Babe Among the Stars

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Babe Among the Stars 17-30 July 08

On 17 July in 1975, the Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts docked in space, in the first-ever link-up between the USA and the USSR. On 18 July, 1921, Colonel John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, was born in Cambridge, Ohio. On 21 July, 1620, French astronomer Jean-Felix Picard was born. He devised the system of right ascension for measuring positions of celestial objects in relation to the Earth, which is still in use today. The PICARD microsatellite mission is named after him, and there's also a Picard crater on the Moon. German astronomer Friedrich Bessel, winner of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1829, was born on 22 July, 1784. The first EVA (spacewalk) by a female happened on 25 July, 1984, the lady in question was Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya. Another birthday celebration this month is for Lenka Kotková - on 26 July she will be 35. Lenka searches the sky for near-earth objects (NEOs) and has so far discovered over 100 asteroids. British astronomer Jeremiah Dixon was born on 27 July, 1733, he was one half of the famous Mason-Dixon partnership. In 1769 Dixon travelled to Norway for a good vantage point to observe the greatly-anticipated Transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Unfortunately the bane of astronomers is inclement weather, and Norway was clouded over. Still more unfortunate, (for Dixon), if he'd stayed in England, he'd have witnessed the event, as the Rev Gilbert White did, in his own garden in Selborne, Hampshire.

The Green Galaxy

Last year I joined a programme classifying galaxies for a project called Galaxy Zoo. It wasn't long before the most-obsessed were invited to join a forum where they could chat and upload interesting images. There I met a Dutch schoolteacher called Hanny, and one of her discoveries was rapidly nicknamed Hanny's Voorwerp. No-one knew what the object was - it's the wrong colour (green) and the wrong shape (it's either a frog or a gremlin) to be a 'proper' galaxy but it was classified as one. Research is ongoing, in the meantime the Kermit-galaxy was featured as Astronomy Picture of the Day on 25 June 2008. Well done Hanny!

Highlights This Month

This month Venus reverts from 'morning star' to 'evening glory'. On the evening of 18 July Venus will pass through M44 (the Beehive Cluster) in the constellation  Cancer 'the crab'. On 26 June Venus will have crossed into the constellation Leo 'the lion'. Jupiter is supremely majestic in the south east, you don't need binoculars to view our Solar System's largest planet, but if you have an optical aid there are four of the Jovian system's moons on show.

Diary Dates

Coming up next time: A total solar eclipse on 1 August.

  • Chat about your celestial observances by starting a new conversation below

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