Sunday, March 19, 2017

Season of Spring Begins Early Monday Morning

http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/pix/graphics/solsticeimage008.png
This diagram shows the position of the Earth, in relation to the Sun, at the time of the Vernal Equinox, the official beginning of the Season of Spring, as well as the other solstices and equinox of the year.
(Graphic Source: ©1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club; permission granted for only non-profit use with credit to author.)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The Vernal Equinox, which marks the beginning of the Season of Spring in Earth's Northern Hemisphere, occurs for 2017 on Monday Morning, March 20 at 6:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 10:29 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

In the Southern Hemisphere, this marks the astronomical beginning of the Season of Autumn.

On the day of Equinox, the Sun appears directly overhead at local Noon on the Equator. At the moment of Equinox, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of Earth are illuminated equally. And, the time of Equinox is the only time when the terminator (dividing line on Earth between daylight and darkness) is perpendicular to the Equator.

This, and the reason for seasons on Earth in the first place, is due to the fact that Earth rotates on its axis, which is tilted at a 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 13.4 seconds (23.43705 degrees) angle from the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, this axial tilt causes one hemisphere of the planet to receive more direct solar radiation during that hemisphere's Season of Summer and much less direct solar radiation a half-year later during that hemisphere's Season of Winter. As mentioned, during an Equinox [about half-way between Summer and Winter (for Autumn or Fall), and about half-way between Winter and Summer (for Spring)] both planetary hemispheres receive an equal amount of solar radiation.

In Latin, Equinox, is defined as equal-night, the day when daylight and darkness are about equal in length. Such actual equal-night never occurs on the actual date of an Equinox on Earth. This is due to the fact that the Sun is so large, in relation to the Earth, and hence, the entire Sun does not appear at actual sunrise, only a portion of the Sun; it takes a few more minutes for the entire Sun to appear above the horizon. Also, due to the refractive nature of Earth's atmosphere, daylight can be seen before the Sun's disk can be observed.

The date of actual equal-night varies by a location's longitude and latitude. At the Earth's Equator, daytime is always longer than night. Hence, the Equator never has equal-night.

While the Vernal Equinox, the true beginning of the Season of Spring, occurs on March 20 at 6:29 a.m. EDT / 10:29 UTC, the literal Equinox for Spring, termed the Spring Equilux, actually occurs each year a few days earlier, usually around March 16 or 17 (depending on the specific location).

The Vernal Equinox is used in the solar calendars of Iran and Afghanistan as the beginning of their calendar year. In ancient times, the Vernal Equinox, then celebrated by the old style calendar on or near March 25, was also the beginning of the calendar year for many ancient civilizations.

An urban legend that has been making the rounds for decades has it that eggs can be stood on their ends only during an Equinox, whether the Vernal Equinox in the Spring or the Autumnal Equinox in the Fall. This is completely false. Depending greatly on the size and shape of the particular egg, eggs can be stood on their ends any day of the year! Astronomy has nothing to do with whether an egg can stand on its end. If an egg can stand on its end on the Equinox (and, due to the shape and size of some eggs, this is not even possible), it can stand the same way any other day of the year.

In the last few years, with the help of the Internet and Social Media, another urban legend has become prevalent. Now it is claimed that brooms can stand on their own, on their bristles, only on an Equinox day. This is also false. Again, as with eggs, if a broom can stand on its bristles by itself (this usually only works with newer brooms, with more even bristles) on an Equinox, it can do so any day of the year!

This year, the Primary Moon Phase of Last Quarter for March occurs just a few hours after the Vernal Equinox: March 20 at 11:58 a.m. EDT / 15:58 UTC.

There is now an effort to have the day of the Vernal Equinox designated to commemorate the life of the first female astronomer, Hypatia of Alexandria, in ancient Egypt: Hypatia Day / Women in Science Day. Astronomical historian Ari Belenkiy, who finished an academic paper in 2016 on the life and death of Hypatia, has started an effort to have the day of the Vernal Equinox, March 20, designated by the Canadian Parliament as a day commemorating Hypatia's life. According to Professor Belenkiy, Hypatia's last days were dedicated to finding the exact time of the Vernal Equinox.

Hypatia was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, daughter of the mathematician Theon Alexandricus, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt during the late 4th and early 5th centuries. At that time Alexandria was part of the Eastern Roman Empire, which had a great rivalry with the Church of Rome. This led to deep divisions in Alexandria.

Due to the fog of time, there is much dispute regarding the events surrounding the death of Hypatia. According to the Church historian Socrates Scholasticus, a clique of Bishop Cyril's zealots killed Hypatia, due to a deep conflict between the Governor and Bishop of Alexandria. Hypatia's astronomical calculations regarding the date of Easter may have set the mob against her.

Although none of Hypatia's writings survive, she is reported to have made significant academic contributions in the fields of Astronomy and Mathematics.

The beginning of Spring also marks the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival held each year in Washington, DC. This festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the City of Washington. This year, the festival runs from March 15 through April 16.

Physicians have declared the first week of Spring as Medicine Cabinet Clean-Up Week. They urge families, as part of their annual Spring cleaning, to clean-out the medicine cabinet of old and expired pharmaceuticals which are no longer being used. This would prevent other family members from using these old drugs by accident, or the beginning of drug abuse.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Vernal Equinox: Link >>> http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/VernalEquinox.html

Season of Spring: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_%28season%29

Equinox: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox

Earth's Seasons: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season

Tilt of a planet's axis: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_tilt

Hypatia:
Link 1 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia
Link 2 >>> http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/15700720-12341264

Petition to designate March 20 to commemorate the life of Hypatia:
Link >>> https://www.change.org/p/canada-s-parliament-commemorating-the-first-female-astronomer-hypatia-of-alexandria

National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington:
Link >>> http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/?id=404

Medicine Cabinet Clean-Up Week: Link >>> http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/include-medicine-cabinets-on-your-spring-cleaning-list-300042760.html

Special Thanks: Eric G. Canali, former Floor Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club.

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 March 19.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, March 10, 2017

Citizen Science: Help NASA Find 'Planet Nine'


This is an artist's concept of a cool, Brown-Dwarf Star, a type known as a "Y-Dwarf," which is one possibility of being the proposed Planet Nine. Such "Y-Dwarf" stars are the coldest star bodies known, with temperatures that can be cooler than the human body! Hence, such an object in the Outer Solar System would be very difficult to find, as it would generate or reflect very little light.
(Image Source: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

NASA is seeking help from Citizen Scientists – that is, regular people who have not trained to be scientists - to help find the elusive “Planet Nine” (which some people also refer to as Planet X), which scientists are convinced exists in our Outer Solar System. Although the Planet Pluto, originally considered the ninth planet, was re-designated as a “Dwarf Planet” about a decade ago due to its small size, scientists recently hypothesized that one (or possibly more than one) much larger, and very difficult to see, planet is still yet to be found beyond the orbit of Neptune.

NASA has funded a new Internet web-site, titled Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 (Internet link to this web-site at the end of this blog-post), for members of the general public to assist with the search for Planet Nine, and possibly other yet-unfound celestial bodies between the orbit of Neptune and the closest star (not including our Sun) to our Solar System, Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is 4.25 light-years from Earth, and in that distance there possibly is one or more planetary bodies that are very difficult to find.

The data-base used in the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 web-site comes from a scan of stars in the entire sky, between 2010 and 2011, by NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. While it may be difficult to find outer planets using normal light, it is hoped that these objects can be found in a WISE infrared scan.

"There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored," said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light. But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed."

On the new web-site, public participants can view brief "flip-book" movies of WISE scans of parts of the sky. It is believed that human eyes, looking at these infrared scans, could discern objects more readily than would a computer search-algorithm. There are some things that human eyes can still do better than a computer!

In addition to the possibility of finding Planet Nine, or other possible planets, asteroids / planetoids, or comets,  Brown-Dwarf Stars in the vicinity of our Solar System, some known as "Y-Dwarfs" (somewhat similar to Jupiter), may also be found in this new search. It may actually turn-out that Planet Nine is a Y-Dwarf or Brown-Dwarf.

Once a public participant views these brief movies, if they find an object that seems not to be a normal star, they can contact a Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist (by flagging a questionable object) about the find. If it turns out that a new planet or a Y-Dwarf or Brown-Dwarf Star has actually been discovered, the citizen scientist(s) who participated in the discovery will be credited in the scientific literature.

So, give the new Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 web-site a try and see if you can find any yet-unchartered worlds. And, if NASA confirms that you did help find a new world, let SpaceWatchtower know (E-Mail address: < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >); we will include your name and your new discovery in an up-coming SpaceWatchtower blog-post!

Internet Link to the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 Web-Site:

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide-field_Infrared_Survey_Explorer

Planet Nine: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_Nine

Planet X: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planets_beyond_Neptune

Brown-Dwarf Stars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_dwarf

Y-Dwarf Stars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_dwarf#Spectral_class_Y

"NASA-funded Website Lets the Public Search for New Nearby Worlds."
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory 2017 Feb. 15.
Link >>> https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6747

More Citizen Science Projects:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/citizenscience.html

Related Blog Post ---

Walsh, Glenn A.
"Undiscovered 'Planet Nine' May Be Cause of Tilt of Our Solar System." Blog-Post.
SpaceWatchtower 2016 Oct. 22.
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/10/undiscovered-planet-nine-may-be-cause.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 March 10.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Astronomical Calendar: 2017 March

Image result for images daylight savings time
Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday Morning, 2017 March 12, at 2:00 a.m. Local
Prevailing Time. (Image Source: Austin College, Sherman TX)

Astronomical Calendar for 2017 March: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#mar

 Related Blog Post ---


"Astronomical Calendar: 2017 February." 2017 Feb. 1.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/02/astronomical-calendar-2017-february.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2017 March 1.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Two Dim Comets May Be Visible in a Telescope


Comet45PHMPgif
Radar image of the "Green" Comet 45P / Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková on
2017 February 12, by the huge Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. This
display combines 13 images of the comet received over two hours. This is only
the seventh comet to come close enough to be imaged by radar. On 2011 August
19 and 20, it became only the fifteenth comet to be detected by a ground radar
telescope.
(Image Sources: Arecibo Observatory, NASA, National Science Foundation, Sky and Telescope
Magazine )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

At the present time, two dim comets may be visible in a telescope (and, possibly binoculars), if you know where to look. While the “Green” Comet was in the early morning sky earlier this month, now both the Green Comet and Encke's Comet are in the evening sky.

American astronomer Fred Whipple described a comet as a “dirty snowball.” Comets are a combination of rocks, dust, water ice, and other frozen gases, from the early days of our Solar System.

The solid core of a comet is known as the nucleus. Streams of dust and gas released from the comet, as it nears the Sun, form a thin atmosphere around the comet nucleus called the coma. The coma is composed mostly (90 per-cent) of water, with dust making-up the rest of the coma.

Most, but not all, comets have one or more visible tails. The tail(s), which are usually not visible in the Outer Solar System, are caused by solar radiation as the comet comes closer to the Sun; this radiation usually is too weak to create tails in the Outer Solar System. Normally, a comet's tail(s) points away from the Sun, no matter the direction of movement of the comet; hence, a comet leaving the Inner Solar System often has a tail pointing in the direction of the comet's motion.

Comets usually have a highly-eccentric, elliptical orbit around the Sun, which brings a comet into the Inner Solar System for a short time, while it spends most of its time in the Outer Solar System. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper Belt, just beyond the orbit of the Planet Neptune, while long-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort Cloud, a spherical cloud of icy bodies beyond the Kuiper Belt.

                                                    The “Green” Comet

The first one, nick-named the “Green” Comet due to its coloration, is actually Comet 45P / Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková. This comet passed closest to the Earth on February 11. At that time it was 7.4 million miles / 12 million kilometers from Earth. This distance can also be expressed as 0.08 Astronomical Units (1 A.U. or Astronomical Unit is the mean distance between the Sun and the Earth) and 30 times the mean distance between the Earth and the Moon.

At this distance, the Green Comet cannot be seen with the naked-eye; the astronomical Visual Magnitude at its closest point to Earth was expected to be around +6.5 to +7, but in reality it never was brighter than +8. It might be seen with strong binoculars, but a telescope is best for trying to find this comet. Unlike stars which shine their own light and appear as pin-points of light in the sky, comets only reflect sunlight. Hence, they appear as diffuse, fuzzy objects, which make them even more difficult to find.

The Green Comet may still be visible until the end of February. However, it will be a challenge to find. You will need a dark sky, away from city lights. Until a few days ago, this was even more complicated as the Moon was in the early morning sky. But, now the comet is rising in the late evening sky as the Moon rises even later. However, as the end of February gets closer, the comet will be fading in brightness.

The best time to view this comet is around 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. local time. As the comet fades, it will be moving through the constellations Corona Borealis, Boötes, Canes Venatici, Ursa Major and into Leo the Lion. Internet links to additional news articles, which include star charts to help find the comet, are located at the end of this blog-post.

The Green Comet was discovered on 1948 December 3 by Japanese astronomer Minoru Honda. It is named for Minoru Honda, Czech astronomer Antonin Mrkos, and Slovak astronomer Ludmila Pajdusakova. The comet appears green because it emits diatomic carbon, which glows green in the near-vacuum of Outer Space.

This apparition of the Green Comet is the second-closest to Earth between the years 1900 and 2043. The comet's closest approach to Earth came in August of 2011, when it came as close as 0.06 A.U or 5.6 million miles / 9.01233 million kilometers. While this comet comes toward the Sun fairly often (it is a short-period comet with an elliptical orbit of 5.25 years), the next time it is bright from Earth's vantage-point will be in October of 2032 when it is expected to reach a Visual Magnitude of +7.

                                                         Encke's Comet

Comet Encke or Encke's Comet is now visible in the evening sky, but will only be visible through early March. Like the Green Comet, Encke's Comet is not bright enough to be seen with the naked-eye (it has a very low albedo, reflecting only 4.6 per-cent of the light it receives), but it may be visible in binoculars or a telescope.

Enke's Comet is currently visible in the western sky about 90 minutes after local sunset. It is to the left of the Great Square of Pegasus, near the planets Mars and Venus. At the end of this blog-post is an Internet link to pages that show a map of how to find Comet Encke.

Encke's Comet was discovered in 1786 by French astronomer and surveyor Pierre Mechain. However, it was not immediately recognized to be a comet. It was not understood to be a periodic comet until 1819, when its orbit was calculated by German astronomer Johann Franz Encke.

Hence, as with the more famous Halley's Comet, Encke's Comet is one of the few comets named after the person who computed the comet's orbit, instead of the comet's discoverer. In fact, Encke's Comet was the first periodic comet discovered after Halley's Comet.

Encke's Comet has the shortest orbital period, 3.3 years, of any reasonably bright comet. A fainter comet, 311P / PANSTARRS, has an orbital period of 3.2 years.

In 1978, Slovak astronomer Lubor Kresak proposed that a fragment of Comet Encke may be the cometary body that caused the 1908 Tunguska Event. On the morning of 1908 June 30, a huge explosion occurred over a sparsely-settled area of Siberia in Russia known as the Stony Tunguska River Valley, which flattened 1,200 square-miles / 2,000 square-kilometers of forest, but caused no human casualties. The cause of the Tunguska Event, which was not observed by any living person, is thought to be an air-burst explosion of the atmospheric entry of a meteoroid, asteroid, or comet.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Information & Maps On How to View the 2 Comets -

"Green" Comet:
Link 1 >>> http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/green-comet-zooms-moonless-skies/
Link 2 >>> http://astrobob.areavoices.com/2017/02/14/goodbye-moon-but-will-the-green-comet-still-show/
Link 3 >>> http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/comet-45phonda-mrkos-pajdusakova-new-years-eve

Encke's Comet:
Link 1 >>> https://theskylive.com/encke-tracker
Link 2 >>> https://stardate.org/astro-guide/gallery/evening-comet


The "Green" Comet - Comet 45P / Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušákov:

Encke's Comet - Comet Encke: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Encke

Tunguska Event: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event

Related Blog Posts ---

"Comet of 1491: Self-Correction of Science." 2016 Feb. 20.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/02/comet-of-1491-self-correction-of-science.html

 

"Comet Lovejoy: Best View Next 2 Weeks." 2015 Jan. 7.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/01/comet-lovejoy-best-view-next-2-weeks.html

 

"Comet ISON vs. the Solar Storm." 2013 Nov. 26.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/11/comet-ison-vs-solar-storm.html

 

"Comet: Source of Mysterious Water on Jupiter." 2013 May 4.

 Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/pearcee/pe-jupiterwater.html

 

"Comet of the Century?" 2013 Jan. 19.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/01/comet-of-century.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 February 19.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Night's Dim Penumbral Lunar Eclipse w/ Web-Cast

Lunar eclipse chart close-2017Feb11.png
This graphic shows how the Moon travels through the Earth's Penumbral Shadow during the
Penumbral (partial) Lunar Eclipse of 2017 February 10 to 11. The central gray area (analogous
to a "donut-hole") represents the Umbral (darker) Shadow, while the Penumbral (lighter) Shadow
would be represented by the circle comprising the rest of the "donut."
(Graphic Source: Wikipedia.org , By SockPuppetForTomruen at English Wikipedia - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17111804 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The first eclipse of 2017, during the Full Moon of February, will be a Penumbral (partial) Lunar Eclipse, or Eclipse of the Moon, which may be dimly visible Friday to Saturday, 2017 February 10 to 11 throughout most of the world, except extreme western Alaska, extreme eastern Asia, Australia, New Zealand and most of the Pacific Ocean. An Internet web-cast of the event will be available for areas where this eclipse cannot be seen, or for areas where inclement weather precludes viewing.

Any Lunar Eclipse or Eclipse of the Moon, whether Total, Partial, or Penumbral, is the type of eclipse which is safe to look at with the naked-eyes, binoculars, and telescopes.

During an Eclipse of the Moon, the Earth's solar shadow shines on part or all of the Moon, always at the time of a Full Moon (when the Moon, Earth, and Sun, in that order, lie in a straight line). As sunlight strikes our planet, the Earth actually casts two shadows into Outer Space: the main and darker, cone-shaped Umbral Shadow, along with the secondary and dimmer Penumbral Shadow which surrounds the Umbral Shadow.

In a Total Lunar Eclipse, the Earth's Umbral Shadow completely envelops the Moon, after the Moon passes through the Penumbral Shadow. In the case of a Partial Eclipse of the Moon, only part of the Moon is covered by the Umbral Shadow, but again, the Moon does also pass through the Penumbral Shadow.

During a Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon, only the dimmer Penumbral Shadow covers part or all of the Moon. In the case of the February 10 to 11 eclipse, a Penumbral (partial) Lunar Eclipse will occur, as the Moon does not completely enter the Earth's Penumbral Shadow.

A Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon is much dimmer than a Partial Eclipse of the Moon or a Total Eclipse of the Moon. The Moon is not dimmer, but the shading of the Moon is much lighter than seen during other eclipses, making the Moon appear almost as bright as normal.

The shading of the Moon during a Penumbral Eclipse is extremely subtle, and not everyone may be able to tell when the eclipse is occurring by observation. So, although some people may notice that the Moon is slightly dimmer than usual, other people may not notice the difference. However, despite not being a complete Penumbral Eclipse, this particular eclipse does traverse the darkest areas of the Penumbral Shadow, so it may be a little easier to notice than other Penumbral Eclipses.

Technically, the entire eclipse lasts four and one-third hours. However, the human eye cannot perceive the entire eclipse, due its dim nature. Likely, one or two hours of the eclipse, centered around the time of greatest eclipse, may be visible to most people.

As this eclipse occurs when the Moon is rising in the Western Hemisphere (on the evening of February 10), it is best seen in the eastern sections of North and South America; the farther west the observer, the more the observer will have to contend with evening twilight. Asian viewers have the opposite problem, as they will need to contend with morning twilight (on February 11) as the Moon is about to set. The entire eclipse will be visible to viewers in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Greenland, Iceland, Quebec, New England, and most of Brazil.

To determine when the Moon rises and / or sets in your location, you can enter your locality data on a form of an Internet web page managed by the U.S. Naval Observatory; both Form A (for U.S. Cities and Towns) and Form B (for Locations Worldwide) are on this web page. A link to this web page is located at the end of this blog-post.

               Times of Penumbral (partial) Lunar Eclipse Phases – 2017 February 10 to 11
                        (EST = Eastern Standard Time; UTC = Coordinated Universal Time)

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Begins:                  Feb. 10, 5:34:16 p.m. EST / 22:34:16 UTC
Ecliptic Conjunction:                                       Feb. 10, 7:32:51.3 p.m. EST / Feb. 11, 0:32:51.3 UTC
Moon Phase - Full Moon:                               Feb. 10, 7:33 p.m. EST / Feb. 11, 0:33 UTC
Greatest Penumbral Lunar Eclipse:               Feb. 10, 7:43:52.9 p.m. EST / Feb. 11, 0:43:52.9 UTC
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Ends:                     Feb. 10, 9:53:26 p.m. EST / Feb. 11, 2:53:26 UTC

Special Note: Although the times given for the beginning and ending of the Penumbral Eclipse are the correct times, it is highly unlikely that the beginning and ending can be viewed visually. On average, a Penumbral Eclipse is only visible a half-hour before until a half-hour after the time of greatest eclipse.

Observations of the exact times when the Penumbral Eclipse is actually first visible, and when the Eclipse is actually no longer visible, would be valuable to Science. For those interested in making such serious observations, a photometer giving the light intensity coming from the Moon would be helpful.

The bright object to the lower left the Moon (during the evening hours of Feb. 10) and above and closer to the Moon (in the morning hours of Feb. 11), during this eclipse, is the Star Regulus, brightest star of the well-known Constellation Leo the Lion and one of the brightest stars in the sky. About 11 hours after the eclipse (February 11, 9:00 a.m. EST / 14:00 UTC) the Moon will occult, or cover-up, Regulus; this occultation is visible in areas where the eclipse was not visible, including Australia and New Zealand.

Eclipses only occur occasionally (usually around four times a year, with two of these being Lunar Eclipses). A Lunar Eclipse or Eclipse of the Moon occurs only a couple times a year, on average, because the Moon's orbit around the Earth is slightly tilted with respect to Earth's orbit around the Sun. For most months of the year, the Moon passes a little above, or a little below, the Earth's shadow (precluding a Lunar Eclipse).

Of course eclipses, like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If the weather in your area does not permit direct viewing outdoors of this Penumbral (partial) Eclipse of the Moon, it can be viewed during a special, live web-cast on the Internet, followed by a live web-cast of Comet 45P / Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova as the Comet is about to make its closest approach to Earth since 1983. A link to this web-cast is located at the end of this blog-post.

Other eclipses this year include an Annular Solar Eclipse later this month, on February 26. The other Lunar Eclipse in 2017 is a Partial Lunar Eclipse on August 7. And, this year's eclipses culminate in the middle of Summer with the Great American Total Eclipse of the Sun on August 21, which will follow a path across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina!

Most Native Americans in the Northern Hemisphere referred to the February Full Moon as the Snow Moon for obvious reasons--particularly obvious with yesterday's blizzard in the north-eastern United States. Other Native American tribes have called the February Full Moon the Hunger Moon, due to the difficult hunting conditions during the harsh weather of the month.

While the January Full Moon (and for some tribes the December Full Moon) has been known by some tribes as the Wolf Moon, other tribes referred to the February Full Moon as the Wolf Moon. The Full Moon of February has also been known as the Racoon Moon and the Bare-Spots-on-the-Ground Moon.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the February / Mid-Summer Full Moon has been known as the Grain Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon, Wyrt Moon, Corn Moon, Dog Moon, and Barley Moon.

Once every 19 years, February has no Full Moon. This is due to the fact that February has only 28 days (29 days once every four years during the Leap Year) while the time duration of the Moon's orbit around the Earth is even shorter: 27.32166 days.

U.S. Naval Observatory Web Page --- Rise / Set Times for Moon and Sun:
Link >>> http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php

Slooh Community Observatory --- Live, Internet Web-Cast of Feb. 10 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse - Feb. 10, 5:30 p.m. EST / 22:30 UTC; Followed by Live, Internet Web-Cast of
Comet 45P / Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova as the Comet is about to make its closest approach to Earth since 1983 - Feb. 10, 10:30 p.m. EST / Feb. 11, 3:30 UTC:
Link >>> http://main.slooh.com/event/the-full-snow-moon-2/

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Penumbral (partial) Lunar Eclipse of 2017 Feb. 10 to 11:
Link 1 >>> https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEplot/LEplot2001/LE2017Feb11N.pdf
Link 2 >>> http://eclipsewise.com/lunar/LEprime/2001-2100/LE2017Feb11Nprime.html
Link 3 >>> http://earthsky.org/?p=251075

Parts of a Shadow: Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbra%2C_penumbra_and_antumbra

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_eclipse#Penumbral_eclipse

Lunar Eclipse: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_eclipse

Eclipse: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eclipse


Star Regulus: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulus

Occultation: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occultation

Related Blog Posts ---

"Dim Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Early Wed. Morning." 2016 March 22.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/03/dim-penumbral-lunar-eclipse-early-wed.html

 

"Slight Lunar Eclipse Friday Evening." 2013 Oct. 17.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/10/slight-lunar-eclipse-friday-evening.html?m=0


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 February 10.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

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                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Astronomical Calendar: 2017 February

http://www.mreclipse.com/SEphoto/SEgallery2/image/ASE94Mosaicw.JPG
The last Annular Eclipse of the Sun visible in Western Pennsylvania occurred on
1994 May 10, when the path of annularity passed through Erie County, Pennsylvania,
including the site of the Mercyhurst College Observatory in North East, Pennsylvania.
The above eclipse images were taken in Chrissy, Ohio, just west of Toledo.
(Image Source: ©1994 by Fred Espenak)
This month (on Feb. 26) an Annular Solar Eclipse will occur in the Southern Hemisphere.
More info on this eclipse:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#eclipse-sol-ann-2017-2-26
NEVER look directly at a Solar Eclipse or Eclipse of the Sun unless you have the training and proper equipment to do so safely.
SAFE WAY TO VIEW SOLAR ECLIPSE OR ECLIPSE OF THE SUN:
Link >>> http://andrewcarnegie.tripod.com/solflyer2.htm

Astronomical Calendar for 2017 February: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2017.html#feb

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 February 1.

                             Like This Post? - Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
Science Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks >
SpaceWatchtower Twitter News Feed: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
LibraryWatchtower Blog: < http://librarywatchtower.blogspot.com >
South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, January 27, 2017

50th Anniversary: NASA's 1st Tragedy of the Space Era


This photograph shows the charred remains of the cabin interior of the Apollo 1 space capsule, where a flash-fire killed three astronauts 50 years ago today (1967 January 27), in NASA's first tragedy of the Space Era.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By NASA - Great Images in NASA Description, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=203101 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Fifty years ago today (on 1967 January 27), NASA experienced the first tragedy of the Space Era when three astronauts were killed in a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test of their Apollo 1 space capsule. After nearly six years of crewed Mercury and Gemini space missions, this was to be the first Apollo mission, a rehearsal in low-Earth orbit, which would lead to landing men on the Moon before the end of the decade. The launch of Apollo 1 had been scheduled for 1967 February 21 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida (now known as the Kennedy Space Center at the Cape's original name, Cape Canaveral).

On 1961 May 25, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President John F. Kennedy stated, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." The previous month, the Russians had launched the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, who was also the first to orbit the Earth. On 1961 May 5, Alan Shepard had been the first American launched into space, during a short sub-orbital flight.

The launch by Russia of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 on 1957 October 4, ahead of America's first planned launch of a satellite, had shocked the American public. And, now the Russians had succeeded in launching the first person into Earth orbit, further leading to fears that America was scientifically behind during these troubled times of the Cold War.

After consulting with scientific experts, President Kennedy determined that a manned landing on the Moon would be a very challenging technological feat, but a feat American technology and scientific expertise could achieve. So, President Kennedy announced the challenge of sending men to the Moon. And, after the tragedy of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas on 1963 November 22, the successful completion of this challenge would become his major legacy.

It took several years to reach the point where a mission to the Moon could be attempted. Between 1961 and 1963, six astronauts were launched into space on six rockets during Project Mercury. In 1965 and 1966 ten missions, each with a crew of two, were launched into space during Project Gemini. After Gemini 12, the final Gemini mission, splashed-down on 1966 November 15, the ambitious schedule of pre-lunar flights would begin the next February with the launch of Apollo 1 (the name Apollo 1 was chosen by the crew, but it was originally designated Apollo 204 or AS-204).

Apollo 1 Prime Crew
Apollo 1 astronauts Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , By NASA - Great Images in NASA Description, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6449869 )

Apollo 1, as with all Apollo missions, would have a crew of three. The crew included Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee.

Gus Grissom had been one of the original “Mercury 7” astronauts, and he was the second American to fly in space on 1961 July 21. Gus Grissom also became the first American to fly in space twice when he became the Command Pilot for Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission; he replaced Alan Shepard, who had been grounded after being diagnosed with Meniere's Disease.

Ed White was pilot of Gemini 4 and became the first American to walk in space (known as Extra-Vehicular Activity or EVA) on 1965 June 3. However, even at this point in the “Space Race” the Russians seemed to be ahead of the Americans, as Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov became the first human to walk in space on 1965 March 18.

Roger Chaffee was a newcomer, as Apollo 1 would be his first excursion into Outer Space. He had served as the “CAPCOM” (“Capsule Communicator” - Flight Controller at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston) for both Gemini 3 and Gemini 4. He received his first spaceflight assignment, for Apollo 1, in 1966.

Apollo 1 was to be the first low-Earth orbital test of the Command and Service Modules of the Apollo spacecraft. The launch test on 1967 January 27 was considered quite important, as it would determine whether the spacecraft could operate on internal power, completely separated from ground systems. This test was not considered hazardous, since neither the spacecraft nor the rocket was fueled.

The astronauts entered the space capsule at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 18:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), and the simulated countdown was held at 1:20 p.m. EST / 18:20 UTC when Lieutenant Colonel (USAF) Grissom noticed a strange odor (“sour buttermilk”) in the air circulating in his space suit. When no cause for the odor could be found, the simulated countdown resumed at 2:42 p.m. EST / 19:42 UTC; the accident investigation later determined that this odor had nothing to do with the fire.

Later on, a communication problem led to another hold in the simulated countdown at 5:40 p.m. EST / 22:40 UTC. Then, Lieutenant Colonel Grissom commented, “How are we going to get to the Moon if we can't talk between two or three buildings?”

The simulated internal power transfer had been completed by 6:20 p.m. EST / 23:20 UTC. However, even ten minutes later the countdown hold had continued at T-minus ten minutes.

Then, the astronauts noticed a momentary voltage increase. Nine seconds later, at 6:31:04.7 p.m. EST / 23:31:04.7 UTC, one of the astronauts exclaimed, over the Apollo 1 radio link, “Hey!” or “Fire!” Immediately afterward, another astronaut was heard to say, “(I've or We've) got a fire in the cockpit.” Another garbled transmission was then heard, quickly followed by a cry of pain.

It took five minutes for NASA workers to open the Apollo 1 hatch. By then, all three astronauts were dead. Once the hatch was opened, the dense smoke made it difficult, at first, to even find the astronauts. The astronauts' nylon space suits had been partially melted. Lieutenant Colonel (USAF) White had tried to open the space capsule hatch, per emergency procedures, but was unsuccessful due to the cabin's internal pressure.

At the direction of NASA Administrator James E. Webb, and with the approval of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans (who had written and implemented a new mission failure investigation procedure following an in-flight failure, which included no deaths, during the mission of Gemini 8) established the Apollo 204 Review Board. This committee with nine members was chaired by NASA Langley Research Center Director Floyd L. Thompson and included Astronaut Frank Borman and spacecraft designer Maxime Faget.

Although all three astronauts had received third-degree burns in the fire, the investigation concluded that death had come by cardiac arrest caused by high concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO). It is believed the burns came after death. Asphyxiation occurred as soon as the fire melted the space suits and oxygen tubes; the atmosphere of the cabin was then lethal.

The investigation found five major causes of this accident:

  1. Ignition source, probably related to vulnerable electrical wiring, as well as the plumbing which carried a combustible and corrosive coolant.
  2. Pure oxygen (O-2) atmosphere, at higher than atmospheric pressure.
  3. Space capsule hatch which could not be quickly opened at high pressure.
  4. Many combustible materials in the cabin.
  5. Inadequate emergency preparedness.

When designing the Mercury spacecraft, NASA had rejected an Oxygen – Nitrogen mixed atmosphere, due to the risk of decompression sickness (“the bends”) and due to a 1960 accident when a test pilot was injured during a test of the Mercury capsule / space suit atmosphere system where a nitrogen-rich (and oxygen-poor) atmosphere was leaking into the space suit.

For Project Apollo, NASA decided that a pure oxygen atmosphere was safer, less complicated, and lighter in weight. In the publication, “Project Apollo: The Tough Decisions,” NASA Deputy Administrator Seamans wrote that NASA's single biggest error in judgment in engineering for the Apollo spacecraft was not to run a fire test, early-on, for the Command Module.

Following the accident, the Apollo Command Module was redesigned:

  1. The cabin atmosphere at launch was calibrated to 60 per-cent oxygen and 40 per-cent nitrogen, at sea-level pressure.
  2. However, to avoid astronauts getting decompression sickness, the atmosphere in the space suits were maintained at 100 per-cent oxygen.
  3. Beta cloth, a non-flammable and highly melt-resistant fabric, replaced nylon in the space suits.
  4. A completely redesigned hatch (which already had been contemplated for Project Apollo) was used that opened outward (the Apollo 1 hatch opened inward, which made it even more difficult to open), and it was designed to open in five seconds.
  5. Flammable materials in the cabin were replaced with materials which would self-extinguish.
  6. Electrical wiring and plumbing were insulated, and aluminum tubing was replaced with stainless steel.

Today (2017 January 27), the families of the crew members of Apollo 1 will help dedicate a new exhibit, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to the memory of the three astronauts who lost their lives in 1967. Although, the burned-out Apollo 1 space capsule is still maintained in storage, this new exhibit will display the spacecraft's hatch which prevented the astronauts from exiting the spacecraft after the fire began.

The new exhibit shows the three layers of the Apollo 1 hatch, as they appeared after the fire. Next to the original hatch is a display of the completely redesigned hatch, used on subsequent Apollo missions.

Apollo 1 was the first of three major tragedies which took the lives of NASA astronauts. On 1986 January 28, the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost after it exploded 73 seconds after launch. This flight had a crew of seven, including Christa McAuliffe, who had been designated as the first Teacher-in-Space. Upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, the Space Shuttle Columbia, also with a crew of seven, was lost when it disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana on 2003 February 1.

A near-tragedy was averted during the mission of Apollo 13. The explosion of an oxygen tank in the Service Module of Apollo 13 on 1970 April 13 crippled the spacecraft, while on its way to the Moon. The Moon landing was aborted, but the crew was able to return safely to Earth after flying around the Moon.

Three months after the Apollo 1 tragedy, the Russians experienced a space tragedy of their own. Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was killed, after re-entry from Earth orbit, when the parachute on his Soyuz 1 space capsule (which, at that time, was designed to be the Russian spacecraft to reach the Moon before the Americans) failed and he, in the space capsule, plunged to the ground on 1967 April 24. Unlike early American space missions which would land in the ocean, the Russian space missions always landed on solid ground.

Colonel Komarov was the Space Era's first human in-flight fatality, although he is not considered the first fatality in Outer Space. The three-man crew of Soyuz 11 are the only humans who have actually died in Outer Space, on 1971 June 30. Their space capsule depressurized during preparations for re-entry killing the crew, after a 23-day stay (at that time, a new record for human occupation in Outer Space) on the world's first space station, Salyut 1.

After losing the race to the Moon, the Russians began concentrating on occupying space stations in Earth orbit. The crew of Soyuz 11 were the only cosmonauts to board Salyut 1; a little earlier, the crew of Soyuz 10 rendezvoused with the space station, but had problems docking with it. No other cosmonauts ever visited Salyut 1, as the Soyuz spacecraft had to be redesigned after the Soyuz 11 accident. Salyut 1 ran out of fuel and was de-orbited and destroyed after being in orbit for six months.

As the Apollo 1 fire occurred in early evening on 1967 January 27, news of the tragedy did not reach the general public until mid-evening. Some Americans interested in the Space Program, in the Eastern and Central time zones, learned of the tragedy while watching a science-fiction television series on ABC-TV titled The Time Tunnel, which depicted two American scientists of 1968 teleported each week through time to a different time period, often encountering a historic event. That Friday evening, The Time Tunnel was interrupted by an ABC-TV News Bulletin announcing the accident and the death of three astronauts.

It was not until the launch of Apollo 7 on 1968 October 11, for an 11-day mission in low-Earth orbit, that NASA returned to crewed space flights, after the Apollo 1 accident. Two unmanned test flights in 1968 preceded Apollo 7: Apollo 5 on January 22 and Apollo 6 on April 4.

At the end of 1968, Apollo 8 became the first NASA mission where a crewed spacecraft left Earth orbit and entered orbit of another planetary body, the Earth's Moon. This mission included a memorable television broadcast by the astronauts, on Christmas Eve, when they read sections of the creation story from the Book of Genesis of the Christian Bible; at that time, this was the most-watched television program ever.

Two more crewed flights, in preparation for a landing on the Moon, occurred in 1969: Apollo 9 in low-Earth orbit, launched on March 3, and Apollo 10 in lunar orbit, launched on May 18. This culminated with the first landing on the Moon with the “Eagle” Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) during the Apollo 11 mission, and the first footprints of two astronauts on the Moon, on 1969 July 20.

Six more Apollo missions to the Moon were launched, although only five were able to land on the Moon. The mission of Apollo 13 to land on the Moon was aborted after an oxygen tank explosion, as described above.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Astronaut Gus Grissom: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gus_Grissom

Astronaut Ed White: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Higgins_White

Astronaut Roger Chaffee: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_B._Chaffee

Photograph of Apollo 1 astronauts, in their space suits, in front of the rocket launch gantry for Apollo 1:
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2017/01/astronomical-calendar-2017-january.html

Apollo 1 --
Link 1 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo1.html
Link 2 >>> https://history.nasa.gov/Apollo204/
Link 3 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_1

Project Apollo --
Link 1 >>> https://www.history.nasa.gov/Apollomon/Apollo.html
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program

Related Blog Posts ---

"30th Anniversary: Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster." 2016 Jan. 28.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/30th-anniversary-challenger-space.html

 

"JFK: Loss of the Man Who Sent Us to the Moon." 2013 Nov. 22.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/11/jfk-loss-of-man-who-sent-us-to-moon.html

 

"Space Shuttle Columbia Teaches After 2003 Tragedy." 2013 Feb. 1.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/02/space-shuttle-columbia-teaches-after.html

 

U.S. Flag That Survived Challenger Disaster: Romney Displays." 2012 Nov. 4.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/11/us-flag-that-survived-challenger.html

 

"Apollo 1 Fire - 45th Anniversary: Jan. 27." 2012 Jan. 28.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/01/apollo-1-fire-45th-anniversary-jan-27.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 January 27.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
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