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NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 2020

NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 2020
sabato 17 ottobre 2020 - 16:02:03 Admin in:NASA
NASANIGHTSKY.png

NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 2020

NASANIGHTSKY

This Article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network.  The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach.  Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.org  to find local clubs, event and more!

The International Space Station: 20 Continuously Crewed Years of Operation

David Prosper

Did you know that humans have been living in the International Space Station, uninterrupted, for twenty years? Ever since the first crew members docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2000, more than 240 people have visited this outpost, representing 19 countries working together. They have been busy building, upgrading, and maintaining the space station - while simultaneously engaging in cutting-edge scientific research.

The first modules that would later make up the ISS were launched into orbit in 1998: the Russian Zarya launched via a Proton-K rocket, and the US-built Unity module launched about a week and a half later by the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Subsequent missions added vital elements and modules to the Space Station before it was ready to be inhabited. And at last, on November 2, 2000, Expedition-1 brought the first three permanent crew members to the station in a Russian Soyuz capsule: NASA astronaut William M. Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenk. Since then, an entire generation has been born into a world where humans continually live and work in space! The pressurized space inside this modern engineering marvel is roughly equal to the volume of a Boeing 747, and is sometimes briefly shared by up to 13 individuals, though the average number of crew members is 6. The unique microgravity environment of the ISS means that long-term studies can be performed on the space station that can’t be performed anywhere on Earth in many fields including space medicine, fluid dynamics, biology, meteorology and environmental monitoring, particle physics, and astrophysics. Of course, one of the biggest and longest experiments on board is research into the effects of microgravity on the human body itself, absolutely vital knowledge for future crewed exploration into deep space.

Stargazers have also enjoyed the presence of the ISS as it graces our skies with bright passes overhead. This space station is the largest object humans have yet put into orbit at 357 feet long, almost the length of an American football field (if end zones are included). The large solar arrays – 240 feet wide - reflect quite a bit of sunlight, at times making the ISS brighter than Venus to observers on the ground! Its morning and evening passes can be a treat for stargazers and can even be observed from brightly-lit cities. People all over the world can spot the ISS, and with an orbit only 90 minutes long, sometimes you can spot the station multiple times a night. You can find the next ISS pass near you and receive alerts at sites like NASA’s Spot the Station website (spotthestation.nasa.gov) and stargazing and satellite tracking apps.

Hundreds of astronauts from all over the world have crewed the International Space Station over the last two decades, and their work has inspired countless people to look up and ponder humanity's presence and future in space. You can find out more about the International Space Station and how living and working on board this amazing outpost has helped prepare us to return to the Moon - and beyond! - at nasa.gov.

Nov2020AWEB

The ISS photobombs the Sun in this amazing image taken during the eclipse of August 21, 2017 from Banner, Wyoming. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky   More info: bit.ly/eclipseiss

 Nov2020WEB

A complete view of the ISS as of October 4, 2018, taken from the Soyuz capsule of the departing crew of Expedition 56 from their Soyuz capsule. This structure was built by materials launched into orbit by 37 United States Space Shuttle missions and 5 Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets, and assembled and maintained by 230 spacewalks, with more to come! Credit: NASA/Roscosmos  

 More info: bit.ly/issbasics

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NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR OCTOBER 2020

NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR OCTOBER 2020
giovedì 24 settembre 2020 - 14:52:08 Admin in:NASA
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NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR OCTOBER 2020

NASANIGHTSKY

This Article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network.  The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach.  Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.org  to find local clubs, event and more!

Observe the Skies Near Mars

David Prosper

October is a banner month for Mars observers! October 6 marks the day Mars and Earth are at closest approach, a once-every-26-months event. A week later, on October 13, Mars is at opposition and up all night. Mars is very bright this month, and astronomers are eager to image and directly observe details on its disc; however, don’t forget to look at the space around the planet, too! By doing so, you can observe the remarkable retrograde motion of Mars and find a few nearby objects that you may otherwise overlook.

Since ancient times, Mars stood out to observers for its dramatic behavior. Usually a noticeable but not overly bright object, its wandering path along the stars showed it to be a planet instead of a fixed star. Every couple of years, this red planet would considerably flare up in brightness, for brief times becoming the brightest planet in the sky before dimming back down. At these times, Mars would also appear to slow down its eastward motion, stop, then reverse and head westward against the stars for a few weeks, before again stopping and resuming its normal eastward movement. This change in the planet’s movement is called “apparent retrograde motion.” While all of the planets will appear to undergo retrograde motion when observed from Earth, Mars’s retrograde appearances may be most dramatic. Mars retrograde motion in 2020 begins on September 10, and ends on November 16. You can observe its motion with your eyes, and it makes for a fun observing project! You can sketch the background stars and plot Mars as you observe it night after night, or set up a photographic series to track this motion. Does the planet move at the same rate night after night, or is it variable? As you observe its motion, note how Mars’s brightness changes over time. When does Mars appear at its most brilliant?

NASA has tons of great Mars-related resources! Want to know more about apparent retrograde motion? NASA has an explainer at: bit.ly/marsretromotion. Find great observing tips in JPl’s “What’s Up?” videos: bit.ly/jplwhatsup. Check out detailed views with NASA’s HiRISE satellite, returning stunning closeups of the Martian surface since 2006: hirise.lpl.arizona.edu. NASA’s Curiosity Rover will be joined in a few months by the Perseverance Rover, launched in late July to take advantage of the close approach of Mars and Earth, a launch window that opens two years: nasa.gov/perseverance.  Calculate the ideal launch window yourself with this handy guide: bit.ly/marslaunchwindow. The Night Sky Network‘s Exploring Our Solar System handout invites you to chart the positions of the planets in the Solar System, and NSN coordinator Jerelyn Ramirez recently contributed an update featuring Mars opposition! You can download both versions at bit.ly/exploresolarsystem. Young astronomers can find many Mars resources and activities on NASA’s Space Place: bit.ly/spaceplacemars. Here’s to clear skies and good seeing for Mars’s best appearance until 2033!

Oct2020a             Oct2020

 

(left) If you are paying this much attention to Mars, you’re likely curious about the skies surrounding it! Find Mars in the constellation Pisces, with constellations Aries, Triangulum, and Cetus nearby.  Aries may be the only one of these dimmer patterns readily visible from light-polluted areas. The Pleiades rises shortly after Mars. Dim Uranus is found close by, in Aries. If you are observing Mars up close, use the same eyepiece to check out Uranus’s tiny blue-green disc. If you are uncertain whether you spotted Uranus, you didn’t see it! Unlike stars, Uranus doesn’t resolve to a point at high magnifications.

 

(right) The path of Mars during the last five months of 2020. Notice the retrograde motion from September 10 to November 16, with prime Mars observing time found in between. October 6 is the day of closest approach of Earth and Mars, “just” 38.6 million miles apart. Images created with help from Stellarium: stellarium.org

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NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR AUGUST 2020

NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR AUGUST 2020
sabato 18 luglio 2020 - 02:49:00 Admin in:NASA
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NASA NIGHT SKY NOTES FOR AUGUST 2020

NightskY

This Article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network.  The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach.  Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.org  to find local clubs, event and more!

NASA's Perseverance Rover

David Prosper

The Summer Triangle is high in the sky after sunset this month for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, its component stars seemingly brighter than before, as they have risen out of the thick, murky air low on the horizon and into the crisper skies overhead. Deneb, while still bright when lower in the sky, now positively sparkles overhead as night begins. What makes Deneb special, in addition to being one of the three points of the Summer Triangle? Its brilliance has stirred the imaginations of people for thousands of years!

Deneb is the brightest star in Cygnus the Swan and is positioned next to a striking region of the Milky Way, almost as a guidepost. The ancient Chinese tale of the Cowherd (Niulang) and the Weaver Girl (Zhinü) - represented by the stars Altair and Vega - also features Deneb. In this tale the two lovers are cast apart to either side of the Milky Way, but once a year a magical bridge made of helpful magpies – marked by Deneb – allows the lovers to meet. Deneb has inspired many tales since and is a staple setting of many science fiction stories, including several notable episodes of Star Trek.

Astronomers have learned quite a bit about this star in recent years, though much is still not fully understood – in part because of its intense brightness. The distance to Deneb from our Sun was measured by the ESA’s Hipparcos mission and estimated to be about 2,600 light years. Later analysis of the same data suggested Deneb may be much closer: about 1,500 light years away. However, the follow-up mission to Hipparcos, Gaia, is unable to make distance measurements to this star! Deneb, along with a handful of other especially brilliant stars, is too bright to be accurately measured by the satellite’s ultra-sensitive instruments.

Deneb is unusually vivid, especially given its distance. Generally, most of the brightest stars seen from Earth are within a few dozen to a few hundred light years away, but Deneb stands out by being thousands of light years distant! In fact, Deneb ranks among the top twenty brightest night time stars (at #19) and is easily the most distant star in that list. Its luminosity is fantastic but uncertain, since its exact distance is also unclear. What is known about Deneb is that it’s a blue-white supergiant star that is furiously fusing its massive stocks of thermonuclear fuel and producing enough energy to make this star somewhere between 50,000 and 190,000 times brighter than our Sun if they were viewed at the same distance! The party won’t last much longer; in a few million years, Deneb will exhaust its fuel and end its stellar life in a massive supernova, but the exact details of how this will occur, as with other vital details about this star, remain unclear.

Discover more about brilliant stars and their mysteries at nasa.gov.

Long exposure shot of Deneb (brightest star, near center) in its richly populated Milky Way neighborhood. Photo credit: Flickr user jpstanley. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpstanley/1562619922   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ 

Web

Spot Vega and the other stars of the Summer Triangle by looking straight up after sunset in August!

Web

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