Celestial events in the skies for the week of Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2016, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
This is a busy week in space history when 37 people were blasted off the Earth into orbit about 225 miles high aboard six Space Shuttle flights. Now merely memories since the 2011 retirement of the Shuttle fleet, each of the 135 flights were amazing in their own right. One standout mission is the repair of the near-sighted Hubble Space Telescope 23 years ago this week, correcting a manufacturing flaw and paving the way for the incredible success of one of mankind’s greatest scientific tools.
Tues. Nov. 29
New Moon is today, and we’ll see it was from crescent to First Quarter this week. You’d be surprised how many people have never looked at the Moon through any telescope. Use low power (the highest number eyepiece like 25 mm) and save the higher power eyepieces (like 10 mm) for those really interested. Also, binoculars show lot so detail!
Wed. Nov. 30
On this 2000 date in space history, Endeavour was launched on the STS-97 mission. A veteran crew of 5 (3 men making their third spaceflight and two men on their second) flew to the growing International Space Station 230 miles high and installed the first set of solar panels during three spacewalks. Aboard the ISS was the first three-member crew, called Expedition 1, putting 8 humans in space at the same time.
Thurs. Dec. 1
The crescent Moon is heading to brilliant Venus and will stand by Mars on Monday. Despite looking large, you can always cover up the Moon with an arm-extended pinky finger!
Fri. Dec. 2
Four American Space Shuttle crews totaling 24 astronauts will be thinking about today as their blast off date with outer space. In 1988, Atlantis was launched with five astronauts on a classified US Defense Department mission deploying a spy satellite; in 1990, Columbia and seven astronauts were launched on an astronomy mission with Astro 1, an array of four telescopes in the payload bay; in 1992, Discovery was launched with five astronauts on another top secret mission for the Defense Department; in 1993 STS-61 had Endeavour on the important 10-day repair mission of the myopic Hubble Space Telescope with seven astronauts taking part in the successful mission. Only the Orbiter Challenger didn’t fly on this date.
Sat. Dec. 3
In 1974, Pioneer 11 flew by Jupiter on Dec. 2nd, following its twin Pioneer 10, which flew by a year earlier on Dec. 4, 1973. Becoming the first unmanned spacecraft to fly by the largest planet Jupiter, Pioneer 10 not only dazzled the public with amazing close-up images of its complex cloud system and famous Red Spot, but scientists were elated with the bonanza of scientific data, revealing a complex magnetic field among other discoveries.
Sun. Dec. 4
In 1998, Space Shuttle Endeavour was blasted with six astronauts into space carrying the American module Unity in its cargo bay. The primary docking adapter Unity was connected with the orbiting Russian Zarya command module to form the core of the International Space Station.
Mon. Dec. 5
In 2001, Endeavour was rocketed into orbit three years after connecting the first modules of the International Space Station. This time seven astronauts on the Shuttle had in its cargo bay the Italian module Raffaello being ferried up with supplies to the half-complete ISS. Raffaello was stowed in the Shuttle and brought back with used equipment, experiments and garbage.