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
Mercury Transit from Mars and the next Earth Transit
The Curiosity rover on Mars imaged the planet Mercury transiting the Sun on 3 June, 2014. This was the first time in history that a transit of the Sun has been witnessed from another planet than the Earth, and also the first time Mercury has been imaged from Mars. The Earth also transits the Sun from the vantage point of Mars, of course. The next time this will occur will be 70 years from now, on 10 November, 2084. I wonder if there'll be a Martian base by then, containing human pioneers who will witness this celestial event for themselves?
Seeking out new NEOs
The Zooniverse team have begun a new initiative - to try and detect as many Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) as possible using the general public to assist (any results are termed 'citizen science'). To learn more visit Asteroid Zoo. You'll be shown a set of four images in sequence, which you can view and animate in different ways, and you have to try and spot the asteroid moving between them. I'm told it's rather addictive but as at the time of writing I haven't had a chance to try it out myself. I hope to be able to soon, though, and do please let me know what you think about this project if you participate! Also, what should we do with this knowledge? How can we protect the Earth from PHAs even if we had advance warning of a potential strike?
Name That Planet
The IAU (International Astronomical Union) are now accepting nominations to name extrasolar planets. If you wish to call one 'Bob' after your uncle, then you'll need to read these instructions carefully. Please do let me know if you apply!
August 2014 Diary Dates
- 02: The 2km-wide asteroid 2002 JN97 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
- 03: The Moon passes 2° north of Mars
- 04: There will be less than a tenth of a degree between the Moon and Saturn
- 07: Venus passes 7° south of Pollux (beta Geminorum)
- 10: Full Moon - the Sturgeon, Red or Fruit Moon - as the Moon is at perigee, this is the largest Full Moon of the year
- 11: The Moon passes 5° north of Neptune
- 12: The Perseid meteor shower peaks. Unfortunately this year's show will likely be drowned out by moonlight
- 14: The Moon passes 1.2° north of Uranus
- 17: The 2.2km-wide asteroid 2001 RZ11 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
- 17: The 1.1km-wide asteroid 2013 WT67 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
- 17: Venus passes 0.2° north of Jupiter
- 18 (pre-dawn): Venus and Jupiter will align
- 23: The Moon passes 5° south of Jupiter
- 24: The Moon passes 6° south of Venus
- 24: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
- 25: New Moon
- 27: The Moon passes 3° south of Mercury
- 27: Mars passes 4° south of Saturn
- 31: The Moon passes within half a degree of Saturn
- 31: The Moon passes 4° north of Mars
Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.