Hey, sky fans! It’s been a pretty quiet and cloudy few days in the skies lately, and I’ve been focussing on a few other things lately, not the least of which is the fact that I can’t seem to spell focuss… ga… focusing correctly no matter how hard I try. One day I’ll get it.
Here we are at Thanksgiving again here in the US. I always love Thanksgiving. It’s not just about the food. It’s too bad that we really only make a point to set aside one day, but it’s better than not at all. So, it’s really a good time to, well, give thanks, but that’s nothing to minimize; it’s something that’s very important to me. I want to thank you for taking the time to stop and read. I appreciate it. We’re all busy, so the fact that you take the time, means a lot.
With the skies are as cloudy and my neighborhood as windy as it’s been, it’s sometimes hard to get out to see what’s going on. Funnily enough, the clouds and winds moved in, bringing cooler, more seasonable weather with them, just in time for the big perigee full Moon earlier this month. Since then, the days have been clear, but the by the time the night skies take over, a curtain of overcast settles in and blocks out all but the most determined stars. With the Moon on the late-night shift, these days would be good ones to watch some of the gorgeous things in the skies during these transitional days, but no such luck. Maybe tomorrow. That’s the great thing about being an astronomy fan; there’s always tomorrow.
Well, it’s time to pick myself up, and get back to writing things here. Just because things in the skies have been a bit quiet and I haven’t had a lot to say, doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some interesting things happening, though. There always seems to be.
First, I owe you a bit of an apology. The other day, which is a couple of weeks ago now, I while I was celebrating the… you know what… how about I run through some of the notes I’ve been sticking to my notebook. How about some November Post-Its?
In no particular order, well, okay, I lied. In a particular order:
- Earlier this week, American astronaut Peggy Whitson, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy made their way to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. Commander Whitson is the first woman ever to be commander of the ISS. This is her third trip to the ISS, and with it, she’ll become the oldest woman in space. She’ll turn 57 before she comes home in about six months. Safe travels, Commander Whitson!
- A nova that was discovered toward the end of October in the constellation Sagittarius has brightened over the last couple of weeks and is now bright enough to be seen with binoculars. A nova, which might be easily confused with a supernova, is a very different thing. While a supernova is the collapse and explosion of a dense star at the end of its life, a nova is an explosion that happens on the surface of a white dwarf as the dwarf pulls, or accretes, material from a nearby companion star. This accreted material fuses so quickly that it causes a runaway reaction. The nova brightens temporarily and can put on a good show seen from here on Earth. If only these clouds…! Here’s a bunch more from Sky & Telescope.
- We keep learning more and more about the Pluto system from the data that came in as our old friend New Horizons sped through last year. Can you believe it was almost a year and a half ago? This week, news came out that it’s believed that could be a slushy ocean of water under the Pluto’s surface, with a lot of the reasoning for it centered around the part of the giant heart-shaped area called Sputnik Planum. So, there’s more water somewhere in the solar system. It’s amazing; it seems lately everywhere we look, there’s water. Where will we find it next? There’s more here over at Phys.org. If you’re keeping score at home, New Horizons is about 3.5 billion miles away from home, which is about 400 million miles past Pluto, and heading toward it’s meeting with Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 in January 2019 at about 32,000 miles per hour. That’s far enough away that it takes radio signals over five hours to get there from Earth; over then hours round trip.
- And, finally, back to that apology. When I mentioned the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 12 on November 14, I forgot to mention just a couple of days before was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Gemini 12, flown by Jim “Apollo 13” Lovell, and Buzz “Apollo 11” Aldrin, which launched on November 11, 1966; the last manned Gemini mission. I know lots of people tend to look past the Gemini program because it was the middle program between the start of the space age (Mercury) and the trips to the Moon (Apollo), but without it, Apollo would never have happened. Specifically, if not for Aldrin’s heroics on Gemini 12, Apollo might never have happened. He almost single-handedly proved that people could work on spacewalks and live to tell about it. He figured out the training, figured out how to do it; figured out how to operate in space. Without that, trips to the Moon were off, as the kids say, the table. Come on, this is the 50th anniversary! Here’s to them!
Thanks for stopping by, as always. I hope, whether it’s Thanksgiving where you are or not, you have a great day. Clear skies, everyone!