Celestial events in the skies for the week of Oct. 10-16, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The Moon moves into the after-midnight scene, and that leaves our skies dark earlier in the evening. With sunset around 7 pm and darkness creeping in around 8 pm, stargazers love the extra time to look around our Universe. This week in space history has some incredible missions, including some dangerous “firsts” in the 1960s Moon Race between the USA and USSR.
Tuesday, October 10
On this 1846 date in astronomy history, William Lassell discovered the Neptune moon Triton, slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. In 1989 Viking 2 photographed Triton with icy geysers of super cold nitrogen erupting. The Hubble Space Telescope has followed the action, and astrobiologists believe Triton could harbor life in its bizarre, super-cold liquids.
Wednesday, October 11
There was lots of action in space on this date in history: in 1969 Soyuz 6, 7 & 8 were all in orbit at once; in 2000 STS-92 mission with Shuttle Discovery was launched on a 12-day construction mission to the International Space Station. Also, in 2005, China’s Shenzhou 6 was launched with two “taikonauts” on a successful four-day mission, just the second manned mission by the Communist nation. That’s a total of 15 astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts who remember today at one of the most exciting in their lives when they blasted off the Earth.
Thursday, October 12
On this 1964 date in space history, the Voskhod 1 manned spacecraft was launched with three cosmonauts. A risky stunt that fulfilled Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s desire for Soviet space spectaculars, the two-person spaceship was cramped with three men without spacesuits to save room. The 24-hour mission may have been cut short when Khrushchev was removed from power while Voskhod 1 was in orbit. The mission had to be a nightmare in many ways to the cosmonauts, but to the world, the Soviets looked like they were leading the Moon Race.
Friday, October 13
On this 1968 date in space history, Apollo 7 broadcast the first live, television from orbit. Launched Oct 11, this maiden voyage of the three-man American moonship went perfectly—except the astronauts caught a cold and got grouchy with mission control, staging a work stoppage to get their heads cleared! Veteran Wally Schirra and rookies Walter Cunningham and Don Eisele never flew in space again.
Saturday, October 14
High in the northeast are the four stars of the Great Square of Pegasus the Flying Horse. The Summer Triangle of Deneb, Vega and Altair are still prominent as they drive westward, and the “W” of Cassiopeia is now rising in the northeast. It’s a wonderful time of year to see the transition of the seasons in the night sky!
Sunday, October 15
On this 2003 date in space history, China became the third nation to orbit a human by launching Shenzhou 5 with Yang Liwei aboard, the Communist nation’s first “taikonaut,” who was then 38 years old. Today Yang is now a national hero. Since then, China has successfully flown six manned missions putting 13 more Chinese in space who docked with their two, small space stations called Taingong 1 & 2.
Monday, October 16
People have been asking me, “What’s that bright star in the morning sky before sunrise?” That’s planet Venus, always the third brightest object in the sky next to the Sun and Moon. And below it is much fainter planet Mars.