December 18, 2017

July 2010: Life in the Astro-blogosphere.

The Return of... Stove Pipe Scope! (Photo by Author).
The Return of… Stove Pipe Scope! (Photo by Author).

 

   (Editor’s Note: As of July 1st, we are ramping down our output and limiting ourselves to the AstroEvent & Review of the Week in our quest to wrap up our science teaching degree. Don’t worry; we’re still in new content mode, just throttling back a bit. You can also get up to date astro-news and musings via following us at @Astroguyz on Twitter!)

July holds several interesting astronomical events; although the Earth approaches aphelion this month, you’d never know it at Astroguyz HQ what with the sultry jungle-like conditions. What follows is a brief rundown of what you can expect to see this month at an Astroguyz blog near you;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Our home world (well, mine anyway) Earth starts off the month at aphelion, or its farthest point from the Sun on July 6th.  But the big ticket event is the total solar eclipse over the South Pacific on July 11th. This month, we’ll also show you how to sight Neptune in its original discovery position, as well as cover the occultations of the stars S Scorpii and E Arietis by the Moon on July 21st and 7th, respectively. In the realm of events of the strange and curious, the planet Saturn will be very near the galaxy NGC 4073 on the 25th and its moons will be in order on my birthday, the 31st. 

This Month in Science: Probably the most anticipated event this month will be the Rosetta spacecraft’s flyby of asteroid Lutetia on July 10th. On this site we will also review of the Transits of Venus by William Sheehan & John Westfall… can you believe that we’re now less than one year out from the final transit of Venus in our lifetimes? Also, we take a look at Microsoft’s entry into online planetary software with the WWT Telescope. Also, we take a look at Astronomy Magazines, both newsstand and virtual.  

This Month in Science Fiction: As reviewed here last month, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald comes out from Pyr Books on July 6th. In the retro-category we review 5o Science Fiction Short Stories… also expect a sneak peek at The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder out from Pyr books in September.

Launches in July: First up is a July 9th launch of the first satellite of the Space Based Surveillance System aboard a Minotaur 4 out of Vandenberg AFB. The next day on July 10th, EchoStar 15 launches out of Baikonur. This is followed by a July 27/28 Cartosat 2B out of Satish Dhawan Space Center in India, and the month ends with the July 30th launch of AEHF 1 aboard an Atlas V out of Cape Canaveral. Follow the latest launch changes and updates at SpaceFlightNow.

Astro Bloopers: A science related blooper came our way recently via the otherwise excellent forensic anthropology drama Bones, Season 1 Ep 9. The key case kept stating that the 1500 year old skeleton dated from the Iron Age… granted, the smelting of iron began in different cultures at different times, but the Iron Age for northern Europe generally predates the fall of the Roman Empire… this puts the idea of an Iron Age skeleton from circa 500 A.D. on very questionable ground.  

This Month in Astro-History: July 26th, 1963: Sycom 2, the first geosynchronous satellite was launched; pay per view hasn’t been the same since.

Astro Quote of the Month: “It’s all coming together, and politicians are starting to notice. I call it a growing coalition between the tree huggers, the do-gooders, the sodbusters, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, the utility share holders, the Mom and Pop drivers, and Willie Nelson.”

          - R. James Woolsey, Former Director of the CIA on the new environmentalists.

 

Hailing Phoenix.

This week, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will begin listening for a very special phone call; that of the Phoenix Lander on the northern polar region of Mars. Spring is in the air on the northern hemisphere of Mars, and bets are on as to whether the Lander survived the bleak Martian winter. Already, the outlook isn’t stellar; Phoenix has more than likely been encased in CO2 ice for several months; and don’t forget, the Martian year and seasons are roughly twice as long as here on Earth! Add to the fact the Mars is close to aphelion in its relatively eccentric orbit, and the odds don’t look good.  To phone home, Phoenix will need to recharge its spent batteries to a point where its automated broadcasting can kick in; the solar angle is currently about the same as when scientists lost contact last year. If it does start transmitting, Mars Odyssey currently in orbit will be listening. Odyssey passes over the landing site about 10 times a day, and will listen in over the next few months.  The sixth successful landing on the Red Planet and only the third successful soft landing, Phoenix returned some first rate science, and gave us concrete evidence of water ice lurking just below the Martian soil. Now approaching opposition, Mars is rising low in the east just after dusk; more on that next week! For now, Let’s hope that Phoenix lives up to its namesake and rises from the dead!

Event of the Week: 20.07.09: A VERY long solar eclipse!!!

 

 

The astronomical event of the year is about to take center stage this Wednesday. A total eclipse of the Sun, the longest possible for a VERY long time! Those lucky enough to have secured a ticket or live along the Pacific/Southeast Asia corridor will see an eclipse of a duration of up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds, near the maximum 7 minutes and 31 seconds possible. This is a consequence of the Earth passing aphelion a few weeks ago (read: a visually small Sun) and the a large New Moon very near perihelion (remember the year’s smallest Full Moon a few weeks back?) [Read more...]

July 08 News & Notes.

Attack of the Plutoids? On June 11th, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) handed down yet another definition for trans-Neptunian objects; a new class of planetary bodies, now classified as Plutoids, have sprung into existence.

[Read more...]