Florida: Spectacular Dawn Rocket Launch Today!

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

We had an absolutely spectacular Atlas 5 rocket launch this morning of a Navy MUOS communications satellite into orbit.  The 20-story tall rocket lifted off at 6:18 am.  The dawn sky brightened as the rocket took off and rose up.  Then we saw something we had never seen before – the white rocket plume brightened into an enormous tadpole-like cloud of mist as the rocket arced east across the Atlantic.  The phenomenon was caused by the perfect combination of sun angle below the horizon and high humidity.  The white cloud of water vapor (not smoke) was formed when the rocket’s hot exhaust gases hit the air.  It was an amazing sight, and one of the top two launches we have ever seen!

Space Station on a Starry Night!

Space Station Trail in Night Sky

Space Station Trail in Night Sky

Starry Night Sky with Constellation Orion (middle) and Bright Planet Venus (upper right)

Starry Night Sky with Constellation Orion (middle) and Bright Planet Venus (upper right)

Space Station Track (Yellow Line) by Our House (Blue Dot)

Space Station Track (Yellow Line) by Our House (Blue Dot)

Long Exposure to Capture Owl Hunting in Dark

Long Exposure to Capture Owl Hunting in Dark

The International Space Station tracked right by our house last night in Palm Bay, Florida! It moves FAST! ! Other evening sightings included tree frogs on the window, raccoon and babies under the tree, armadillo looking for bugs, and owl hunting from a favorite perch by the pond (her sudden whinny behind me was surprising!). 

Space Station Flyover

Moonrise in Florida

Moonrise in Florida

Long Exposure of Space Station Flyover

Long Exposure of Space Station Flyover

Airplane Trails 1

Airplane Trails 1

Airplane Trails 2

Airplane Trails 2

View of Pacific Cyclone from Space Station (streamed by ISS Above to our TV - click for details)

View of Pacific Cyclone from Space Station (streamed by ISS Above to our TV – click for details)

We had an extra bright flyover of the International Space Station on Friday evening.  It was a gorgeous warm night with a full moon rising.  As I was taking the pictures, I could hear mama owl singing by the pond.  For better photography next time, I’m looking forward to a nice dark night so that I can take a longer exposure.  If you want to see the Space Station, check flyover times at: http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ Remember that the Space Station emits a bright continuous light (the reflection from the solar panels), and airplanes emit flashing lights.

California: Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory

Model of Telescope

Model of Telescope

Celestial Lamp

Celestial Lamp

Palomar Mountain View

Palomar Mountain View

Big Berry Manzanita Flowers

Big Berry Manzanita Flowers

Purple Lupine Flowers

Purple Lupine Flowers

Scarlet Bugler Flowers

Scarlet Bugler Flowers

The drive up to Palomar Observatory is especially beautiful in spring (near San Diego, California).  The wildflowers and mountain scenery are gorgeous!  The telescopes at Palomar have discovered quasars, brown dwarfs, and Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. 

Spectacular Atlas 5 Rocket Launch Tonight!

Timed Exposure of Atlas 5 Rocket Launch on January 23, 2014

Timed Exposure of Atlas 5 Rocket Launch on January 23, 2014

We had a spectacular rocket launch tonight here on the Space Coast of Florida.  NASA launched a 3.8 ton Atlas 5 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral at 9:33 pm Eastern Standard Time.  What an awesome sight!  This picture is a 2 minute timed exposure of the launch as seen from our home in Palm Bay (about 40 miles south of the Space Center).  Notice the reflection of the rocket trail in the pond (click on the picture to see details and star colors).  Updates and coverage of all worldwide rocket launches is available at http://www.spaceflightnow.com/.

Vintage Space Art Christmas Cards

Card #1 Missileland

Card #1 Missileland

Card #2 Spaceport and Moon

Card #2 Spaceport and Moon

Card #3 Spaceport and Capsule

Card #3 Spaceport and Capsule

Card #4 Capsule on Moon

Card #4 Capsule on Moon

These vintage Christmas cards were created by NASA space artist Don Mackey in the 1960s and 1970s. I got the cards on eBay. Look closely for some really fun details.

Card #1 Missileland features a houseboat called the Indian River Queen.  The flying saucer is powered by Florida swamp gas. The artist himself is on the porch beside the pelican, and he is painting the missile launch. A Christmas tree is inside. Santa is on the roof in his long underwear playing cards with the aliens, and his outfit is hanging on the clothesline. On the lower right are leprechauns and an alligator in a Santa hat!

Card #2 Spaceport and Moon shows Santa with two aliens in a Model T sleigh with a surfboard on back. A sign on the Moon says “Snoopy was Here”! Running away from the reindeer is a little dog in a space helmet. The two aliens are digging up gold. The astronaut on the right has a box of Moon gold, and the astronaut on the left is filming the scene with a TV camera.  Perched on his back is a parrot in a space helmet.

Card #3 Spaceport and Capsule shows three aliens wearing Santa hats in a sleigh that says “Wide Load”. The astronauts in the capsule are waving, and one of them is filming the scene with a TV camera. At the back of the capsule is an antennae with an owl perched on it! 

Card #4 Capsule on Moon shows lots of happy green aliens greeting a capsule that has landed on the Moon. The capsule sits on a lunar landscape filled with craters and mountains, with the Earth and a bright shining star in the background. Coming out of the capsule is Santa Claus carrying a bag of toys and a Christmas tree. Ruldolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is peaking his head out the capsule door. The greeting on the card says “Merry Christmas from Cape Canaveral”.

Another post that contains Christmas card art by Don Mackey is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/vintage-space-art-christmas-cards-at-the-air-force-space-and-missile-museum/

Florida: Close-Up View of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Rollout of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Side View of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Front View of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Back View of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Close-Up of Weathered Heat Shield Tiles

76-Wheel Space Shuttle Transporter

Next Generation NASA Orion Crew Module

Next Generation SpaceX Dragon Crew Spacecraft (flames come out of those nose-like holes!)

SpaceX Dragon Inside (Astronaut Seating)

Inflatable Astronaut Greeting

Last Friday was NASA’s rollout of the retired space shuttle Atlantis from the Vehicle Assembly Building to its new home at Kennedy Space Center.  The shuttle had been undergoing refurbishment as part of its transition from a working orbiter to a museum centerpiece at KSC.  Its new mission will be to inspire generations for years to come. 

The rollout ceremony was full of excitement and emotion.  As Atlantis was rolled into a special exhibit area at Exploration Park, music from Star Wars, Proud to be an American, and an original shuttle song were played.  The touching shuttle tribute song is at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7XVrhltrcU

Visitors enjoyed close-up views of Atlantis, along with displays featuring the next generation of space vehicles.

Atlantis was first delivered to KSC in 1985.  Since then she has flown 33 missions, traveled over 126 million miles, and spent 307 days in space.  Her crowning achievement was the mission that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. 

The new building featuring Atlantis will be ready in summer 2013.  She will be displayed as-is and tipped on her side as if flying in space.  Interactive exhibits are currently being designed by engineers from Disney and Universal Studios.  KSC never fails to impress – it was awesome!

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