Apollo 11 Timeline – 10th August 1969

Today’s the day that the Apollo 11 mission finally concluded.

Mike, Neil & Buzz were finally released back out into the world after being in quarantine since landing. They could finally be reunited with their families.

It seems like a crazy notion, because if they had bought any moon bugs back with them, these would have been released into the air and water as soon as the command module hatch was opened in The Pacific Ocean.

Apollo missions 12 and 14 also went through this same ordeal.

More details about the quarantine are on the Sky At Night Web page:

Weston Favell Library – 6th August 2019

The first event supporting the @Library_Plus Space Chase @readingagency  #SpaceForReading challenge this summer was held yesterday.

Alongside other members of Northamptonshire Natural History Society (NNHS), we wowed them with not only astronomy and space, plus some pond life under microscopes as well.

The planetarium only just fitted, and almost swallowed me!

Catch me (and where there is space, the planetarium) in libraries over the #SummerHolidays.

The next outreach event with NNHS is tomorrow (8th August) at Hunsbury Library in Northampton.

Unfortunately there isn’t room for the planetarium there, but there’s lots of hands-on things to do, Augmented and Virtual Reality experiences and lots of free goodies to take away.

Come along, say “Hi”, and pick up some freebies.

Summer Reading Challenge – Space Chase.

I am proud to be supporting this summers reading challenge – Space Chase in libraries across Northamptonshire.

Children can sign up at their local library and read six library books of your choice to complete the Challenge.
There are exclusive rewards to collect along the way, and best of all it’s all FREE to take part!

The Summer Reading Challenge website helps you keep track of your reading all year round:
Find new books to read, take part in competitions and mini challenges, and play games.
Click the links above for more details.

Visit the Northamptonshire Libraries events calendar to find an event near you:

You’ll need to book your space as these events are going to be very popular.

There will be lots of hands-on stuff for kids to get involved with, including immersive Virtual Reality tours.
These include an overview of the solar system, a flight in a Soyuz Capsule or exploring the International Space Station.

We will have lots of free leaflets packed full of space information free to take away.

For the really keen children we also have a few posters to give away.

As if that wasn’t enough, as well as helping out in some of the libraries, in libraries that have the space, I will be bringing in the planetarium.
This will give a fully immersive experience as the children and families explore the planets in our solar system.
We will experience the landing of the probe Curiosity onto Mars to begin it’s exploration of the martian surface.
At the end of the show we will then visit the International Space Station with Tim Peake as our guide.

So there’s never been a better time to get interested in space.

I hope to see lots of keen children to educate and enthral them in one of our a local libraries very soon.

Sky Diary for August 2019

My free monthly sky diary for August 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

Just to let keep you informed, after 32 years of doing my printable sky diary, I will stop producing my printable sky diary after December. It’s been sad, and a big decision to do this, but lately it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
I will still keep this as up to date as I can.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

This and my Blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) is where I will put any new information on sky events as they become known to me.


Apollo 11 Timeline – 24th July 2019

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Another extremely busy day as re-entry, splashdown and recovery of crew, CM and lunar samples are all happening today.

16:21:12 – Just before re-entry occurs, the CM and SM separate.

16:35:05 – CM re-entry.
During the time the hot plasma from the heat shield surrounding the capsule means that there is no communication between the astronauts and mission control.

So it is a tense wait until contact is re-established once they are safely on the parachutes.

16:39 – Visual contact with CM established by aircraft.

16:40 – Radar contact with CM established by recovery ship Hornet.

16:44:06 – Drogue parachute deployed

16:46 – VHF voice contact and recovery beacon contact established.

16:50:35 – Splashdown (went to apex-down – Floating upside down).

16:58:15 – CM returned to apex-up position (Floating upright).

17:04 – Flotation collar inflated.

17:21 – Hatch opened for crew egress.
The astronauts were thrown containment suits to put on before they were taken off the CM.
Crazy. If there were any lunar germs around, they would have been released as soon as the capsule was opened anyway.

17:29 – Crew egress.

17:53 – Crew aboard recovery ship USS Hornet.
A sign was put up saying “USS Hornet +3”.
This ship also recovered the Apollo 12 astronauts.

17:58 – Crew entered mobile quarantine facility.

President Nixon greets them and speaks to them over a microphone.
See the video here:
Go to 9m 30s in the video for when the National Anthem starts and the crew stand up saluting.
I find it absolutely hilarious. Makes me chuckle every single time.
Such a well planned dignified end to such a fantastic mission.

19:50 – CM lifted from water.

19:58 – CM secured to quarantine facility.

20:05 – CM hatch reopened.

22:00 – Sample return containers 1 and 2 removed from CM.

23:32 – Container 1 removed from mobile quarantine facility.

00:05 – Container 2 removed from mobile quarantine facility.

The mission may be over, but now the real science starts on the samples bought back.

Did you know, the astronauts had to sign a customs document when they landed?
Here a copy of it below. Don’t you just love bureaucracy?

Apollo 11 Timeline – 23rd July 2019

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Scroll down for more of the Apollo 50 timeline.

Not much for the astronauts to do today on our Apollo 11 50th timeline, apart from some housekeeping and three TV transmissions. In these the astronauts thanked the 400,000 people that helped develop the  technology and build everything to get them to The Moon.

The Earth is now getting much bigger in their window as they make their approach.

All this as they travel back towards Earth and prepare for tomorrows action-packed day of re-entry.

01:08 – TV transmission started.

01:26 – TV transmission ended.

22:42 – TV transmission started.

22:45 – TV transmission ended.

23:04 – TV transmission started.

23:16 – TV transmission ended.


Apollo 50th Day

Scroll down the blog if you’re looking for today’s Apollo 11 50th Timeline.

What a great day it was for my Apollo 50th Day.

In the afternoon I did an afternoon of five planetarium shows, bringing the lunar landings to life as an immersive full-dome experience where we witnessed the landing of Eagle onto The Sea of Tranquillity.

The evening I gave two presentations about The Space Race and The Apollo Missions.

Everyone enjoyed both of the shows and it was a brilliant atmosphere.
Thank you to my willing volunteers building a scale model of the Earth-Moon system.

Well done to Corrine for winning a signed copy of Tim Peake’s book
Ask An Astronaut. (Signed by Tim, not me!).

It was the best way I could have spent to celebrate this historic moment in history.








Apollo 11 Timeline – 22nd July 1969

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A much easier day on the Apollo 11 timeline for the astronauts today as they separate from the Lunar Module, break out of lunar orbit and begin their journey back towards Earth.

00:02:01 – Command-Service_Module (CSM)/ Lunar Module (LM) final separation ignition.

00:02:08 – CSM/LM final separation cutoff.

The astronauts do two more orbits of The Moon.

04:55:42 – Trans-earth injection ignition.

04:58:13 – Trans-earth injection cutoff.

The CSM is now coasting back towards Earth.

20:01:57 – Mid-course correction ignition.

20:02:07 – Mid-course correction cutoff.

The intrepid crew are now safely on their way home.

They can now watch The Moon getting smaller and the Earth getting bigger.

Apollo 11 Timeline – 21st July 2019

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In the early hours of this morning Neil & Buzz got to explore the surface.
The surface of the frigging Moon for goodness sake.
How absolutely flipping amazing was that?

So, our Apollo 11 50th anniversary timeline continues with another busy day for Neil and Buzz.

They get to perform a two and half hour extra-vehicular activity (EVA) exploration of the lunar surface and collect rock and dust samples.

As if that wasn’t enough action for one day, after a rest period they will finish the day by taking off from The Moon and re-joining Michael Collins in orbit in the Command Module (CM).

02:39:33 – EVA started (hatch open).

02:51:16 – Neil completely outside Lunar Module (LM) on porch.

02:53:18 – Modular equipment stowage assembly deployed by Neil.

02:54:00 – First clear TV picture received. Pictures were upside down at first, before they were rotated the right way round on Earth.

02:55:28 – Neil is at the foot of ladder (starts to report, then pauses to listen).

02:55:38 – Neil still at the foot of ladder, described surface as “Almost like a powder.”

02:56:15 – 1st step is taken onto the lunar surface by Neil.
“That’s one small step for a man…one giant leap for mankind.”

02:56:48 – Neil started surface examination and description, assessed mobility and described effects of LM descent engine.

02:58:54 – Neil ended surface examination. Buzz starts to send down camera.

03:02:23 – Camera installed on RCU bracket, LEC stored on secondary strut of LM landing gear.

03:02:53 – Surface photography by Neil.

03:05:58 – Contingency sample collection started by Neil. Just in case they had to leave in a hurry before collecting more rocks.

03:09:08 – Contingency sample collection ended by Neil.

03:11:57 – Buzz started egress from LM to join Neil on the surface.

03:13:56 – Buzz at top of ladder. Buzz’s descent was photographed by Neil.

03:15:16 – Buzz is now on lunar surface. He describes the view as  “Magnificent Desolation”

03:15:47 – Surface examination and examination of landing effects on surface and on LM started.

03:21:06 – Insulation removed from modular equipment stowage assembly by Neil.

03:23:35 – Neil adjusts TV camera focal distance, so Earth would get the first TV images from the surface of them working on The Moon.

03:24:19 – Plaque unveiled by Neil.

03:24:40 – Plaque read by Neil.
“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D.
We came in peace for all mankind”

03:31:28 – TV camera redeployed. Panoramic TV view started by Neil.

03:34:53 – TV camera placed in final deployment position by Neil.

03:35:20 – Solar wind composition experiment deployed by Buzz. This collected solar wind particles in the airless environment of The Moon.

03:41:43 – The US flag was deployed.

03:45:15 – Evaluation of surface mobility (How easy, or not, it was to move about on The Moon’s surface) started by Buzz.

03:48:02 – Evaluation of surface mobility end by Buzz.

03:48:30 – Presidential message from White House and response from Neil. This was a much publicised telephone call from President Nixon from the Oval Office in The White House.

03:50:21– Presidential message and Neil’s response ended.

03:52:06 – Evaluation of trajectory of lunar soil when kicked by Buzz. Bulk sample collection started by Neil.

Many people think that the photograph of the footprint was of Neil’s. But it was Buzz that took the famous image below of the footprint on The Moon. This was his footprint purposely positioned and photographed while evaluating the lunar soil and how far it went down into the surface, to take back to Earth for people to examine later.

03:42:24 – Evaluation of visibility in lunar sunlight by Buzz.

03:57:09 – Evaluation of thermal effects of sun and shadow inside the suit by Buzz.

04:00:22 – Evaluation of surface shadows and colours by Buzz.

04:06:13 – LM landing gear inspection and photography by Buzz.
This was to check the height of the rocket motor above the surface and how the surface had been disturbed by the engine.


04:07:36 – Bulk sample completed by Neil.
Those precious Moon rocks were collected to take back to Earth to find out about the origin of The Moon.

04:18:36 – LM landing gear inspection and photography.
This is to check how the legs were affected by the impact of landing.
Eagle’s landing was so gentle, Neil and Buzz hardly felt it as they dropped the final inches onto the surface.

04:25:38 – Scientific equipment bay doors opened.

04:27:42 – Passive seizmometer deployed.

04:35:57 – Lunar ranging retro-reflector deployed by Neil.
This was used to measure the distance of The Moon.
A very powerful laser could be fired from Earth. It reflected off the instrument (a much hi-tech version of a road’s cats eye) and bounced back to Earth. By timing the amount of time the light  took to do the round trip, and exact distance can be measured.
As a result of these experiments we now know that The Moon is receding from Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm per year. Due to this, in a few hundred million years or so time, The Moon will be so far away from Earth that it will no longer appear big enough in our sky to produce total solar eclipses.

04:40:39 – 1st passive seismic experiment data received on Earth

04:43 – Collection of documented samples started.

04:52 – Solar wind composition experiment retrieved by Buzz.

05:01:39 – Buzz re-enters LM and transfer of all the samples into LM starts.

05:07:51 – Transfer of sample containers reported complete.

05:09:32 – Neil now back inside LM, assisted and monitored by Buzz.

05:11:13 – EVA ended (hatch closed).
The Apollo 11 EVA lasted just two and a half hours.

There are very few pictures of Neil on the EVA. The iconic pictures captured are of Buzz.
I think they missed a real publicity boost there.
This is because Neil had the camera most of the time and took most of the pictures.
It was also hard to tell which astronaut was which.
For following Apollo missions the LM Commander had red stripes around the elbows and knees on his suit, so the two astronauts could be easily identified.

07:37 – LM equipment jettisoned.
They effectively threw out everything that wasn’t needed to save weight.
Including bags of Poo!
The passive seizmic experiment set up earlier in the missing recorded these objects hitting the Moons surface. I wonder how powerful the vibrations were from the poo?

The two astronauts then had a much needed rest.
See just how tired they look in the pictures below taken just after they went back into the LM.

After their rest, they prepared to leave the lunar surface and bring about an end to this fantastic accomplishment and begin their journey home to Earth.

As a 7-year old boy, I just could not believe that when I looked up into the sky that evening, there were actually people actually sitting on the surface of that bright almost half Moon floating in the sky. Even at my age now, the Apollo missions still massively inspire me and as a boy they helped forge my passion for astronomy and spaceflight and to keep looking upwards at the stars. In fact this 50th anniversary has made me feel very emotional about the whole endeavour, even after all these years.
What a great big softie I am!

Anyway, let’s get on with our timeline to get these plucky astronauts back on their way home.

17:54:00 – LM lunar liftoff ignition (LM APS).

18:01:15 – LM orbit insertion cutoff.

18:51:35 – Coelliptic sequence initiation ignition.

18:52:22 – Coelliptic sequence initiation cutoff.

19:49:49 – Constant differential height manoeuvre ignition.

19:50:29 – Constant differential height manoeuvre cutoff.

20:35:51 – Terminal phase initiation ignition.

20:36:14 – Terminal phase initiation cutoff.

20:50:30 – LM 1st midcourse correction.

21:05:30 – LM 2nd midcourse correction.

21:08:57 – Braking started.

21:18:09 – Terminal phase finalise ignition.

21:18:38 – Terminal phase finalise cutoff.

21:24:05 – Station keeping started.

Did you know that everyone who has ever existed, except one, is in the picture below?
The only person that’s not within the frame of the image is the person who took it.
That of course is Michael Collins. He was the Command Module Pilot who stayed in orbit while Neil and Buzz explored the surface.

It is estimated that 550 million people watched The Moon Landing.
Michael Collins, despite being an integral part of the mission, missed the whole show.
Had Neil and Buzz crashed onto The Moon, or they were left stranded on the surface, he would not have been able to save them. In case this happened he would have had to start the long lonely journey back to Earth on his own, forever a marked man.
President Nixon even had a speech prepared just in case.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Michael must have been very relieved to see this view of Eagle heading back towards him.
This picture contains everyone who has ever existed. 3.61 billion on Earth and two in the lunar module.
The only person not in the picture is Michael Collins, who took it from the Command Module Columbia.
Although he didn’t land with Neil & Buzz, and stayed in lunar orbit, he was crucial in getting them there and bringing them home safely.

21:35 – Command / Service Module (CSM) /LM docked.

22:52 – Neil entered CM.

23:17 – Buzz entered CM.

23:41 – LM ascent stage jettisoned.
The ascent stage of Eagle stayed in orbit around The Moon for a few months before crashing into the lunar surface.

Apollo 11 Timeline – 20th July 2019

Today’s that amazing day on our Apollo 50th Anniversary Timeline.
The long awaited and anticipated day when the lunar module Eagle is landed by Neil and Buzz onto the surface of The Moon in The Sea of Tranquillity.

Here’s my image of that area of The Moon, showing the landing sites of Apollo 11 (Tranquillity Base – Statio Tranquillitatis) and Rangers 5 and 8.
It also shows the three craters named after the Apollo 11 astronauts.

Follow the hectic Apollo 11 timeline on this fantastic day.

It’s too late to book tickets for my Apollo 50th celebration day today in Raunds:
Click here for more details.
You can still turn up on the day and buy a ticket.

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It’s an extremely busy day for Neil and Buzz as they leave Michael Collins in The Command/Service Modules (CSM) and take to the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle to take it down to land onto The Sea of Tranquillity.

12:52 – Neil and Buzz entered LM for final preparations for descent.

15:17 – LM system checks started.

17:32 – LM system checks ended.

17:44 – SM/LM undocked.

18:11 – CSM/LM separation manoeuvre ignition.

18:12 – CSM/LM separation manoeuvre cutoff.

19:08 – LM descent orbit insertion ignition (LM SPS).

19:08 – LM descent orbit insertion cutoff.

Seconds of time now being shown as time events come thick and fast during the exciting landing phase.

19:49:17 -LM acquisition of data.

19:52:53 – LM landing radar on.

19:56:40 – LM abort guidance aligned to primary guidance.

19:59:32 – LM yaw manoeuvre to obtain improved communications.

20:04:55 – LM altitude 50,000 feet.

The descent of Eagle is just about to commence.
It will take just under 13 minutes to reach the surface from 50,000 feet.

20:04:58 – LM propellant settling firing started.

20:05:05 – LM powered descent engine ignition.

The lunar module was travelling slightly too fast and was reaching landmarks a bit too early.
It seems that this was caused by them not evacuating all the air out of the tunnel between the CM and the LM before un-docking. This gave the LM a little bit of an extra push. As a result Eagle overshot the original target area.

20:05:31 – LM fixed throttle position.

20:09:59 – LM face-up manoeuvre completed.

20:10:22LM 1202 alarm.

This alarm type (and the 1201 alarm which followed) was never encountered in any of the training simulations. It was caused by the computer receiving too much information. The computer was designed to prioritise essential tasks, so the decision was made to ignore the alarm and continue the descent as the computer was still handling all the landing tasks really well.

20:10:45 – LM radar updates enabled.

20:10:50 – LM altitude less than 30,000 feet and velocity less than 2,000 feet per second (landing radar velocity update started).

20:11:02LM 1202 alarm.

20:11:31 – LM throttle recovery.

20:13:32 – LM approach phase entered.

20:13:37 – LM landing radar antenna to position 2.

20:13:53 – LM attitude hold mode selected (check of LM handling qualities).

20:14:03 – LM automatic guidance enabled.

20:14:18LM 1201 alarm.

20:14:19 – LM landing radar switched to low scale.

20:14:43LM 1202 alarm.

20:14:58LM 1202 alarm.

20:15:09 – LM landing point re-designation.

It is around this time that Neil decided to take a more manual control approach to the landing of the LM as the area where the LM was taking them down to was scattered with large boulders.

20:15:13 – LM altitude hold.

20:15:20 – LM abort guidance attitude updated.

20:15:22 – LM rate of descent landing phase entered.

20:16:11 – LM landing radar data not good.

20:16:21 – LM landing data good.

20:16:28 – LM fuel low-level quantity light.

20:16:59 – LM landing radar data not good.

20:16:35 – First evidence of surface dust disturbed by descent engine.

20:17:03 – LM landing radar data good.

These were the first words uttered from the lunar surface by Buzz, as one of the contacts below three of the LM foot-pads touched the lunar surface.

20:17:39 – LM lunar landing.

20:17:41 – LM powered descent engine cutoff.


Roger. Twank… Tranquillity, we copy on the ground. We got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We`re breathing again. Thanks a lot. Charlie Duke – Capcom at Mission Control.

To listen to the complete landing and a fantastic explanation of exactly what went on during the landing, visit 13 minutes to The Moon, by Kevin Fong:
13 minutes to The Moon, by Kevin Fong.

As soon as they landed, they prepared everything to take off immediately.
This was in case of an emergency that may have given them any reason to escape quickly.
Astronauts and Mission Control were happy everything was go for Neil and Buzz to perform the Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA).

22:12:00 – The decision was made to proceed with the EVA before their first rest period.
Instead of the astronauts sleeping before the EVA, as planned, they will start the EVA early.
Well, could you have slept? I couldn’t have.

23:43:00 – Preparation for the EVA started.

Neil will take his “small step” onto the moon early tomorrow morning.

Apollo 11 Timeline – 19th July 1969

On our 50 year Apollo 11 Timeline, it’s today that the Command and Service Module (CSM) with the attached Lunar Module (LM) arrive at The Moon and achieve lunar orbit.
So it’s a very busy day for our intrepid astronauts.
They also got their first glimpse of The Moon since leaving Earth.

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If you look at the second image carefully, in Mare Fecunditatis you can see the craters Messier and Messier A with their distinctive comet-shaped double ray streaking away from the spacecraft.


03:11 – CSM/LM enter Equigravisphere, where Earth’s and Lunar gravity are equal.
As the spacecraft moves closer to The Moon its gravitational pull will gradually increase, become more dominant and will start to speed up the spacecraft as it attracts them towards it.

Most of the day spent cruising and housekeeping, then they arrive.

17:21 – Lunar Orbit Insertion Ignition burn starts.

17:27 – Lunar Orbit Insertion Ignition burn cutoff.

19:52 – TV transmission started.

20:32 – TV transmission ended.

21:43 – Lunar Circular Orbital burn to get Stack into lunar orbit.

The three astronauts are now in lunar orbit and preparing to land tomorrow.

Apollo 11 Timeline – 18th July 1969

On our 50 year Apollo 11 Timeline, it’s coasting to The Moon with general housekeeping and TV transmissions. Neil and Buzz pop into the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle to start checking it out, ready for the upcoming landing.

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00:07 – TV transmission ends.

20:40 – TV transmission starts.

21:02 – Neil & Buzz enter LM for inspection.

22:16 – TV Transmission ends.

23:27 – Neil and Buzz enter LM.

Apollo 11 Timeline – 17th July 1969

It is a much quieter second day for the Apollo astronauts today on our 50 year Apollo 11 timeline as the Command / Service / Lunar Modules stack head towards The Moon.
Below is their view of The Earth as they race away from it.

There were just some general housekeeping and TV transmissions to do.

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00:04 – 00:20 – TV transmission.
16:16 – Mid-course correction.
20:00 – 20:50 – TV transmission .
23:31 – TV Transmission started.

Apollo 11 Timeline – 16th July 1969

This is the Apollo 11 timeline of the flight which was launched 50 years ago today.
I will be posting each days events as it happened until the splashdown occurs on the 24th of July.

Book tickets for my Apollo 50th celebration day on the 20th of July here:

Today was very busy day for the the astronauts and the mighty Saturn V is launched, and they prepare everything and start their journey towards The Moon.

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The astronauts awoke and had their traditional steak and egg breakfast.
(It binds everything up to delay things coming out the other end so quickly).

Once suited up and sealed in by the technicians, they started to breath pure oxygen to get rid of any nitrogen in the body. This would help prevent them developing the dreaded bends as nitrogen bubbles out into the blood and tissues once the pressure in the capsule is reduced.

They then rode the astronaut bus out to the launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral and were placed into the Command Module.

10:02 – Countdown resumed. T-3 hours 30 minutes.

13:32 – Launch of Saturn V rocket from Cape Canaveral.

13:33 – Speed of Mach 1 achieved.

13:34 – First stage (S-IC) is now jettisoned as the fuel within it has been expended.
The first stage contained 1,204,000 litres of Liquid Oxygen and 770,00 litres of Kerosene at launch.
This fuel was consumed by the five F-1 engines at 13 tonnes per second and used up in just 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Stack has reached an altitude of 66 km and is 93 km downrange from the launch pad and is now travelling at 6,000 miles per hour.

13:34 – Second (S-II) stage ignition.

13:35 – SII aft interstage jettisoned.

13:35 – Launch escape tower jettisoned.

13:41 – S-IC should have impacted into the Atlantic Ocean 357 miles from the launch pad.

984,000 litres of Liquid Hydrogen and 303,000 litres of liquid Oxygen have been burnt in the second S-II stage by the five J-2 Engines.
Speed of remaining stack is now up to 15,000 miles per hour.

13:41 – Second Stage S-II and third stage (S-IVB) separate.
S-IVB burn starts.
This single J-2 engine can be re-started and will be used three times.
It will initially be fired 2 separate times to achieve Earth orbit.

13:43 – S-IVB burn cutoff.

13:43 – Earth orbital insertion.
This means that the remaining stack has now had it’s trajectory changed to obtain a stable Earth orbit.

13:52 – S-II second stage should have impacted into the Atlantic Ocean 3,815 km from the launch pad.

16:16 – S-IVB starts a second burn to modify the orbit around the Earth.

16:22 – S-IVB second burn ends.

16:22 – Third burn of the J-2 engine occurs.
Speed is now up to 25,000 miles per hour, enough to escape Earth’s gravity and send it away from Earth.
This is the Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) burn to send the stack towards The Moon.

252,750 litres of liquid Hydrogen and 73,280 litres of liquid oxygen were consumed by the S-IVB third stage.

16:47 – Command/Service Module stack (CSM) un-docks from the S-IVB.

The CSM then performs a manoeuvre to rotate round to face the now exposed Lunar Module (LM).

16:56 – Command/Service Module docks with LM / S-IVB.

17:49 – LM extracted from S-IVB.

18:12 – CSM/LM evasive manoeuvre from S-IVB.

19:09 – Lunar Slingshot manoeuvre ignition.

19:14 – Lunar Slingshot manoeuvre cutoff.

The empty S-IVB stage is destined to go into a heliocentric (Sun-centred) orbit.

Apollo 50th Anniversary Celebration Day

Join me for a family orientated event to showcase the outstanding achievement of the Apollo 11 lunar landings on the 20th of July for my 50th Anniversary Celebration Day.

If you attend the evening presentation, you could win a copy of Tim Peake’s book
Ask An Astronaut. Signed by Tim.

20th of July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of that historic landing.

This day of celebration  will be held in The Saxon Hall in Raunds, Northamptonshire.
Postcode: NN9 6LT.

Planetarium Shows.
This family day starts in the afternoon with a number of full-dome interactive planetarium shows.
All shows are suitable for children of all ages, 8 – 108.

Under a full dome state-of-the-art projection system, in a fully immersive experience, stand on the surface of the Sea of Tranquillity and experience first-hand, the historic Apollo 11 landing of The Eagle Lunar Module..
You’ll be holding your breath as the spidery lunar module softly touches down on The Moon’s surface, with less than 20 seconds of landing fuel remaining in the tank.
At the end of the show, we’ll bring you almost up to date. Tim Peake will be your guide on a trip up to The International Space Station and out to Pluto, a truly awesome immersive full-dome experience.

Five 30-minute planetarium shows will be performed during the afternoon.

Click on the show time below that you would like to attend to book your space.
£5:00 on the day, so save £1:00 all tickets if booked in advance.

Planetarium show number 1 – 12:45 pm.
Single Ticket £4:00.
£5:00 if bought on the day.

Planetarium show number 2 – 13:30 pm.
Single Ticket £4:00.
£5:00 if bought on the day.

Planetarium show number 3 – 14:15 pm.
Single Ticket £4:00.
£5:00 if bought on the day.

Planetarium show number 4 – 15:00 pm.
Single Ticket £4:00.
£5:00 if bought on the day.

Planetarium show number 5 – 15:45 pm.
Single Ticket £4:00.
£5:00 if bought on the day.
Spaces for this last planetarium show now very limited.

Click on a ticket type above to book your space using my secure online Shop.

If you would like to book more than 4 or more tickets for any planetarium show or the evening presentation, E Mail me and I will give you a code for discounts on the tickets.


You can try and turn up on the day, but the planetarium can only accommodate 20 people at a time.
Spaces will fill fast, so book using the links to avoid disappointment.

Evening Multi-media Presentation. – 19:00 pm – 21:00 pm.

Book your ticket by clicking the link below:
Book a single ticket for the evening. – £4:00.
£5:00 if bought on the day. Save £1:00 by booking in advance.

All evening visitors will be entered into a free raffle for a chance to win a signed copy of Tim Peake’s book “Ask an Astronaut“.

If you would like to book 4 or more tickets for any of these events, E Mail me and I will give you a discount.


The evening’s multi-media presentation, suitable for ages aged 10 – 110, overviews the space race with the Soviet’s in the 60’s.
This resulted in the Apollo 11 moon landing in The Sea of Tranquillity on the 20th of July 1969,a nd looks at the future of crewed space exploration.

Why not bring your family down for a special night to celebrate the amazing achievements and experience the events that led up to this fantastic human endeavour.


Booking for this 50th Anniversary Event is now available on my secure Web Site.

Click on the image below to download the flyer in pdf form:

Apollo 11 Fact 1.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin’s maternal grandmother had the surname Moon.

Amongst other people gathered with Buzz’s wife Helen in their house on the day of the landing was his Uncle Bob Moon.

Book your places for my Apollo 50th celebration planetarium shows or evening presentation here:

If you attend the evening presentation, you will be put into a free draw to win a signed copy of Time Peake’s book “Ask An Astronaut”.




Apollo 11 Fact 1.

Partial Lunar Eclipse – 16th July 2019

On Tuesday the 16th of July there is a partial lunar eclipse.
This takes place on the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Saturn V rocket which sent the Apollo 11 astronauts to The Moon.

I will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing in Raunds on Saturday the 20th. See my Web Page for more details: www.star-gazing.co.uk/Apollo.html

For the duration of their mission I will also be posting a daily diary of what the astronauts got up to:
Catch up with their exploits by following my blog:

A lunar eclipse occurs when The Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow.
Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse can be seen across a wide region of The Earth’s surface as long as The Moon is above the horizon at the time of the event.

All timings given for UT, so don’t forget to add 1 hour for BST.

The Penumbral phase starts at 18:43:53.
The umbral phase of the eclipse starts at 20:01:43.
IN the UK at this time The Moon will still be below our horizon.

It does not rise until about 21:12.

As a result we will miss the start of the eclipse.

By the time The Moon does rise, a large umbral shadow bite has already been taken out of The Moon.
This could make a great partially eclipsed Moon-rise shot if you have a low south-eastern horizon to catch The Moon as it rises.

This image shows how much of The Moon’s face will be eclipsed at Moon-rise.

Maximum eclipse occurs about 18 minutes after moonrise at 21:31:54.
There should be some red colouration visible at this time, but it is not going to look as red a total lunar eclipse as part of the lunar disk will always be reflecting strong sunlight.

The image below shows the phase at maximum eclipse.

The umbral eclipse phase ends at 22:59:39, when it leaves the much darker umbral shadow.

At this stage you may be able to see a slight darkening on the side of The Moon’s disk towards the umbral shadow, but it is very subtle.
If you take a photograph and slightly under-expose the image, it brings out the difference in brightness very easily.

The Penumbral phase of the eclipse will last until 00:17:36 when The Moon finally leaves the Earth’s penumbral shadow, and the show is all over.




Jupiter and Saturn – 30th June 2019

For me the summer months are always a relatively slack time for trying to do any form of astronomy.
The night sky never gets properly dark at this time of year and you have to stay up until silly hours to see anything. That’s one reason why I took up solar observing / imaging a number of years ago, so that I can still be relatively active doing something while we have no real night skies.

It’s also been a lean time for astronomy for me all round during the last year. It’s just days away from the first anniversary since we moved house. That move and subsequent repairs, decorating, garden makeover, writing and going into schools has taken up a lot of time and effort. As a result it has left me with very little energy and have felt completely shattered and have struggled to stay up to do anything for quite a few months now. I couldn’t even be bothered to stay up to try and view the noctilucent clouds expected and displayed brilliantly on the 21st of June.
Well, let’s be honest here, I’m not getting any flipping younger, am I?

As a result, since acquiring my fabulous C11 last year, although it has seen a reasonable amount of lunar action, I haven’t had that many chances to put it through it’s paces on any of the the planets. Mars was a real disappointment last year, being so low down, I got a couple of images. Also the global dust storm it had, that killed the poor old martian probe Opportunity, hampered observing any of its surface features in any detail.

Jupiter and Saturn themselves are also very low down at the moment, and will be for a number of years to come until they start to slowly creep northwards along the ecliptic.

But the 30th of June looked like it was going to be clear.
I felt a little bit enlivened, despite having just had my busiest week for a long time, (wasn’t “retirement” meant to be a little more relaxing?), so I decided to make the effort to get out there and try to capture some images of these two magnificent planets.

Jupiter has just passed opposition and Saturn reaches opposition in July, so they will both be at their best at this time.

So I set up the scope just as Jupiter was clearing the neighbouring house. I got focussed and could see all four Galilean moons, strung out, with the great red spot just in view. It was going to transit the central meridian as I was out there. Great news.

I set up my ZWO camera and started to take images. I had to use my laptop as the scope needed to be set up by the house so the planets could be viewed low down in the south.

All seemed to go OK. My newly acquired (second hand) non-shift focuser really came into its own. Focusing was a dream, much easier than doing it by hand.

All seemed to go really well.

Seeing improved as Jupiter climbed a bit higher, then as it broke into the gap between the two houses, things improved even more, with detail showing very nicely on the laptop screen.
I captured my AVI’s as quickly as possible, one after the other, before Jupiter started to drop behind the other neighbours house.

As Jupiter started to close in on the other roof, Saturn was just clearing the branches of a tree. So the scope was sent round to start capturing images of the fabulous ringed planet.

At about 12:30 am, I decided I had captured what I wanted.
I then took the camera off the scope and took a very nice long hard look at Saturn and its moons.
Once I was satisfied with the view I got, I then in to process the avi’s on the main computer.

When I came to process the images,they were extremely dark.
They looked great on the laptop screen when I was capturing them.
However, they did process reasonably well, albeit a bit grainy.

There seems to be a setting wrong in the display controls within Sharpcap that is giving me an artificially bright image.
I will look into this for next time and hopefully get to the bottom of it and help improve the images.

The results of the imaging is at the top of this post.

One of the image was re-processed to bring out Io on the left of the image.

The images aren’t the most detailed of either that I’ve taken, but it was great to get my toes back in the planetary imaging waters again.

As I took lots of Jupiter images over that couple of hours, I had enough to create an animation showing Jupiter’s rotation.
I first did this almost 17 years ago and have been meaning to repeat this ever since.



Sky Diary for July 2019

My free monthly sky diary for July 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

Just to let keep you informed, after 32 years of doing my printable sky diary, I will stop producing my printable sky diary after December. It’s been sad, and a big decision to do this, but lately it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
I will still keep this as up to date as I can.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

This and my Blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) is where I will put any new information on events as they become known to me.

It’s still been very quiet on the New Horizons results from Ultima Thule lately, but don’t forget to watch out for the results and images. I have a blog entry I try to keep up to date with all the latest news.
Click on the link below for more details:


Birmingham Astronomical Society – 25th June.

On Tuesday the 25th of June I will be re-visiting Birmingham Astronomical Society to present to them:
Why The Universe Doesn’t give a Fig About You.
This talks about the unlikely circumstances of life on Earth developing and the prevalent conditions in the universe that make our very existence extremely precarious.

I am looking forward to catching up with them all again and showing them just how insignificant we all are and how totally irrelevant our puny existence is to our Universe.

Meeting is held at Aston University.
The lecture theatre is on the 5th floor, room 554, it is accessed from Main Reception by walking to the end of the Upper Ground floor corridor (with the Great Hall on your left) and then turning left through the double doors and taking the lifts to 5th floor. On exiting the lift, turn left through double doors and room 554 is down the corridor on your left.

Meeting Starts 7:30pm.

Click here for details how to find them.

Sky Diary for June 2019

My free monthly sky diary for June 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

Just to let keep you informed, after 32 years of doing my printable sky diary, I will stop producing my printable sky diary after December.
It’s been sad, and a big decision to do this, but it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

This and my Blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) is where I will put the information on new events as they come in.

It’s been very quiet on the New Horizons results from Ultima Thule lately, but don’t forget to watch out for the results and images.

Click on the link below for more details:






Starlink – What have we just witnessed?

Every now and again something slips under your radar.
Something so seemingly innocuous has a habit of biting you where it hurts.
Let me explain.

I’m always on the lookout for great visual observing opportunities and love getting other people to see them.
Spacelink was one of my slips.
I was aware that it was going to launch on Friday, but I was so busy that I didn’t check the circumstances of the launch.
I knew it was launching 60 small satellites into orbit, but we’ve seen multiple launches before with the SatCubes, so nothing to report here!
So I thought.

Had I checked the launch time, we would have been in prime position to see the rocket as it came over about 20 minutes after launch.
That would have been fabulous to see in itself, what the events that followed were even more spectacular.

Once the string of satellites were deployed an hour after launch, reports started to come in about the satellites being visible from the ground as a string of bright lights moving across the sky.

See this video taken by amateur astronomer Dr. Marco Langbroek (sattrackcam.blogspot.com) as they streaked over the Netherlands:

It is said that they are going to get a lot fainter as they move away from Earth into their higher orbits.
This is when doubts about what was happening here first started to echo in my head.

So what is Starlink?
It is going to be a global Internet network.
This SpaceX (Elon Musk) launch is the first 60 of a proposed 12,000 network of satellites.
They have been launched by SpaceX, Elon Musk.
It will take about 10 years to launch the rest of the satellites into orbit.

SPaceX aren’t the only company looking to launch a network of satellites.
OneWeb, Telesat amongst them. The most ambitious being Amazon’s planned network of 3,200 satellites.

Considering how spectacular the Starlink constellation appeared, it looked like it would be well worthwhile getting out to see before the satellite string starts drifting apart.

I started to look at the possibilities of them being visible from the UK, managing to produce some preliminary potential timings when it would be visible.
So I posted those on my Web page and social media on the Saturday.

It looked like others were interested.
At the end of the day, I had 1,682 visitors to my Web site.
Unfortunately Saturday night was cloudy for me.
Some people in the UK spotted it and said the satellites were about 4th magnitude, so still visible to the naked eye.

Undeterred, I produced some more timings for the Sunday evening / Monday morning and posted those online.
Luckily for most, being a Bank Holiday it wasn’t a school night.

Timings were now very easy to generate using these three Web pages:




So last night I stayed up to see the appearance of them at 22:30 and 00:09 BST.

The earlier appearance wasn’t optimal, as the sky was still fairly bright.
It could just about be seen without optical aid, but the appearance in binoculars was stunning.
A string of bright satellites following one another in the eastern sky.
They got brighter as they got lower and then faded completely.

Nothing spectacular, but it was nice to have been able to see them.

The spectacle I witnessed at 00:09 was incredible.
I set up my cameras to take some images.
I knew what the ground track was, but wasn’t completely sure of the track in the sky, so it crept up on my, fainter than I expected and lower in the sky.
Each individual satellite was visible to the naked eye. The string very evident stretching across many degrees of the sky.

Below – The Starlink Satellite Train I captured.

It gradually got a bit brighter as it got nearer.
I took some pictures, and then after it passed over, it passed just north of Corona Borealis and went towards Lyra.
That’s when things got really exciting.

The angle between The Sun, satellite and me must have been just right.
As each satellite passes a particular spot in the sky, it produced a bright flare.
We got used to this with the Iridium satellites, but this was Iridium’s on steroids.
One after another the satellites flared, producing a spectacular glittering display in the east north eastern sky.

Below – One of the flares I captured.

Texts and posts from friends showed that they had also witnessed this amazing spectacle?

But what did we actually witness?
Yes, this is an amazing achievement, launching so many satellites at once, reducing costs drastically.
For what? Global Internet Access. Good grief, do we really need it?
A lot of people are almost turning into online addicts, so can’t we just preserve places where we can truly get away from it all?

Talking of preserving, we talk a lot about light pollution. Yes, I know, it didn’t take me long…
Online posts are showing a big trend of amateur and professional astronomers now up in arms, quite rightly, that this could ruin the night sky.
If these satellites continue to remain as bright as they are, it will ruin many a night sky image.

The satellites can only be seen if sunlight reflects off them.
In summer months, this happens throughout the night. The Sun is only just below our northern horizon at midnight, so although we are in darkness, they are still in direct sunlight.
In winter, the satellites will be hidden within the Earth’s shadow, so should not be seen when the sky is properly dark.
However, for two hours either side of sunset, the satellites will still be visible glinting in sunlight, whatever the time of year.

There was an outcry many years ago, when the Iridium satellites were launched. If the angle was right, one of the three highly polished panels, reflected sunlight to produce extremely bright flares. We came to love these Iridium flares, but these only occurred infrequently. Sadly they are being de-orbited and the last of them will soon be gone.

With the Starlink satellites there are planned to be 12,000 of the little blighters.
These will be spread around the globe evenly, so at any one time, some people have estimated, there will be more satellites visible in the night sky than naked eye stars.
Alarm bells were definitely ringing when I heard this.

So perhaps this weekend we didn’t just witness a spectacular display.
It could it have been the death knell of our rapidly disappearing night sky.
It has been reported then Elon Musk stated that the satellites won’t be visible in a dark sky.
But they definitely are visible. We’ve seen them!

Whether they will remain permanently visible, remains to be seen.
Will this sudden increase in space “junk” make low earth orbit more hazardous?

It’s too early to say as the satellites aren’t yet in their final orbits.

Let’s not dampen the moment for now.
This first launch is up there and we can do nothing about it – YET!

So just get out there and enjoy this spectacle while it lasts.
We’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed that it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as some predict, as the many satellites settle into their intended final orbits.

But if it does turn bad, it’ll be time to start a global campaign to get Elon Musk to de-orbit them and give us back our pristine dark skies.
Elon has already tweeted this morning that he’s already started to discuss this problem with the engineers.
But whether they do something about that impact remains to be seen.

Sod global Internet access!

Keep looking up!


Starlink Constellation may be visible from UK

I missed the launch of the Starlink Satellites.

A little while after release into orbit the 60 satellites were visible as a string of bright lights moving across the sky.

See this video taken by amateur astronomer Dr. Marco Langbroek (sattrackcam.blogspot.com) as they streaked over the Netherlands:

I’m not going to get into any conversations about them being light pollution.
But they’re now up there, and fingers crossed they’ll get a lot fainter as they move away from Earth into their higher orbits.

Given this info I started to look at the possibilities of them being visible from the UK.

We need to be quick as they will get fainter.

Here’s the circumstances I have worked out for tonight.

There are 3, possibly 4 sightings possible tonight (25th May), given clear skies.
These timings may vary slightly as the orbits are constantly changing.

Maps of the predicted passes are at the bottom of the page.

Like the ISS they will appear in the western sky and move eastwards.

25th May.
22:16 UT (23:16 BST) – Passes over mid France, so they could be visible at low altitude in the southern sky?
23:54 UT (00:54 BST) – Right over the UK. Will be at very high altitude.

26th May.
01:30 UT (02:30 BST) – Right over the UK. Very high altitude.
03:08 UT (04:08 BST) – Passes south west of Cornwall. A bit lower in the south eastern sky.

I have calculated a few more pass predictions, but these timings will drift as the orbits of the 60 satellites are altered.

These were spotted by some observers in the UK on the 25th.
They reported them to be about magnitude +4, so easily visible to the naked eye.

21:32 UT (22:32 BST) 
23:09 UT (27th May -00:09 BST)  

27th May.
00:46 UT (01:46 BST)
02:23 UT (03:23 BST)

28th May.
21:51 UT (22:51 BST)
23:27 UT (29th May 00:27 BST).

29th May.
01:04 UT (02:04 BST).
02:41 UT (03:41 BST).

Get out a while before the predicted event, as the satellites are still changing their orbits, so may appear early as they spread out and move away from one another.

N2YO gives you a really easy way of producing predictions for your location:

You can use Celestrac to find out circumstances,

Heaven’s Above hasn’t got them on it’s database yet, but I have copied the orbital elements.
1 70002U 19999A 19144.10416667 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 09
2 70002 053.0000 175.8692 0001467 047.2921 324.9821 15.42070599 01

If you copy and paste the text between the lines above, you can import them into the Web page: https://www2.flightclub.io/dashboard

You should then be able to reproduce the maps below:

Here are the maps of each pass that this Web page generated:

25th May – 22:16 UT

25th May 23:54 UT

26th May 01:30 UT

26th May 03:08 UT

26th May 21:36 UT

26th May 23:13 UT

27th May 00:50 UT


27th May 02:27 UT

28th May 21:51 UT

28th May 23:29 UT

29th May 01:06 UT

29th May 02:43 UT




Northants Amateur Astronomers – 22nd May

On Tuesday the 22nd of May I will be re-visiting my very good friends at Northants Amateur Astronomers to give another talk.

Out of the Darkness: Pluto, New Horizons & Ultima Thule.

We will cover Pluto’s discovery, it’s subsequent demotion from planet status and the results from the New Horizons Flyby.

Added to this are the latest results from the flyby of another Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 “Ultima Thule” on New Years Day.

Click the name of the group below to visit their Web page:
Northants Amateur Astronomers.

The meeting starts at 19:45.

Entry £3:00 (Non-Members £4:00).

The Lounge.
Geddington Village Hall.
Queen Street Geddington
NN14 1AZ




Magnificent Destination – Latest Presentation

My latest audience-interactive presentation to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar landing is nearing completion. It has been designed to follow on from my Space Race presentation and covers the Apollo missions in much more detail.
Playing on Buzz Aldrin’s famous words, I have entitled it:
“Magnificent Destination”: The Apollo Moon Missions.
Suitable for all ages and interests, it is now available for bookings by astronomy clubs, social and youth groups and schools.
So contact me to book your talk.

Apollo Mission Images.

I am in the process of downloading and processing of Apollo mission images to add a some previously unseen images to my presentations for this 50th anniversary year of Apollo 11 landing.

For details of my Apollo 50th Anniversary day, click here.

Here’s a low resolutiono version of the animation of Earth rise I created from some of the images taken from The Apollo 11 command module Columbia.

Here are a few more images, before and after my processing and stitching together.

NASA archive images can be downloaded from here:



Spot an extremely thin crescent Moon

On Monday the 6th of May, Bank Holiday Monday, an extremely thin crescent Moon should be visible very low down in the western sky just as the sky gets dark.

Look towards the West at about 19:50 UT (20:50 BST) and you should be able to see something like the picture below.

The thin crescent is only 3.8% illuminated, with the dark portion of the Moon strongly lit by earthshine, as soon as the sky gets dark enough to see it.

The Moon will only be about 11 degrees above the horizon at this time.

So get yourself a good western horizon and clouds permitting, let’s see see if you can spot this very young 1.8 day old Moon.

The Moon will have set by 21h 11m UT (22h 11m BST).

Good luck.