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
Lost and Found in Space
In November 2014 the European Space Agency attempted to land a probe on the body of a comet. The probe, called Philae, suffered a harpoon malfunction and wasn't in a position to recharge its solar-powered batteries. Two years have almost passed and Philae has been located on the surface of Comet C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko (aka Comet 67P). At the end of September, the spacecraft Rosetta which delivered Philae to the comet and was still in tow, was directed to crash into the comet. The impact brings an end to the 12-year mission, which ESA scientists declare a 'great success' and work continues on analysing the unique cometary data collected by Philae and Rosetta.
Closest ET Neighbours?
The closest star to our own Sun is a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri, which is part of the Alpha Centauri system. During August 2016 planetary scientists publicised their discovery of a planet, tentatively named Proxima b, in orbit. If the planet is rocky, it's at least 1.1 Earth radius and 1.27 Earth mass, orbiting its star once every 11+ days. That doesn't discount it being capable of sustaining life though, as the star has only 12% the mass of our own Sun. Hopefully we will be able to send a robotic probe to visit the alpha Centauri system and say hi to any Proxima b denizens in the not-too-distant future. At only 4.2 light years distant, it'll only take a few centuries to get a reply back!
October 2016 Diary Dates
Coming up this month in the western time zone is a so-called 'black moon', which is a second new moon in a calendar month.
- 01: New Moon
- 02: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 03: The Moon passes 5° north of Venus
- 04: The Moon is at apogee
- 05: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 06: The Moon passes 4° north of Saturn
- 08: The Moon passes 7° north of Mars
- 09: The 1.1km-asteroid 2100 Ra-Shalom will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
- 10: Mercury passes within one degree of Jupiter
- 12: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 13: The Moon passes 1.2° north of Neptune
- 16: Full Moon
- 16: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 16: The Moon is at perigee
- 18: The 21m-asteroid 2014 UR will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
- 18/19 The Moon passes through the Hyades star cluster (Caldwell 41)
- 19: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 19: The Moon passes 0.3° north of Aldebaran (alpha Tauri)
- 21: Orionid meteor shower peaks
- 24: The 1km-asteroid 2005 SE71 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
- 25: Venus passes 3° north of Antares (alpha Scorpii)
- 26: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 28: The Moon passes 1.4° north of Jupiter
- 30: New Moon (a 'black moon')
- 30: Venus passes 3° south of Saturn
- 30: All four Galilean moons will be on one side of Jupiter
- 31: The Moon is at apogee
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.