June 18, when Sally Ride flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger (mission STS-7) and was the third woman to fly in Outer Space.

New Shepard mission NS-16 will also include the youngest person to ever fly in Outer Space. Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, the company's first paying customer, had originally been set to fly on the second New Shepard flight. However, the unidentified person who had won a June 12, charity auction for a ticket on the first flight had a “scheduling conflict” on July 20. So the 18-year-old Oliver Daemen will make history on Tuesday morning!

Following a successful NS-16 flight on Tuesday, Blue Origin plans two additional New Shepard flights this year with paying customers, starting sub-orbital, commercial space tourism in earnest. The next flight of New Shepard is expected to be in late September or early October.

Blue Origin New Shepard Mission NS-16 LIVESTREAM ---

 Link >>> https://www.blueorigin.com/

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Blue Origin New Shepard Mission NS-16 ---

Link 1 >>> https://www.blueorigin.com/news-archive/first-human-flight-updates 

Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Origin_NS-16

New Shepard ---

Link 1 >>> https://www.blueorigin.com/new-shepard 

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

Blue Origin ---

Link 1 >>> https://www.blueorigin.com/ 

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

Karman Line: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1rm%C3%A1n_line

Female Aviator & 'Mercury 13' Woman in Space Program Member Wally Funk:

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

Related Blog-Post ---

"LIVE-STREAM Sunday: Virgin Galactic Flight to Space w/ Founder Richard Branson." Fri., 2021 July 9.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/07/live-stream-virgin-galactic-flight-to.html

 

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

                 Monday, 2021 July 19.

                             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

Friday, July 9, 2021

LIVE-STREAM Sunday: Virgin Galactic Flight to Space w/ Founder Richard Branson

VP01-2_Gliding_Home.jpg

In a maneuver similar to the NASA Space Shuttle, Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft glides home to Spaceport America in New Mexico after the second supersonic flight.

 (Image Source: Virgin Galactic)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

This month a new “space race” is being run by two billionaires, Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. First-up: Richard Branson will fly to a brief encounter with Outer Space, perhaps as early as Sunday. Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's company, promises to Live-Stream the flight.

Internet link to the Virgin Galactic Live-Stream is near the end of this blog-post.

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two-class, VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Unity 22 mission is set to begin at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 7:00 a.m. Mountain Daylight Saving Time (MDT) (the New Mexico launch site is in the Mountain Time Zone) / 13:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Sunday, 2021 July 11, weather-permitting and provided there are no technical problems. Although no precise launch time has been provided, the time given is when the Live-Stream begins, and the launch should occur shortly thereafter.

A Virgin Galactic launch is quite different from most space launches; it is, what is called, a “drop-launch”. The space-plane VSS Unity is dropped from the mother-ship aircraft, WhiteKnight Two-class VMS (Virgin Mother-Ship) Eve (name of Richard Branson's mother), once the mother-ship reaches a launch altitude of 44,000 feet.

This drop-launch maneuver is similar to the launch of the X-15 experimental rocket-plane, which was tested by the U.S. Air Force and NASA in the 1950s and 1960s. In the case of the X-15, manufactured by North American Aviation and Reaction Motors, the rocket-plane was drop-launched from a B-52 Bomber.

Once dropped from the mother-ship, the VSS Unity space-plane, which has wings similar to the NASA Space Shuttle, fires a rocket engine to fly to an altitude of 50 statute miles / 80 kilometers above mean sea level. The U.S. Air Force, NASA, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) consider this the altitude dividing line between Earth's atmosphere and Outer Space. Although an international aeronautic standards and record-keeping body, Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), considers the altitude dividing line, what is called the Karman Line, to be at 62 statute miles / 100 kilometers above mean sea level.

In addition to Richard Branson the Virgin Galactic Founder, who will be a Mission Specialist on this flight, the VSS Unity 22 crew will consist of pilots Dave MacKay and Michael Masucci and mission specialists Beth Moses (Virgin Galactic Chief Astronaut Instructor), Colin Bennett (Virgin Galactic Lead Operations Engineer), and Sirisha Bandia (Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic). Although there have been four earlier test flights including a small crew, the July 11 mission will be the first with the full crew complement of six.

For this mission, the pilots of the VMS Eve mother-ship will be C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer.

This mission will be a short sub-orbital flight, which will last only a few minutes. At the conclusion of the mission, the VSS Unity space-plane will glide back to home-base (similar to the NASA Space Shuttle) at Spaceport America, located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin 45 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Richard Branson hopes the success of the July 11 mission will lead to future launches with paying space tourists. Such space tourists would spend a few minutes in micro-gravity (a.k.a. “weightless-ness”) and observe the curvature of the Earth from the edge of Outer Space.

In a public relations statement, Richard Branson said: “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good. It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality. As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

Jeff Bezos, Founder of both Amazon and the Blue Origin space flight company, also hopes to fly paying passengers on sub-orbital flights of his New Shepard rocket launch vehicle. Jeff Bezos is scheduled to fly on this spacecraft, also on a short sub-orbital flight to the edge of Outer Space, on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the first landing of astronauts on the Moon. The New Shepard rocket is expected to go as far as the Karman Line, a little higher than the VSS Unity will reach.

Richard Branson scheduled his flight nine days earlier than the Jeff Bezos flight, to “win” this “space race”.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity 22 Mission LIVE-STREAM:

Link >>> http://virgingalactic.com/

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

VSS Unity 22 Mission:

Link 1 >>> https://www.virgingalactic.com/articles/virgin-galactic-announces-first-fully-crewed-spaceflight/ VSS

Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Galactic_Unity_22 

VSS Unity Space-Plane: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VSS_Unity 

WhiteKnight 2 Mother-Ship Aircraft: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaled_Composites_White_Knight_Two 

Virgin Galactic:

Link 1 >>> http://virgingalactic.com/ 

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

Karman Line: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1rm%C3%A1n_line

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

                 Friday, 2021 July 9.

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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, July 1, 2021

Astro-Calendar: 2021 July / Good View of Mercury July 9

       Mercury in true color.jpg

This image shows the planet Mercury as photographed by NASA's Messenger space probe in 2008. Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on July 1, and the planet cannot be seen even with a telescope. However, Mercury should be easier to find, weather-permitting, on mornings before sunrise, on a few days before and after July 9. On the morning of July 9, Mercury will be at the highest point in the sky just above the southeastern horizon, shining with a brightness of an apparent visual magnitude of +0.3. Early on July 8, Mercury will be just 4 degrees south of the Moon.

(Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Arizona State University/Carnegie Institution of Washington - https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11364, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83618472)

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

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2021 June / Solar Eclipse June 10." Tue., 2021 June 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2021/06/astro-calendar-2021-june.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
            Thursday, 2021 July 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

Monday, June 28, 2021

143 UFO Sightings, By U.S. Navy Pilots, Remain Unidentified

 

A still image from the video of a UFO, taken from the U.S. Navy ship, the USS Russell, off the coast of San Diego in July of 2019.

(Image Sources: U.S. Navy, Wikipedia.org, By US Navy - Cropped still from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKsLK_Na7iw, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105357643)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

A U.S. Government study has preliminarily determined that 143 anomalous objects in the sky, observed by trained military aviators, cannot be identified. In this highly-anticipated public report, the U.S. Intelligence Community outlines what is known about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), better known to the general public as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs),

The new report, released late on Friday (2021 June 25), does not speculate whether some of these unidentified objects are flown by extraterrestrial beings, as some amateur UFO researchers contend. Nor, does the report determine that the observed UAP is some type of breakthrough or disruptive technological advancement by nations such as China or Russia, or a terrestrial, non-state entity. Secret U.S. Government testing of advanced, technological air or space vehicles is also doubted, if not completely ruled-out.

The results of the report were inconclusive regarding the nature and intent of the unknown objects, due to the “limited amount of high quality reporting on” UAP. However, the report stated that “UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.”

Last year, the U.S. Department of Defense released three videos (one from 2004 and two from 2015) , taken by U.S. Navy pilots, which showed mysterious objects flying at high rates of speed across the sky. In 2017, a report in The New York Times revealed the existence of the Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which studied UAP from 2007 to 2012. Last August 4, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) was officially formed, within the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence.

This unclassified, nine-page UAP report was issued following a classified report on UAP earlier this month. Several U.S. Congressional Representatives and Senators received a classified briefing on the earlier report.

The June 25 report, titled “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”, was officially submitted to the U.S. Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). This report was specifically requested by the U.S. Congress in response to the provision in Senate Report 116-233, accompanying the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2021”.

This study focused on UAP “largely witnessed firsthand by military aviators and that were collected from systems we considered to be reliable.”

This contrasts with much older programs, administered by the U.S. Air Force (USAF), which studied UFO reports from the general public, in addition to governmental sources. The best known of these projects was Project Blue Book, which ran from March of 1952 to 1969 December 17. Project Blue Book was preceded by two shorter USAF projects which conducted similar studies: Project Sign (1947 and 1948) and Project Grudge (1948 to 1951).

The 144 UAP incidents summarized in the June 25 report were incidents which occurred between 2004 November and 2021 March. However, the majority of reports studied occurred between 2019 and the present. Most incidents studied were of UAP “that interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.” According to the report, “UAP sightings also tended to cluster around U.S. (military) training and testing grounds, but we assess that this may result from a collection bias...”

The reason the UAP Task Force concentrated on the last two years was because it was not until March of 2019 when the U.S. Navy established a “standardized reporting mechanism” for reporting UAP. The U.S. Air Force adopted that standardized reporting mechanism in November of 2020. Additionally, technical data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is being used to assist in the analysis of UAP reports.

Of the 144 UAP incidents studied, “80 reports involved observation with multiple sensors.” “In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics.”

Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings...The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management.”

Only one of these 144 UAP incidents was identified “with high confidence”: “a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.”

The report states “Limited data and inconsistency in reporting are key challenges to evaluating UAP.

The UAP Task Force did hear about anecdotal observations, but could not analyze them without some type of formal or informal report.

With an array of aerial behaviors reported, the UAP Task Force has concluded that there is a distinct “possibility there are multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations.“ The UAP Task Force has divided the possible explanations into five categories:

Possible Explanatory Categories ---

Airborne Clutter: These objects include birds, balloons, recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or airborne debris like plastic bags that muddle a scene and affect an operator’s ability to identify true targets, such as enemy aircraft.

Natural Atmospheric Phenomena: Natural atmospheric phenomena includes ice crystals, moisture, and thermal fluctuations that may register on some infrared and radar systems.

U.S. Government or Industry Developmental Programs: Some UAP observations could be attributable to developments and classified programs by U.S. entities. We were unable to confirm, however, that these systems accounted for any of the UAP reports we collected.

Foreign Adversary Systems: Some UAP may be technologies deployed by China, Russia, another nation, or a non-governmental entity.

Other: Although most of the UAP described in our dataset probably remain unidentified due to limited data or challenges to collection processing or analysis, we may require additional scientific knowledge to successfully collect on, analyze and characterize some of them. We would group such objects in this category pending scientific advances that allowed us to better understand them. The UAPTF intends to focus additional analysis on the small number of cases where a UAP appeared to display unusual flight characteristics or signature management.

The primary conclusions given in the June 25 UAP report were that, to explain UAP, better collection of incidents and more robust analysis of UAP cases will be necessary. And, this will require a greater commitment of financial resources.

This report only studied military (primarily from the U.S. Navy) reporting of incidents of UAP between 2004 November and 2021 March. However, military observations of such unidentified phenomena date back much further.

When most people hear the words, “Foo Fighters”, they think of the popular rock-and-roll band, which recently re-opened New York City's Madison Square Garden with the first post-pandemic concert before a sold-out house of more than 15,000 fully-vaccinated fans. However, the words “Foo Fighter” actually originated from the name given to UFOs by perplexed and frustrated military aviators, during World War II.

In November of 1944, Foo Fighters, described as fast-moving, round glowing objects, began to be observed. Pilots and air-crew reported that these Foo Fighters would fly formation with their aircraft and could not be out-maneuvered or shot-down. Although the Foo Fighters seemed to be under intelligent control, they never displayed hostile behavior.

The name “Foo Fighter” was coined by Donald J. Meiers, a radar operator in the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, who had taken the word “Foo” from a syndicated, newspaper comic-strip (seen in the Chicago Tribune), Smokey Stover. Drawn by cartoonist Bill Holman, Smokey Stover's catch-phrase was "where there's foo, there's fire".

U.S. Intelligence Report: “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”, 2021 June 25:

Link >>> https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Prelimary-Assessment-UAP-20210625.pdf

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena / Unidentified Flying Objects: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unidentified_flying_object

Pentagon UFO Report: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_UFO_Report 

Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP): Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Aerospace_Threat_Identification_Program 

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF): Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unidentified_Aerial_Phenomena_Task_Force 

Project Blue Book: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Blue_Book 

Foo Fighter: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foo_fighter

Related Blog-Posts ---

"50th Anniversary: Kecksburg, Pa. "UFO" Incident." Wed., 2015 Dec. 9.

 Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/12/50th-anniversary-kecksburg-pa-ufo.html

 

"Tue. Morning Fireball Over Pittsburgh Seen in Several States." Thur., 2015 Feb. 19.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/02/tue-morning-fireball-over-pittsburgh.html

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

                 Monday, 2021 June 28.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
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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

Friday, June 18, 2021

Summer Begins at Solstice Late Sun. Night

        http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/JuneSolstice.JPG

[Graphic Source: © Copyright 2005, 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

Late Sunday night, Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, while at the same time, Winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

                                              2021 Summer Solstice

For 2021, the season of Summer begins at Earth's Northern Hemisphere's Summer Solstice (and the season of Winter begins at the Southern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice) at the moment of the June Solstice: Sunday Evening, 2021 June 20 at 11:32 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / June 21, 3:32 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

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.

However, because Earth is farther from the Sun during our Spring and Summer seasons, people in Earth's Northern Hemisphere actually benefit from a few extra days of warmth (on average), than the number of days in the Autumn and Winter seasons of the year. When Earth is closer to the Sun, the Earth travels faster in its elliptical orbit around the Sun (during the Autumn and Winter months); and, when Earth is farther than average from the Sun (during the Spring and Summer seasons) the Earth travels a little more slowly --- again, this refers to the Northern Hemisphere. Hence, the Spring and Summer seasons, in the Northern Hemisphere, have a few more days than the Autumn and Winter seasons.

In fact, Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College and author of widely-used, college astronomy text-books, has precisely calculated the duration of each season, in the Northern Hemisphere:

* Summer: 93 days, 15 hours

* Spring: 92 days, 19 hours

* Autumn / Fall: 89 days, 20 hours

* Winter: 89 days, 0 hours 

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, 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. As of this June Solstice, the tilt of Earth's axis is 23.4365 degrees / 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 11.4 seconds. 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 21) 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.

For Earth observers at precisely 23.4365 degrees / 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 11.4 seconds North Latitude at the moment of June Solstice, the Sun will appear to shine directly overhead. The line around the Earth at 23.4365 degrees / 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 11.4 seconds North Latitude is known as the Tropic of Cancer. Likewise, at 23.4365 degrees / 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 11.4 seconds South Latitude is located the Tropic of Capricorn, where the Sun appears directly overhead at the moment of the December Solstice.

However, as the tilt of the Earth is dynamic, and changes minutely over the years, the location of the Tropic lines also change. Currently, these Tropic lines are moving north at the rate of 0.47 arc-seconds / 49.21 feet / 15 meters per year.

The names Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were coined in the last centuries B.C., when the Sun would appear in the Constellation Cancer the Crab on the June Solstice and in the Constellation Capricornus the Horned Goat on the December Solstice. However today, hours after the June Solstice, the Sun enters the Constellation Gemini the Twins, 30 degrees from Cancer. And at the December Solstice, the Sun is now in the Constellation Sagittarius the Archer.

This is due to “Precession of the Equinoxes” of Earth, which is analogous to the wobbling of a spinning top. In the case of the Earth, this 25,772-year wobble causes observers to view the Sun in different parts of the sky over the centuries, at the same time of year while remaining in the same geographical location. As the Earth wobbles over the centuries, the north pole star also changes. Currently, Polaris is our north pole star; around A.D. 13,700, Vega will be our north pole star, due to the Precession of the Equinoxes.

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, amateur ("ham") radio operators, and long-distance radio enthusiasts (“radio DXers”), all 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.

Like clock-work, a well-known asterism (pattern of stars in the sky, not officially recognized as a constellation) of three stars shaped as a triangle is visible nearly overhead around local midnight during the Summer months (weather-permitting). And logically, as Star Trek's Mr. Spock might say, this asterism is known as the Summer Triangle!

Three of the brightest stars in the Summer sky constitute the Summer Triangle ---

  1. Vega (Alpha Lyrae - brightest star in the Constellation Lyra the Harp); brightest of the three stars and closest to the zenith (highest point in the sky);

  2. Altair (Alpha Aquilae - denotes the eagle eye and brightest star in the Constellation Aquila the Eagle); second brightest star of the trio;

  3. Deneb (Alpha Cygni - denotes the tail star, is the brightest star in the Constellation Cygnus the Swan, and is the “head” star of the asterism known as the Northern Cross).

The term Summer Triangle was popularized in the 1950s by American author H.A. Rey and British astronomer Patrick Moore, although constellation guidebooks mention this triangle of stars as far back as 1913. And, during World War II, military navigators referred to this asterism as the “Navigator's Triangle.”

Regardless of city light pollution, the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle should be visible to nearly everyone in Earth's Northern Hemisphere (weather-permitting). So, just look overhead late-evening or early-morning throughout the Summer for these annual visitors to our Summer sky!

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 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:  
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

Precession of the Equinoxes: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_precession 

Tropic of Cancer: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropic_of_Cancer 

Tropic of Capricorn: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropic_of_Capricorn 

Summer Triangle: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Triangle 

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

                 Friday, 2021 June 18.

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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