Celebration of Space - September 6, 2019

The International Space Station (ISS) passes over Rhode Island. Credit: Robert Horton

The International Space Station (ISS) passes over Rhode Island. Credit: Robert Horton

Now that Labor Day weekend has passed, and the summer tourism season is winding down, we start to think on the autumn skies and some of the fabulous celestial events we have lined up for us. Autumn 2019 is certainly no celestial sleeper, with numerous astro happenings to keep that inner geek shinning brightly. Here are a few happenings this autumn to put on your calendar.

Starting on September 17, 2019 and continuing until October 11, 2019, the International Space Station (ISS) will return to the evening sky, with passes happening nightly over the Northeast, and most the US, for over three weeks. Catching sight of the ISS passing overhead is a remarkable experience, as the station is quite bright and clearly visible. If you have a telescope like an Edmunds Scientific Astroscan or a Newtonian Reflector on a Dobsonian mount, you can easily follow the ISS with reasonable magnification. Doing so will reveal solar panels and laboratory compartments on the Station. Check out this photo captured by Brown University’s Robert Horton with his homemade Dobsonian telescope. Regardless of how you view the ISS, the view is amazing. You can get updated daily pass times for Southern New England, and the greater Northeast at the Frosty Drew Observatory homepage. For pass times specific to your location, visit NASAs Spot the Station.

On Monday, September 23, 2019 at at 3:50 am ET, the Autumnal Equinox will occur, marking the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, Earth will neither be tilted towards nor away from the Sun. Resulting in equal periods of day and night on that day. After the Equinox, periods of nighttime will be longer than periods of daytime, with each passing day getting shorter, an astronomers sandbox!

On Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 12:33 am ET, the Full Moon will occur, which is named the Full Corn Moon. Since this is the closest Full Moon to the Autumnal Equinox, this Full Moon is also considered the annual Harvest Moon. Considering that the lunar apogee (furthest point in lunar orbit from Earth) will occur on Friday, September 13, 2019 at 9:33 am ET, the Harvest Moon is also a Mini-Moon. So the Full Corn / Harvest / Mini Moon will be happening that night. Since this is essentially the same night as the Frosty Drew Observatory Stargazing Nights event, we will have views of the Harvest Moon in our telescopes. There is always a lot of hype about the Harvest Moon, though most of it is nonsense, and the Harvest Moon is no brighter or larger than any other Full Moon of the year, aside from small changes due to eccentricity or orbit (closest and furthest point). Since this year’s Harvest Moon happens with the Moon near apogee (furthest point), it will be slightly dimmer than other full lunar phases this year. Regardless, the Harvest Moon is another fabulous feature of autumn, and certainly justifies a celebration.

On Saturday, October 5, 2019, the annual International Observe the Moon Night will occur across planet Earth, with thousands of observatories, science centers, libraries, and museums hosting events to showcase the Moon, Earth’s only natural satellite. Frosty Drew Observatory joins the celebration every year and hosts a fantastic night of lunar amazement. We open at 6:00 pm and go until 11:00 pm. In our telescopes we will showcase the First Quarter Moon at different resolutions. We will have the Lunar Lounge set up, which will project a live view from a telescope onto the outside west wall of the Sky Theatre. Inside the Sky Theatre, NASA Solar System Ambassador – Frank Puglia will be presenting about the Moon. In the Science Center we will show a 12’ wide print of the Apollo 11 landing site as photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and on screens around the campus we will show videos and images of the Moon. For anybody that digs the Moon, this is certainly a night to visit.

Friday, October 25, 2019 brings the Frosty Drew Observatory annual Halloween stargazing event – Spooky Views. This is a night of freaked out celestial awesomeness with the Observatory and Science Center all dressed up in creepy Halloween garb, with scary sounds, a custom eerie sound track, and views in the telescope of the ghostly remnants of stars that have died. Loads of candy will be available for all who visit, and if inclined to do so, please dress in your best Halloween costume. We start at 6:30 pm that night and go until 11:30 pm. So dress up and trick or treat at the observatory door for a creepy night in the dark, if you dare..

On Veterans Day, November 11, 2019 starting at 7:00 am and continuing until 1:30 pm, a fabulous celestial event will happen, when Mercury will visibly cross the surface of the Sun. Considering that this event is not safe to observe without adequate eye protection, Frosty Drew Observatory will open for the entire event with multiple solar telescopes setup for you to observe the fabulous event. Additionally, we will have a camera attached to another telescope, projecting live views onto the large 40” panel in the Observatory, the theatre screen in the Sky Theatre, the screen in the Science Center, and smaller screens setup around the campus. Being that this is Veterans Day, schools will be out, and many will have the day off from work, making this a fabulous day to celebrate the Transit. So stop in and join in the daytime celebration at Frosty Drew Observatory.

As we move through the season, we will post additional information about these events. So add them to your calendar, and gear up for an amazing season of astro geekery!


Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Sep 6, 2019
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Scott MacNeill's Columns
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