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Thunder Moon July 13, 2011

Posted by dakotabiker in Space Stuff.
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Another lunar contribution from Gordon, whose contributions are currently keeping this blog alive…

The next full Moon is on Friday morning, July 15, 2010, at 2:39 am EDT.  The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from Wednesday evening through Saturday morning.

This full Moon has many names:

  • For Hindus this is the Guru Full Moon (Guru Purnima) and is celebrated as a time for clearing the mind and honoring the guru or spiritual master.
  • Europeans called July’s full Moon the Hay Moon or the Mead Moon.
  • The Algonquin tribes in what is now the Eastern US called July’s full Moon the Buck Moon, as July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur.  They also called this the Thunder Moon because of July’s frequent thunderstorms.

Since this is the Thunder Moon, a quick note on lightning safety.  Most of the lighting that strikes the ground arcs from the negatively charged bottom of the storm to the ground underneath the storm.  Much more rare is positive lightning, which arcs from the top of a thunderstorm to strike the ground up to eight miles away from the storm.  Positive lightning sometimes strikes areas where the sky is mostly clear (hence the term “bolt out of the blue”).

Because it arcs across a greater distance it tends to be 5 to 10 times more powerful that regular ground strikes.  Though positive lightning is rare (less than
5% of all lightning strikes), the lack of warning combined with its greater power tends to make it more dangerous.  A good rule to follow is if you can hear the thunder, you can be struck by the lightning.  As a bicycle commuter I am well aware that the inch or so of rubber tire between my metal bicycle and the ground will make little difference to a bolt that can arc across miles of air from the top of a thunderstorm to the ground.

Be safe!

As to other sky events between now and the full Moon in August:

  • Mercury joins Saturn in the evening sky after sunset.  Try looking to the west-northwest near the horizon about 45 minutes after sunset (about 9:15 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area).  Mercury reaches its greatest elongation (largest angle away from the Sun as seen from the Earth) on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.
  • If you are in a dark location with a clear sky on July 31, or August 1, 2011, try looking for the Capricornid Meteor shower.  Although this shower only produces 10 to 15 meteors per hour (i.e., on average one every 5 or 6 minutes), some of them can be bright fireballs.  The best time to look is after midnight.
  • If you have a good telescope, on Thursday, August 11, 2011, Neptune will be at opposition, fully lit and at its closest to the Earth for this year.

The full Moon after next will be on Saturday, August 13, 2011.

As usual, celebratory attire (e.g., Aloha shirts, bow ties, etc.) is encouraged in honor of the full Moon, watch out for lightning, and consider setting aside a little time to clear the mind.

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Flower Moon May 14, 2011

Posted by dakotabiker in Space Stuff.
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I have a co-worker in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA who each month puts out an email alerting me and some of our colleages of the upcoming full moon and other upcoming astronomical events of interest.  I have been meaning to share these with you for a while.  So thanks to Gordon….

The next full Moon will be on Tuesday morning, May 17, 2011 at 7:09 am EDT.  The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from Sunday evening through Wednesday morning (possibly through the start of Wednesday evening).  As usual, condign and copacetic celebratory celestial costuming is suggested in support of our sated Selene.  

This is the Flower Moon, as in most areas flowers are abundant this time of year.  Other names include the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.  

As to other sky events between now and the full Moon in June:

Saturn is bright in the evening sky.  On Saturday, May 14, 2011, Saturn will appear 8 degrees north of the nearly full Moon.  

Later in May in the pre-dawn sky, Mercury, Venus and Mars will appear clustered together, with Jupiter nearby and the crescent Moon joining the cluster by the end of the Month.  You will have to look towards the east, with a clear view of the horizon.  Mercury will be the lowest in the sky.  
 – On Wednesday morning, May 18, 2011, Mercury and Venus will appear at their closest.  
 – On Sunday, May 29, 2011, the crescent Moon will appear above Jupiter.  
 – By Monday, May 30, 2011, the crescent Moon will have moved near Mars  
 – By Tuesday, May 31, 2011, the crescent Moon will appear above Mercury
My understanding is that this is the most compact gathering of bright planets in decades.  Uranus and Neptune are also in the pre-dawn sky, but they cannot be seen without a telescope.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011, is the New Moon and a partial eclipse of the Sun (not visible in the Washington, DC area).  

The full Moon after next will be on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.  This will also be a total eclipse of the Moon (not visible from the Washington, DC area).  

First MegaTweet April 1, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet.
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As anyone who has ever blogged would say (and a lesson I learned years ago on another attempt at authoring an antiquated web page) — keeping fresh content takes work.  A lot of work.  Providing polished, fresh content even more so.

Four weeks after my “first nice weekend ride” to Harpers Ferry, and I still have but a draft, and a partial one at that.  Not good.  I’ve watched my numbers rise with the Dragons Tail, seriously spike with the Witicisms, and (justifiably) decline in the absence of an update. 

So — how to fill the gaps? 

When I started this blog I toyed with the idea of the occassional “MegaTweet” — for when 140 characters just ain’t enough.  Not just filler (which is worse than nothing) – but a more spontaneous, raw, realtime blog akin to Twitter, but unfettered by character restrictions.  And,  if I really plan to roadblog (which I do), I will not have eight hours of time to edit an 8 hour ride story.  But the MegaTweet would not be a replacement of ride stories, rather an addition, an augmentation.  Like the weekday comics between the big colorful Sunday Funny Papers…

But I certainly don’t want to lose theme either…  You are most likely reading this because you are interested in the an inside look at what a “typical” NASA person may do or you share the passion for riding, or… maybe… both!  So let’s give it a try…

Been an interesting day today.  LRO and LCROSS are both at the launch processing site getting ready for there joint launch to the moon.  I flew down this morning to attend a Launch Vehicle Ground Operations Readiness Review and Launch Vehicle Readiness Review tomorrow.   I completed a review of an LRO requirements assessment on the flight, and upon landing, I was pleased to be running ahead of schedule and managed to call into the weekly telecon for the Lunar Mapping & Modeling Project (LMMP).  The LMMP team is preparing for their Formulation Review next week which has had several of us putting in some extra time the last few days to get ready. 

After the telecon, I drove the rental east toward the coast.  Arriving at the facility where LRO and LCROSS are being prepped for launch.  It is the first time I had been there since LRO and LCROSS arrived.  Things are very busy in the launch manifest at the moment, so LCROSS had to set up their offices in a double-wide trailer for lack of more conventional office space.   Seeing the big “Got Water?” banner of the side of the trailer as I drove into the facility told me I found where I was headed. 

After getting badged for the facility, I headed over to the trailer, lucky enough to have just made it just in time for the LCROSS Plugs-Out test that demonstrates that LCROSS can operate all by itself  (like in its mission) without a bunch of test support equipment attached to it.

I met up with some of the lead engineers and they took me on a little tour of LCROSS in its new home.   Since LCROSS is being processed in a cleanroom, we had to gown up in “bunny suits” (clean jumpsuits)  to prevent from carrying particulate into the processing area. 
After a great walkthrough and test briefing, the team got to work with the test.  Having been a spacecraft power systems engineer earlier in my career, I knew the best place for a Headquarters observer during a critical test was “anywhere else” out of the way.  So for once I had the means of controlling at least one observer (me), and I left the team to conduct the test.  I headed back to the “doublewide” office only to realize I hadn’t been given the keycode to get back in.

I headed over to the LRO banner hung outside the “real” office facilities and met up with some of the LRO guys, and arranged to get a tour of their setup.  Back into a bunny suit…

I got to see LRO up-close.  The spacecraft was in the middle of a 5-day long mission simulation to prep the ops team for the journey from the earth to the moon.  I was also afforded the opportunity to see the Atlas fairing (the top of the rocket that encloses LRO and LCROSS during launch).  Very impressive.  The fairing has the mission graphic of LRO hand painted on the side, with smaller decals of the LCROSS graphic and the NASA emblem.   Being that close to the fairing halves really puts the enormity the launch into perspective.

After the LRO walkthrough, I managed to get the LCROSS office keycode and settled into catching up with the dozens (and dozens) of emails that had accumulated during the day…

About 5:00 a thunderstorm came rolling in — with tornado warnings, and here’s the LCROSS team, assigned to a doublewide (i.e. tornado magnet in midwestern parlance).  Figuring I’d hear an alarm if things got worse — I hunkered down and plowed through the emails — notices of meetings, out-briefs of meetings, reporting actions, strategic planning, review packages…

Finally the storm started to let up and I finally headed off the hotel.  After another dozen emails and five late telecons to coordinate launch planning, and I decided to go off the clock and blog a little….