Astronomical outlook for the week

Weather

Highlights

  • I’m guessing your newscast is largely devoted to the pandemic and with close to zero sports news to cover, weather segments provide some normalcy and even bright news. The station scientist’s moment to shine… yet again. Keep it up.
  • Astronauts offer tips on living in confined spaces for long periods of time:
  • Sometime this afternoon, (2020-Mar-22 18:49 UTC +/- 2 hours, 47 minutes, Near Earth Object (2020 DP4), 83-186 feet in size, will pass the Earth at between at 3.5 times the distance to the Moon, at about 18,130 miles per hour.
  • Early this week Mercury is at its greatest western elongation (separation from the Sun) and Venus at its greatest eastern elongation.
  • Tue Mar 24, the Moon turns new today within hours of apogee (furthest point in its orbit from Earth) which makes it a super black micro moon. Not something to get viewers outside to see for obvious reasons but maybe something for happy talk at the desk.
  • The sunset following that new moon marks the beginning of Nisan in the Hebrew year 5780 and the month of Chaitra in the Hindu lunisolar calendar (celebrated as Ugadi or New Year’s Day in some Indian states)
  • Wed Mar 25, Venus reaches the highest point (45 degrees) in the evening sky.A great time to get viewers outside looking for it. It will remain above 40 degrees through the end of April. Venus reaches dichotomy or its half phase on Thursday.
  • Sat Mar 28, Venus and the waxing crescent moon will be separated by less than 7 degrees after sunset.
  • Sat Mar 28, Earth Hour, a yearly effort sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund to turn off lights 8:30-9:30pm local time to raise awareness about energy consumption and other environmental concerns.
  • Citizen Science project: The Globe at Night project is underway again, gathering information about light pollution around the world. This month we are finding Orion and reporting what our sky looks like including cloud conditions.
  • Wed Apr 01 06:21:13: first quarter moon

Upcoming Launches

·  Tue, Mar 11:30 AM +08 (03:30 UTC) China plans the launch of Yaogan 30-06 from pad TBD at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southern China

·  Tue, Mar 09:30 AM AKDT (17:30 UTC) Astra Space plans the launch of Rocket 3.0 Flight 1 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska in Kodiak Island, Alaska

·  Thu, Mar 02:57 PM EDT (18:57 UTC) United Launch Alliance (ULA) plans the launch of AEHF-6 from the Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida

·  Mon, Mar 05:43 PM NZDT (04:43 UTC) Rocket Lab plans the launch of “Don’t Stop Me Now” (ELaNa 32) from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex, Mahia Peninsula in Mahia, New Zealand

·  Mon, Mar 07:21 PM EDT (23:21 UTC) SpaceX plans the launch of SAOCOM-1B from the Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida

·  Thu, Apr 02:05 PM +06 (08:05 UTC) Roscosmos plans the launch of Soyuz MS-16 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

·  Wed, Apr 07:00 AM EDT (11:00 UTC) SpaceX plans the launch of GPS III SV03 (Columbus) from the Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida

On This Day

  • Mar 25, 1655 Christiaan Huygens’ discovers Saturn’s moon Titan
  • Mar 26, 1840 John Draper (no, not the Mad Man), takes the first photo of the Moon
  • Mar 23, Goldstone radar images comet P/2016 BA14 as it flies within 2.2 million miles of Earth, second closest recorded in history.

In case you missed it

  • The World Health Organization has short course on COVID-19, intended for incident managers and volunteers but very appropriate for everyone in the newsroom.
  • The London Imperial College offers another freecourse on the epidemiology and economic impacts of COVID-19 taught by Dr. Helen Ward, professor of Public Health with three decades of epidemiology research and education and Dr. Katharina Hauck an expert on public health interventions and the economic impact of epidemics.

Phases of Venus?

Did you know Venus has phases, just like our Moon? Venus is at its highest this week, look in the west after sunset. (animation:Larry Koehn)
https://vimeo.com/364643061

Near Earth Objects (NEO)

lunar distance (LD) is the mean distance to the moon ~239k miles. Anything within 1 LD is newsworthy. For more information see NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies

This week

object close approach date uncertainty LD million
miles
2020 DP4 2020-03-22 19:34Z < 1 sec 3.5 <1
2020 FF1 2020-03-22 23:09Z 1+ hour 1.9 ~0.55
2020 FF 2020-03-24 05:06Z ~1 hour 15.8 <4
2020 FB 2020-03-25 17:02Z < 1 sec 8.6 ~2
2020 FP 2020-03-27 00:39Z <1 hour 14.7 ~3.55
2012 XA133 2020-03-27 03:52Z < 1 sec 17.3 4+
2020 FE2 2020-03-28 13:13Z ~1 hour 4.5 ~1
2010 GD35 2020-03-29 19:19Z < 1 sec 15.2 ~4
2006 FH36 2020-03-30 05:06Z ~1 hour 11.2 ~3
2020 FB1 2020-03-30 23:41Z ~1 hour 19.0 ~5
2020 FA1 2020-03-31 20:09Z ~8.55 hours 18.3 ~4.55
2019 GM1 2020-04-02 14:35Z ~3 hours 8.9 2+
2015 FC35 2020-04-04 10:04Z < 1 sec 10.4 ~2.55
2020 DT3 2020-04-05 12:03Z ~1 hour 17.5 4+

Closest

within object close approach date uncertainty lunar distances million
miles
~14 days 2020 FF1 2020-03-22 23:09Z 1+ hour 1.9 ~0.55
~1 year 2011 ES4 2020-09-01 16:12Z ~8 days 0.3 ~75,371.55 miles
~100 years 2010 RF12 2095-09-06 00:05Z 3+ hours 0.1 ~18,677.55 miles

Planet visibility

body (phase) rise transit (alt) set constellation
Mercury (56%) 06:10:37 11:39:46 (40°) 17:09:25 Aquarius
Venus (50%) 08:50:27 16:12:04 (71°) 23:33:08 Aries
Moon (6%) 08:27:46 15:02:58 (57°) 21:47:16 Cetus
Mars 04:08:54 08:52:57 (28°) 13:37:12 Sagittarius
Saturn 04:16:24 09:06:01 (29°) 13:55:40 Capricornus
Jupiter 03:53:46 08:38:15 (28°) 13:22:45 Sagittarius

Sample rise/set times for 03/26/20

Satellite Passes

This information is best used to identify passes worth sharing or skipping. Those nearest overhead are closest, brightest, and longest. Check dates and times for each pass before sharing.

International Space Station (ISS)

  • poor pass begins Mon 2020-03-23 20:13:17 EDT from the W (271°) reaches 29°, lasts 5 minutes
  • below trees pass begins Wed 2020-03-25 20:16:22 EDT from the WNW (300°) reaches 17°, lasts 4 minutes
  • below trees pass begins Fri 2020-03-27 20:19:36 EDT from the NW (324°) reaches 13°, lasts 3 minutes
  • below trees pass begins Sun 2020-03-29 20:22:17 EDT from the NNW (336°) reaches 13°, lasts 3 minutes
  • below trees pass begins Tue 2020-03-31 20:24:14 EDT from the NNW (334°) reaches 16°, lasts 4 minutes

Atmospheric drag and other factors can and do cause orbits to change. See the European Space Agency supported Heavens Above for the latest pass predictions. Satellite pass gradings are based on altitude reached and duration of the pass. Higher altitude passes are closer to the observer and generally brighter as a result. Satellites other than ISS are much more difficult to spot.

Moon Phases

date phase
Wed 2020-04-01 06:21:13 first quarter
Tue 2020-04-07 22:35:03 full
Tue 2020-04-14 18:56:06 last quarter
Wed 2020-04-22 22:25:49 new

Sun

Sunrise/set

Date Rise Solar noon (alt) Set sunlight
Thu 2020-03-26 07:06 13:19 (52.10°) 19:33 12 hrs 26 min
Fri 2020-03-27 07:05 13:19 (52.49°) 19:34 12 hrs 28 min
Sat 2020-03-28 07:03 13:19 (52.88°) 19:35 12 hrs 31 min
Sun 2020-03-29 07:01 13:18 (53.27°) 19:36 12 hrs 34 min
Mon 2020-03-30 07:00 13:18 (53.66°) 19:37 12 hrs 36 min
Tue 2020-03-31 06:58 13:18 (54.05°) 19:38 12 hrs 39 min
Wed 2020-04-01 06:57 13:17 (54.43°) 19:39 12 hrs 42 min
Thu 2020-04-02 06:55 13:17 (54.82°) 19:40 12 hrs 44 min
Fri 2020-04-03 06:53 13:17 (55.20°) 19:41 12 hrs 47 min
Sat 2020-04-04 06:52 13:16 (55.58°) 19:42 12 hrs 50 min
  • gained 0:24:00.193883 (hh:mm:ss) of daylight over this period
  • daylight (HH:MM): 12:37
  • mean: sunrise 06:60 sunset 19:38
  • max: sun angle 55.58°

Twilight

date rise set
Thu 2020-03-26 05:32 21:05
Fri 2020-03-27 05:30 21:06
Sat 2020-03-28 05:28 21:08
Sun 2020-03-29 05:26 21:09
Mon 2020-03-30 05:25 21:10
Tue 2020-03-31 05:23 21:11
Wed 2020-04-01 05:21 21:13
Thu 2020-04-02 05:19 21:14
Fri 2020-04-03 05:17 21:15
Sat 2020-04-04 05:15 21:16

Covers Thu 2020-03-26 01:00 through Sun 2020-04-05 01:00 . Calculations are for Altoona, PA (40.4800,-78.4200) at an elevation of 341 m and are expressed in local (US/Eastern) time and a 24-hour clock.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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