NASA’s Osiris-Rex is a space probe designed to travel to an asteroid, orbit around it, gather some material from it then return to Earth. Osiris-Rex was launched on September 8, 2016.
Now, OSIRIS-REx is going to fly past Earth on Sept. 22nd and sling-shot itself toward “Bennu.”, an asteroid classified as potentially hazardous to Earth. At its closest approach, OSIRIS-REx will be only 10,711 miles above Earth’s surface, inside the orbit of geosynchronous satellites.
Bennu crosses Earth’s orbit every six years and in 2135, the asteroid may enter what is called a “keyhole” between the Earth and the Moon where the gravitational pull of Earth could slightly change Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for Earth later in the century. Currently, the odds of a collision 150+ years from now are no more than about 1 in 2700, small, but enough to prompt an $800 million space mission.
Just before and after its closest approach, Osiris-REx could shine with as much reflected sunlight as a 9th to 11th magnitude star. This is well within reach of backyard telescopes, if you’re in the right place on Earth. The depiction below will give you an idea of just how large Bennu is.

Osiris-Rex is scheduled to arrive at Bennu in August of 2018. There, it will spend more than a year flying in close proximity to Bennu using five instruments to survey the asteroid. The resulting maps will be used to pinpoint a safe sampling site, where the probe can each out with a mechanical arm and gather material from the asteroid’s surface. If all goes as planned, Osiris-Rex will return to Earth in the Fall of 2023 for the samples to be analyzed.
We’ll keep you posted over the next 6 years or so, so stay tuned.

August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse Photography

From our presentations to people on the street, we’re getting questions about not only how to view the eclipse, but how to photograph it. With this in mind, here’s some information.

First, as with viewing the eclipse, unaided by any electronic equipment,  DO NOT point your camera at the Sun without a proper filter over the lens. No matter what type of camera you have, this could cause serious damage to the camera.

Now, rather than give you a lot of information here, let me direct you to a website which has everything you need to know, from viewing to photographing. The website is:

From the main page, for information for photographing, scroll down until you see “Eclipse Potpourri”. Under this heading is a sub heading, “How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse”.

Well, there it is. clear skies and good luck.

Why did the Schiaparelli probe crash?

The European Space Agency has finished their investigation into the Schiaparelli probe crash. Apparently excessive rotation of the craft during descent caused the onboard computer to calculate that the probe was actually below ground level. While the probe was still 3.7 km above the surface of Mars it activated the “on-ground” systems, resulting in the crash. More details in the article below:

ESA Completes Inquiry into ExoMars Schiaparelli Failure

Sun-n-Fun 2017

Sun-n-Fun earlier this April was just that: lots of Sun and lots of fun. There was more than airplanes in the sky. Here we’re giving some instruction and education about the Sun while we actually looked at it. Although the Sun was relatively quiet, we tracked a group of Sunspots across the solar disk all week and witnessed a small solar prominence emanating from the group as it rounded the viewable edge of the Sun.

Here we are setting up for the night show, star gazing that is. We had some nice views of Jupiter, the Moon, stars and star clusters.

But the fireworks turned out to be a bit brighter than the stars; louder too. But all in all, everyone enjoyed looking through our scopes and seeing the wonders of space, up close and personal.

The Blue Angels were impressive too.

ESA’s Schiaparelli Mars Lander Crashes

The probe fell out of the sky from more than a mile up, impacted the ground at more than 185 mph, and catastrophically blew up with its tanks full of fuel.


The lander was released from the orbiter as planned; the parachute opened as planned; the forward heat shield released as planned; the rear heat shield (and parachute) released as planned; but apparently, the retro jets to slow the lander to a safe landing speed did not function and the lander crashed into the surface of Mars.

To date, there have been 18 attempted landings; 8 have been successful. Current proposals would place man on Mars somewhere between 2037 and 2040. Any volunteers?

Sun-n-Fun’s Aerospace Discovery Weekend

2016-october-aerospace-discovery-weekendHere we are (the yellow shirts) with a group of Scouts during our Solar observing. The weather was perfect and the observers  were excited to look at the Sun, seeing Sunspots and prominences.

The Scouts and other youth weren’t the only ones enjoying the view of the stars. One young man had to share his experience with his Teddy Bear.


New Mars Lander


Mars landing this Wednesday: On Wednesday, Oct. 19th, a European Space Agency (ESA) probe named “Schiaparelli” will parachute to the surface of Mars after a plunge through the atmosphere. Schiaparelli hitched a ride to Mars onboard the Trace Gas Orbiter, launched from Earth last March. The Trace Gas Orbiter is a satellite that will spend the next few years scanning the Red Planet for chemical signs of life–especially biogenic methane. You can follow the action on the ESA’s live webcast. What do you think they’ll find?

Comet 67 P from Rosetta before landing

comet-67p-29-september-2016-from-rosettaThis is comet 67 P taken from ESA’s Rosetta probe from 14 miles above the surface as Rosetta was approaching the comet to land on its surface. This occurred about 7:20 am (EDT) this morning. Rosetta continued taking pictures until it touched down. As it got closer, the resolution showed remarkable detail (see below). Each pixel covered 10 cm of area. The mission was a success.


European Space Agency’s Rosetta finds Philae


Found: Philae lander finally spotted by Rosetta on comet 67P

Remember the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe from November 2014? It went to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the Philae Lander touched down on the comet…and bounced, coming to rest in a shadow, preventing its batteries from charging. The lander did manage to operate for 3 days, sending back some pictures and other radar information. Unfortunately, the location of the lander had been undetermined until now. Images taken by the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft show Philae wedged against a dark cliff on the comet’s surface. This came just weeks before Rosetta is expected to make its own landing on the comet, ending the successful two-year mission.

The agency has known Philae’s rough location since June 2015, when unexpectedly, the lander woke up and briefly resumed radio contact. Since then, pinpointing its exact location has been the goal of the mission. Cecilia Tubiana said, “With only a month left of the Rosetta mission, we are so happy to have finally imaged Philae, and to see it in such amazing detail.”

Knowing the landing site will help mission scientists fully understand the data gathered by the probe. Now the data relayed back to Earth can be associated with a location.

But Rosetta doesn’t have long to celebrate this success. On September 30th, Rosetta will be commanded to land on 67P’s surface. It was never designed to do that. They’re planning to reduce landing speed to 1.2 mph. This will provide scientists a second chance to study a comet up close. Rosetta will end up in a slightly different part of the comet, where gas outbursts are erupting into space. Scientists hope to get information on the gas and dust being ejected from the comet.


Stay tuned for information as it becomes available.

Asteroid Fly-by update


ASTEROID BUZZES EARTH, HEADS FOR MOON: Newly discovered asteroid2016 RB1 flew past Earth on Sept 7th only 25,000 miles above our planet’s south pole. Because of the asteroid’s southern trajectory, it did not pass within the orbits of any communication or weather satellites–but it was close. After it buzzed Earth, the space rock turned and headed for the Moon, executing a wider flyby of 179,000 miles on Sept. 8th. Researchers say 2016 RB1 is ~50 ft in diameter, about the size of a grey whale.

Well, as thought, it missed. And by 4,000 miles more than the original guess. But it was still close. Keep track of Near Earth Asteroids on And not just asteroids; if you attended our presentation of “Space Weather, Earth Climate”, you may remember how we said cosmic rays affect our climate. Well, you can track how cosmic rays are affecting our climate on

Check it out and stay tuned for information on a probe heading for an asteroid for surface samples. Reports to follow soon.