December 20-26, 2010 / Vol 29, No 51 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Next Generation Thirty Meter Telescope to Advance Hawaii Astronomy, International Collaboration

The recent decision to establish the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawaii Island’s Mauna Kea gives the Aloha State great prospects for 21st Century astronomy leadership. The TMT is set to be operational by 2018, at which time it will be the largest and most powerful astrophysical observatory in the world. Adding to the project’s dynamism are substantial international investments and partnerships between USA (Univ. of California, Caltech), Canada (ACURA), Japan (NAOJ), China (NAOC) and India (Dept. of Science and Technology India). The main instrument of the TMT Observatory will be a “Ritchey-Chrétien” telescope with a 30 meter diameter segmented primary mirror, supported by a secondary mirror and flat tertiary mirror. Using Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics, all of the mirrors will work together to produce diffraction-limited images over a 30 arcsecond diameter field-of-view. This caliber of star observation will exceed the capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope. Currently, proponents and opponents of the TMT are evenly divided in Hawaii. Those in favor say the project will boost science, astronomy, STEM education, local jobs and the economy, while those not in favor contend the telescope would be built on sacred land and potentially threatens the surrounding environment. The Hawaii-based International Lunar Observatory offers similar, complimentary benefits to the TMT, including the establishment of its world-class processing facility and ILOA headquarters in Kamuela. (Credit: TMT Corporation, Caltech, ACURA, NAOJ, NAOC, Dept of Science and Technology India)

South Africa Establishes Foothold in Space Exploration, Technology & Education

With the December 9 opening of the South African Space Agency (SANSA), the progressive African nation has secured its position as a major international partner in space exploration. South Africa’s (SA) Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies appointed 15 members to the South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA) led by National Research Foundation space scientist Peter Martinez (C). SACSA will be involved with all space initiatives including collaborations between Brazil and China to share data from a series of Earth resource satellites being developed. It will also manage SA’s experimental SumbandillaSat micro satellite (CR), which has made nearly 6000 orbits around Earth and created 186 images since its launch September 2009. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will establish the IAU Astronomy Development Office in SA to promote astronomy in developing countries across the world. The program will help to advance STEM education, promote jobs and possibly strengthen Africa’s bid for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope (BL). SA will host the 62nd International Astronautical Congress  October 3-7, 2011 in Cape Town. As Africa’s population nears 1 billion, SA’s pioneering efforts will serve to unite and inspire the continent. Pictured: South African astronaut and entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth (BR). (Credit: SKA, IAU, IAF, SANSA)

= All times for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).

Weekly Planet Watch – Morning Planets: Venus (SE), Saturn (SSE) / Evening Planets: Jupiter (SW).


Dec 20 — International Space Station, LEO: E-26 crew members begin 5-month stay in space with various science experiments and routine maintenance activities.

Dec 20 — NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Orbit: All systems nominal in scientific phase of mission as LRO continues to return data from the Moon.

Dec 20 — Mars Rover Opportunity / Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Red Planet: Opportunity heading to southeast portion of Santa Maria Crater after MRO detects hydrated sulfates from 250km up.

NET Dec 20 — ISRO, Launch GSLV / GSAT 5, Sriharikota, India: ISRO to launch GSAT 5 communications satellite which will cover India, Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.

Dec 20 Total Lunar Eclipse: 20:32-00:01 (Dec 21); Visible in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, the Americas, and Europe.

Dec 20-23, 27-30 — Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills MI:The Mystery of the Christmas Star,’ journey back 2000 years to Bethlehem as we seek to discover a scientific explanation for the Star sighted by the Wise Men.

Dec 20Moon: Full Moon; 22:14.

Dec 20Leo Minorids Meteors: Minor meteor shower radiating from Constellation Leo.

Dec 20Coma Berenicid Meteors: Radiating from Constellation Coma Berenices, this meteor shower emits a few bright fireballs every hour.

Dec 20Asteroid 2008 YL2: Near Earth Flyby (0.032 AU).

Continued from . . .

Dec 15 — The American Chemical Society, Canadian Society for Chemistry, Chemical Society of Japan, et al, Honolulu HI:International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies;’ through Dec 20.

Dec 19Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral FL: Astronaut Encounter with Charlie Walker,’ a half-hour, interactive Q&A oriented program aims at inspiring children and adults alike to strive for excellence; through Dec 24.


Dec 21 — Earth and Space Science Laboratory, Frederick MD:Planetarium Show: Mystery of the Christmas Star.’

Dec 21Winter Solstice: The Sun, appearing to travel along the ecliptic, reaches the point where it is farthest South of the celestial equator, making days shorter and nights longer; 13:42.

Dec 21Asteroid 3192 A’Hearn: Closest Approach to Earth (1.172 AU).


Dec 22 — NASA Advisory Council, Washington DC: NAC Meetings of the Science Committee & Astrophysics Subcommittee.

Dec 22 — Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC:Ask an Expert: Preparing to Launch the First Human Into Space 50 Years Ago,’ Cathleen Lewis.

Dec 22 — Singapore National University – Center for International Law, Singapore:Fly Me to the Moon: Legal, Regulatory and Policy Challenges of Commercial Human Spaceflight,’ seminar given by Gerardine Goh Escolar to examine the legal, regulatory and policy challenges in the context of a hypothetical commercial spaceflight and spaceport establishment operating in Singapore.

Dec 22Moon: 8.5° SSW of Pollux; 14:00.

Dec 22Ursid Meteors: A minor meteor shower emitting up to 10 meteors per hour and best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere.


Dec 23 — Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Steven Udvar Hazy Center, Chantilly VA:Ask an Expert: Picturing the Earth: The Tiros Video Recorder and the Challenges of Imaging from Space,’ Martin Collins.

Dec 23Moon: 4.3° SSW of Beehive Cluster; 15:00.


Dec 24-25 — Taylor Observatory – Norton Planetarium, Lakeport CA:Mystery of the Christmas Star Planetarium Show.’

Dec 24 — Cassini OTM-272, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #272 today.


NET Dec 25 — RSA, Launch Zenit 3F / Electro-L1 , Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: A Russian government Zenit 3F rocket set to launch 1st Electro-L weather satellite which will collect visible and infrared satellite for Russian meteorologists.

Dec 25Moon: At Perigee (Distance 57.77 Earth-radii), 02:00; 5.0° SSW of Regulus, 06:00.

Dec 25Asteroid 74625 Tieproject: Closest Approach to Earth (1.035 AU).


Dec 26 — The Space Show, Nationwide: The Space Show to talk with Stan Rosen and discuss current space events.

Dec 26 — Asteroid (Near Earth Flyby): 2010 XW (0.051 AU); 2010 XN (0.081 AU); 2010 WR7 (0.069 AU).

Leave a Reply