6 planets visible in the morning sky

sky map courtesy Space.com

For the next couple of weeks, those who rise before 6pm will be treated with a rare sight, 6 planets lined up for you to see, 5 clustered closely and 4 clustered very closely and visible to the naked eye in good conditions.  Why the sudden appearance?  Their orbits have lined up nicely for us and they’ve just emerged from a few months behind the sun  as viewed from Earth.
  1. Start your viewing with the naked eye and  look for bright Venus in the east.
  2. Hold your hand out at arms length (works for kids and adults) and refer to the chart below for degrees, Jupiter will be 10 degrees away to the left and slightly down towards the horizon
  3. Just above is Mars
  4. Mercury is about a thumb width down and to the left of Venus.  This will be more difficult to see depending on the light pollution in your area and how much you’ve allowed the sun to rise.
  5. Uranus will be on up and to the right of Venus about 10 degrees away (this will be difficult to see, even with a telescope because it is dim)
  6. Neptune is 40 degres to the right and a bit up from the horizon from Venus.  Neptune is in a darker part of the sky, away from the sunrise but is even dimmer so will be very difficult to see even with a telescope.
  7. On Saturday morning, the moon will be just above Venus, on Sunday the moon will be just above Mars and Jupiter.
To download a free printable sky chart for your next visit outdoors to view the night sky, visit http://skymaps.com  for those cloudy nights download free planetarium software (for Mac, PC, Linux, or iPhone/iPad) by visiting http://www.stellarium.org.
Sky image courtesy Space.com, measurement courtesy The One Minute Astronomer.

Unique workshop opportunity for teachers and students in the DELMARVA area (and beyond)

A program developed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility will give hands-on flight experiences through the use of NASA sounding rockets and scientific balloons.  The Wallops Rocket Academy for Teachers and Students (WRATS) and Wallops Balloon Experience for Educators (WBEE). The WBEE experience culminates with the launch of their payload onboard a NASA scientific balloon from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas.

The programs include but in-person opportunities for those near Wallops and virtual ones for those beyond.

How will the orbiters be displayed

The results are in and Florida, Virginia/DC, New York and California were selected.  Chicago, Houston, Seattle, and Dayton top the list of those that came away dissapointed.  I’ll leave the analysis on who merited an orbiter and who didn’t for others, there is plenty out there to choose from.  What is getting missed in the hubbub is the plans that were made public by these museums on how they will display the orbiters.  Here are some highlights
Smithsoneon Air and Space display
The Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Viriginia will presumably display Discovery the way they displayed Enterprise.
Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has a spectaular plan that highlights critical missions such as ISS construction and Hubble Space Telescope servicing.
Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum, New York City
And those that didn’t get selected.
Space Center Houston
Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio
Adler Planetarium, Chicago
U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  They also aquired the little known Orbiter Protective enclosure which would have been used if the orbiter had landed outside the U.S.  in an emergency.
Museum of Flight, Seattle.  They even started construction of this facility before the results were annouced.  They’ll be getting a full sized mockup used in astronaut training to put in it though.
The Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon is already home to the massive Spruce Goose
Tulsa Air and Space Museum was thinking vertically, presumably to show off the payload bay doors that were manufactured there.
Thanks to the folks at CollectSpace.com for collecting up all these images.