February 22, 2020

August 2010: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

The sultry days of summer are now upon us, in what’s usually the last of the traditional northern hemisphere summer months. You can almost feel the darkness beginning its slow creep back into our daily lives. Although we continue to operate in “stripped down mode” new Astroguyz content will  still continue to be generated on a bi-weekly basis. Here’s what you can expect coming to an astro-blog near you;

Coming to a Sky Near You: The month opens with Lammas (or “Loaf Mass”) Day on the 1st, the most esoteric and unknown of the modern cross-quarter days. Although the Dog Days of summer are well underway, we also invite you to attempt a sighting of the helical rising of Sirius to commemorate the event. No doubt the big ticket item this month will be the Perseid meteor shower, due to peak under moonless skies on the 12th. Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation this month in the dusk skies, and continues a night to night interplay with the Moon, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury through mid-month. An interesting asteroid occultation of a +8.4 magnitude star by 16 Psyche occurs on the morning of the 21st for observers across the central US. And that Full Sturgeon Moon on August 24th also holds the distinction of being the closest to lunar apogee and therefore the farthest of the year.

This Month in Science: This month, we take a look at two well known astronomy magazines and let you decide if they’re worth your hard-earned astro-dollar. We also examine the crucial work Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum… is scientific literacy in America in crisis? Finally, we’ll explore the fine art of Iridium flare spotting.

This Month in Science Fiction: Hey, did you know that we finally got a chance to see Avatar? Expect a review in this spot in the coming months… this month, we go retro with the classic 50 Short Science Fiction Stories as presented by Isaac Asimov. Also, we look at that most vaunted of science fiction poetry awards, The Rhyslings. Will your literary masterpiece be represented?

Launches in August: Space launches are kind of lean this month; August 4th sees the Ariane 5 launch out of Kourou, French Guiana of the Rascom-QAF 1R communications satellite. This is followed by an August 12th launch of an Atlas 5 carrying the first in a series of Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, the only launch out of the Cape this month. Two final possibilities under the To Be Determined category are an H-2A launch of the Michibiki navigation satellite out of the Tanegashima Space Center, and a possible Minotaur 4 launch out of Vandenberg carrying the first satellite of the Space-Based Surveillance System. Follow these launch updates on SpaceFlightNow and/or follow us at @Astroguyz on Twitter!

Astro Bloopers: A tiny gaffe concerning sci-fi lore caught our eye while reading our advance copy of Voyager last month; the author states incorrectly that the setting for the climax of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey occurred on the “Jovian Moon Iapetus…” Iapetus is a moon of Saturn. Originally, Clarke had set Iapetus as the locale of the final monolith, and the novel reads that way. Kubrick decided to set the screen adaptation in orbit around Jupiter, as it was much easier to cobble together convincing graphics with the special effects of the day.

This Month in Astro-History: The twin Martian moons of Deimos and Phobos were discovered in August 1877 on the 12th and 18th, respectively. This feat was accomplished by American astronomer Asaph Hall while observing Mars near opposition from the U.S. Naval Observatory. Recently, the Mars Express orbiter made a close pass by Phobos, and next year, the Russian Space Agency will launch the Phobos-Grunt mission to land on the diminutive moon. Both are almost certainly captured asteroids, and Phobos bares a striking resemblance to asteroid 21 Lutetia that Rosetta imaged last month.

Astro Quote of the Month: “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”

- Will Durant, American writer and historian.

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