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Tahoe Stars | by Rob Ray | Website.

Venus and the Sisters

After wandering about as far from the Sun on the sky as Venus can get, the brilliant evening star crossed paths with the Pleiades star cluster earlier this week. The beautiful conjunction was enjoyed by skygazers around the world. Taken on April 2, this celestial group photo captures the view from Portal, Arizona, USA. Also known as the Seven Sisters, even the brighter naked-eye Pleiades stars are seen to be much fainter than Venus. And while Venus and the sisters do look star-crossed, their spiky appearance is the diffraction pattern caused by multiple leaves in the aperture of the telephoto lens. The last similar conjunction of Venus and Pleiades occurred nearly 8 years ago. As it did then, Venus will again move on to cross paths with the disk of the Sun in June.

Image credit & copyright: Fred Espenak (Bifrost Astronomical Observatory)

44 years ago today, James Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert made a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, bringing an end to Apollo 13’s perilous journey. Considered a “successful failure” in that the intended objective of landing on the moon never transpired, the crew of Apollo 13 worked with NASA on improvisational procedures to return home after an oxygen tank exploded two days following liftoff.At a distance of approximately 200,000 miles from Earth, Jack Swigert was advised by Mission Control to stir the cryotanks associated to the onboard oxygen supply; a seemingly routine procedure. Two minutes later, the crew of Apollo 13 reported a “loud bang,” later determined to be the number-2 oxygen tank exploding. This explosion caused extreme damage to the Command Module’s power and oxygen capabilities, forcing the crew to power it down completely, and utilize the LEM — originally intended to land on the lunar surface, as a lifeboat. Engineered to transport Haise and Lovell to the Fra Mauro Highlands, the LEM now had to be retrofitted for it to be habitable for three men over four days. Due to a hardware flaw, Mission Control was imposed the task of developing a working procedure to quickly lower the carbon dioxide levels if the crew were to have any chance of survival. In what still stands as one of the finest displays of improvisation in NASA’s history, Lovell, Haise and Swigert were able to “fit a square peg into a round hole” by fabricating a device for the CO2 filters from the Command Module to be used on the LEM. Now being able to breathe, Apollo 13 faced another huge hurdle: developing a power-up procedure from scratch after the Command Module was completely powered off. With only a limited allocation of power due to the Command Module shutdown, the flight controllers identified alternative methods for the crew of Apollo 13 to begin re-entry.After a longer-than-usual radio blackout, Lovell, Haise, and Swigert made a safe splashdown southeast of the Samoan Islands on April 17th, 1970. Lasting nearly six days, the entire world stood united as they awaited the fate of Apollo 13 — whose journey has been inspirational for generations, and resulted in Ron Howard’s exhilarant motion picture released in 1995.Fun fact: The phrase “Failure Is Not An Option” was not coined by Gene Kranz, as is widely believed. http://www.spaceacts.com/notanoption.htm

Star Forming Region NGC 3582
Image Credit & Copyright: Desert Hollow Observatory

What’s happening in the NGC 3582 nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. Visible in this image are dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3582, also known as NGC 3584 and NGC 3576, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun’s formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The above image was taken at the Desert Hollow Observatory north of Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Clouds and crosses over Haleakala

Aloha and welcome to a breathtaking skyscape. The dreamlike panoramic view from March 27 looks out over the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala on Maui, Hawai’i. A cloud layer seeps over the volcanic caldera’s edge with the Milky Way and starry night sky above. Head of the Northern Cross asterism, supergiant star Deneb lurks within the Milky Way’s dust clouds and nebulae at the left. From there you can follow the arc of the Milky Way all the way to the stars of the more compact Southern Cross, just above the horizon at the far right. A yellowish Mars is right of center, near the top of the frame, with rival red giant Antares below it, closer to the Milky Way’s central bulge.

Image credit & copyright: Wally Pacholka (TWAN)

ISS Star Trails