Astro Bob: Jupiter-moon mash-up / BlueWalker 3 chases the sky – Duluth News Tribune

Duluth – Clouds prevented the moon from rising here on Saturday, so I couldn’t see Jupiter and Harvest Moon cross the horizon together. Luckily, after 15 minutes, they both parted in a narrow slit of clear sky and made a captivating scene. We may curse the clouds when they hide our favorite cosmic trinkets, but they add so much to a moonlit scene.

In one day, the moon travels about 13 degrees to the east. Sunday night (September 11), track below and behind Jupiter.

Contribute / Stellarium

On the night of Sunday, September 11, the moon will rise after about 20 minutes and shine below and left from the great planet, providing a dramatic display of how far it will travel east in 24 hours. I hope you watch. The moon’s next planetary play date is scheduled for September 16-17, when it veers alongside Mars. I love these routine and special visits. They add zest and anticipation to a night of stars.

BlueWalker 3 satellite launch

On September 10, SpaceX launched another batch of 34 Starlink satellites into orbit along with a new vehicle built by

AST SpaceMobile

, BlueWalker 3. Described as the largest commercial satellite ever, this 1.5-ton behemoth, shaped like a supercomputer chip, measures 693 square feet (64 square meters). It rode in space folded into a much smaller package; In the coming days, it will turn out to be the size of a squash court.

Blue Walker 3

This is the BlueWalker 3, a prototype satellite that will turn into a large array of antennas. The back side of the array is lined with solar cells to power the system.

Contribute / AST SpaceMobile

BlueWalker 3 is a satellite prototype with several sub-antenna units that will connect directly to regular smartphones to provide 4G broadband coverage almost anywhere on earth. Think of it as a group that revolves around cell phone towers.

Before it is fully operational, engineers will run tests to demonstrate that the technology operates in low Earth orbit in coordination with infrastructure on Earth. Test sites include Texas, the company’s home state, along with Hawaii and AST partners in Europe, Japan, South America, Africa and Asia.


Now for the potential bad news, at least as far as astronomy and skywatching are concerned. Assuming everything goes according to plan, the company will work with SpaceX and possibly other providers to launch about 110 much larger satellites called BlueBirds into orbit to create a full network by 2024.

While that number pales in comparison to the current (and planned) number of Starlinks, BlueBirds will be much larger and therefore potentially brighter, making an important addition to the number of bright satellites that track through the night sky. Some observers expect it to become the second brightest object after the International Space Station.

BlueWalker 3 in orbit

From this artist’s point of view, we see BlueWalker 3 in orbit. The array will orbit the Earth approximately every 90 minutes.

Contributed by / Nokia, AST SpaceMobile

Everyone, from amateurs like you and me to professional astronomers, are concerned about the effect. Will its light affect our view of faint cosmic objects? What about the aesthetic experience of the night sky with minimal human intervention? This is not all. There are 30,000 new Starlink next-generation satellites awaiting FCC approval that may also carry antennas for cellular communication. While these birds Just 269 ​​sq ft (25 sq m) across, there’s plenty of it!

Tony Malama

, who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, is interested in how bright the BlueWalker 3 and BlueBirds are and asks for your help observing their brightness. Once BlueWalker 3 is published, I will post when and where you can see it along with a list of stars you can use to compare and estimate their brightness. Send me your brightness estimates, and I’ll send them to Malama. Deal? Good.

Stay tuned for an update!