Moon grazes Hyades cluster tonight / Cygnus cargo ship chases space station

The moon skirts the top of the V-shaped Hyades Cluster this evening. The map shows the view in binoculars around 9 p.m. CST. The moon will pass closest to 61 and 68 Tauri. Stellarium

You like to know where your moon is, right? Tonight’s waxing gibbous moon will pass through the northern reaches of the Hyades Star Cluster. Nothing grandiose here but a pretty sight in binoculars. Bright Aldebaran, Taurus the Bull’s most luminous star, will lie about 3 degrees southeast of the moon while 61 and 68 Tauri will be only 1/2 degree away.

Come the wee hours Sunday morning, the moon’s movement eastward will put in conjunction with Aldebaran with their separation narrowing to just 2 degrees. Skywatchers living in the southern U.S. will see the moon slightly north of the position shown in the map, while those living in central Canada will see it displaced a small amount to the south.

Orbital Sciences Corp’s Antares rocket lifts off from the launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Thursday, carrying the Cygnus space cargo ship. This is the first of three delivery missions this year for the private company. Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) continues to make daily passes during morning twilight for many locations across the U.S. and Canada. Tomorrow morning astronauts on board the station will use the robotic arm to snare the Cygnus cargo ship that was launched by Orbital Sciences Corporation from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday. It’s the private firm’s first official cargo-carrying mission to the ISS.

Delays due to the frigid weather, the anticipated radiation storm from the solar flare and the “time out” to repair a radiator leak on the station delayed the mission for weeks. The ship contains the 2,780 pounds of food and supplies plus 33 miniature cubesat satellites and 23 student-designed experiments that will involve more than 9,000 students on the ground. The experiments are all in the life sciences and range from amoeba reproduction to salamanders. There’s even an ant farm on board!

The “Max” books series, including “Max Goes to the Space Station” will arrive at the space station early tomorrow morning. They’ll be read aloud by the astronauts and shared with children back on Earth. Credit: Big Kid Science/NASA

Astronauts opening up their goodies will also find copies of five storybooks about the space adventures of a dog named Max by Jeffrey Bennett. They’re part of a new educational program called “Story Time in Space” where astronauts will videotape themselves reading books about space suitable for young readers. The videos will then be posted online for parents and teachers to access for their students.

Reading a book from orbit – a lovely way to connect with the cosmos.

Astronauts will capture Cygnus with the robotic arm when it’s 30 feet from the station tomorrow morning at 5:02 a.m. CST. The two will be very close together and may require binoculars to separate. If you’re lucky enough to have a space station pass before or around that time, give it a try. Here are two sites you can check to see when the ISS passes over your town:

* Heavens Above – select your city
* Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys – type in your zip code

More information about the Cygnus mission is available HERE.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

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