Jul 16

What’s Up in the Sky

What’s Up in the Sky – July, 2015

More to Come!

I hope you were able to witness the close pairing of the planets Venus and Jupiter on June 30. It was certainly a rare event.

Seeing two planets – ANY two planets – at the same time in a telescope with a magnification of 60X is quite rare, to say the least. So I hope you were able to take this opportunity either with your own scope or by joining us at the State Park.

Later this month (July 14 to be exact) another close encounter will take place, this time not just in appearance but in reality. The New Horizons spacecraft, launched January 19, 2006, will fly past Pluto, the best known object in the Kuiper Belt.

Another dwarf planet, 1 Ceres, is currently being studied by the orbiting Dawn spacecraft. Unlike Dawn, New Horizons will not be able to orbit Pluto, but instead will zip by at over 8 miles per second on a one-way trip out of the solar system, like Voyager and Pioneer at Saturn. For a 48 hour period, it will be close enough for serious study.

Holland resident and SAAA member, Dr. Harold Reitsema has been a project scientist on the New Horizons mission since its beginnings. He informed me that images from the spacecraft already show surface markings on Pluto. During closest approach, data will be collected to get a better understanding of atmospheric activity and its effects on ice deposits.

Due to its great distance, resulting in a SLOW data feed, the results of the flyby will not be downloaded and processed until the fall. You can follow the mission on the web after a quick search on NASA’s web site.

Next month I will give you an update on the New Horizons mission as well as the LightSail mission about which I wrote last month.

Lots of under-reported history is happening up in the sky.

This month in history:

July 1: 100 inch mirror arrives at Mt. Wilson – 1917
July 4: Deep impact collides with comet – 2005
July 10: First transatlantic TV signals made possible by launch of Telstar – 1962
July 18: John Glenn born – 1921
July 20: First Humans walk on Moon (Apollo 11) – 1969
July 24: First rocket launched from Cape Canaveral – 1950