Asteroid Fly-by

Compliments of

ASTEROID FLYBY: Today, Sept. 7th, a truck-sized asteroid is flying past Earth only 21,000 miles above our planet’s surface. At closest approach, 2016 RB1 will actually skim the orbital-zone of geosynchronous satellites.  The odds of an impact with any spacecraft are, however, negligibly low.  image.

This one was discovered just yesterday (Sept. 6). This happens on occasion. We don’t always see them coming with much warning. This one is a little smaller than the one that exploded over Russia (bus sized) a couple of years ago. 21,000 miles is close. But it is a miss. And this one is only one of two discovered yesterday. Discoveries have been averaging 1 a week lately.

Stay tuned for more space stuff!

Planetary/Lunar Conjunction

planets conjunction

This picture comes compliments of Not only can you see the planets in the picture, but Saturn and Mars are visible just above the moon but outside of this field of view.  It’s not often we see all five naked-eye planets aligned like this. And if you have a telescope, you can view Neptune rising just as Venus sets.

This is impressive, but better than this, in the year 2040 (I hope to be here to see it), these same planets (all 5) will be in conjunction. beginning in June, they all will begin moving closer to each other until September 8, at 3:00 pm, when they will converge to within a few degrees of each other in the constellation Virgo around the star Porima. This appearance is known as the “Grand Conjunction” and occurs only once every 4,000 years. On top of this, the Moon (as a New Moon) will be there also.  And Uranus and Neptune will be in the sky (but not in conjunction with the rest) at the same time.

Long Wave Array

Found this site thanks to Sterling N0SSC, who is doing his internship at the VLA in New Mexico right now. The LWA is a joint project by the University of New Mexico, Naval Research Laboratory, Virginia Tech, Los Alamos National Lab, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to build a high-resolution radio telescope that takes continuous observations in the 10-88 MHz frequency range.

The LWA antenna array near the VLA array in New Mexico (image credit Sterling Coffey)
Close up view of the crossed-dipole receive antennas at the LWA (image credit Sterling Coffey)

At the top of the page is a near-live view of what the telescope is seeing right now – very cool! If you scroll down to the bottom there is a calendar with links to 24hr-peroid time lapse movies of what they have observed in the past, like this one. Well worth checking out!

Live sky above the LWA1

More info on celestial navigation

Here’s some links for more information about celestial navigation from our presentation on April 30th, 2016.

History and general info:

Smithsonian Institute – Celestial Navigation at Sea – Navigating by the stars

Secrets of Ancient Navigators – Nova

Pytheas’ Measurements of Latitude – Wikipedia

How to:

Rough Science Challenge – Measure Latitude and Longitude

The Natural Navigator

Navigation by Sextant -PBS


American Practical Navigator (view online or download)

Longitude (preview below)

Mercury Transit May 09, 2016


I just wanted to let everyone know about a celestial event that doesn’t happen very often. On May 9th, the planet Mercury will pass between Earth and the Sun. This is what is called a transit. Mercury can be seen as a “dot” moving across the face of the Sun. The next Mercury transit will occur in November of 2019 and not again until November of 2032.

The photo shows the path of Mercury and approximate times (in Universal Time).

Of course, you DO NOT look at the Sun without the proper equipment. Looking at the Sun without the proper equipment can (probably will) cause serious damage to your eyes, including blindness. And we don’t want that to happen. Sunglasses will not be enough. A welding shield lens (#14) or darker will be sufficient. Because Mercury is small against the Sun, binoculars or a telescope of 50 power is best. If you have a telescope, but no Sun filter, you can project the image onto a piece of white paper. But DO NOT look into the eyepiece. Be sure to keep the eyepiece facing away from you at all times.

The event will last a little more than 6 Hrs, beginning at 7:12 am EST.

If you have the opportunity to observe, please let us know how it goes. Some of our guys will be trying to get pictures with scopes and binoculars. When they’re available, we’ll publish it for you.

Good viewing!

Sun-n-Fun 2016

SUN n FUN 2016 UK RAF Cadets Solar Observing

The Lakeland Sun-n-Fun Fly-In is the second largest Fly-in/Airshow in the US. It brings pilots and aviation enthusiasts from all around the world. And we are there to educate the public on the relationship between aviation and astronomy. Here a group of RAF cadets from the UK enjoy a look at the Sun, “Up close and personal”.