Fall’s False Dawn

Zodiacal Light
A glow called the zodiacal light can be seen in the sky before sunrise for two weeks beginning September 28. It’s formed by sunlight scattered off of dust near the plane of Earth’s orbit. Credit: Yuri Beletsky/ESO Paranal

A beautiful, triangle-shaped glow of cosmic light appears in the eastern sky before sunrise for two weeks, beginning September 28 for those of you who live in mid-northern latitudes (e.g., most of the US, southern Europe, Japan, northern China).  Called the “zodiacal light” (as the triangle of light extends from the sun along the constellations of the zodiac), this wondrous apparition can be viewed only if you are in a dark location, far away from bright, city lights.  The zodiacal light will appear slightly dimmer than the Milky Way, and will rise up through the zodiacal constellations Leo, Cancer and Gemini.

Zodiacal Dust Cloud

Zodiacal light is caused by the reflection of sunlight off of dust particles in the plane of the solar system. It’s viewable during the spring and summer of each year. Quoting NASA, “Zodiacal light is so bright this time of year because the dust band is oriented nearly vertical at sunrise, so that the thick air near the horizon does not block out relatively bright reflecting dust. Zodiacal light is also bright for people in Earth’s northern hemisphere in March and April just after sunset.”


Did you know you can use the Moon to find constellations in the night sky? Follow us on Twitter where we post information each day about what constellation (area of the night sky) the Moon is in that evening.

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, planisphere constellation finder, and First Light Astronomy Kit!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest!

Scorpius in September

Butterfly Nebula
The Butterfly Nebula in the constellation Scorpius. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth’s night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, the Butterfly Nebula (a.k.a. NGC 6302) in the constellation Scorpius is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust.

Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star’s dusty cosmic shroud. The Butterfly Nebula lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius).

Saturn
Saturn

While you need the Hubble Space Telescope to get such a spectacular view of an object like this in Scorpius, there are other neat things you can see in Scorpius with an amateur telescope or just a plain pair of binoculars.

The beautiful, ringed planet Saturn and the red planet Mars are both just to the east of the prominent, summertime constellation Scorpius. If you live in the northern hemisphere of Earth, look for Scorpius toward the south-southwest after sunset. Its brightest stars outline a large “J” in the night sky. Mars, Saturn and Scorpius’ bright, red star Antares form a triangle in the night sky.

Scorpius, Mars and Saturn
The constellation Scorpius, with Mars and Saturn, in mid-September 2016

While you need a telescope in order to get a good view of Mars and Saturn, with a simple pair of binoculars you can see two famous, open clusters of stars. Look for the two “stinger” stars at the tail end of Scorpius. Draw an imaginary line through them and extend the line eastward to Ptolemy’s Cluster (a.k.a. “M7”). M7 is about 800 light-years from Earth. In other words, the light you’ll see from this star cluster was generated 800 years ago! Just up and somewhat westward from Ptolemy’s Cluster is the Butterfly Cluster (a.k.a. “M6”), which is about 1,600 light-years from Earth. You should be able to see both M6 and M7 simultaneously through a pair of binoculars.

BTW, don’t confuse the Butterfly Cluster of star with the Butterfly Nebula. While they’re both in Scorpius, they are located in entirely different areas of the constellation.

Scorpius, Saturn, Mars
Scorpius as viewed from the southern hemisphere in mid-September 2016

If You’re in the Southern Hemisphere

If you’re in the southern hemisphere of Earth look for Scorpius high in the sky after sunset. The brighter stars of the constellation will form an upside-down letter “J”. Because Mars and Saturn will be much higher in the sky, you should get a better view of those two planets than observers in the northern hemisphere.


Don’t miss the Harvest Moon!

Harvest Moon
The Harvest Moon will occur on September 16, 2016.

The Harvest Moon in the northern hemisphere occurs Friday, September 16. The Harvest Moon is defined as the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Full Moon occurs at 3:05 pm EDT (7:05 pm GMT) September 16. So grab your scythe, get out there and harvest the crops! If nothing else, take a peek at the beautiful full Moon tonight!

Did you know you can use the Moon to find constellations in the night sky? Follow us on Twitter where we post information each day about what constellation (area of the night sky) the Moon is in that evening.

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, planisphere constellation finder, and First Light Astronomy Kit!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest!

Throw a star party!

Space costumes
Consider throwing a space costume party! Image Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Looking for new ideas for entertaining guests? Maybe your child has a birthday coming up, you want to have a few co-workers from the office over, or you’d like to celebrate a special occasion with family and friends? Then throw a star party! Name A Star Live can help. Here are some ideas:

Show your friends where your star is in the night sky

Using our Virtual Planetarium astronomy software you can see when your star’s constellation will be visible. Plan for a rain date — a backup date — for your party, just in case Mother Nature clouds over your night sky.

Friends stargazingShow your star, the Moon and planets with your telescope

Again, using our Virtual Planetarium software you can see when the Moon and planets will be visible as well — think how neat it would be to show your guests the rings of Saturn! Don’t own a telescope? See our blog article about telescope buying tips. Your Name A Star Live Star Chart shows the position of your star within its constellation.

Space birthday cake
A space-themed birthday cake! Image Credit: Pinterest.com
Astronaut ice cream
Image Credit: Pinterest.com

Party supplies for the kids

Mars bars and Milky Way bars are always a good choice for a star party.

Kids like freeze dried astronaut ice cream and freeze dried astronaut fruit packs. But as an alternative, consider getting your kids to make their own astronaut pudding.

There are all sorts of decorations and fun activities for the kids you can create yourself.  Visit this “PBS Parents” webpage for some really neat ideas for a space-themed birthday party.

Space drink
A space-themed mixed drink for adults. Image Credit: Pinterest.com

Party supplies for adults

There’s a lot of overlap between party supplies for kids and adults. But for the adults at your party you’ll likely want to provide some space-themed cocktails and finger foods.

There are many websites that provide recipes for space-themed cocktails and food. Click here and here for some sites we like. But you can just prepare common cocktails and give them spacey names, like the “Moon Shot,” the “Romulan Fizz,” or the “Milky Way.” And for fans of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy you’ll find a number of recipes online for the famous “Pangalactic Gargleblaster” that, in the Hitchhikers Guide, was invented by ex-President of the Universe Zaphod Beeblebrox! See, for example, this recipe.

Black light party
A black light helps set the scene for an out-of-this-world party!

Other Ideas

Use a black light to set an eery space mood!

Play some space-themed music — perhaps music from 2001: A Space Odyssey or from other sci-fi greats.

Consider offering a door prize: Perhaps Name A Star Live’s Virtual Planetarium astronomy software, or a Planisphere constellation finder.

A few days before your party, check out NASA’s easy-t0-use “Spot the Station” website to see if the International Space Station will fly overhead during your star party. It’s easy to see — even inside bright cities! To see what other satellites — such as the Hubble Space Telescope — that will fly overhead during your party, check out Heavens-Above.com.

Have fun!

How to throw a space party

Name A Star for Your Dog on National Dog Day

Dog with womanMany people name stars after their departed canine friends. On National Dog Day — August 26 in the U.S. — we celebrate the love and companionship that every dog owner enjoys with:

  • A beautiful, touching dog video we’re sure you will find moving;
  • Some of the messages our customers have written on their Star Certificates in memory of their departed dogs;
  • The famous “Rainbow Bridge” poem.

Give your dog an extra treat today and name a star for your best friend!

And consider our sister company, Celestis Pets, which can fly a symbolic portion of your dog’s ashes into space!

If I Could Talk, Amazing Dog Short Film

Stars Names and Messages Written by Our Customers:

For a star named “Kona”
In Memory of Kona She was your friend, your protector, your defender, your dog. You were her life, her love, her leader. She was yours faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart.

DogFor a star named “Sofie”
Dogs are miracles with paws – she’ll be forever missed.

For a star named “Domino’s Whisper on the Wind”
Many dogs may walk in and out of our lives, but only a true companion like you were will leave footprints on our hearts. We love and miss you sweet Maggie.

For a star named “Benny the Beagle”
This is in honor of our trusty beagle Benny. He was a good dog and will watch over us from above…

For a star named “Remo & Romolo”
Now you will always be able to look up at night and see Remo & Romolo looking down on you. In memory of the most amazing & loyal dogs.

Buttercup the dog
Buttercup, Name A Star Live’s mascot, cooling off on a dog day afternoon

For a star named “Mercy”
Words can not express our deepest sympathy and regret over the tragic loss of your dog. We hope that Mercy’s shining star will remind you of the joy and love she gave to you.

For a star named “Jack One Lucky Dog”
Look up in the sky! No matter where you are, Jack will always be there to protect and guard you. That’s what Best Friends do. xoxoxo

For a star named “Echo”
For the dog that lived “the life.” All because he was blessed with greatest mother a dog could ask for. He will always be with you.

Dog on grass for National Dog Day

The Rainbow Bridge Poem

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass,
his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet,
you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy
kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet,
so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown

 

See Saturn and Mars tonight!

Saturn
Saturn

Tonight the beautiful, ringed planet Saturn, the red planet Mars and the red star Antares all form a line in the sky. Saturn’s easy to spot in the night sky, so get out your telescope and show your whole family this magnificent jewel of the solar system!

Here’s how to find Saturn and Mars tonight: Look for the three points of light you’ll see together toward the south-southwest this evening.  Antares — a bright, red star in the constellation Scorpius — will be at the bottom, Mars in the middle, and Saturn at the top.

Antares, Mars and Saturn in Scorpius
The bright star Antares, and the planets Mars and Saturn the evening of August 24, 2016

If You’re in the Southern Hemisphere

If you’re in the southern hemisphere of Earth look for Antares, Mars and Saturn over your north-northwestern horizon the evening of August 25.


Did you know you can use the Moon to find constellations in the night sky? Follow us on Twitter where we post information each day about what constellation (area of the night sky) the Moon is in that evening.

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, planisphere constellation finder, and First Light Astronomy Kit!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest!

See the best shooting stars of the year!

The best display of shooting stars this year occurs around mid-August.  This display is called the “Perseid meteor shower.”

In this article we’ll discuss what a meteor shower is, the mythology behind the “Perseids,” how to view the meteor shower, and when to view it.

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 the best shooting stars of the year!”

Making you part of real space missions!

Name A Star Live is the only star naming service that launches your star name into space: We make you part of real space missions! Imagine naming a star for a family member, a friend or an employee and letting them know their star name will actually fly in the Final Frontier! Is that cool or what?

Viewing a launch at Cape Canaveral
Viewing a launch is an exciting experience — especially when your star name is on board!  Image Credit: NASA

Missions currently scheduled for this year

We have two missions currently scheduled for liftoff in 2016:

1.) The Starseeker Flight — a flight from Spaceport America, New Mexico in November; and
2.) The Heritage Flight — a flight into Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida — the cradle of the American space program — in the fourth quarter of the year.

You can attend the launch in person or watch it online. After each mission we provide you a letter-size, Digital Launch Certificate that you can download and print.

Launch Certificate
Your Launch Certificate will display your star name & information about the launch.

The flight from Spaceport America will follow a trajectory like the early NASA spaceflights in the 1960s: Your star name will fly into space and return to Earth.

You’ll be able to track the Earth orbital flight from Cape Canaveral live, online as the satellite carrying your star name orbits our home planet!

Satellite ground track
You’ll be able to track your star name’s flight online as the satellite orbits Earth.
Spaceport America, New Mexico
Spaceport America, New Mexico

Please note that launch dates can change for a variety of reasons, so please check our online Launch Schedule often to get the latest launch news. Also, please note that while we are often able to provide a live webcast of our launches, sometimes webcasting from remote locations like Spaceport America can prove to be a challenge. In any event, we post launch video as soon as possible after each launch.

Naming a star makes for a wonderful, timeless gift for a birthday, anniversary, graduation, Christmas or other occasion. While star naming is a symbolic gesture, Name A Star Live makes it real by including your star name on board rockets that carry scientific or commercial payloads. Learn how, exactly, we do this…

Name a star today!

Jupiter near the Moon tonight!

Family stargazing
Stargazing makes for family fun, and tonight’s a good night to see the planet Jupiter near the Moon!

The mighty planet Jupiter will appear very close to the crescent Moon tonight (Friday, July 8, 2016). Jupiter’s easy to spot in the night sky, so get out your telescope and show your whole family the king of the planets!

Here’s how to find Jupiter tonight: Look for the bright ‘star’ just above and to the left of the thin, crescent Moon. Both the Moon and Jupiter are in the constellation Leo this evening.

Jupiter and the Moon
Jupiter and the Moon as viewed from the northern hemisphere on July 8, 2016

Scientists believe Jupiter has 67 moons. You can easily see four of them through a telescope. But because they move so quickly around Jupiter, you may not see all of them at once: It just depends on when you look.

Jupiter and its four large moons
Jupiter and its four largest moons as viewed through a powerful amateur telescope. Image Credit: Michael Stegina/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

If You’re in the Southern Hemisphere

If you’re in the southern hemisphere of Earth Jupiter then you’re in luck! Jupiter will appear even closer to the Moon the night of July 9, 2016. Just look west-northwest shortly after sunset. Jupiter will appear just above, and to the right of the Moon.


Did you know you can use the Moon to find constellations in the night sky? Follow us on Twitter where we post information each day about what constellation (area of the night sky) the Moon is in that evening.

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, planisphere constellation finder, and First Light Astronomy Kit!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest!

Celebrating our Centennial Flight anniversary

Centennial Flight launch
Launch of Name A Star Live’s Centennial Flight, June 2013, Spaceport America, New Mexico

This is the third anniversary of the launch of Name A Star Live’s Centennial Flight, which was named in honor of the 100th anniversary of New Mexico’s statehood. The launch took place at Spaceport America, New Mexico and carried the star names and messages of our customers into space! Name A Star Live is the only star naming service that makes you part of a real space mission.

Like the clients of our sister company, Celestis memorial spaceflights, Name A Star Live customers had the opportunity to tour the launch pad and mission control, view the liftoff, meet Name A Star Live company personnel, and enjoy the many tourist attractions and the beautiful scenery of New Mexico, which is known appropriately as the “Land of Enchantment.”

A coupleSo many people wrote such nice Star Certificate messages for this mission! Below are some of the flown messages from our customers’ Star Certificates. Note that we’ve changed the names in these messages to protect our customers’ privacy:

  • This is to let you know that not only will you always hold a place in my heart, but you will forever have your own place in the sky. I love you.
  • You are such a light to me, reflecting and pointing to the heart of God. Here’s to celebrating the last year, and us! 🙂
  • This star shall shine as long as our love will last. 🙂
  • Love begins in a moment, grows over time, and lasts for eternity.
  • Congratulations on your Bar Mitzvah! – What a joyous occasion that you will remember for the rest of your life.
  • I name this star after Mary J. Smith on the Date of our wedding; may this star always shine bright in the heavens like the love she shows me shines in my heart forever
  • Happy Birthday Grandpa! Now your amazing legacy will live on forever as your star shines in the night’s sky. I love you so much.
  • Happy 25th Anniversary! All these years and you bring such love and light into my life…our lives. You fill my heart with gratitude and joy.
  • Just look at the stars and we’ll remember that we are always there for one another. Pure Joy is the only thing that can describe our friendship and sisterhood.
  • I wanted to give you a gift that would always be there as a shining remembrance of Janet.

The mission flew aboard an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle, which has flown each of Name A Star Live’s missions out of Spaceport America. The spacecraft followed a trajectory like that flown by the astronauts on NASA’s early Gemini missions by flying into space and, after experiencing the zero gravity environment, returning to Earth. The Centennial Flight flew to an altitude of 73.9 miles (118.9 kilometers) and landed at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico approximately 23 miles (37 kilometers) downrange.

This was the 12th overall spaceflight of our parent company, Space Services, Inc. You can always find the latest information about our upcoming missions by visiting our online Launch Schedule.

Here is a short video of the Centennial Flight launch provided by Celestis:

Top Ten Father’s Day Star Messages

Father and DaughterFather’s Day is Sunday, June 19 in the U.S., Canada, Japan, China, India, the U.K., Ireland, Mexico and many other countries.  Here are some of the Father’s Day messages Name A Star Live customers have included on their Star Certificates.  (Of course, we’ve changed the names in the messages to protect the privacy of our customers.)

  1. I have named a star just for you, papa.  Please show me where it is so I can always look up into the heavens and think of you when I see it.  I love you!
  2. My daddy has loved the night sky since he was a boy, a passion he has passed down to me. Now I share my love for him by claiming his very own piece of that sky, another beautiful thing for us to share together.
  3. We searched heaven and earth to find the perfect gift for the man who has everything and at last we found it.  So in honor of Father’s Day, we present you with your very own star.
  4. Everyday we think of you and the good memories we have because of you. You are sacrificing for us and we appreciate that very much. To bridge the distance this Father’s Day we send you this gift. We love you so much and wish you a happy fathers day.
  5. Ursa Major: the “big bear” of the sky, because you have always watched over your little cubs 🙂 Happy Father’s Day Dad!
  6. This star is forever in the sky to celebrate your very 1st Fathers Day.   Happy Fathers Day, I love you
  7. I will never forget wishing on stars with you as a little girl. Here’s to all the past, present and future wishes we make. Happy Father’s Day, I love you.
  8. Happy Father’s Day.  Thank you for every single thing you have done for me over the course of my life.  I know you love space, now a small part of it is named after you.  Love, Mike
  9. This is for the Greatest Dad in the Universe.
  10. To my stargazing husband.  You are my star of 21 years.  I love You!

Name A Star Live is the only star-naming service that launches your star name into space: Won’t dad be surprised! The video above shows our latest spaceflight, The Tribute Flight. See our online Launch Schedule….

Name a star for Father’s Day!