Curiosity Captures Rocket Stage Crash; Perseid Meteors Peak Tonight!

The shadowy spot on the horizon to the left of center is dust raised by the impact of the sky crane when it crash landed. Photo taken before the clear dust cover was removed from the lens. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The mystery of the blob in one of the first images taken by one of Curiosity’s Hazcams has been solved. NASA officials first thought it might be dust on the lens or even a dust devil in the distance, but it now appears to be the impact plume from the sky crane when it crash landed shortly after gently delivering the rover to the surface. Mission controllers checked the direction the rover’s camera pointed and it lined up perfectly with the blast. Images made 45 minutes later show nothing on the horizon. Nabbing a picture like that by chance is akin to a hole in one.

Mars (right), Saturn (top) and Spica form a compact triangle last night August 10 a little more than an hour after sunset low in the southwestern sky. Details: 70mm lens at f/2.8, 8 seconds at ISO 800. Photo: Bob King

Mars is still booking through the evening sky sky, making a variety of ever-changing triangles with Saturn and the star Spica over the past few weeks. On the 13th and 14th, the planet will slide between the two and start a new series of triangles when it comes out the other side heading east.

The changing scene is fun to watch. All you need is a clear view to the southwest during evening twilight.

The ISS crosses from the Dipper to the W last night. Very bright and easy to see. Details: 16mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 640 and 2.5 minute exposure. Photo: Bob King

The International Space Station (ISS) made a fine pass across the northern sky here in Duluth around 10:10 p.m. last night Aug. 1o, following an arc spanning from the Big Dipper through the polestar and beyond the W of Cassiopeia. To find out when the ISS passes over your house this weekend, click HERE and type in your zip code. Duluth, Minn. times are shown below.

A short but bright Perseid meteor flashes below the Andromeda Galaxy (top right) from my driveway early this morning. At lower right is M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy. Photo: Bob King

While taking pictures I was lucky enough to spot half a dozen Perseid meteors Counts were good Friday night with up to 30 per hour being reported at various locations around the world. This bodes well for tonight when the shower reaches maximum between 11 p.m. and dawn.

While you’re watching Perseids you might also catch some sporadic or random meteors. My best this morning was a bright orange fireball that sliced across the northern sky while fragmenting into pieces. What a treat! Read up on when and how to watch the meteor show HERE.

Space station viewing times for the Duluth, Minn. region:
* Tonight August 11 starting at 9:16 p.m. Brilliant overhead pass. Second pass at 10:53 p.m. across the northern sky.
* Sunday night August 12 at 10 p.m. across the north
* Monday night August 13 at 9:06 p.m. and again at 10:43 p.m. in the northern sky

7 Responses

  1. Stacey

    Thank you so much for posting all this cool stuff!

    My kids and I watched the ISS go over about 1/2 an hour ago – then we looked up all the facts about it. Great learning tools!

  2. larsa

    looking to the northeast, not seein a single one :/ I see saturn and the moon is a red color cresent. ill try again at 5 am, stuck at work.

  3. larsa

    still nothing yet :/ prolly too much pollution darn dfw light. the moon and two planets made a spectacular perfect diagonal line though! 🙂 still trapped at work T-T

    1. astrobob

      I went to bed just about when the moon came up – we had lots of clouds move through here but enough clear sky to see a couple dozen Perseids. I hope you got to see a few.

  4. We went to Brighton Beach last night at about 10:40pm and were there until 11:15pm, and we counted 18 between the two of us! Beautiful!

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