An Eye on the Sky

With NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) plummeting to earth on Friday, September 23rd (U.S. date), you’re probably going to be watching the sky. It could be quite the light show depending on where you are and where it falls. Not to worry, NASA says the public safety risk is extremely small. The satellite will break up into pieces during re-entry, but not all of it will burn up as it re-enters earth’s atmosphere adding to the excitement of watching the sky. NASA is posting UARS updates to their website and you can follow it here:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/uars/index.html .

Around the world, armchair astronomers will also be keeping a close eye on the sky. Did you know back in the 1950′s thousands of ordinary people across the globe seized the opportunity to participate in the start of the Space Age? Known as the “Moonwatchers,” these largely forgotten citizen-scientists helped professional astronomers by providing critical and otherwise unavailable information about the first satellites. In Keep Watching the Skies!, Patrick McCray tells the story of this network of pioneers who, fueled by civic pride and exhilarated by space exploration, took part in the twentieth century’s biggest scientific endeavor. You can read chapter one at:
http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i8645.html

Moonwatchers witnessed firsthand the astonishing beginning of the Space Age. In the process, these amateur scientists organized themselves into a worldwide network of satellite spotters that still exists today. Drawing on previously unexamined letters, photos, scrapbooks, and interviews, Keep Watching the Skies! recreates a pivotal event from a perspective never before examined–that of ordinary people who leaped at a chance to take part in the excitement of space exploration.

Keep Watching the Skies!
The Story of Operation Moonwatch and the Dawn of the Space Age

by W. Patrick McCray