Saturday, November 11, 2023

Looks Like It's On

Looks like it's on like Donkey Kong for next Friday - as of the latest, best guess. 

Screen capture from Next Spaceflight.

I'm not going to swear up and down that this is going to happen; 24 hours ago the date was Wednesday the 15th, so things can and will move that around.  In particular, a web search to determine if the Fish and Wildlife Service has completed their environmental review doesn't turn up any reports that they have, while some reports say that they haven't.  Which means SpaceX is still waiting for their launch license.  In fact, they destacked the B9S25 combination today.  It's true that the ship can be restacked quickly if need be, but yesterday virtually everyone was thinking they're done with preps and we won't see them unstacked again. 

And now for something completely different

Just because the oddity caught my eye, there were two stories on in the part of the site dedicated to observing. 

First was that there's a newly discovered comet reaching peak brightness (Nov. 10 - it's just a question of how slowly it dims).  The comet, C/2023 H2 (or Comet Lemmon), is in the summer constellation of Hercules but peak brightness isn't going to knock your socks off.  Hercules is low in the western sky around sundown, depending on where you are, of course.

According to In the Sky from New York City, comet C/2023 H2 (Lemmon) will become visible at around 5:49 p.m. EST (2249 GMT). At this time, the comet will be 50 degrees over the horizon to the west as the sky darkens (the width of your fist at arm's length equals about ten degrees). After this, comet C/2023 H2 (Lemmon) will remain visible until around 10:29 p.m. EST (0339 GMT on Nov. 11), when it sinks to the horizon. 

While at peak brightness, the comet will shine at roughly magnitude 5.5.  The term "naked eye" is used for objects brighter than magnitude 6.0, but 6.0 isn't visible unless you have a rather dark sky.  Which means you're observing miles from the nearest city.  At least an hour away.

The second story was about the tool bag that NASA Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara lost during their spacewalk back on November 2nd.  The tool bag is orbiting the Earth, passing overhead a little in front of the ISS and should be visible if you look for it.  Sources say it's about one minute ahead of the ISS and that time will stretch out as the atmosphere starts to reduce its altitude.

The tool bag is now orbiting our planet just ahead of the ISS with a visual magnitude of around 6, according to EarthSky.

That makes the tool bag more likely to be a binocular object than naked eye, and binoculars will be needed pretty much anywhere that isn't rural dark sky.  

The strategy is to observe the trajectory of the ISS, and to scan the sky in the area just ahead of the space station.

As the small object gradually loses height, it should appear between two and four minutes ahead of the ISS during the next few days.

What's the connection?  Why did I notice?  Both the comet and the tool bag are virtually the same brightness.  Both will require binoculars unless you're in really dark skies.  One is totally natural while the other is man-made - and woman-dropped.  

Yes, I went there.  Didn't everybody go there 10 days ago when they lost it?  EarthSky points out this isn't the first time a tool bag has been Lost In Space.  That time was a woman as well.  

And this isn’t the first time a NASA astronaut has lost a tool bag. On November 18, 2008, astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper was performing a similar repair at the International Space Station when she inadvertently lost a tool bag.

Which isn't to say that guys don't drop tools and lose them overboard.  I'd just guess that all I ever read about guys losing is 10mm wrenches or sockets so since it wasn't a guy, the bag probably include one of those.


  1. Never have lost a 10mm wrench or socket, but can't say the same about 13mm!

    C'mon FWS, get with the report already so we can get (as the pig farmer said), this shoat on the road!

    1. I honestly never got that whole joke about losing 10mm tools. The only thing that makes sense to me is that if that's the only metric size you have, it's going to be the one you lose.

      I can't tell you how many times I've seen the nerds on Lab Padre's comment threads joke about some problem on Starship being caused by losing their 10mm wrench. Is anything on Starship that small?

  2. I wonder if Ed White's glove is still up there....?

    1. I had the same question, so when I was working with GEODSS I looked it up in the Object database. Didn't see any entry about Ed's glove.

  3. I saw Comet Lemmon last night, just a fuzzy q-tip, no tail. It is in Aquila now, not Hercules, moving several degrees a day, from my location easy to see in 50mm binos, possible in 42 and 35mm, invisble below that aperture.