View the Solar Eclipse anywhere on Monday!

Everybody’s talking about it. It’s going to be one of the most spectacular astronomical events in American history! On Monday, August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will be visible along a narrow path going across the U.S., from Oregon to South Carolina. But did you know that you can see at least a partial eclipse that day no matter where you live in North America? And, of course, no matter where you live in the world, you can watch it online.

Global eclipse map
On August 21 people throughout North America, Central America and northern South America will see at least a partial eclipse of the Sun, weather permitting. Image Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

As viewed from land, the total solar eclipse (“totality,” where the Moon completely covers the Sun) begins near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 10:15 a.m. PDT (1:15 p.m. EDT). Totality ends at 2:48 p.m. EDT near Charleston, South Carolina. That roughly 70-mile wide path is represented by the darkest line in the image above. But those above and below the path of totality can see a partial eclipse of the Sun, weather permitting. Continue reading “View the Solar Eclipse anywhere on Monday!”

See shooting stars this weekend!

The famous “Perseid meteor shower” peaks this coming weekend! In this article we’ll discuss what a meteor shower is, the mythology behind the “Perseids,” how to view the shooting stars, and when to view them.

Watching a meteor shower
The best way to view a meteor shower is to lie back and look up — no telescope needed!

Continue reading “See shooting stars this weekend!”

The Saturn Opposition

Saturn
NASA image of Saturn

What has Saturn ever done to us?

No, there’s not an insurgency planning to take action against the planet Saturn!  Rather, this month Saturn will be at what astronomers call “opposition,” which is a great time to observe the beautiful ringed planet. On June 15 (June 16 for those of you in Australia, Japan, China, India and other parts of the eastern hemisphere), Saturn will be at opposition, meaning Saturn will be on the opposite side of the sky from the sun: When the sun sets that evening in the west, Saturn will rise in the east. Really, all of June and into July is a great time to see Saturn.

For the best view, wait until at least two hours after sunset to look at Saturn through a telescope.  (Before then, you’ll be looking at Saturn through the thicker layers of Earth’s atmosphere near the eastern horizon.) So get out your telescope and take a look at the beautiful ringed planet this summer!

Viewed from the northern hemisphere…

Saturn
Saturn rising in the east during the evening hours of June. (View from the northern hemisphere of Earth.) To the right is the bright star Antares of the constellation Scorpius. Saturn will be near Antares all summer.

Viewed from the southern hemisphere…

Saturn
Saturn rising in the east during the evening hours of June. (View from the southern hemisphere of Earth.) Above is the bright star Antares of the constellation Scorpius. Saturn will be near Antares all summer.

11 Earth's could fit across JupiterIn addition to Saturn, you can see the giant planet Jupiter in the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo this month. Viewed through a telescope, you may see up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons. And did you know that 11 Earth’s could fit across the width of Jupiter?

Viewed from the northern hemisphere…

Jupiter
Jupiter will be over your southern horizon after sunset, near the bright star Spica and the constellation Corvus.

Viewed from the southern hemisphere…

Jupiter
Jupiter will be over your northern horizon after sunset, near the bright star Spica and the constellation Corvus.

 


Get our Moon Tweets!

The Twitter Moon
Our Moon Tweets let you know what constellation the Moon is in each night.

Our Moon Tweets let you know when the Moon is in a Name A Star Live constellation.

Did you know you can use the Moon to identify where your star’s constellation is in the night sky? Follow us on Twitter where we let you know when the Moon appears in a Name A Star constellation (area of the night sky).

Name A Star Live offers some really good tools to learn about the night sky and find your star’s constellation. Visit our website to learn about our Virtual Planetarium software and planisphere constellation finder!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Use the Moon to find Jupiter this Sunday!

On Sunday, May 7 you can use the Moon to find the planet Jupiter!

Jupiter and the Moon
Jupiter will be the brightest ‘star’ nearest the Moon the evening of Sunday, May 7, 2017. The gas giant and the Moon will be in the constellation Virgo that night.

Through a telescope you may see up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons.

Jupiter and Jovian Moons
Jupiter and its four largest moons as viewed through an amateur telescope

Furthermore, if you have a good telescope, you may make out some of the prominent horizontal cloud bands across the surface of the King of the Planets. You may also see up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons — the “Galilean satellites” — named after Galileo Galilei, who discovered them in 1610. These four moons move very quickly around the planet. In fact, if you observe them shortly after it gets dark, be sure to draw a diagram of where the moons are in relation to Jupiter. Then, observe the moons again a few hours later: If you do, you’ll notice the moons have moved significantly between your two observing sessions.

Fun facts about our solar system’s largest planet:

11 Earth's could fit across Jupiter
11 Earth’s could fit across Jupiter
  • If Earth were the size of a nickel, the gas giant would be about as big as a basketball, which in turn would make LeBron James a heck of a lot taller than he is now! 🙂
  • Earth has one moon, Jupiter has 67
  • The largest moon of Jupiter, Ganymede, is larger than the planet Mercury
  • Jupiter’s atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium  — like a star!
  • The Great Red Spot could contain 2-3 planet Earths
  • Earth rotates every 24 hours, the king of the planets rotates every 10 hours
  • Earth revolves around the Sun once a year, Jupiter takes 12 years

Get our Moon Tweets!

The Twitter Moon
Our Moon Tweets let you know what constellation the Moon is in each night.

Our Moon Tweets let you know when the Moon is in a Name A Star Live constellation.

Did you know you can use the Moon to identify where your star’s constellation is in the night sky? Follow us on Twitter where we let you know when the Moon appears in a Name A Star constellation (area of the night sky).

Name A Star Live offers some really good tools to learn about the night sky and find your star’s constellation. Visit our website to learn about our Virtual Planetarium software and planisphere constellation finder!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Mothers in the Sky

Andromeda and Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia and Andromeda — Two constellations (areas of the night sky) named after mothers from classical mythology. You can name a star in either constellation!

Naming stars for our mothers is popular today.  In fact, many objects in the night sky have been named after mothers for thousands of years.  And now mothers fly among the stars as astronauts!

The Name A Star Live constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia are named after two beautiful mothers from classical mythology.  Cassiopeia, the Queen of the Ethiopians and the mother of Andromeda, was a prideful woman who boasted that she was more beautiful than the female attendants to Poseidon, the god of the sea.  For this transgression Poseidon punished Cassiopeia by sending a sea monster to attack Cassiopeia’s country and to kill Andromeda.  But Andromeda was saved and would later have seven children of her own.  Now both mothers travel together in the heavens above as the constellations we know them by today.

Continue reading “Mothers in the Sky”

Top Ten Mother’s Day Messages

 

Name A Star Live's "Star Bear"
Name A Star Live’s “Star Bear”

As you’re thinking about what to get your mother for Mother’s Day, you might be interested in some of the Mother’s Day messages Name A Star Live customers have included on their Star Certificates. Below are some of the best messages we’ve received. Of course, we’ve changed the names in the messages to protect the privacy of our customers.  We hope these examples will give you some ideas about what to write for your mom.

Have a happy Mother’s Day!

  1. Thank you for being the star of my life!
  2. To my mommy, I love you to the moon and back.
  3. Your wisdom and knowledge have shown us the way, and we are thankful for you as we live day by day.  We don’t tell you enough how important you are, in our universe you’re a bright shining star.
  4. Happy Mother’s Day, Alice! I love you and I can’t wait to meet our son!
  5. The Mother’s Day star will always be in the sky for you – Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for loving us, no matter what. The Mother’s Day star never fades
  6. As the stars in the sky are countless, so too are the ways you’ve helped me, encouraged me, and showed me your love.    Happy Mother’s Day! I love you!
  7. For my amazing mother who loves unconditionally, and gives wholeheartedly. I love her with all of my heart, and all of my soul.
  8. A star is like a mother’s love, bright, beautiful, warm and everlasting; your star will shine forever in the far above, for you deserve the light it will always be casting.
  9. To the best mum in the world, you really are a star.  We will always love you!
  10. Happy Mothers Day!!! I am so proud to be your son, you are such an amazing woman and I am truly thankful for everything you are and do.  You are my hero, best friend and an amazing mother.

Name a star for your mother this Mother’s Day!

Top Ten Valentine’s Day Messages

RoseAs you’re thinking about what to get your significant other for Valentine’s Day, you might be interested in some of the Valentine’s Day messages Name A Star Live customers have included on their Star Certificates. Below are some of the best messages we’ve received so far. Of course, we’ve changed the names in the messages to protect the privacy of our customers.  We hope these examples will give you some ideas about what to write for your loved one.  Have a happy Valentine’s Day! Continue reading “Top Ten Valentine’s Day Messages”

Love is in the stars!

 

Heart of the Milky Way
Credit: ESO/J. Girard (djulik.com)
There is a lot to love about astronomy, and — in time for Valentine’s Day — photographer Julien Girard offers a “heartfelt” example in this image. A bright pink symbol of love appears to float ethereally against the backdrop of the night sky over the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Girard drew the heart in the air by shining a tiny flashlight keychain at the camera during a 25-second exposure with a tripod.

The central region of the Milky Way appears in the middle of the heart, as the plane of our galaxy stretches across the image. The stars of the constellation of Corona Australis (The Southern Crown) form a glittering arc of jewels at the top of the heart’s left lobe. The diffuse glow to the left of the heart’s lowest point is zodiacal light, caused by the scattering of light from the Sun by dust particles in the Solar System.

On the far right horizon, the 8.2-metre telescopes of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) facility stand out in silhouette atop Cerro Paranal. The lights of a car driving down from the observatory platform can be seen just to the left of the telescopes.

Julien Girard is an ESO astronomer based in Chile, who works at the Ver Large Telescope (VLT). He is the instrument scientist for the NACO adaptive optics instrument on the VLT’s Unit Telescope 4. He submitted this photograph to the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group, from where it was picked out as an ESO Picture of the Week.

Antenna Galaxies

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore ( Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble).

Colliding galaxies make love, not war

This Hubble Space Telescope image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters.

Heart on Mars
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

This picture of a heart-shaped pit on Mars was taken on February 26, 2008 by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It is approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long and is centered near Mars’ equator. The pit is one of many adjacent to Hydaspis Chaos, a jumbled topographic depression thought to have formed by collapse of the surface due to—perhaps—catastrophic release of groundwater.

A Valentine's Day asteroid
Credit: NEAR Project (JHU/APL)

Just in time for its Valentine’s Day 2000 date with 433 Eros, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft snapped this photo during its approach to the 21-mile (34 kilometer)-long space rock. Taken Feb. 11, 2000 from 1,609 miles (2,590 kilometers) away, the picture reveals a heart-shaped depression about 3 miles (5 kilometers) long. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory – which manages the NASA mission – processed the image on Feb. 12, 2000.

Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve

NORAD Santa tracking display
NORAD’s Santa Claus tracking website showing Santa’s position last Christmas Eve. Since Christmas Day begins in the Eastern Hemisphere, Santa starts his deliveries in the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, and then proceeds west across the world, racing against sunrise as the Earth rotates eastward.

Did you know that NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) tracks the progress of Santa Claus as he makes his deliveries to the homes of all good little girls and boys on Christmas Eve? NORAD keeps the Abominable Snowman, the mean Mr. Grinch, and Jack Frost from spoiling Santa’s big flight, which NORAD designates as “Big Red One.” You can track Santa’s journey around the world on NORAD’s Santa Tracking Website. We invite you to see the following video about the history of NORAD’s role in Christmas and how NORAD helps Santa to this very day!

An airman tracking Big Red One at NORAD
An airman tracking Big Red One at NORAD

You should also check out Google’s online Santa Tracker! In addition to tracking Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve, this site features a nice Advent calendar you and your children can access now, complete with the sort of games Google is famous for. For example, you can learn how people in different countries pronounce Santa’s name and learn how to dance with elves!

Christmas is a time for celebrating friends and family, and remembering those no longer with us. One gentleman we should all remember at Christmastime was Ewald E. (Sig) Seignemartin, who helped start the NORAD tradition of tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. His favorite job on the DEW Line was that once a year he entered a blip on the radar screen, labeled it “Santa Claus,” and had started the NORAD tracking followed by children and adults around the world until Santa visited each home. Read more about Ewald…

Finally, if you find that Santa needs a little help delivering presents to everyone on your list, remember that Name A Star Live is Santa’s official star-naming service! 🙂 You can name a star 24/7 — even on Christmas Day — with Name A Star Live’s Instant Gift Sets: Just download, print and give!

 

Christmas in Space

Name A Star Live makes you part of real space missions by launching your star name into the final frontier. As humans like you move into space they bring along their customs and traditions — including Christmas.

Space station Christmas tree
A Christmas Tree on the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Chris Hadfield/Canadian Space Agency

Christmas Day is a NASA holiday, so the astronauts on the International Space Station get to take the day off. The space station astronauts have sent many holiday greetings to Earth. But the most famous Christmas message sent by astronauts to Earthlings was the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve transmission from astronauts in lunar orbit.

Earthrise photo
The famous ‘Earthrise’ photo from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. The crew entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast, showing pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft.
Image Credit: NASA

Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to orbit the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968. They were also the first astronauts to spend Christmas in space.

To mark the occasion, they sent Christmas greetings and live images back to their home planet and read from the Book of Genesis. Borman closed the message with the words “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”

It is estimated that as many as one billion people watched the historic broadcast or listened on the radio.

Apollo 8 launched from Earth on Dec. 21 and entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. The Apollo 8 crewmembers ended their history-making journey when they splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 27. Eight more Apollo missions would visit the Moon, with six of them landing on its surface.

While astronauts have celebrated Christmas in space in the 1960s, in a sense, Christmas has been in space for over 100,000 years. We’re talking about the spectacular “Christmas Tree cluster”!

Christmas Tree Cluster
The Christmas Tree Cluster Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/P.S. Teixeira (Center for Astrophysics)

The Christmas Tree Cluster (a.k.a. “NGC 2264”) is located in the constellation Monoceros, near the Name A Star Live constellations Orion and Gemini. Newborn stars, hidden behind thick dust, are revealed in this image of a section of the Christmas Tree Cluster from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Infant stars appear as pink and red specks toward the center and appear to have formed in regularly spaced intervals along linear structures in a configuration that resembles the spokes of a wheel or the pattern of a snowflake. Hence, astronomers have nicknamed this the “Snowflake Cluster.”

Skylab 4 Christmas tree
The Skylab 4 crew created this Christmas tree out of cans in December 1973. Skylab 4 was America’s first space station.

Star-forming clouds like this one are dynamic and evolving structures. Since the stars trace the straight line pattern of spokes of a wheel, scientists believe that these are newborn stars, or “protostars.” At a mere 100,000 years old, these infant structures have yet to “crawl” away from their location of birth. Over time, the natural drifting motions of each star will break this order, and the snowflake design will be no more.

Whether celebrated on, or off, the planet, Christmas is a beautiful, joyous time of the year! Name a star for a friend or family member this Christmas and make them part of our real space missions!