February 18, 2020

August 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

The July 2011 Full Moon through fog from Astroguyz HQ.
(Photo by Author).
As the Dog Days of Summer draw neigh, August typically brings some of the hottest temps for the denizens of the Northern Hemisphere. This month will see a journey to the largest planet in our solar system leave the pad, a great meteor shower under poor circumstances, and some brightening cometary possibilities. What follows is a look at what’s on our collective astro-radar here at Astroguyz HQ for the coming month;

Coming to a Sky Near You: August 1st is notable for two observances; the start of Ramadan with the sighting of the slender crescent moon, and the traditional cross-quarter day marking of the midway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox known as Lammas Day. The helical rising of Sirius also occurs for northern hemisphere viewers during the first half of August, coming to latitude near you. A decent occultation by the waxing gibbous moon of a +2 magnitude star Pi Sagittari is also in the offing for North American viewers on the evening of August 10th. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 13th with a traditional zenithal hourly rate of 60-100 meteors, although a Full Sturgeon Moon on the same date will cut down the observed rate considerably.   Also, comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova passes only 0.06 AU (about 9 million miles) from Earth August 16th, and will be a +8 magnitude circumpolar object for southern hemisphere observers. Neptune reaches opposition on August 22nd, and we’ll look at just what it takes to spot its elusive moons.

This Month in Science: This month, NASA returns to the outer solar system with the launch of Juno headed to Jupiter. We’ll also take a look at variable star observing and how YOU can contribute. We’ll also take a look at the Vatican’s little known cutting edge observatories, and the astronomer priests that operate them. On the science book review front, we’ll be looking at The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman, How the Hippies Saved Physics, and a biography of Richard Feynman entitled The Quantum Man.

This Month in Science Fiction: Cowboys & Aliens are still tearing up the Old West with intergalactic warfare in a theatre near you. Also, keep an eye out for our timely review of The Restoration Game, out in September from Pyr Books. Finally, new episodes are in the pipe for Eureka and Warehouse 13, assuring we get our “fix” in before the new TV Fall lineup starts.

Launches in August: Did we mention that Juno launches Aug. 5th out of Cape Canaveral headed out to the environs of the giant planet Jupiter? Also, ESA’s Ariane V makes a 2nd attempt at a launch from French Guiana on the same day. A Soyuz Progress launch on occurs on Aug 24th headed to the ISS out of Baikonur. To Be Determined launches include a Proton launch with Express AM4 around Aug 18th, a Soyuz with Glonass K out of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on the 25th and an Ariane V out of French Guiana with Arabsat 5C & SES 2 that should now occur on August 5th. Follow all of the launch updates with @Astroguyz on Twitter or over at SpaceFlightNow.

Astro-Atta-Boy: This month’s collective pat on the back goes to the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series and their use of star positions to chart the location of Earth. It’s mentioned when they find the ancient temple on Kobol that the patterns on the wall are constellations, the appearance of which would only be apparent from the particular galactic vantage point of the mythical planet Earth. They even correlate these with some real well-known nebulae, which would be a good place to start getting your intergalactic bearings!

Astro Bloopers: One thing in the Green Lantern mythos always bothered me, even as a kid; the non-feasibility of a 3,600 member Green Lantern Corps. We understand the premise; the legendary planet Oa sits at the center of the universe, and each Green Lantern patrols a “slice” of the universe 1/10th of a radial degree in size… but this would still leave millions of galaxies under your jurisdiction! Not to mention that the universe is expanding, and there is no strict “center” in a physical sense; each vantage point appears to expand equally from all others. The Big Bang literally happened “everywhere” at once!

Astro Quote of the Month: “There’s a coherent plan in the universe, though I don’t know what it’s a plan for…”

- Cosmologist Fred Hoyle


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