June 6, 2020

May 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

April’s rising Pink Moon. (Photo by Author).

The month of May brings with it the beginnings of true summer-like weather for most of the northern hemisphere. We’ve survived a wacky weather spring, and the planets are just starting to peep out from behind the Sun in the dawn sky. What follows is projects in the works and goings-on that are up and coming this month from all things Astroguyz;  

Coming to a Sky Near You: The dawn planetary groupings continue in the first week of May, with a sinking Venus meeting a rising Mercury, Jupiter and Mars, all located in the early morning sky. The Eta Aquarids peak on the 5th, with an expected zenithal hourly rate of about 30. A favorable opposition of the usually tough to find 9th magnitude asteroid 10 Hygiea runs from May 6th thru the 22nd, and a close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus occurs on the 11th. We’ll also look at a unique pair of stars 64 & 65 Geminorum, and go hunting for the Vanguard series of satellites. One of the best asteroid occultations, 270 Eudora occurs on the morning of the 29th running from Oregon to Florida, and the Full Flower Moon occurs on May 17th. And don’t forget Astronomy Day on May 7th embedded in Astronomy week at the beginning of the month!

This Month in Science: As the bright star Sirius sinks low to the west at dusk, we’ll look at the curious case of the Dogon and take a critical look their beliefs surrounding this intriguing star. We’ll also look at ways to “pimp your scope” with easy and inexpensive add-ons that will enhance your optical experience. On May 17th, at 1PM EDT, NASA will hold a chat to discuss the science surrounding its high-flying SOFIA telescope. Finally, we’ll look at reviews for What are Gamma-Ray Bursts?, Unmasking Europa, and The Kaguya Lunar Atlas.

This Month in Science Fiction: If you haven’t pre-ordered yours already, be sure to get out there and get a copy of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s City of Ruins out this month. Also forthcoming from Pyr Books, we’ll review George Mann’s Ghosts of War. Finally, the June 1st time-frame means to be on the lookout for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Awards, celebrating the very worst (and hilarious) in prose.

Launches in May: As of this writing, the beginning of May should see the shuttle orbiter Endeavour in space one last time, delivering the AMS-02 to the International Space Station. The first scheduled launch for the month is an Atlas V out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on May 6th, carrying the Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite (SBIRS GEO 1) into orbit. This will be followed on May 14th by a launch of TacSat 4 out of the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska. The big launch this month from Kourou, French Guiana will be an Ariane 5 carrying ST2 and GSAT 8 communications satellites on May 19th, and on the following day, a Proton rocket is slated to liftoff out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying Telstar 1. The final scheduled launch of the month is a Minotaur 1 rocket out of Wallops Island, Virginia on May 30th, carrying the Operationally Responsive Space 1 (ORS) satellite for the military. A To-Be-Determined launch of a Soyuz carrying Kanopus-Vulcan & BelKA 2 Earth-sensing satellite from the Baikonur could occur in May. Follow the monthly launch schedule over at SpaceFlightNow or via our very own @Astroguyz Twitter feed!

Astro-Atta-Boy: This is a new addition to our monthly roundup, a place to recognize folks that bother to get the astronomy right. This month’s award goes to the TV series Numb3rs, a show that presents advanced concepts in math and science in an engaging fashion. From P versus NP to Fibonacci & the Golden Ratio, to the Elevator Box dilemma, Numb3rs is a show that delves deep into scientific skepticism and has sent us Googling a time or three. The series in its entirety is up for viewing via Netflix… I’ve found very little astronomical science to quibble with over the series’ six season run. Think of Numb3rs as CSI with math; kudos to the writers and producers for pulling off such an engaging and scientifically accurate show. The show won the Carl Sagan Award for the Public Understanding of Science in 2006, and was then unceremoniously axed from the CBS line-up last year. The blog by Mark Bridger of Northwestern University giving a show by show breakdown of the science and math involved is nearly as engaging as the dramatic action! 

Astro Bloopers: The series The Vampire Diaries recently used the return of a comet spotted in the 1860’s as a plot device… granted, I don’t expect stellar science from a show about vampires, but they depicted the tail of the comet headed the wrong way! How do we know this? A crescent moon was in the frame… this gives us the orientation of the two objects relative to the sun. The tail should have been pointing away from the horizon, along the same direction as the Moon’s horns. Cometary tails can even sweep out in front of a comet as it heads out of our solar system… and I could have gave them a pass if they hadn’t depicted the Moon!

This Month in Astro-History: On May 27, 1999: STS-96 Space Shuttle Discovery became the first shuttle orbiter to dock with the ISS. Thus began the decade long construction phase of the International Space Station that is just wrapping up this year…hey, YOU try building a house and living in it at the same time!  Also, on May 19th is the 4th anniversary of the site www.astroguyz.com… Since 07’, baby. The Sky Awaits!

Astro Quote of the Month:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself…and you are the easiest person to fool.”

                                                                -Richard Feynman at a Caltech commencement address in 1974.



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