Image Credit & Copyright: Rick Baldridge
In this alluring time exposure, star trails arc across the night sky above foggy Monterey Bay and the lights of Santa Cruz, California in the United States of America. Since the exposure began around 2:56am PDT on July 2 it also records the trail of a Delta II rocket lofting NASA’s OCO-2 spacecraft into orbit. Seen from a vantage point 200 miles north of the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site, the trail represents the first five minutes of the rocket’s flight along a trajectory south and west over the Pacific to join the A-Train in polar orbit around planet Earth. The entire trail through main engine cut-off is captured, with a very faint puff at the end marking the nose fairing separation. Under the rocket’s path, the two brightest trails are the alpha and beta stars of the constellation Grus, flying high in southern skies. The OCO-2 mission goal is a study of atmospheric carbon dioxide, watching from space as planet Earth breathes.
NASA APOD 04-Jul-14
Image Credit & Copyright: Matipon Tangmatitham
Can the night sky appear both serene and surreal? Perhaps classifiable as serene in the above panoramic image taken last Friday are the faint lights of small towns glowing across a dark foreground landscape of Doi Inthanon National Park in Thailand, as well as the numerous stars glowing across a dark background starscape. Also visible are the planet Venus and a band of zodiacal light on the image left. Unusual events are also captured, however. First, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, while usually a common site, appears here to hover surreally above the ground. Next, a fortuitous streak of a meteor was captured on the image right. Perhaps the most unusual component is the bright spot just to the left of the meteor. That spot is the plume of a rising Ariane 5 rocket, launched a few minutes before from Kourou, French Guiana. How lucky was the astrophotographer to capture the rocket launch in his image? Not lucky at all — the image was timed to capture the rocket. What was lucky was how photogenic — and perhaps surreal — the rest of the sky turned out to be.
NASA APOD 12-02-2014
Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace
Fixed to a tripod and looking east across the Kennedy Space Center’s Turn Basin, a camera captured these star trails as a series of short exposures over a three hour period on the evening of January 23rd. Positioned just a few miles from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, it also captured a spectacular night launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite TDRS-L. Creating the trails, the apparent motion of the stars through the sky is just a reflection of the daily rotation of planet Earth on its axis. But that rotation is also the reason the rocket streak follows a path arcing east across the Atlantic. Launching toward the east, in the direction of Earth’s rotation, adds the rotation velocity to the rocket and reduces the fuel needed to reach orbit. A little ironically, TDRS-L is destined for a geostationary orbit. From there, 36,000 kilometers or so above the equator, it’s orbital period will match Earth’s rotation and the satellite will hang motionless in planet Earth’s sky.
NASA APOD 30-Jan-2014