Jim’s Star | A Daughter’s Gift

Many years ago our youngest daughter used the International Star Registry to name a star for me. I received a nice certificate and a map showing where the star was located. Its coordinates were given as well as the magnitude. I never could find it with the equipment I owned. Based on the coordinates given in the certificate, it is indicated by the yellow markers somewhere in Pisces in this image from the screen of my desktop software.

In order to give a sense of perspective about where this star is located, I zoomed out from that spot while recording a video of the screen. As the view widens, the Pleiades and then Orion appear at the left. Note the movements of the mouse pointer.

My next step to locate the star with a telescope. I will try with the U of Iowa Gemini telescope in Arizona. It should be able to see it with a long enough exposure.


Iridium Flare Pass | 2017 Dec 1

The Iridium 21 satellite passed over my part of Iowa this morning before sunrise. I set the iPad Air 2 on a firm base pointed at an angle toward the NNW sky. At 6:02 am, I started the 102 sec exposure using the NightCap Camera app, same as for the ISS pass three days earlier. The satellite was going north as it entered the frame at the top. After about 30 sec, a highly reflective mirror-like antenna cast a beam of sunlight down toward me. It brightened to several times more than the planets Venus or Jupiter ever get. Then it dimmed and continued north.

Taken with NightCap Camera | ISS mode | 102 sec | click to embiggen

Another satellite passed at the same time going toward the upper left from north-to-south. It is very faintly visible to the left of the flare. According to the Heavens Above database for my area, it was either a Russian satellite, or an Ariane rocket body.

Space Station Pass | Plus Three

An email notified me of a pass over my region by the International Space Station. The large bright object is always fun to see as it crosses the sky. First visibility was at 6:15 pm in the southwest low in the tree branches at the lower right of the image. It rose higher in the southern sky toward the upper left and passed the Moon in the southeastern sky. There is disappeared as it went into the darkness of the Earth’s shadow.

I used an application on my iPad called NightCap Camera to record a time exposure of nearly 5 minutes. It has a setting designed to capture ISS passes. With the iPad pointed almost due south, it recorded more than the ISS. A passenger plane with its blinking lights moved right-to-left across the field of view starting under the edge of the roofline. A few moments later another plane moved, this time left-to-right, parallel to the first. I kept recording the image. When I examined the image later, I noticed another object had entered the frame from the top before I closed the shutter. It was probably a polar orbiting satellite. I hadn’t noticed it as it was quite dim in the sky.

Sometimes you get surprised with more than expected. I like when serendipity happens.

Click to embiggen

The End | Near or Not

In case you didn’t notice, the predicted end of the world on 19 Nov 2017 did not happen. I don’t expect it to happen any time soon. I don’t normally make bold predictions about anything. There was one exception in 1974 in the Nixon administration. I successfully predicted he would resign. I think I was lucky.

If you are a believer in the end times prophesies, you may scoff at my prediction. That’s ok. I will give 10 reasons why I think I’m right. Mine are based on science. Join me below the glowing solar firestorm of death and destruction for the reasons we can feel the end is NOT near.

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Star Names and Catalogues

I recently read a post by fellow blogger The Belmont Rooster about the scientific naming of plants. In his post, he described with examples how the names are determined according to some rules and criteria. The system brings the many plants of the world into a naming hierarchy with allowances for special cases and situations. If you like plants, check out his blog.

Knowing that I am an amateur astronomer, he asked if the stars also have a naming system. I said they do. It seemed a topic worthy of some discussion. Come along with me. To set the stage, we will start with some music. Thank you, Willie.

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Mars Bound | I Have My Boarding Pass

My bags are packed. I am ready to join 2.4 million other passengers as we begin our journey to Mars in May 2018 aboard the INSIGHT spacecraft. The trip will take about 7 months. It is a one-way journey.

Click to read the fine print. My flight miles award will be enormous.

INSIGHT is the acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. NASA loves acronyms. Previous Mars missions have studied intensively the surface and atmosphere of the planet. This spacecraft is the first designed to study the interior in hopes of finding clues to the formation of the rocky inner planets. The spacecraft will use seismology, heat flow equipment, and very precise tracking to probe the planet below ground.

The opportunity to sign up for the mission ended on November 1. There were over 2.4 million people who did so. In this link are examples which include children from an elementary school, mission and science managers, as well as famous people like William Shatner.

Clinton Prairie Elementary School | Frankfort, Indiana

Our names will be placed on silicon microchips and attached to the spacecraft. I think it is cool that so many names will be planted on another planet. Perhaps future space travelers will find them. Would you be willing to make the actual trip knowing it was one-way?

SDO | Solar Temps | Hot to Hotter

The sun’s output in the visible spectrum peaks around yellow. Our eyes are most sensitive to that part of the visible spectrum. The sun also radiates in a broad range of other wavelengths invisible to our eyes. Each comes from dynamics taking place on the surface and in the atmosphere of the sun.

I’ve written about NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) earlier in a previous post. SDO observes and images the sun several times a minute at ten different wavelengths to give a more complete picture of the activity at and near the surface. A description of those wavelengths is available here. I used the images from the SDO site to render this image of the sun at those ten wavelengths. The yellow center represents the sun’s surface. Each ring of color is at a higher altitude and temperature in the atmosphere of the sun.

Original images used from: NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory

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