When to Look up to the Stars in 2018

Stargazing and space exploration enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to in 2018. The exciting events taking place in our solar system begin in January. Unique lunar displays, meteor showers, and international journeys into space make for an exciting new year.
Blue, Blood, Supermoon
The complex names describe a number of events occurring on January 31. First of all, we will witness the second full moon for the month, which is referred to as the Blue Moon. The event happens approximately once every 30 months. The moon will also venture 50,000 kilometers closer than usual. The path makes the “perigee-syzygy” or Supermoon appear 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than usual. The Blood Moon is so named due to the lunar eclipse that occurs when the moon passes into the shadow of the Earth. Although the moon is fully shadowed, light from the sun refracts toward the celestial body creating a blood red color.

March Moon Exploration
During the month or March, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, lander, and rover take a trip to the moon. The Chandrayaan mission is one of the many that countries have scheduled throughout 2018. The craft will be equipped with a variety of instrumentation designed to map and study the moon’s contents, which include minerals and water content. The country is excited as this will be the first lunar landing for India. They plan on making the journey to the planet’s south pole.

Perseids Meteor Shower
From August 11 through August 13, the skies come to life with streaks of meteors sailing through the northern hemisphere. The popular event takes place when our planet collides with the tail of the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. The size of debris pieces scattered varies. Larger pieces create the spectacular fireballs that thrill observers. There will be a new moon during the three days, which heightens visibility. The show entails approximately 100 meteors per hour.

Geminids Meteor Shower
From December 13 through December 15, the sky once again puts on a show as the Earth impacts with debris from the tail of the 32 Phaethon asteroid. However, optimal visibility will not occur until after midnight due to there being the first quarter of the moon. At that time, there will be an estimated 120 meteors per hour flashing through the atmosphere.

What We Know About Our Planets

Planets seem like a foreign idea to most but there is quite a bit of information and research we have about the planets in our solar system. It has been said that we know more about our neighboring planets than we do our own oceans. With a solar system that has been in place for billions of years, there is so much history so far away that has yet to be discovered.

 

What We Know

The planets closest to the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are all terrestrial planets. These planets have solid, rock-like surfaces which are quite different from earth. These planets are also, naturally, uninhabitable for humans. They have varying atmospheric differences that make them impossible for humans to naturally breathe. As well, the two outer planets beyond Mars’ orbit, Jupiter and Saturn, are known as “gas giants” while Uranus and Neptune are dubbed “ice giants”.

 

NASA is at the forefront of obtaining more information about our planets. Voyager 1 and 2, launched by NASA, are the first space crafts to explore the outer reaches of earth’s solar system.

 

Pluto has been downgraded from a planet to now considered a dwarf planet. With the redefinition of a planets and dwarf planets, new dwarf planets have been identified. These dwarf planets reside in the Kuiper Belt, which is past Neptune. This is information that has lead researchers to believe that there is an existence of a ninth planet. The California Institute of Technology believes that Planet Nine does in fact exist but it is also 10 times the size of Earth’s mass. Planet Nine is so far out of the norm circumference of this solar system that takes 20,000 Earth years to completely orbit the sun.

 

The Next Earth

The search for a planet similar to earth has not been that successful in the past few years. It was not until NASA’s Kepler telescope discovered over 3 thousand planets. With researchers making some great strides to an Earth 2.0, many have been a bit unsuccessful. There is a new European observatory that is expected to be completed by 2024 with the goal of finding that Earth 2.0. A planet similar to Earth would give society something to compare our world to. It would also further the discussion of life in space and a place where humans could travel to.

British Astronaut Tim Peake Begins Six Month Residence Aboard the ISS

As of December 15, British astronaut Tim Peake began his stay aboard the International Station. On December 15, he blasted off from Kazakhstan on the Soyuz rocket to begin his six month residence on the International Space Station.

According to the British Interplanetary Society, Peake is the seventh UK-born individual to go into space. The first was former chemist Helen Sharman, who participated in the Soviet scientific space mission Juno in 1991. Nonetheless, Peake is making history as the first official UK astronaut. Past British-born astronauts acquired U.S. citizenship, had dual citizenship, or they were space tourists.

American astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian astronaut Yuri Malenchenko joined the International Space Station (ISS) alongside Peake. The three men arrived to the space platform six hours after departing from Kazakhstan, and the astronauts occupying the Soyuz space capsule were greeted by the existing resident ISS astronauts.

The ISS indicated the launched “beautiful” and there were no reported problems at blast off. However, there had been complications earlier with the automatic docking procedure prior to Peake’s arrival, which resulted in a need for the spacecraft to be steered by the Russian commander in order to dock it.

According to BBC’s science editor Paul Rincon, it’s rare for the ISS crew to manually dock the spacecraft because it’s easily regarded as one of the most difficult stages of the journey. However, the skill need to correctly manually dock the spacecraft is exactly Peake and fellow crew were brought aboard, in order to correct a range of other potential failures.

It takes approximately four orbits of the earth and six hours to reach the ISS, which will be home to the crew members for the next few months. Already aboard the craft was NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov, who are approaching the ninth month of the their one-year ISS mission.

Peake, who is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut with a background as a test pilot and a British Army Air Corps officer, will conduct scientific experiments while living on the ISS. He will also design educational projects, fashioned to attract young people’s interest in science. Peake has been flying since 1994 after completing the army pilots’ course. He became a qualified flight instructor in 1998 and joined the European Space Agency in 2009 after being selected as an astronaut. He’s spent about six years training to become the first professional British ESA-employed astronaut in space.

Peake is temporarily leaving behind his earth-bound wife, Rebecca, who watched the launch from below. Also, his mother, Angela, watched the docking live from a cinema near the launch site. He’s set to return June 5, 2016.