February 23, 2020

April 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

Wow. April 2011 already… and what a year it’s already been in history, astronomy and science. This month sees a look at some celebrity astronomers, another shuttle retirement, and the return of the most photogenic planet to evening skies. Here is what’s on our astro-radar for the month of April 2011;

Coming to a Sky near You: The month of April kicks off with the planet Saturn reaching opposition on the 4th, much to the joy of elementary school kids attending school star parties everywhere. This month we’ll also take a look at the possibilities of making daylight sightings of the bright stars Sirius and Vega (OK, we’ve never seen em’ this way, either!) The moon continues its path through interesting star fields, with occultations of Kappa & Upsilon Tauri March 7th and Zeta Geminorum on March 10th. We’ll also highlight a unique multiple star, Herschel 3945. The month continues with an interesting conjunction of the planets Mercury and Mars on the 19th, followed by one of the first good springtime meteor showers, the Lyrids on the 21st. Finally, the month wraps up with a decent stellar occultation by the asteroid 7 Iris on the 29th, topped off by a dawn gathering of four planets on the 30th. Expect expanded posts on all of these events as they approach in time and space!

This Month in Science: This month, we review science books old and new with a look at Gravity’s Ghost, What are Gamma-ray Bursts? And that old coffee table classic, A Brief History of Time. In the large expose astro-post category, we’ll look at celebrity amateurs, or some famous folks that I’ll bet you didn’t know owned (and know how to use!) telescopes, and the inside scoop on free sites for spotting space launches.

This Month in Science Fiction: This month on the Sci-Fi beat we’ll look at two classics from the Astroguyz library, Out of Time by Larry Niven, and Alien Pregnant by Elvis, an anthology whose title says it all. On the uber-hip Pyr books front, we’ll look at Black Halo, book 2 in the Aeon’s Gate series. And keep on listening to those podcasts such as Escape Pod and the Drabblecast… this is where real and properly spelled science fiction is in the making!

Launches in April: April 4th kicks off the month in space with a Soyuz launch out of Baikonur carrying the next expedition rotation to the International Space Station. This is followed on April 12th with an Atlas 5 launch out of Vandenberg, with yet another classified payload. But the big ticket launch is scheduled to occur on April 19th, with the final launch of Shuttle Endeavour out of the Kennedy Space Center.  This launch is also extra-special as it contains an astrophysics payload… the Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer is finally finding a home aboard the International Space Station. Two more launches are slated out of Baikonur, a Proton rocket carrying a pair of communications satellites on the 25th and a Progress supply ship on the 27th. To be announced launches that may occur include a multi-payload Dnepr rocket out of Yasny Russia and the PSLV Resourcesat 2 out of Satish Dhawan Space Center in India. Follow us @Astroguyz on Twitter and SpaceFlightNow as all the launch action unfolds.

Astro Bloopers: We survived the Super-Moon hysterics of March’s Proxigean Full Moon with nary a tremble, but of course it got an extra-boost from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami about a week prior. This month, the moon will reach perigee as it does every month (sometimes twice) that’s nearly as close with much less fanfare. Of course, some news outlets took advantage of the hysteria to give a platform to some truly “shaky” science. Keep in mind, that while stating that an earthquake will occur “within a week of the Full or New Moon” may be a safe bet, it’s neither precise nor accurate. Hey, we used the opportunity to introduce the curious to some real science, as such an event as the largest Full Moon of the year always seems to have a bleed-through into mainstream consciousness. But landslides, catastrophic storms, and the rise of zombie-Elvis’s never did come to pass. Ah well, there’s always the Super-moon of May, 2012…

This Month in Astro-History: Fifty years ago this month, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made his historic flight on April 12th 1961. Vostok 1 orbited the Earth once, and remained on automatic control although Gagarin had an unlock code at his disposal in the event of an emergency. Today, the feat of the first manned spaceflight will be celebrated worldwide by countless “Yuri’s Night” parties across the globe… what will the next half a century in manned space flight bring?

Astro Quote of the Month: “Science is simply common sense at its best.” – Thomas Huxley



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