June 6, 2020

February 2010: Life in the Astro-blogosphere.

(Late breaking news: looks like Astroguyz will be tweeting live from the Johnson Space Center in Houston Feb. 17th as part of the STS-130 NASA Tweetup! Now is a good time to follow us on Twitter, as we partake in all things STS, and give you the blow-by-blow live!)

Cheer up, ye benighted souls of terrestrial northern hemisphere winter; astronomical things are afoot! The month of February sees the return of the Shuttle Endeavour to low Earth orbit, as well as the long anticipated launch of NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. So, without further adieu, here’s a sneak peak at what we’re watching here in the month of February from Astroguyz HQ;

February Skies: February sees the passing of the not so close opposition of Mars from late January, although the Red Planet will be placed favorably for viewers throughout the northern hemisphere in February. A recent posting here at Astroguyz will tell you how to accomplish a rare feat: how to spot the Martian Moons.  A more curious and exceptional event happens on the Feb 9th close passage of NEO asteroid 2009 UN3. The Full Snow moon occurs on February 28th at 11:38 AM EST.

February in Science: This month, we look at the life and times of Benjamin Banneker, a pivotal but largely forgotten astronomer in American history. We also look into the possible astronomical connections behind the 1942 Battle of Los Angeles, a little known conflict that never was. Also, if you didn’t catch the broadcast, we’re now 6 minutes ‘til midnite on the Doomsday Clock… scientists saw fit to turn back the dial 1 minute due to the new U.S. administration which is more receptive towards environmental cleanup and cooperative towards curbing global warming.  On the science must-read review front, we hearken back to science as it was in 18th century England with Richard Holmes’ Age of Wonder out from Pantheon Books.

The Month in Sci-Fi: This month, we look at the 80’s Sci-Fi hit, 2010, the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001. Now that we’ve reached the date, just how well does the science stack up to the fiction? In the paperback world, the much anticipated sequel to Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War entitled Gardens of the Sun, has arrived; we are currently savoring our advance copy as the universe awaits publication in March. In the odd-films-with-astronomical-references department, we review Adam, an indie love story about relationships, Manhattan, Aspergers, and astronomy. On TV, Big Bang Theory Season 3 is still in full swing, while Caprica has just started; it’s still totally up in the air to be seen if fans warm to this odd Battlestar spin-off or not. In the film world, 30th Golden Raspberry Awards are to be held on March 6th, with nominations to be announced February 1st… several sci-fi baddies are creeping up the list, not the least of which include Transformers, G.I. Joe, and none other than John Travolta, who is up for Worst Actor of the Decade for his role in Battlefield Earth…let the badness begin!

February Launches: After a quiet January, February kicks off with a Soyuz launch out of Baikonur February 3rd with a resupply to the ISS. Traffic at the station gets even heavier with the launch of Shuttle Endeavour on the morning of the 7th on STS-130, which will deliver the Tranquility node and Cupola, a Millennium Falcon-like view port to the ISS. This will be the second to last flight of Endeavour, the fifth to last flight of the space shuttle program, and the last night launch. Then two days later, an Atlas 5 launch out of the neighboring Cape Canaveral will put the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) into space on the 9th. The busy month is capped off by the launch of Cryostat 2 on the 25thout of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Keep track of all flight changes at Spaceflight now.

Astro-Blooper of Month: We have a minor bone to pick with the otherwise excellent indie flick Pandorum, about a multi-generational ship sent to colonize an Earth-like world. The film was pretty well done and had an Aliens feel to it; our sole beef was Sci-Fi’s old astronomical nemesis; that of instantaneous communication…this was depicted numerous times in terms of probe contact around a distant star, in patent violation of the rules of physics… come on guys, travel and communication are both restricted by the cosmic speed limit (link) of 186,282 miles per second!

(Editor’s note: As mentioned by director Christian Alvart, the stated transit time for the probes comminication is actually 7 days. Perhaps the reception end of the message is at an equivalent distance as, say, our solar systems’ Oort cloud).

The Month in Astro-History: Explorer 1 was launched February 1st, 1958 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 03:48 Universal Time, becoming the first successful satellite launched by the United States. At about 30 pounds and 80 inches in length, Explorer 1 could (and did) fit in the trunk of a car. Unlike Sputnik, Explorer returned some real science, discovering the Van Allen radiation belts girdling the planet. These were named after none other than James A. Van Allen, a chief scientist who campaigned hard to keep the fledging NASA a civilian science program.

Astro Quote of the Month: “This vehicle is performing like a champ. I’ve got a super spaceship under me.”

-Bob Crippen, pilot of the Space Shuttle Columbia aboard STS-1.


  1. Christian Alvart says:

    About Pandorum: Actually there is no instantaneous communication in Pandorum. The probe is sending off it’s images with a delay of seven days, which is mentioned in the film. We took some creative license with the actual transmission time/distance as we figured we (today) haven’t seen the end of scientific discovery. But instantaneous communication was a no-go for me.

  2. David Dickinson says:

    Hi Christian,
    Thanks for the comment; Pandorum was an excellent flick, and had much more scientific accuracy than most. Perhaps technology will advance for faster than light communique, as seen in most scifi, but for now, its a tough one to crack. Seven days transit time, even to the nearest star, Alpha Centari, at a distance of +4 light years would be doing pretty good.

  3. Christian Alvart says:

    Yeah, I know and I agree. That’s where the “creative license” has to come in. We already had many complex concepts to get across to a general audience. If I ever make a scifi movie for a geek only budget I’ll certainly take the time in the story to deal with things like that. For this “monster flick” I stretched the patience of the audience and producers as far as I could. And like you said, maybe technology will advance further than EInstein thought was possible.

Speak Your Mind