Celestial events in the skies for the week of Oct. 17-23, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
This week is the last one of the year to see the Milky Way in the early evening under moonless skies. The arm of our Galaxy is quickly heading west like a jump rope swinging below the horizon. But you can still see the Summer Triangle of three bright stars as they set in the west as the night evening wears on. And 19 astronauts will recall this week as one they were rocketed into outer space.
Tuesday, October 17
The Epsilon Geminid Meteor Shower is in progress all week peaking tonight after midnight. A minor shower, you might see three to five an hour. All this month you might also see meteors of the Orionid Meteor Shower, which peaks the morning of next Tuesday the 22nd. Orionids are bright and swift and sometimes leave a smoky trail that lasts just an instant.
Wednesday, October 18
Two NASA Space Shuttles were launched on this date, four years apart. In 1989 Atlantis was blasted into space on mission STS-34 with the interplanetary spacecraft Galileo, deployed for a successful mission to Jupiter. And in 1993 STS-58 mission flew Columbia and six astronauts on a 12-day mission studying the effects of weightlessness on humans.
Thursday, October 19
New Moon is today, our closest celestial neighbor below the Sun in the daytime and invisible. Of course, the back side of the Moon is fully illuminated, and we, in fact, have the “dark side” of the Moon facing Earth.
Friday, October 20
On this 1995 date in space history, Space Shuttle Columbia was rocketed 200 miles high in the usual 9-minute rocket ride. Seven astronauts spent a record16-days conducting microgravity experiments for the US military and general contractors.
Saturday, October 21
Sunset is around 6:40 pm, and in the deep twilight looking directly southwest, Saturn is saying goodbye just ahead of Sagittarius the Archer. It sets before 9:30 pm and will be long gone in the solar glare by Thanksgiving.
Sunday, October 22
On this 1992 date in space history, Space Shuttle Columbia was launched with six astronauts on an intense 10-day mission with a dozen experiments packed in its cargo bay. After deploying an Italian science satellite, work began on a variety of experiments with names like Phase Partitioning in Liquids, Materials Exposure in Low-Earth Orbit, and Modular Star Sensor, Yaw Earth Sensor and Low Altitude Conical Earth Sensor.
Monday, October 23
Venus is lingering close to the horizon in the morning sky with much fainter Mars above it. Jupiter is in the solar glare, but will join Venus along the dawn horizon in mid-November.