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Eta Aquarids: Watch Halley’s Comet’s Meteor Shower Peak in Night Skies – The New York Times

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All year long as Earth revolves around the sun, it passes through streams of cosmic debris. The resulting meteor showers can light up night skies from dusk to dawn, and if you’re lucky you might be able to catch a glimpse.

The next shower you might be able to see is known as the Eta Aquariids, and also sometimes called the Eta Aquarids. Active from April 19 to May 28, it is expected to be at its peak from Monday night into Tuesday morning, or May 4-5.

The Eta Aquariids are one of two meteor showers from Halley’s comet. Its sister shower, the Orionids, will peak in October. Specks from the Eta Aquariids streak through the sky at about 148,000 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest meteor showers. Its display is better seen from the Southern Hemisphere where people normally enjoy between 20 and 30 meteors per hour during its peak. The Northern Hemisphere tends to see about half as many.

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If you spot a meteor shower, what you’re usually seeing is an icy comet’s leftovers that crash into Earth’s atmosphere. Comets are sort of like dirty snowballs: As they travel through the solar system, they leave behind a dusty trail of rocks and ice that lingers in space long after they leave. When Earth passes through these cascades of comet waste, the bits of debris — which can be as small as grains of sand — pierce the sky at such speeds that they burst, creating a celestial fireworks display.

A general rule of thumb with meteor showers: You are never watching the Earth cross into remnants from a comet’s most recent orbit. Instead, the burning bits come from the previous passes. For example, during the Perseid meteor shower you are seeing meteors ejected from when its parent comet, Comet Swift-Tuttle, visited in 1862 or earlier, not from its most recent pass in 1992.

That’s because it takes time for debris from a comet’s orbit to drift into a position where it intersects with Earth’s orbit, according to Bill Cooke, an astronomer with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

The best way to see a meteor shower is to get to a location that has a clear view of the entire night sky. Ideally, that would be somewhere with dark skies, away from city lights and traffic. To maximize your chances of catching the show, look for a spot that offers a wide, unobstructed view.

Bits and pieces of meteor showers are visible for a certain period of time, but they really peak visibly from dusk to dawn on a given few days. Those days are when Earth’s orbit crosses through the thickest part of the cosmic stream. Meteor showers can vary in their peak times, with some reaching their maximums for only a few hours and others for several nights. The showers tend to be most visible after midnight and before dawn.

It is best to use your naked eye to spot a meteor shower. Binoculars or telescopes tend to limit your field of view. You might need to spend about half an hour in the dark to let your eyes get used to the reduced light. Stargazers should be warned that moonlight and the weather can obscure the shows. But if that happens, there are usually meteor livestreams like the ones hosted by NASA and by Slooh.

The International Meteor Organization lists a variety of meteor showers that can be seen in 2020. Or you can find more information about some of the showers this year that are most likely to be visible below:

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Astronauts ring opening bell for Nasdaq from space station – Thompson Citizen

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The astronauts launched into orbit by SpaceX joined in the ringing of the opening bell for the Nasdaq on Tuesday to mark “a pivotal moment” for the space economy.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken took part in the ceremony from the International Space Station, three days after their launch by Elon Musk’s company.

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SpaceX became the first private company to send astronauts into orbit, with its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, and ended a nine-year launch drought for NASA.

The two astronauts floated alongside space station commander Chris Cassidy as he rang a ship’s bell to open trading on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. Their image, along with live-streamed pictures of other NASA staff, lit up the Nasdaq marquee in New York’s Times Square.

“It is truly a pivotal moment in the development of the space economy and a new era of private human spaceflight,” said Nasdaq President Adena Friedman.

She asked the astronauts about making spaceflight more accessible to ordinary people.

“It’s really transformational when you come into space and look back at our planet, and then see how fragile it is and how thin the atmosphere is. It really does change you for the better,” Hurley said. “I think the more people that we expose to this, the better off we’ll be as a species.”

NASA wants to be just one customer of many, noted Jim Morhard, the space agency’s deputy administrator, who took part in the virtual bell ringing. SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Boeing and other companies looking to send people into space are driving down costs while increasing innovation, he said.

“We’re really at the dawn of a new space age,” Morhard said.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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NASA astronauts describe 'smooth' ISS docking after SpaceX launch – The Globe and Mail

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Astronauts describe ride to space aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon – CBS News

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that boosted astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken into space provided a slightly rougher ride than expected during the later stages of the climb to orbit, but both said Monday they enjoyed their historic trip and marveled at a sooth-as-silk docking with the space station.

And yes, the Crew Dragon brought a “new car smell” to the lab complex.

“It absolutely did,” said station commander Chris Cassidy, the lone American aboard the station until Hurley and Behnken arrived Sunday. “Then when we got that hatch open, you could tell it was a brand new vehicle, with smiley faces on the other side, smiley face on mine, just as if you had bought a new car, the same kind of reaction.

“Wonderful to see my friends, and wonderful to see a brand new vehicle,” he said.

Astronaut Robert Behnken, left, Douglas Hurley, center, and space station commander Chris Cassidy talk with reporters Monday during a news conference from the International Space Station. Hurley and Behnken arrived at the lab Sunday after launch and a flawless rendezvous aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The flag Hurley is holding was left aboard the station in 2011 at the end of NASA’s final shuttle flight. Hurley was part of that crew and plans to bring the flag home when he and Behnken return to Earth.

NASA TV


Hurley and Behnken blasted off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center Saturday afternoon, strapped into a Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

It was the first piloted launch to orbit from U.S. soil in nearly nine years, the first flight of a SpaceX rocket carrying astronauts and the first new crewed spacecraft to fly in space since the first shuttle mission 39 years ago.

Both Hurley and Behnken are space shuttle veterans, familiar with the initially rough ride when the orbiter’s powerful solid-propellant boosters were firing and the transition to a much smoother experience after the boosters were jettisoned and only the ship’s liquid fueled main engines were running.

The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene. The first stage, featuring nine Merlin engines, generates 1.7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The rocket’s second stage is powered by a single vacuum-rated Merlin engine.

“Shuttle had solid rocket boosters, those burned very rough for the first two-and-a-half minutes,” Hurley said. “The first stage with Falcon 9 … was a much smoother ride.”

He said the shutdown of the first stage engines, the separation of the first and second stages and then the ignition of the upper stage’s single engine was similar to the memorable launch sequence depicted in the movie “Apollo 13.”

“So the first stage engines shut off, and then it took some time between the booster separating and then the Merlin vacuum engine starting,” Hurley said. “At that point, we go from roughly three Gs (three times the normal force of gravity on the ground) to zero Gs for, I don’t know, a half a second probably, and then when that Merlin vacuum engine fires, then we start accelerating again.

“It got a little rougher with the Merlin vacuum engine, and it’ll be interesting to talk to the SpaceX folks to find out why it was a little bit rougher ride on second stage than it was for shuttle on those three main engines.”

The Crew Dragon is designed to rendezvous and dock with the space station autonomously, without any direct input from the crew. But for the first piloted test fight, Hurley took over manual control twice to verify astronauts can fly the ship on their own if necessary.

060120-sideview.jpg
A view of the Crew Dragon capsule docked to the space station as seen by a camera mounted on the lab’s solar power truss.

NASA TV


There were no problems and when the Crew Dragon docked with the station Sunday morning, Hurley and Behnken were unable to detect the impact.

“The thing that really stood out to both of us, and we mentioned it as soon as we docked, is we didn’t feel the docking,” Hurley said. “It was just so smooth.”

Hurley is a former test pilot and Behnken, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Caltech, is a veteran Air Force flight test engineer. They were selected for the first piloted Crew Dragon flight in part so they could bring those skills to evaluating the spacecraft before it begins operational missions to the space station in the late-summer timeframe.

“We’re there to evaluate how it does the mission and so far, it’s done just absolutely spectacularly,” Hurley said. “It’s a very clean vehicle. … It does everything we need it to do for this mission, so we’re very happy with that part of it.”

Including the operation of the Crew Dragon’s toilet. While he did not provide any details, Hurley said it is “very similar to the one we were used to in the space shuttle, and it worked very well. We had no issues with it.”

NASA managers have not yet decided how long Hurley and Behnken will remain in orbit. The Crew Dragon is certified for up to four months in space, but the crew could be ordered home earlier depending on how the space environment affects the capsule’s solar arrays, the weather in the Atlantic Ocean splashdown zone and other factors.

Not knowing when they might be coming home is “a little bit strange,” Behnken said. “I’m trying to explain it to my son, just six years old, and from his perspective, he’s just excited that we’re going to get a dog when I get home. And so he’s accepting that uncertainty and continuing to send messages to me while I’m on orbit.”

The mission is expected to last at least six weeks and possibly up to four months, far longer than their relatively brief shuttle flights. Staying in touch with their wives, both veteran astronauts, and their two sons is a top priority for both Hurley and Behnken.

“One of the things I was most excited about (after launch) was being able to make a phone call home,” Behnken said. “It’s been a long time since I launched into orbit, and I’ve got a little boy who got a chance to watch me do that for the first time in his life. And I just wanted to understand what his experience was and share that a little bit with him.

“He was able to make the trip back to Houston after watching the docking from down in Florida and was pretty excited about the whole thing. So that was wonderful for me.”

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