December 20, 2014

March 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

Ahhhh, the Ides of March are upon us. Spring is the thing, as we approach equal daylight in all lands north to south. The month of March brings with it an early onset back to Daylight Savings Time for yet another eight months, a season for Messier marathoning, Mercury spotting, and more. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s on our radar this month at Astroguyz HQ:

Coming to a Sky Near You: The first week of March we feature the ternary star Beta Monocerotis. We’ll also look at what it takes to complete a Messier Marathon. Asteroid 72 Feronia completes a stellar occultation on 9th, followed by a lunar occultation of Mu Geminorum on the 13th. A rare Proxigean Spring tide and the largest Full Moon of the Year occur on 18th, followed by the Vernal Equinox marking the beginning of spring on the 20th. Another good stellar occultation by asteroid 224 Oceana occurs on the 20th, and planet Mercury makes its best evening elongation 22nd. Finally, we cap off the month with a very close Venus-Neptune 9’ conjunction on the 27th.

 This Month in Science: All eyes are on space exploration and research as Planetary Science decadal survey is planned for release sometime in March. The Orange Blossom star party, Central Florida’s premiere astro-get together occurs March 2nd-6th. Also, March continues to be a month of inner world exploration as NASA’s Messenger spacecraft enters orbit around Mercury 18th just days before the best evening apparition mentioned above. On the review radar, we look at Discoverers of the Universe and A Professor, A President, & a Meteor. Good times!

This Month in Science Fiction: This month in science fiction (we still spell it “Sci-Fi!”) we’ll take a look at Dwarf Stars 2010, with some of last year’s best in Sci-Fi short poetry. We’re also furiously reading The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, the exciting Steampunk follow up to The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack. Also out from Pyr Books, don’t forget to snag a copy of the newly released (and recently reviewed on this site) work, the Cowboy Angels. The Big Bang Theory, every science nerds favorite show about science nerds in the wild, has recently been picked up for three more seasons… and the BIG news for those of us that live in our laptops is that the show is FINALLY available to watch online!

Launches in March: Space Shuttle Discovery is in space one final time, and will land back at the Kennedy Space center March 7th. Meanwhile, Endeavour is back “at the ranch” beginning preparation for its April launch with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. A pair of classified payloads will also break the surly bonds this month, with the follow up flight of the Air Force’s super secret X-37B space plane from Cape Canaveral Air Station on the 4th & a ULA classified launch on 11th, also from CCAS. The European Space Agency launches an Ariane 5 Yahsat 1A with the Intelsat New Dawn on 29th, and over in the world of cosmodromes, a Soyuz TMA-21 manned launch to the ISS out of Baikonur occurs 29th, & a Proton rocket with SES 3 and Kazsat 2 also departs out of Baikonur on March 31st. As this goes to cyber-press, we have no word about the delayed launch of Glory, which is to occur “sometime in March…” Follow us @astroguyz on Twitter for all the space flight updates, astro-events, and other rambling astro-musings!

Astro Bloopers: Much terrible cyber-ink astronomy has come from the whole 13th zodiacal sign non-troversy that began earlier this year. Some of the true baddies have been the idea that astronomers somehow recently discovered Ophiuchus in 2009! Then there is the long diatribe of a certain astrologer who tried to extricate herself realm from reality with a long discussion on the tropical versus the sidereal year; it’s almost as painful for an astronomer to watch as an old Space: 1999 rerun.  

This Month in Astro-History: On March 24th, 1930 Pluto was officially named after a suggestion from Mrs. Venetia Burney Phair when she was aged 11. Mrs. Phair only recently passed away in 2009, and an outstanding documentary entitled Naming Pluto was recently made by director Ginita Jimenez about her life. It’s definitely worth searching out!

Astro Quote of the Month: “However long we live, life is short, so I work… and however important man becomes, he is nothing compared to the stars. There are secrets, dear sister, and it is for us to reveal them.”

-Caroline Herschel.

Photo image of M45 by Author.

29.04.10-Name a Minor Planet!

(Credit: NASA.gov).

(Credit: NASA.gov).

An object awaits naming!

   Break out those mythological encyclopedias; the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature and the International Astronomical Union wants YOU, the school age public, to name a minor planet. Tomorrow, April 30th will have been one year since the passing of Venetia Burney Phair. At age 11, Miss Burney had the opportunity to suggest a name for the ever-controversial planet Pluto. Fans of this site will remember that she was also the subject of the outstanding documentary film Naming Pluto by director Ginita Jimenez.  Saturday, May 1st will also be the 80th Anniversary of the official adoption of the name Pluto.  Tomorrow, Friday April 30th 2010, a competition entitled Naming X will open to give school children the chance to duplicate Venetia Burney’s feat. Recognition will be first come, first credited, so don’t delay! Also, keep in mind that this is about the children; no bloggers (as jealous as we are!) can crash this party. Categories are detailed on the site for groups and individuals from elementary school age on up, with prizes that would make any astronomy fan blush. The judging panel includes notables such as Astroguyz former next door neighbor David Levy (I heard he’s discovered a comet or two), Professor Ian Morison, and Dr. Marc Buie. Now would be a perfect chance to get the kids excited about Kuiper Belt and Trans-Neptunian Objects, and maybe the whole celestial object naming business.

…And kids, don’t forget to take a few pointers from Venetia and how she accomplished her proposal; the name Pluto was selected from Roman mythology and fit well with the tradition of naming solar system objects. Resist the urge to submit the names of pets, favorite cartoon characters, and the like. And don’t forget, you have a tool that at your cyber-disposal that young Venetia didn’t have, the Internet. Not only will this allow you to scour the respective mythological pantheons, but will also give you the ability to check possible names for originality in astronomical use. Just think, Astroguyz has given you the edge already…beyond that, the rest is up to you. Astroguyz will be following to see what original ideas you come up with. Further instructions are on the site. Names are not to be longer than 16 characters, easily pronounceable, and to be accompanied by a brief justification of not more than 25 words. May the best student and/or group win!

Review: Naming Pluto.

Naming Pluto.

Naming Pluto by Ginita Jimenez (Credit:Father Films).

We here at Astroguyz are always on the lookout for an unheard of astronomical tale. Naming Pluto, a short documentary film by Ginita Jimenez of Father Films tells the intriguing story of how the ever-controversial planet Pluto was first named. It is a very human drama, and one that should be better known than it is. [Read more...]