What is up for September


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on August 30, 2018

NASA is heading to the Sun

On the morning of August 12, 2018, NASA lauched the Parker Solar Probe. The liftoff took place at 2:31 a.m. CDT on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. The Delta IV Heavy Rocket launched with the instrument in tow from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off for the Parker Solar Probe mission Sunday morning, August 12, 2018

The spacecraft is named after Dr. Eugene Parker, who first theorized the solar wind in 1958. What is the solar wind? It’s the stream of charged particles that flows away from the Sun. The Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft named for someone who is still alive.

Dr. Eugene Parker (seated) watches the launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. Standing behind Parker is Nicky Fox, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The unmanned mission takes seven years and includes 24 elliptical orbits of the Sun. Each pass becomes closer and closer to the surface of the sun. Parker Solar Probe’s mission takes it closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft in history.

According to NASA, Parker Solar Probe will fly to within 3.9 million miles of the Sun’s surface—more than seven times closer than the current record holder for a close solar pass, the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles in 1976.

Not only will it get closer to the Sun than ever before but the Parker Solar Probe also will travel faster – max speeds expected to reach over 400,000 miles per hour – than any other spacecraft. This is set to be a record breaking mission for NASA.

The mission takes the Parker Solar Probe into the corona of the Sun. Remember the American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017?

A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of South America, Africa, and Europe. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

When the moon passes in front of the Sun, the corona is the outer layer that we are able to look at directly (only during totality, otherwise special glasses or viewing devices are required). The Parker Solar Probe hopes to discover why the corona is much hotter than the actual surface of the Sun.


You might be thinking “so the corona is hotter than the surface of the Sun…how is this thing not going to melt?” NASA engineered a special heat shield for the Parker Space Probe. Watch this video explain how this shield will keep all of the instruments much cooler:


Here’s a “don’t try this at home” experiment by NASA engineers to help explain:


Watch the launch video below:

To learn more about the mission to the Sun, visit NASA’s page here.


Posted under Astronomy, NASA

This post was written by Rachael Peart on August 12, 2018

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks this Weekend

Stargazers are in for a treat this weekend, as the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower is occurring.

The peak will be August 11th and 12th, with the best viewing between 10 PM and sunrise.

“Perseids” get their name, because the meteor shower occurs in the Perseus constellation in space.

During the peak, you will be able to see 60 to 70 meteors per hour.  They will best be viewed away from the city lights, and the moon.

More information about the Perseid Meteor Shower can be found on space.com.


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Kyle Kiel on August 10, 2018

Tags: ,

August Night Sky

Highlight this month is the Perseid meteor shower.


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on August 1, 2018

Mars is close


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on July 30, 2018

Total Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse is when the Earth passes between the sun and moon casting a shadow on the moon.

The total lunar eclipse was this afternoon across most of the world except for North and Central America.

The moon was officially full at 3:20 PM CDT, so here in the US that doesn’t work since it is still in the middle of the day. NASA provided a live feed of several other sites around the world. Here are a few images of what people saw.


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on July 27, 2018

No go across North America

Almost everyone on Earth, except those in North America, can see the longest lunar eclipse in a century Friday.


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on July 24, 2018


The line between the light and dark side of the moon has a name and it is called the Terminator.


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on July 24, 2018

Chinese Space Station is Coming Down


Tiangong-1 (Chinese Space Station) is currently predicted to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere between 2 AM and 8 PM Sunday, April 1, 2018. Still don’t know where.


The Chinese Space Station, Tiangong-1, is expected to make an uncontrolled reentry to Earth between Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Since 2013 it has been unoccupied and there has been no contact with it since 2016. The craft is expected to burn up upon reentry of the Earth’s atmosphere. There is a slight chance small debris makes it to Earth. The odds of any debris from the craft hitting anyone is less than one in 1 trillion. Iowa has a slightly higher change of seeing it burn up in the sky. Check out the map on a previous post.  The weather forecast keeps clouds away from Iowa for most of the weekend.

The video below shows a little more about what might happen and what it could look like as it burns up.

The image below shows how the craft has been slowly losing altitude in March. In January it was at 300 km above Earth. At the beginning of March it was about 250 km and now it is close to 200 km. The forecast shows it falling fast in the next couple of days.

The chart below shows how the prediction has been narrowing down to a specific date. In early March the forecast range was from around the end of March to the first week in April. Now we looking at March 31 to April 1.

Upon reentry of the Earth’s atmosphere the craft will begin to fall apart. Around 80 km above Earth, it will burn up with the potential for small debris reaching the ground. The potential size of the area with that possible debris is the yellow rectangle in the image below.


Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on March 29, 2018

Out of Control Satellite

UPDATE: The latest on the Chinese satellite Tiangong-1 is that it will make reentry to the Earth between 5 pm to 9 pm tonight over the Pacific (as determined by Aerospace). Germany radars detected that it was tumbling towards Earth. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to nail down exactly where it will make reentry at. The latest prediction tracks have it staying away from the United States. But again, this is an out of control satellite, so forecasting it’s reentry has been extremely difficult. It is likely that most of it will burn up in the atmosphere and unlikely that debris will hit the Earth.

Tiangong-1 was spotted over Oklahoma this morning. Check out the video below from Thomas Dorman.

Track it live: Aerospace (Be Sure to Hit Refresh)



At the end of 2015, the Chinese satellite Tiangong-1, made its final altitude adjustment. Since this time it has been falling. The latest forecast (March 7, 2018) has a reentry to Earth around April 3, 2018 +/- 1 week. This forecast is updated weekly. The 18,740 lb satellite is likely to burn up as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere. There is a possibility a small amount of debris could reach the ground if it survives reentry. The yellow area on the map below shows the higher probability of debris reaching the ground. All of Iowa is in the yellow band (click on map below to enlarge). The green area shows a lower probability. The blue area is a zero chance since the satellite doesn’t travel over this area.

According to Aerospace.org:
When considering the worst-case location (yellow regions of the map) the probability that a specific person (i.e., you) will be struck by Tiangong-1 debris is about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.

Let’s hope if any does make it through reentry it falls over open water.



Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Schnack on March 12, 2018