Celestial events in the skies for the week of Oct. 3-9, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Shine on Harvest Moon as our neighbor in space is at full phase and illuminating the night. In just a month, that moonlight will silhouette bare trees instead of the colorful foliage that is dropping to the ground this week. The predawn sky features Venus and Mars rising ahead of the Sun, and the evening sees Saturn setting with the Milky Way.
Tuesday, October 3
Happy birthday 82nd birthday to Apollo 16 moonwalker Charlie Duke. On his only spaceflight, Duke and John Young, 87, enjoyed three days in the lunar mountains in April 1972, putting almost 20 miles on the Lunar Rover. Duke was the mission control Capcom talking to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the historic July 20, 1969 landing, saying “a bunch of guys are about to turn blue in the face” waiting for the landing confirmation.
Wednesday, October 4
The Moon is at full phase today, rising in the east as the Sun sets in the west. On this 1957 date in space history the Space Age began as the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite in Earth orbit, Sputnik 1.
Thursday, October 5
On this 1984 date in space history, Space Shuttle Challenger was launched on the STS-41G mission. This was the first seven-person crew in outer space, and included Kathleen Sullivan, who became the first American woman to walk in space.
Friday, October 6
In 1990, Discovery was rocketed into space from Cape Kennedy on a mission that deployed the Ulysses spacecraft, the first to orbit the Sun’s poles. In 1992, NASA and the Russian Space Agency signed an historic agreement to share astronauts and cosmonauts in the construction of the International Space Station.
Saturday, October 7
On this 1959 date in space history, the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first photos of the backside of the Moon. Today NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is taking photos in unprecedented detail and sniffing for chemicals on the surface of our closest neighbor in space.
Sunday, October 8
Saturn sets this week around 10:30 pm, taking with it the Milky Way in constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius. In a month, the ringed world will be saying goodbye to the night and reappear in the December morning skies.
Monday, October 9
When you look at the Moon tonight, and you know you probably will—even if out a window—think of the frozen water at the poles and in deep craters. On this date in 2009, NASA announced their spacecraft called LCROSS had discovered ice beneath the surface of craters at the South Pole that never see the warmth of sunlight.