Celestial events in the skies for the week of Nov. 28 – Dec. 4, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
This is a week when 35 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 134 flights were amazing (with the 25th Shuttle flight of Challenger the low point). One standout mission is the repair of the near-sighted Hubble Space Telescope 24 years ago this week, correcting a manufacturing flaw and paving the way for the incredible success of one of mankind’s greatest scientific tools. Looking skyward, the Moon is waxing to full phase on Sunday.
Tuesday, November 28
At 6:30 pm the constellation Taurus the Bull is above the eastern horizon, with Auriga the Charioteer also rising to the bull’s left. They are marked by bright star Aldebaran, the reddish eye of the bull, and Auriga’s bright star, yellowish Capella. Ninety minutes later the great hunter Orion has cleared the eastern horizon.
Wednesday, November 29
The gibbous Moon is in Pisces tonight, a beautiful sight in binoculars or small telescope. To the left of the Moon is planet Uranus, barely seen in binoculars and easier in a telescope with the aid of a star chart downloaded from the Internet.
Thursday, November 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.
Friday, December 1
Looking north, Cassiopeia the Queen’s brightest five stars make an “M” shape in the sky, and opposite it somewhere dredging up the horizon are the familiar seven stars of the Big Dipper. Between them, of course, is the Little Dipper, its end star of the handle being the North Star, Polaris.
Saturday, December 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. In 1974, Pioneer 11 flew by Jupiter, sending following its twin Pioneer 10, which flew by almost exactly a year earlier on Dec. 4, 1973.
Sunday, December 3
Full Moon today, which rises at sunset providing some welcome moonlight to our dark, 6 pm evenings. Native Americans called this the Cold Moon and Long Nights Moon for obvious reasons. Open the window curtains and allow some moonshine to brighten our night!
Monday, December 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. The ISS has been continuously occupied for 17 years!