January 28, 2020

September 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

Comet Garradd passing M71 in August. (Photo by Author).

Ahhhh, September…. The heat of August is behind us, as a young astronomer’s fancy turns to thoughts of dark skies and equinoctial nights. I swear, if they ever discover a planet that sports a perpetual New England Fall climate, I propose that a multi-generational interstellar ark be built, immediately. In the meantime, here are the events that you can expect to see coming to an Astro-Blog near you;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Comet 2009/C1 Garradd remains the evening comet that you should be watching, as it passes very near the Coat-hanger asterism in the constellation Sagitta on September 2nd. On the next day, the planet Mercury reaches its best morning apparition of the year, 18 degrees west of the Sun. That same night, the Moon occults the bright star Delta Scorpii for North American viewers, always a great sight to behold. The planet Uranus also reaches opposition on September 25th, and we’ll show you just what it takes to spot its elusive moons. On September 8th, the lunar crater Aristarchus reaches an illumination that has spawned reports of Transient Lunar Phenomena in the past… see any odd brightenings?  As Mercury leaves the morning apparition stage, it makes a close (0.8deg) pass near the bright star Regulus on the 9th. In the “double stars ARE cool” dept., we’ll also look at the colored double 95 Herculis. As Jupiter approaches opposition later this year, the shadow it casts causes a unique effect; on the 14th, you’ll be able to see the moon Ganymede “double-dip,” that is, disappear into the giant planet’s shadow, then reappear before vanishing behind the planet’s limb! Another unique lunar feature known as the Curtiss Cross reaches a favorable illumination on the 20th. Finally, the Autumnal Equinox occurs on the 23rd at 5:05 AM EDT, and the Full Harvest Moon occurs at 5:27AM EDT on the 12th.

This Month in Science: The 17th of September sees the triumphant return of Astroguyz to J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey and the beginning of the 2011-12 star party season! Come on out, argue cosmology or whether we really went to the Moon with us, or just wonder at the coolness that is our universe in whats sure to be the high-light of our month. Also, expect a very super-secret and exclusive cool interview as we venture over to the KSC on September 20th. In the science book review front, expect coverage of Strange New Worlds, a look at the science of the exosolar, plus Magik, Mayhem, and Mavericks, a look at the untold history of Western Science, and Falling to Earth, an Apollo 15 astronaut’s memoir.

This Month in Science Fiction: September is new TV month; series we’re anxiously checking our Hulu inbox for include The Big Bang Theory season 4 and Blood & Chrome, the latest series based in the Battlestar Galactica universe. On the Pyr books review front, expect a review of Black Halo from our ace Sci-Fi appraiser Sabrina, as well as a sneak peak at the Soviet cyber-thriller The Restoration Game, out this month.

Launches in September: The big ticket launch for September is the moon-bound GRAIL spacecraft atop a Delta 2 and accompanying Tweetup out of Cape Canaveral. Next up is the launch of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying Arabsat 5C & SES 2 out of Kourou, French Guiana on Sept. 9th.  The next Expedition to ISS from was to depart out of Baikonur Sept 21, but with the loss of the unmanned Soyuz/Progress spacecraft and subsequent investigation, all Soyuz launches are currently suspended and even the further habitation of the ISS is now in doubt. Always a fun launch complex to monitor, expect a Minotaur 4 launch carrying TacSat 4 on September 24th out of Kodiak, Alaska.  To be Determined Launches with dates but no firm times in September are as follows;

-          A Proton rocket with QuetzSat 1 out of Baikonur on Sept. 14th;

-          A Zenit 3SL rocket with Atlantic Bird 7 from the Pacific Ocean Odyssey Platform on Sept. 22nd;

-          A PSLV rocket with Megha-Tropiques (A joint France-India climate study project) out of Satish Dhawan on Sept. 25th;

-           A possible Soyuz (see above) launch carrying Kanopus-V & BelKA 2 out of Baikonur on the 29th.

In the “sometime in September” launch department, we have;

-          A Proton rocket carrying ViaSat 1 out of Baikonur;

-          A Long March 3B Rocket carrying the W3C satellite out of Xichang, China;

-          A Long March 2F rocket carrying the mini-space station laboratory Tiangong 1 to conduct preliminary docking tests out of Jiuquan China;

-          & finally, an H-2A rocket out of Tanegashima Japan with the IGS, or Information Gathering Satellite.

Follow all the updates over at SpaceFlightNow, or get the blistering play-by-play action by following @astroguyz on Twitter!   

Astro-Atta-Boy: As we’ve been working our way through Star Trek TNG via Netfix, a Season 6 episode worthy of praise caught our attention. (No, we don’t know every Trek episode line and verse, nor can we recite the Ferengi rules of acquisition; we just enjoy a good scientifically accurate Sci-Fi series, so don’t pummel us…) A mention is made that the Enterprise is headed off to witness a planetary collision that “will result in the ignition of a star…” As captain, I’d divert a starship to investigate such a phenomena too, for what it could tell us about the beginnings of stellar evolution. If the coalescing body reached an equivalent of 13 Jupiter masses, a low-grade, deuterium fusion could ignite in the core, and a brown dwarf could be born!

Astro Bloopers: But not so fast… a Season 6 Episode 18 of Star Trek TNG entitled “Starship Mine” included a whopper, one that recurs throughout much of the season. While in port, the Enterprise is swept “for contaminating baryons…” You, I, and the starship Enterprise are composed of “baryonic matter” in the form of protons and neutrons! A member of the Hadron family, baryons are composed of three each quarks and constitute most of the familiar matter in the universe. (Electrons are leptons). Better to scan the ship for “non-baryonic matter!”

Astro Quote of the Month: “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so.”

-American Writer & Humorist Artemus Ward.


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