Astronomy Tid Bits
These Tid-bits come courtesy of the St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium.
24th – If you’re up bright and early tomorrow morning look for the waning Gibbous Moon in the east. The pale yellow “star-like” object to the lower right of the Moon is the planet Saturn.
25th – The liquid hydrogen in the Space Shuttle main engine is –423 degrees Fahrenheit, and when burned with liquid oxygen, the temperature in the engine’s combustion chamber reaches +6000 degrees F.
26th – Major Gherman Titov (USSR) was 25 years old for his first space launch making him the youngest man in space. He was also the first man to spend a day in space, sleep in space and have space motion sickness.
27th – The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) looks like a saucepan this time of year resting along the northern horizon of our sky. Look for this star pattern at around 8 p.m.
28th – The Cassini spacecraft is scheduled to flyby Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. It will pass within 800 miles of the moon’s surface and send data and images back to Earth.
29th – Mars and Earth reach their closest approach to each other. Mars rises in the east at 6:43 p.m. and remains in the sky all night long. Mars shines a pumpkin orange color and is near the Pleiades star cluster.
30th – On this date in 2003, our Sun produced one of the most powerful solar flares in recorded history. Seen across the electromagnetic spectrum, the Sun briefly became over 100 times brighter in X-rays than normal.
1st – On this date in 1884, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was universally established. Also known as Universal Time (UT), it is expressed in the 24-hour system and astronomers use it to describe when celestial events happen in a way that is independent of an observer’s time zone.
2nd - Astronomer Harlow Shapley, known as "The Modern Copernicus," was born today in 1885. He discovered the Sun's position in our Milky Way galaxy, and determined its diameter to be roughly 100,000 light years.
3rd - On this date in 1957 a dog, named Laika, became the first Earth creature to fly in space. Laika, along with several other dogs, were recruited into the Soviet space program from the streets of Moscow.
4th – Can you spot the young Moon tonight? The Moon is less than 3 days old and can be found in the southwest after sunset. Sunlight reflected by Earth will faintly illuminate the unlit portion of the Moon. This is called Earthshine.
5th – The James S. McDonnell Planetarium will hold a special Mars event starting this evening at 7:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, as members from the St. Louis Astronomical Society will provide views of Mars through their telescopes and answer your questions.
6th – Waxing and waning; denotes the changing illumination of the Moon (or other body) over time. The Moon waxes, growing more illuminated, between its new and full phases, and wanes, becoming less illuminated, between its full and new phases.
7th – Mars reaches opposition tonight. Opposition means that the Sun, Earth and Mars are in a straight line with Earth in the middle. Mars will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west tonight.
8th - On this day in 1656, Edmund Halley was born. Though he did not discover the comet that bears his name, his prediction of its return proved that comets were objects of the Solar System and, like the planets, orbited the Sun.
9th – Carl Sagan was born on this date in 1934. He was best known for his book and PBS television series, Cosmos, and was also a leading figure in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
10th – Stars in our night sky have been assigned numbers based on their apparent brightness (how bright a star appears in the sky). Astronomers call this the magnitude scale. The higher the magnitude number, the fainter the object.
11th – Look for the planet Mars, and the two stars Aldebaran and Capella in the eastern sky after dark. They form a large upside down triangle. The star cluster inside the triangle and to the lower left of Mars is the Pleiades star cluster.
12th – The bright red star in the constellation Taurus the Bull is called Aldebaran and it represents what our sun may look like in about five billion years. Look for this star and constellation in our eastern sky after dark.
13th – Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet on this date in 1971. The 506 kg (1,116-pound) spacecraft circled Mars twice each day for a full year, photographing the surface and analyzing the atmosphere, temperature, and topography of Mars.
14th - Just after sunset, look to the east to find a nearly Full Moon, and the planet Mars dangling below. Mars, so bright due to its closeness to Earth at this time, will be the third brightest object in the night sky.
15th – Full “Beaver” Moon Tonight. The interpretation for this moon suggests the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. Now is the time to set the beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm furs.
16th - First intentional interstellar radio signal was sent from Earth on this date in 1974. The message was sent toward M13, a globular star cluster some 21,000 light years away in Hercules, during the dedication of the Arecibo Radio Telescope. Earthlings should expect a reply in 42,000 years.
17th - The annual Leonid Meteor Shower peaks tonight. Look toward the eastern sky after midnight; the constellation Leo rises directly to the east around this time. Expect to see 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
18th – Alan Shepard, America’s first man in space, was born today in 1923. His Freedom 7 Mercury capsule, built in St. Louis, was launched on May 5, 1961. He went on to become one of only 12 humans who walked on the Moon.
19th – Happy Birthday to Colonel Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot and, later, to command a U.S. space shuttle. She is a veteran of four space flights, including space shuttle Discovery’s Return to Flight.
20th – American astronomer Edwin Hubble was born on this date in 1889. He was best known for his development of the concept that our universe is constantly expanding. The Hubble Space Telescope was named after him.
21st – Planet Saturn is a gem of an object to look at in the evening sky. Look for Saturn to the right of the waning gibbous Moon after they rise together late this evening.
22nd - Did you know that black holes don’t suck? If our Sun turned into a black hole, the gravitational force would not pull in the planets of our solar system. They would continue to orbit in the same way but our solar system would be a cold, dark place.
23rd – The moon is at apogee (furthest point from Earth) and resides 404,307 kilometers (251,114 miles) from Earth.
24th – On late fall evenings, the constellation Cassiopeia is at its highest and seen almost directly overhead when you face north. This bright, distinctive constellation will look like a flattened letter “M”.
25th – The holiday season is upon us and telescopes are often times at the top of that special someone’s gift list. If you want expert advice in purchasing a telescope, call the McDonnell Planetarium at (314) 286-4693.
26th – Capella, the brightest star in the northeast shines a pale yellow-white color. It is the 6th brightest star in our sky and located in the constellation Auriga the Charioteer.
27th – The thin waning crescent Moon hangs in the pre-dawn sky tomorrow morning with planet Jupiter to the lower left and fainter Spica to its upper right.
28th: Our wintertime friend, Orion the Hunter, sits above the eastern horizon after 9:00 p.m. tonight. Orion is the best-known configuration of stars in our sky second to the Big Dipper (Ursa Major).
29th: Chimp In Space! Mercury 5 was launched to orbit on this date in 1961 with a chimpanzee passenger named Enos. The chimpanzee fared well and completed two orbits above the Earth in just over 3 hours.
30th: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is best seen overhead or near the zenith point tonight around 9 p.m. This galaxy is a huge star city much like our own Milky Way. When you view the Andromeda Galaxy, you are seeing the galaxy as it existed 2.2 million years ago.