This Christmas it is 50 years since the first humans got an up close and personal look at the Moon. Apollo 8 was launched on 21 December 1968 and entered lunar orbit on 24 December, just in time for the crew to celebrate Christmas further from the Earth than anyone had ever celebrated Christmas, or anything else, ever.
In New Zealand, Space Starts with Sheep; a new season is about to open for exoplanets as scientists discover an efficient method to predict microlensing; Earth’s Moon to be used as a giant radio telescope; “Hello, Andromeda calling”, gravitational waves might be used to carry information; 1500 km long water cloud appears on Mars after the planet-wide storm from last month, while InSider probe has only one month left hurling through space, and will land on Mars in November; scientists narrow down the landing sites for Mars 2020 rover; change of plans, why not land among the clouds of Venus? Hubble and Chandra telescopes have been repaired, mostly by switching them on and off and stay tuned for the position of Uranus in the sky.
This Saturday night is International Observe the Moon Night so hopefully the weather will be great and we can all catch a glimpse of the Moon.
Riding on Elon Musk’s muscle power earthlings are preparing to invade the Moon again. There they will find that some of its craters have been renamed to honour the Apollo 8 mission, the first to orbit our natural satellite 50 years ago. Venus is hailed by the Parker Solar probe that swings by it, Jupiter’s Moon Europa has 15 meters ice spikes on the surface and Saturn’s rings are not just water nor all the lost airline luggage. Mars has to resign to the idea that earthlings have figured out how to grow plants on it. Not even perchlorates can stop them. And last but not least, New Horizons is unstoppable going towards Ultima Thule.
It’s the Winter of the Planets and in the early evening this week you can see Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Then there is the Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning as well.
Next year is the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s voyage to the Pacific Ocean. One the things he did was contribute to a more accurate calculation of the distance between the Earth and the Sun by observing the transit of Venus.
The night sky this week is still all about the planets but if you’re quick, you can still spot some deep sky objects before the Moon gets too bright.
The Winter of planets continues with Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all at fantastic high positions over the week. Venus is also getting a bit higher out of the distorted atmosphere near the horizon.
Now that your telescope is all ready, take it outside and start viewing the night sky.
The night sky this week has a few treats including the asteroid Vesta, Mars and the Moon getting close, Jupiter’s moons crossing the planet and the fantastic nebulae in Sagittarius showing off.
Ian Cooper is a giant in New Zealand astrophotography. He has been capturing the night sky since the 1970s and in this article he takes us through some of the highlights and give us some tips.
Getting started with astronomical sketching can be daunting at first but before long you’ll be producing great looking sketches of your favourite night sky objects.
Asteroid mining is seen as a lucrative source of income and, on the surface, it appears to be a way of accessing almost limitless resources. It’s not that simple though, it’s difficult, expensive and at the edge of our technological ability. But it won’t be that way forever.
NASA’s plans to get to Mars are a bit slower than Elon Musk’s. They have many more steps and have plans to achieve some quite impressive things such as space station orbiting the Moon and capturing an asteroid.
SpaceX is well advanced in it’s plans to build a huge rocket to take humans to Mars and they plan to do this by 2024. This article has a closer look at the Big Falcon Rocket to see what’s so special about it.
The question of who owns the Moon has always been an interesting topic. Fortunately we have a treaty system to say that no one can own the Moon – but before this there were some very interesting and somewhat crazy claimants.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been whizzing around the Moon since 2009 collecting loads and loads of data that is going to be very useful for when humans return to the lunar surface.
This article explores what the Moon is made of – not cheese, in case you were wondering. The complex nature of its composition is quite amazing, as is its similarity to the Earth’s chemical makeup.
This article looks at some of the earlier mission to the Moon including some of the missions from the Luna and Ranger programmes of the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Moon has been with us for quite a while and Milky-Way.kiwi is going to celebrate our long term companion by declaring this Moon Week.
Being able to describe where to find stuff in the sky is a very handy way of learning the night sky. You don’t need an expensive piece of equipment, just your arm and the hand at the end of it.