Thursday, December 9, 2021

Updates & Announcements from NASA

Nasa Night Sky

Photos by NASA | California Wildfires as seen from space.

It has been an interesting week in terms of space. Highlights included an announcement from NASA that it is willing to buy moon dust, (lunar soil samples), collected by private company explorers through the end of 2024. There were video clips of the massive fires on the west coast as viewed from space. These images can be of the long-term impacts. The clips show the smoke is visible from nearly 1,000,000 miles away. In a celebrity twist, William Shatneralso known as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series, supports a bill named the Star Fleet Amendment, asking the US Space Force program to rename colonels to captains. The bill is backed by a Texas Representative, and former Navy Seal, Representative Dan Crenshaw.  

If you’d like to learn more, check out NASA.govThe site has several virtual STEM options for students, which includes a section for educators and offers a ‘NASA at Home’ virtual program. also offers news, space flight and skywatching information, and more.  

Thursday, September 17th 

A nighttime view of two wildfires in Southern California, based on observations taken by NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS). The areas in red show where the fire was likely active when the observations were taken. The areas in orange show above-average nighttime ground temperatures, which are likely caused by a heatwave.

The moon is traveling between Earth and the sun in its new phase. Sunlight is only reaching the far side of the moon and the moon will be completely hidden from view. This new moon is occurring a day before perigee, the moon’s minimum distance from Earth, tides will be larger around the world.  

Friday, September 18th  

Observers might spot the very slim crescent moon just above the western horizon, and to the upper right of Mercury. The moon and Mercury will both fit into the field of view with binoculars. 

Tuesday, September 22nd  

In the eastern sky in the mornings around the 22ndbright Venus will pass the slower-moving belt asteroid Vesta. At closest approach on Tuesday morning, Venus will be positioned about two fingerwidths to the right of Vesta. To see how both objects move compared to the stars around them, try to view it several mornings in a row—ideally before 6 AM when the sky begins to brighten.  

On Tuesday, the sun will also cross the celestial equator moving southward, marking the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn here. Equinoxes occur in March and September when the day and night are of equal lengths and the sun rises due east and sets due west.


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