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08/09/2022 – Ephemeris – Artemis I mission could launch by the end of the month

August 9, 2022 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 8:57, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:39. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 4:15 tomorrow morning.

NASA has announced the launch date for the Artemis 1 uncrewed mission to the Moon. It’s August 29th. Or, in NASAspeak, NET (not earlier than) August 29th. Being the first launch of a new vehicle, they probably won’t launch on that day, due to encountered problems. Their second wet dress rehearsal still fell a few seconds short of the programmed end time, just before the main engines would be lit. If Artemis can’t launch on the 29th, the next date to go will be September 2nd, The four-day wait is because in that period the Orion capsule would spend too much time in the Earth’s shadow and without sunlight for its solar panels, depleting its batteries, on its way out to the Moon. The next opportunity after that would come on the 5th. Then a long wait til the 20th.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Simulated Artemis launch from Launch Pad 39B

Simulated Artemis launch from Launch Pad 39B as it would be seen from offshore. Credit NASA.

Artemis I mission overview

Major mission milestones. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA

07/11/2022 – Ephemeris – First color images from the James Webb Space Telescope will be released tomorrow

July 11, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, July 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 9:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:08. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 4:19 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow at 10:30 am, NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute will present the first results from the James Webb Space Telescope. These will be, I believe, four multi-spectral images rendered in full color, and other data. The spectral range of Webb in the infrared is greater than Hubble Space Telescope by several factors. Hubble operates mostly in visible light and plus a bit in the ultraviolet and the near infrared. The current alignment images released are monochromatic and rendered in orange for aesthetic reasons, and to hint that these are from the long wavelength part of the spectrum. I expect the new images to look as great or better than anything the Hubble has produced. There will be a Webb image release and celebration at the Milliken Auditorium of the Dennos Museum at 10:30, with doors opening at 10 am; and also at the Main Library in Traverse City.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The alignment image of the James Webb Space Telescope after the 18 primary mirror segments have been aligned to act as a single mirror. Beside the alignment star showing its overexposed diffraction spikes, many faint galaxies can be seen. The alignment star, near the Big Dipper, is almost too faint to be seen in binoculars. Credit: NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

Webb Fine Guidance Sensor test image

Webb Fine Guidance Sensor (FGC) test image guiding on a star for 72 exposures totaling 32 hours over 8 days. The color key to brightness is white, yellow, orange, red for bright to dim. The black cores to the stars, and at least one galaxy is due to saturating the pixels due to brightness, and are not black holes. Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA, FGS team. The Fine Guidance Sensor is a contribution to the James Webb Space Telescope by the Canadian Space Agency.

04/05/2022 – Ephemeris – The first Axiom Space mission to the ISS amid a busy April

April 5, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 8:15, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:14. The Moon, halfway from new to first quarter, will set at 1:15 tomorrow morning.

One of the commercial entities working to launch their own space station is Axiom Space, founded in 2016. The first Axiom mission is Ax-1, an 8-day mission to the International Space Station that, as of when I am recording this last Sunday night, is scheduled for tomorrow on a SpaceX Falcon 9/Crew Dragon from launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral. The Artemis-1 wet dress rehearsal was halted earlier Sunday due to a pressurization problem with the mobile launch tower. That’s on pad 39B, a bit over a mile and a half away. I’m assuming that Artemis-1 has priority over the Axiom mission. Plus, there’s the SpaceX Crew-5 launch later this month to the space station, which also has president. It could be an interesting time at the Cape.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

April 4, 2022: The SpaceX Axiom-1 launch is now scheduled for no earlier than Friday, April 8, for an 8-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Crew-4 launch had previously been pushed back to April 20. The Crew-3 return from the ISS was to be 5 days later.

The Artemis-1 Wet Dress Rehearsal was scrubbed April 4th with a malfunctioning vent valve. A successful test will have fuel and oxidizer loaded and all prelaunch functions completed, and counted down to a bit over 9 seconds to launch.

Axiom Space: space station plan

Axiom Space station growth plan

The planned evolution of the Axiom commercial space station. It will start being a module attached to the ISS starting in 2024, according to the current plan. Various modules will be attached. After the power tower containing solar panels is attached, it can be detached from the ISS to fly free. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: Axiom Space.

03/22/2022 – Ephemeris – James Webb Space Telescope has aligned its 18 segment mirror to act as one

March 22, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 7:57, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:40. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:34 tomorrow morning.

Last week, NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) released a photograph of the star they had been using to align the mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope. What started a couple of months ago as a scattering of in and out of focus images of that star, are now coalesced into a single image. The six spikes on the very overexposed star are called diffraction spikes, caused by the straight edges of the hexagonal mirrors. The other objects in the field are distant galaxies. So even this calibration image appears to meet or exceed expectations. There is more work to be done in getting the other three instruments that will receive light from the telescope aligned and calibrated. We’re probably two months away from the first scientific image.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The alignment image of the James Webb Space Telescope after the 18 primary mirror segments have been aligned to act as a single mirror. Beside the alignment star showing its overexposed diffraction spikes, many faint galaxies can be seen. The alignment star, near the Big Dipper, is almost too faint to be seen in binoculars. Credit: NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

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02/17/2022 – Ephemeris – Mission to a metallic asteroid

February 17, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, February 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 6:14, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:38. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 7:21 this evening.

In August this year, one of the three scheduled Falcon-Heavy rocket launches this year will send the Psyche spacecraft on a four-year journey to its namesake asteroid, 16 Psyche. It is an unusual asteroid, thought to be 30 to 60 percent iron-nickel in composition. The spacecraft will swing by Mars for a gravitational boost. After the chemical powered boost into solar orbit, the spacecraft will open its huge solar panels in the shape of two crosses to feed its power hungry electric thrusters to complete the journey and to orbit 16 Psyche. The thrusters are Hall Effect thrusters, the first used in space, that use magnetic fields instead of electric fields to eject xenon gas ions to provide thrust. It is expected to arrive at 16 Psyche in 2026.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Artist's visualization of the spacecraft Psyche orbiting asteroid 16 Psyche

Artist’s visualization of the spacecraft Psyche orbiting asteroid 16 Psyche. This imagining seems to assume the asteroid is nearly 100% metallic. Credit: NASA.

02/14/2022 – Ephemeris – A celestial Valentine’s Day encounter

February 14, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for St Valentine’s Day, Monday, February 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 6:10, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:43. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 7:40 tomorrow morning.

Twenty-two years ago to the day, the NEAR-Shoemaker* spacecraft entered into orbit of the near Earth asteroid 433 Eros. It wasn’t originally planned to enter orbit of the asteroid named after the Greek god of love on Valentine’s Day, 2000. It arose after an aborted course correction a year earlier. After solving the problem, a new course was plotted and NEAR-Shoemaker was gently inserted into orbit of this 21 mile long asteroid shaped like a bent bread stick with a bite taken out of the center of it. The spacecraft spent almost a year orbiting Eros at various altitudes. The spacecraft ended its mission gently crashing into the middle of the asteroid, where it stayed alive for two weeks before succumbing to the cold.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

*The name Shoemaker was added to the NEAR spacecraft name after it was launched. NEAR stands for Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous.  It was named for Eugene Shoemaker, a geologist who proved that the Barringer Crater in Arizona was an impact crater rather than a volcanic crater, thus proving, before the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, that the Moon’s craters were mostly impact craters produced by small asteroids like Eros. Shoemaker and his wife Carolyn, the astronomer in the family, along with David Levy discovered the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The comet had broken into more than 22 pieces and crashed into Jupiter over a week in July 1994, making blemishes in the Jovian clouds that lasted many months.

Addendum

Six views of Eros as it tumbled

“These color images of Eros were taken by the NEAR probe on February 12, 2000, at a distance of 1,800 kilometers, during the final approach imaging sequence before insertion into orbit. The images show the approximate color of Eros as it would be seen with the naked eye.” Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit
NASA/JPL/JHUAPL. Caption from: https://eros2019.imcce.fr/eros.html via Google Translate.

By the way, the Roman equivalent to Eros was the god Cupid, whose love dart is the constellation Sagitta, which resides within the Summer Triangle of bright stars, to be seen in the evening sky four months from now.

I’ll end with a Valentine heart. The red color is real, it’s due to hydrogen.

Heart Nebula

IC 1805 (Heart Nebula) Credit: s58y [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

02/07/2022 – Ephemeris – The Moon tonight

February 7, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, February 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 6:00, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:53. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 1:29 tomorrow morning.

Tonight, let’s take a look at the nearly first quarter Moon. The small, nearly circular gray spot is the sea of Crises. A diagonal chain of larger seas run from the terminator, the sunrise line, to below the Sea of Crises. They are, from the terminator, the seas of Serenity, Tranquility and Fertility. NASA is hoping to launch its uncrewed mission to the Moon, Artemis-1, next month with a large block of launch dates. The launch window begins on March 12th and ends on the 27th, with two blackout dates. Two lengths of missions are possible, a long 38 to 42 day mission is possible in the first part of the launch window, and a shorter 26 to 28 day mission is possible in the latter part of the window.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The Moon tonight, 7pm 02/07/22

The Moon as it might appear tonight in binoculars or a small telescope at 7 pm tonight, February 7, 2022. I labeled the lunar seas with their English names, translated from the Latin. Also labeled is the Sea of Nectar, which wasn’t mentioned in the program. Moon image created using Stellarium.

01/25/2022 – Ephemeris -The James Webb Space Telescope is now in orbit of Lagrange point 2 (L2)

January 25, 2022 Comments off

Note: This program was written and recorded prior to the thruster burn at 2 pm Monday, which nudged it into a halo orbit of the Earth-Sun L2 point. This post was posted after the burn.

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 5:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:08. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 2:19 tomorrow morning.

On the James Webb Space Telescope, which should now be in a big lazy halo orbit of the Lagrangian L2, point nearly a million miles directly opposite the Sun from the Earth. Its final mid-course correction should have dropped into the halo orbit. I’m recording this Sunday night before the scheduled 2 pm yesterday mid-course correction firing. While I’m always sure it’ll be clear tonight to see the stars, or when an eclipse will happen. I’m not so sure on when or what will happen where spacecraft and rockets are involved. As far as knowing, that it will be clear tonight. I’m sure that someone will hear or read these comments, also published on my blog, and have clear skies somewhere on the planet.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

James Webb Space Telescope trajectory to L2

James Webb Space Telescope trajectory to L2 with some milestones of deployment. “ISIM” stands for Integrated Scientific Instruments Module. Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

Clouds Over Great Lakes

Lake effect clouds over Michigan. Taken earlier this month by NASA via SpaceRef.com. I live somewhere on the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula under the lake effect clouds. We haven’t had much snow from it… Yet! But winter isn’t half over, and we can get big snow storms a month into spring. We exchange sub-zero (F) cold on the western edge of the lakes for slightly warmer temperatures, clouds and snow, until the lakes freeze, if they freeze.

01/18/2022 – Ephemeris – James Webb Telescope Status

January 18, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 5:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 6:07 this evening.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the Webb Space Telescope as of Sunday night when I’m recording this program, the technicians are moving the 18 mirror segments of the primary mirror away from their stowed position for liftoff to near their final position. That’s moving each of them forward about a half inch by tiny increments. Then each will be tilted to concentrate each mirror into a single image and focus it. The mirrors can be tilted and also change the curvature of the mirror segment a bit. This is what takes the time, about 5 months. All the teeny tiny adjustments take time, especially with a nearly eight and a half second two-way light-time between the Earth and the telescope.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

MirrorAlignmentTracker for 1/17/22

Mirror Alignment Tracker for January 17, 2022. It looks like most mirrors are about 3 millimeters from their final position. Shown are 19 mirrors, the center on, labeled SM is the secondary mirror, out in front of the primary mirror segments. Mirrors A3 and A6 have not moved forward very much. From their position, I assume that’s intentional. Credit: NASA.

As of yesterday (January 17, 2022) the James Webb Space Telescope has journeyed to 91% of the distance to L2 (Lagrange point 2), and its speed has dropped to 577 miles per hour (929 kilometers per hour). They do not want to overshoot the velocity to drop into a halo orbit of L2. By next week’s report, the telescope should have entered its halo orbit of L2.

01/11/2022 – Ephemeris – The James Webb Space Telescope has been unfolded but more work is needed

January 11, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 3:41 tomorrow morning.

As of Sunday night, when I’m recording this program, the James Webb Space Telescope is nearly 700 thousand miles (1,100 million kilometers) from Earth, more than two thirds the way to the L2 Lagrange point., and slowing down. It doesn’t want to overshoot the mark. The telescope is fully deployed except for the alignment of all the mirrors. 18 of which make up the 6.4 meter primary mirror. They have to be adjusted to act like a monolithic mirror with millionths of an inch tolerance. That may take 5 months. Sometime around the end of that we may get to see the First Light image from the telescope, an image of something other than the calibration stars they were using for the previous months to get all the mirrors aligned.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

James Webb Space Telescope temporatures 16 days after launch

James Webb Space Telescope temperatures 16 days after launch. It looks like the cold side temperatures are dropping by 1 or 2 degrees Celsius a day. Credit: James Webb Tracker by The Launch Pad YouTube Channel. Data from NASA.