Endeavour Space Academy: Surprises!
I had a list of topics… most of them got covered… I strayed a bit because student’s questions made me discuss other topics – which I had to go get pictures for…
I covered a LOT of topics! I mentioned the Inspiration 4 mission – none of the students had heard of that.
I discussed the speed of light: “8 minutes from the Sun,” communication times to the Moon and Mars, and the whole “when you look up into the sky, you are seeing into the past” bit.
Image: A beam of light is depicted travelling between the Earth and the Moon in the time it takes a light pulse to move between them: 1.255 seconds at their mean orbital (surface-to-surface) distance. The relative sizes and separation of the Earth–Moon system are shown to scale.
I navigated to NASA’s Solar System Exploration website – I was going to “quickly” go over the solar system… HA! What was I thinking? I discussed the Moon, gravity and tidal locking, and then went to Mercury and I discussed its north pole craters with ice.
I navigated to Venus, and when I said the surface pressure was 90 bars, and temperature was 900°F, and their eyes got HUGE! I also mentioned Venus’ bizarre rotation. I showed them photos from Venus’ surface, and discussed the three upcoming missions to Venus from NASA and the ESA. I mentioned that in a decade or so, THEY could be the researchers working with brand new data from Venus!
I clicked on Mars, and showed how Phobos was tidally-locked. We also had discussion about how inhospitable Mars is as a settlement location, and the perils of travel there. None of the students had seen the movie “The Martian;” I showed them the Hermes interplanetary spacecraft from that movie, and said “THIS right here, with that rotating torus, is exactly what we need to go to Mars… and we’re nowhere near that yet.”
I navigated to Eros and asked the students if they knew what an asteroid was? One student answered “rock” – which made me happy! I went on to quickly explain differentiation and the different types of asteroids.
Which led me to discuss icy bodies in the outer solar system – so I went to Saturn, and showed them its rings, and how thin they are. I asked them if they knew what the rings were made of, and they got it right! But when I when asked them what Saturn’s moons were made of, one said “rock,” so I went to Mimas, and asked what that looked like – they said “ice!” So, if Saturn’s rings are ice, and its moons are ice – what do you think happened? And they got it pretty darn close! I then discussed the Roche-limit, and Saturn tearing a moon apart; I tied it back to the gravitational forces that cause the Earth’s Moon to be tidally-locked.
As the hour was running out, I navigated to Enceladus and showed the students images of its plumes – which they’d never seen before… I ran out of time when starting to discuss hydrothermal vents – next time!
Sometime during the hour, I mentioned the Exocast podcast that I recently started listening to – they’ve had some pretty interesting guests!
Jupiter and Saturn continue to be excellent viewing targets in the southeastern sky after sunset; Jupiter is slowly moving eastward away from Saturn.
Venus continues to appear low above the southwestern horizon after sunset, moving slightly southward towards the star Antares each evening; the crescent Moon appears between Antares and Venus on Oct. 9th. I call this a “fender-bender conjunction” – please be careful when driving south or west on this day!
The crescent Moon appears in the constellation Sagittarius in the southwestern sky after sunset on Oct. 11th
A thin crescent Moon appears above the eastern horizon before sunrise on Oct. 4th – be sure to look for earthshine.
A very thin crescent Moon appears very low above the eastern horizon before sunrise on Oct. 5th – be sure to look for earthshine, again!
- The Moon is a Waning Crescent – visible low to the east before sunrise.
- The New Moon occurs on Oct. 6th.
- After Oct. 6th, the Moon will be a Waxing Crescent – visible toward the southwest in early evening.
If you click on the Moon image above, or click this link, you will go to NASA’s Moon Phase and Libration, 2021 page – it will show you what the Moon looks like right now. If you click the image on that page, you will download a high-rez TIFF image annotated with the names of prominent features – helpful for logging your lunar observations!
The Sun has 2 spots – one of them very large and rotating into view. SpaceWeather.com says: “AR2882 is big, but quiet. It has a simple ‘alpha-class’ magnetic field that poses little threat for flares..”
SpaceWeather.com also reports that “Sunspot counts for Sept. 2021 were the highest in more than 5 years. And, for the 11th month in a row, the sunspot number has significantly exceeded the official forecast.”
The Sun seen in 193 angstroms on October 4th.
AR2880 is blowing a LOT of stuff off, and AR2882 has a LOT of activity associated with it.
The Sun seen in 304 angstroms on October 4th.
LOTS of prominence activity – especially around AR2880!
You can view the Sun in near real-time, in multiple frequencies here: SDO-The Sun Now.
You can create your own time-lapse movies of the Sun here: AIA/HMI Browse Data.
You can browse all the SDO images of the Sun from 2010 to the present here: Browse SDO archive.
Amateur Solar Astrophotography
Solar wind speed is 289.5 km/sec ▼ WOW! with a density of 9.0 protons/cm3 ▲ at 1734 UT.
Click here to see a near real-time animation of the corona and solar wind from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
- Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) discovered this month: 24, this year: 2163 (+90), all time: 26,992 (+89)
- Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs): 2213 (+6 updated 2021-10-05)
- Total Minor Planets discovered (NASA): 1,113,527 (updated 2021-08-17) – not been updated for many weeks.
- Total Minor Planets discovered (MPC): 1,130,421 (+13,633, updated 2021-10-05)
Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid||Date(UT)||Miss Distance||Velocity (km/s)||Diameter (m)|
|2021 TM||2021-Oct-05||1.8 LD||14.2||11|
|2021 SE1||2021-Oct-05||8.6 LD||4.3||19|
|2021 ST||2021-Oct-06||6 LD||9.1||22|
|2021 RP12||2021-Oct-06||5 LD||9.7||43|
|2021 TR1||2021-Oct-06||18.8 LD||12.8||34|
|1998 SD9||2021-Oct-06||10.6 LD||10.8||59|
|2015 TQ21||2021-Oct-07||10.7 LD||20.7||12|
|2021 SD2||2021-Oct-07||5.7 LD||6.6||15|
|2021 TT1||2021-Oct-10||1 LD||17.1||20|
|2021 RF5||2021-Oct-10||19.9 LD||8.8||47|
|2021 TQ1||2021-Oct-10||3.1 LD||5.4||8|
|2021 QF5||2021-Oct-11||15.4 LD||7.1||59|
|2019 SE5||2021-Oct-11||16.3 LD||6.6||16|
|2021 SF1||2021-Oct-12||6.2 LD||3.4||13|
|2021 TN1||2021-Oct-12||7.5 LD||3.6||19|
|2021 TC1||2021-Oct-14||14.6 LD||6.6||31|
|2021 SM1||2021-Oct-14||6.9 LD||7.2||27|
|2021 SM3||2021-Oct-15||13.2 LD||16||98|
|2020 TH6||2021-Oct-19||7.3 LD||5.9||6|
|1996 VB3||2021-Oct-20||8.8 LD||15.3||135|
|2021 SG2||2021-Oct-21||15.9 LD||5.8||24|
|2021 RE10||2021-Oct-21||15.5 LD||5.1||56|
|2021 TE1||2021-Oct-24||9.8 LD||12.2||46|
|2017 SJ20||2021-Oct-25||18.7 LD||15.7||123|
|2019 UW6||2021-Oct-26||8 LD||11.1||17|
|2009 WY7||2021-Nov-02||19.2 LD||14.7||54|
|2017 TS3||2021-Nov-02||13.9 LD||9.9||135|
|2005 VL1||2021-Nov-04||17 LD||5.2||18|
|2020 KA||2021-Nov-06||14.9 LD||4.8||11|
|2021 SP3||2021-Nov-08||15.6 LD||9.3||68|
|2019 XS||2021-Nov-09||1.5 LD||10.7||65|
|2017 WG14||2021-Nov-10||18.6 LD||11.6||45|
|2004 UE||2021-Nov-13||11.1 LD||13.2||178|
|2016 VR||2021-Nov-15||8 LD||8.7||20|
|2010 VK139||2021-Nov-15||6.4 LD||13.9||65|
|2019 VL5||2021-Nov-15||8.6 LD||8||23|
|2016 JG12||2021-Nov-20||14.4 LD||7.5||112|
|2021 KH2||2021-Nov-21||19.3 LD||6.5||31|
|2014 WF201||2021-Nov-24||13.2 LD||5.5||27|
|2009 WB105||2021-Nov-25||15.1 LD||18.9||71|
|2019 BB5||2021-Nov-25||18.8 LD||8.3||16|
|1994 WR12||2021-Nov-29||16.1 LD||8.8||123|
UAE to launch probe targeting asteroid between Mars & Jupiter
Landing on an Asteroid
On October 5, 2021, the NASA All Sky Fireball Network reported 30 fireballs!
Position of the planets & several spacecraft in the inner solar system on October 5th:
Position of the planets in the middle solar system:
Position of the planets in the outer solar system:
Solar System News
A bigger nursery for the solar system's first formed solids
Scientists confirm decrease in Pluto's atmospheric density
An insider's take on the ESA BepiColombo mission's first fly-by of Mercury
Parker Solar Probe Finds Dust
International Space Station
10 crew now onboard
HiRISE - Beautiful Mars
#Landsat Smooth Sailing – So Far!
Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3)
Landsat 9 3D Model Added to NASA's "Eyes on the Earth" Web App
Quick link here. Note: Landsat 9 has NOT yet bee added to the installable NASA Eyes app for Windows/MAC.
Global avg sea level continues to rise
See a list of current NASA missions here: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions?mission_status=current
ex·o·plan·et /ˈeksōˌplanət/, noun: a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun.
Data from the NASA Exoplanet Archive
* Confirmed Planets Discovered by TESS refers to the number planets that have been published in the refereed astronomical literature.
* TESS Project Candidates refers to the total number of transit-like events that appear to be astrophysical in origin, including false positives as identified by the TESS Project.
* TESS Project Candidates Yet To Be Confirmed refers to the number of TESS Project Candidates that have not yet been dispositioned as a Confirmed Planet or False Positive.
SpaceWeather.com Realtime Aurora Gallery: https://spaceweathergallery.com/aurora_gallery.html
National Audubon Society calls for ‘Lights Out’ after ‘mass mortality’ event of migratory birds. What a sad story!
- Visit an International Dark Sky Park: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/
- If you live in Michigan, visit the Michigan Dark Skies site: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/darkskies/
Education and STEM
Mr. Kyle Acierno: "Woman on the Moon: Bridging the Gender Gap"
World Space Week 2021: Oct. 4-10
LEGO and NASA #BuildToLaunch episode
Luminous: Can a Michigan astronomer predict a nova?
This video was a special presentation at last night’s meeting of the Warren Astronomical Society!
From their website:
Luminous tells the story of the first astronomer in history to publicly predict the near-future explosion of a star – if he’s right, 2022 will see the closest thing to a supernova in the skies of earth in 400 years, and every school kid in the northern hemisphere will know it. But the prediction is high risk. Others in the astronomical community are skeptical, and Professor Larry Molnar’s professional and personal reputations hang in the balance. Luminous, a feature documentary by award-winning filmmaker Sam Smartt (Wagonmasters), follows Larry’s journey to test his unprecedented prediction, knowing that its success or failure will unfold squarely in the international spotlight.
Larry Molnar is a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, MI. He earned his PhD from Harvard University in 1985 and was a post-doctoral at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics from 1985-1988. Before coming to Calvin, Larry taught at the University of Iowa from 1988-1998. In many ways, Larry is an unlikely protagonist for this story. Though brilliant, he is mild-mannered, kind, unassuming, and not a seeker of the limelight. He believes in intellectual curiosity for its own sake, not in accomplishing great things in order to garner attention. For the audience, the central dramatic question of the film is clear— “Is Larry right? Will the star actually explode?” But as a scientist Larry sees it differently: “In a sense, I don’t care whether I’m right or not. What I want to know is the truth.”
The Science Behind the Prediction
Using light curve data from V1309 SCO leading up to its red nova outburst in 2008, Professor Molnar developed a predicted curve of exponential period decay in KIC 9832227, which predicts a similar red nova outburst in 2022 (see graph below.) With only one such event estimated to occur in our galaxy every ten years, it seems wildly improbable that Larry has stumbled upon the next one to explode, but when the system follows the prediction perfectly for two years, Larry decides to go public with his prediction so that everyone can watch the event if it occurs.
To learn more about Luminous, visit luminous-film.com
V1309 Scorpii (also known as V1309 Sco) is a contact binary that merged into a single star in 2008 in a process known as a luminous red nova. It was the first star to provide conclusive evidence that contact binary systems end their evolution in a stellar merger. Its similarities to V838 Monocerotis and V4332 Sagittarii allowed scientists to identify these stars as merged contact binaries as well. – Wikipedia
Software Apps used for this post:
NASA Eyes on the Solar System: an immersive 3D solar system and space mission simulator – free for the PC /MAC.
SpaceEngine: a free 3D Universe Simulator for Windows. Steam version with VR support available.
Stellarium: a free open source planetarium app for PC/MAC/Linux. It’s a great tool for planning observing sessions. A web-based version of Stellarium is also available.