Astro Bob blog: OMG ... the sunReturn of the sun and a great week ahead for the space station
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
OMG ... the sun
A pussy willow bud is coated with hundreds of tiny water droplets this morning after an overnight foggy mist. Photo: Bob King
The sun returned this morning after a week's absence. I almost couldn't believe it. How wonderful to feel the heat on my back and hear the robins again. When I saw clusters of water droplets on the pussy willows, star clusters came to mind. Since we spent several days last week exploring the different types it only seemed natural to wrap up the star cluster theme with a watery variety close to home.
The International Space Station (ISS) will continue making passes over the region during convenient viewing hours throughout the coming week. Here are the times for Duluth and region when you can see it. For times for your city, click HERE and type in your zip code. A typical pass lasts about five minutes as the ISS travels from west to east.
* Tonight starting at 7:51 p.m. with a bright pass across the northern sky
* Monday March 15 at 8:16 p.m. Very bright pass across the northern sky. Close to Polaris the North Star at 8:19.
* Tuesday March 16 at 8:41 p.m. Brilliant pass. The ISS rises in the west and makes a beeline to nearly the top of the sky, fading out just to the left of Mars.
* Wednesday March 17 at 7:30 p.m. Nice bright pass across the north. Nearly touches Polaris at 7:33 p.m. 2nd pass across the southwest at 9:06 p.m.
* Thursday March 18 at 7:55 p.m. Brilliant pass. Watch for it close to Mars just before 8 p.m.
* Friday March 19 at 8:20 p.m. low pass from southwest to southeast
* Saturday March 20 at 8:46 p.m. Very low pass from southwest to south
The ISS back in the early days. The mated Russian-built Zarya (left) and U.S.-built Unity modules are backdropped against the blackness of space and Earth's horizon shortly after leaving Endeavour's cargo bay. The photo was taken on Dec. 13, 1998. Credit: NASA
The space station has certainly grown since construction began in 1998. It started as just two modules -- the U.S.-built Unity and Russian Zarya -- and has since expanded to 11 pressurized modules and will eventually weigh 450 tons. Once completed in 2011, the ISS will be 356 feet long by 239 feet across, almost exactly the same size as a football field including the end zones (360 x 220 feet). Three more modules remain to be launched. The ISS completes 15.7 orbits per day traveling at an average speed of 17,227 miles per hour. It's the most diverse laboratory and viewing platform ever constructed. Astronauts there have conducted experiments on the long-term exposure to a near-weightless environment on everything from monarch butterflies to ourselves. While the space station has its critics, just about any branch of science you can think of has been studied from an outer space perspective on the ISS. And let's be honest, it's just fun to watch. For a sampling of some of the station's benefits, please click HERE.
The mostly completed space station orbits above the ocean in this photo taken on February 19. Credit: NASA
A flame looks different in the "zero g" environment of the space station than it does on Earth. On Earth, a candle burns with a tall, yellow flame. In space, a smaller, blue flame burns on the center of the wick. As hot gases from a flame rise, they create air currents that bring fresh air to the fire. This buoyancy is what makes a flame long and pointed here on Earth. In low gravity situations, there is no buoyancy from flames. Credit: NASA