30 November 2008

Venus Jupiter Conjunction

Have a look at the west after sunset tomorrow, December 1st, 2008. You can see the three brightest objects of the night sky very close to each other. The crescent Moon, the goddess of love - Venus, and the king of the planets - Jupiter, are all close together forming a triangle between them. Venus and Jupiter move very close to each other which is called 'Conjunction'. Venus and Jupiter will only be 2 degrees apart.

The above picture is an illustration of the conjunction between Venus and Jupiter and the triangle with the Moon. In India, it can be viewed after sunset and not at 9pm.

Venus is very bright, its magnitude being -4.02 (Lesser the magnitude, brighter the object). Venus can sometime reach the magnitude of -4.6. With the rest of the sky consisting of faint stars, the triangle between the three brightest objects of the night sky will be eye-catching.

23 November 2008

MoonLITE Mission

Britain is set to launch its maiden moon mission to study the phenomenon of mysterious moonquakes, weeks after India's spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 successfully entered the lunar orbit.
The 100-million-pound unmanned mission 'MoonLITE' would aim to understand the cause of mysterious quakes that vibrate through the lunar rock and put it into the satellite's orbit before firing a series of probes into the moon's surface.

The launch of MoonLITE (
Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecommunications Experiment), will be announced next month after which engineers would work on the technical designs with an aim to launch the satellite between 2012 and 2014.

Backed by NASA, the spacecraft would also examine the chemical composition of the rocks and even search for water on the moon's surface.

The existence of moonquakes has puzzled scientists as the moon does not have the tectonic plate activity that causes quakes on the earth.

The MoonLITE mission is expected to fire four suitcase-sized penetrator probes into different points around the lunar surface.

Bright Meteor Over Canada

A huge fireball was seen in the sky on 20th November 2008 over Edmonton, Canada. A video has been captured of this bright meteorite that fell onto Earth. Here is one of the most rarest and the latest video of a meteorite.

Mission Aditya

After the Success of Chandrayaan 1, ISRO has now developed a Sun Mission called 'Aditya'. Aditya has been approved by the government and the work has been started. Aditya is planned to be launched by 2012. Aditya will study the outer most region of the Sun called 'Corona'.

The temperature of the solar corona goes beyond million degrees. From the Earth, corona can be seen only during total solar eclipses mainly due to the bright Solar disc and the scattering of the sunlight by the Earth's atmosphere. One has to go beyond the atmosphere to be able to mask the bright solar disc and study the corona.

Sun's Corona during the Solar Eclipse

"That's a mini satellite. In fact, the design is just getting completed. During solar maxim...which is happening...we would like to see the type of emissions which are taking place in the Sun and how it interacts with the ionosphere and atmosphere and so on. A basic understanding of the physical processes and continuous monitoring would help in taking necessary steps towards protecting ISRO's satellites either by switching them off or putting them on a stand-by mode as warranted by the background conditions.", says Madhavan Nair.

The satellite will remain in Earth's orbit and will study the Sun's Corona, sun spots and the Solar flare. 'Aditya' mission lies behind the international Sun missions 'Yohkoh', launched by Japan, collaborating with US and UK in 1991 and 'Hinode' in 2006. But 'Aditya' will be an Indian satellite with no collaboration.

19 November 2008

Bhuvan vs Google Earth

Yes it is. On March 2009 ISRO will launch its own IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) image portal called 'Bhuvan'. Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth) will offer detailed satellite views of our planet just like Google Earth and Wikimapia.

Bhuvan will use a network of satellites to create a high-resolution, bird's-eye view of India – and later, possibly, the rest of the world – that will be accessible at no cost online and will compete with Google Earth. If a pilot version passes muster, Bhuvan will be fully operational by the March. There are also plans to incorporate a Global Positioning System (GPS) into the online tool. Bhuvan will mainly focus on the sub-continent.

Bhuvan has an edge over Google Earth. Bhuvan has a lot more features than the famed Google Earth. Lets compare Bhuvan with Google Earth.

  • Google Earth zooms in upto 200 meters, Wikimapia zooms upto 50 meters but Bhuvan can zoom upto 10 meters. The image is of a very high resolution such that you can get a view from the three storey building.
  • Google Earth is a single layer information whereas Bhuvan is a multilayer information.
  • In Google Earth the images are upgraded every 4 years whereas in Bhuvan, it is upgraded every year.
  • Google Earth has no alternative viewing option. In Bhuvan you have an option of viewing on different dates.
  • Google Earth uses international satellites for mapping but Bhuvan uses Indian satellites.

The prototype of Bhuvan will be ready by the end of November and ISRO is hoping to officially launch the service by March 2009.

ISRO is now booming itself since the launch of Chandrayaan.

18 November 2008

Chandrayaan's First Video

Here is the first video of the Chandrayaan Mission. This video was taken by Moon Impact Probe (MIP), a payload of Chandrayaan - I which had a crash landing on the Moon on November 14th, 2008. MIP took images of the moon as it was descending down to the surface. The 15,000 frames generated by MIP during its 25 mins journey to the moon's surface was decrypted and the complete video is yet to be created. Here is a 2 min part of the video.

17 November 2008

LEONIDS' Experience

Hi. Here I am to share my experience on Leonids 2008. Well, November 17, 2008 is D-day, and here it is. Alarm was set-up at 3:00am on my mobile to start my first meteor hunt (my second actually. My first was 2005 Leonids which I was looking at a complete wrong time and hence failed).

I woke up from a dream (not a nightmare), and discovered that the time was 3:40 and the alarm was off. I didn’t know whether to call myself lucky or unlucky. Went straight to my terrace and I realized that I am, actually unlucky. It was overcast, especially the east horizon. Since the constellation Leo is said to be at the east horizon and that the meteors appear to origin from that constellation, I wasn’t really happy.

Went back downstairs and scanned through the Planetarium Software on my system to find the exact location of the constellation Leo. It was about nearly 4:10 when I decided to go back to my terrace.

I was happy that the sky was partly clear and that the clouds were moving pretty fast. I positioned myself such that I could see the east part of the sky quite clearly. I kept looking there for about 20 mins with no success. During this time I was also trying to identify the constellation Leo. All I could see was two stars near the horizon. At around 4:30 I noticed more stars at the east horizon and I realized that the brighter of the two stars was Regulus (Constellation Leo) and another bright at the dead east was actually Saturn. I decided to go back to my computer to check the planetarium software again and that was moment I would never forget for the rest of my life.

4:32 am – I spotted my first ever meteor. It was to the right of Regulus. It was moving further right away from Regulus. Yes, it was a Leonid and it was moving away from Leo. It was short compared to what I saw in youtube. And quick! Very quick! If I had attempted to blink I may not have caught it after all.

I was really excited. I was literally jumping with joy. Now I noticed that the sky is much clear. I was looking at Sirius, how bright it was; and Orion (my favorite constellation); and the Moon, was really bright. And then –

4:37 amAnother one - To the north of the Moon - Moving towards the west. Again away from Leo (Leo was still at the east). I realized that the meteor may not actually appear near the constellation. Moon was at the constellation Gemini and so was this meteor.

I ran back downstairs and woke up mom. My friend, Kavin messaged me asking if it was worth having a look. Somehow I convinced him to go to his terrace and have a try. Nearly 30 mins later my mom said she was tired and she went back. Bad Luck for her, I thought. A little while later, Kavin messaged me saying it was getting cloudy again and that he was quitting. Bad Luck for him too. I went back to my computer to confirm the location of Leo and Saturn.

Went back upstairs and by now I was really fed up. No meteors in the last 45 mins. I just turned to see if the sky was clear and again –

5:27 am – Another. My third lucky meteor! This one was a little above the north horizon, moving from east to west. Again, away from Leo! This was when I realized how wrong I was. I thought that Leonids would appear near Leo. Now I realized that it can appear anywhere in the sky. The only thing was that it appears to move away from Leo.

Now I decided to stand up and look all over the sky. I was sure I missed a lot of them when I was only looking at east. I’m not gonna miss anymore. 10 mins later I felt I saw a faint meteor near the east horizon. Bright Moon and tiny source of light at the east (rising Sun), it could have really been a meteor but I might have imagined as well.

In another 10 mins light was growing on the east. I realized that I was finding difficult to spot even Orion. All I was able to see on the sky apart from Moon was Sirius, Regulus, Rigel and Saturn. All the other stars had faded due to the growing sun light. That was when I decided to quit my first meteor hunt. Pretty successful. But that’s not the end of the story. Geminids still waiting on December.

15 November 2008

Picture Of The Month - November 2008

Here is a colourful, close-up picture of the Moon taken by Moon Impact Probe (MIP), which is one of the 11 payloads of Chandrayaan-I. MIP was ejected by Chandrayaan on November 14th and had a crash landing (as planned) on the Moon at around 8:31 pm IST. MIP took this picture on its way to the surface of the moon. MIP (with the tri-coloured flag painted on its sides) landed on the Moon, making India the fourth country to make a physical contact on the Moon.

14 November 2008


This is my first post on Meteoroids and I am going to help you guys catch a Meteor Shower. In 3 days time you can catch Leonids, on 17th November, 2008. Before guiding you through that let me explain what a meteoroid is.

Meteoroids are tiny rock particles found in space. It may be broken asteroids or remains of a comet. It is smaller than asteroids and they do not have a definite orbit. When a meteoroid enters the Earth's Atmosphere it is called a Meteor. And when it hits the ground it is called a Meteorite. Smaller meteors gets burned up when it reaches the atmosphere hence not all meteors reaches the ground. Meteors are more famously called as 'Shooting Stars' or 'Falling Stars'.

A Meteor or a Shooting Star

Meteor Shower is an Astronomical Event when many meteors are observed at the same point of region in the sky on the same night. If the night sky is clear and if the moon is not too bright, you may even catch up about 50 meteors. Let us see what causes the Meteor Shower.

When a comet moves closer to the Sun, some of its ice particles and debris remains. When Earth passes through the same region in space most of the debris fall into the Earth's atmosphere causing Meteors Showers. This is an annual event. Every year when Earth passes through the same region you can notice many meteor showers.

One such Meteor showers can be noticed on 17th November. This Meteor Shower is called as Leonids. Leonids occur every mid november. As mentioned earlier all the meteors appears to come from the same point on the sky. In this case all the meteors appear to come from the constellation of Leo, hence the name. This can be easily explained by this picture.

The above picture shows the constellation of Leo and how the meteors appear to come from the same point.

So wake up very early on the morning of November 17th, and keep looking into the sky near the constellation of Leo. Use Stellarium Software to help yourself find the constellation of Leo. At an average you may spot 10 to 15 meteors an hour. Even if you cannot spot Leo, just keep looking up at the sky between 3:30 am until sunrise. You should be able to catch quite a few meteors.

NOTE: You need to be really patient if you want to catch some meteors. Hope the clouds and the Moon won't spoil the show. And the meteor can be quick that you can easily miss it. So watch carefully.

View this video to get an idea on how you actually see it. Note that this is a fast forward.

I haven't seen a Meteor yet. This is the first time I'm going to hunt for meteors. I hope I'm successful and you too.

8 November 2008

Successfully in Orbit

Chandrayaan - I has successfully entered into the Lunar Orbit today at around 5 pm IST.

Chandrayaan - I was launched on October 22nd, 2008. After its launch the space craft was put into the Earth's orbit, taking an elliptical path of 22,860 km as apogee (farthest point from the Surface of the Earth) and 255 km as perigee (nearest point from the Surface of the Earth). Since then the space craft was propelled, increasing its distance from Earth and nearing the Moon. Its final orbit around the Earth had an apogee of 3,84,000 km and perigee of 1,019 km until Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) started at around 5 pm for about 800 secs.

LOI is when a space craft is propelled so that it shifts from Earth's Orbit to the Lunar Orbit. At LOI the Earth and the Moon's gravitational force are almost equal. LOI is always a danger since even a small deviation by the space craft would make it crash into the Moon's surface or the Earth's surface or out into the deep space. Experts recall that about 30% of the unmanned moon missions by NASA and Soviet Union have failed during LOI.

Chandrayaan, after completing LOI at around 5:15 pm, is now making an elliptical orbit around the Moon with 7,500 km as aposelene (farthest point from the Surface of the Moon) and 500 km as pericelene (nearest point from the Surface of the Moon). Chandrayaan will further reduce its distance from the Moon to merely about 100 km. This may probably happen on November 14th or 15th.

4 November 2008

Picture Of The Month - October 2008

These are the first images of Earth taken by Chandrayaan-I on October 29th, 2008 using Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) which is one of the 11 payloads of the spacecraft. The first image was taken at 8 am at a height of 9,000 km showing Northern coast of Australia. The second image was taken at 12:30 pm at a height of 70,000 km showing southern coast of Australia.