With the very real possibility of new minor planets being discovered within our solar system, it’s only prudent to have some names ready to call them. So three lucky children who won the Naming X competition may follow in the footsteps of the 11-year old Venetia Burnee who first suggested the name Pluto for (what was then) the ninth planet. Glissade, Erytheia and Virgil were the winning entries. As the competition was endorsed by the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Committee for Small Body Nomenclature it’s likely the we may soon by adding one of these names to our astronomy atlases. Read the rest of this post …
Full Moon and Perigee Moon converge for a Supermoon
Track down two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta
Planetary pairings of Saturn and Mars, Jupiter and Venus
The Perseid meteor shower peaks
The Equinox restores balance to days and nights
Mars meets its rival, Antares
An early Harvest Moon occurs in September
Look out for Noctilucent Clouds
The Ariane 5 successfully completed launch number 50 from French Guiana yesterday. We profiled the Ariane 5 a while back and expected big things from ESA’s flagship rocket. Despite an ill-fated first launch, it has played a large role in space exploration. Although mainly used for placing telecommunications satellites into orbit, the Ariane 5 has launched important missions such as the Rosetta comet exploring spacecraft.
Shuttle Discovery will return home on Monday. It will take a different route than usual and will fly across the USA. If you would like to see if you are in the line to see and/or hear Discovery as it heads for landing, you now can. More information can be found at spaceweather.com.
For those of you in the line of the fly-over, you will most likely hear a double sonic boom associated with the high speeds of re-entry.
On April 10, two of the original members of the Apollo 13 crew will be at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. During Astronaut Encounter, Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise will tell stories about their Apollo 13 experiences. Some of the stories include tales of the explosion that occurred en route to Moon, using the lunar module as a lifeboat, and traveling around the lunar dark side.
If any of you are fortunate enough to go to the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 mission, please send a report to us.
In the photo L to R: Jim Lovell, John Swigert, and Fred Haise.
International Space Station will have companion vessels this month. Russian Soyuz and USA Shuttle vessels will be visible in the sky along with ISS. You can find out when these, as well as other satellites, are visible from your area by going to NASA’s Human Space Flight site or SpaceWeather’s Satellite Flybys site.
Viewing the space vessels as they pass across the sky is an easy thing to do, providing your weather is good. You do not need a telescope or binoculars to see them. Just find out where and when to look, then go out and look for a bright object, or objects, smoothly crossing the area of sky where they are predicted to go. They will not “zoom” or blink or leave a trail.
When you see these objects, think about the astronauts, past or present, who have traveled on them.
The next few evenings, during the twilight magic, you can see the two interior planets appearing just about 3 degrees apart, above the western horizon. Look just after sunset to find the brighter of the two, Venus. Look closer to the horizon and just a bit to the north (right, as you look west) to find Mercury.
Many people have yet to see Mercury, since Mercury is so close to Sun. Venus should help to find the smallest planet during the next week.
Buzz Aldrin has not held back his comments about dry docking the Space Shuttles. In his blog, Aldrin wrote about preparing the shuttles for the next step in the space program: going onward and outward to Mars. Aldrin advocates keeping the shuttle program going to save jobs, to save time, and to save our momentum for future space exploration. Read all of his comments in his blog entry. He makes many good points.
A life form was recently discovered on a planet that has been studied for centuries. No, not Mars or Venus. The discovery was made here on Earth.
A small shrimp-like creature, a marine life called amphipod, was seen when scientists lowered a camera into an 8-inch hole in an Antarctic ice shelf. The scientists were studying the depletion of glacial ice, but they discovered a glint of color in the video feed. It turned out that the small creature was swimming in the freezing waters that filled the hole.
Glaciologists have seen sea life under the cold waters before, but this life form was new to them. If the shrimp-like creature can survive in -2 to 1 C temp waters on Earth, who is to say that life (as we know it) could not exist in the frigid fluids of the outer worlds?
See it for yourself: video of the 3-inch-long creature.