Celestial events in the skies for the week of Jan. 9-15, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
It’s the dead of winter…but cheer up! Days are getting longer about a minute each day. New Moon is next Tuesday, so this week the evenings are filled with the fabulous stars of winter. If you brave the cold for even 15 minutes, you will be treated to the dazzling stars of hunter Orion with his two hunting dogs to his left, the Big and Little Dogs. The bull, Taurus, is above and brothers Gemini are to its left. Also this week are several important manned and unmanned space missions..
Tuesday, January 9
In 1968, unmanned Surveyor 7 lands on the Moon near the young crater Tycho, who’s rays are visible during Full Moon. In 1990, Space Shuttle Columbia was launched. This busy 12-day mission included retrieval of Long Duration Exposure Facility, deployment of two communications satellites and another half-dozen experiments conducted by the crew of five.
Wednesday, January 10
The Moon was very much on military minds as early as 1946 when on this date of that year the U.S Army bounced a radar signal off the Moon and received it after a one-second round trip. Astronomers had a new way to measure the distance, and the military had something new to play with.
Thursday, January 11
On this 1978 date in space history, Soyuz 27 docked to the Salyut 6 space station with Soyuz 26 attached—the first triple docking in space, clearly making the Soviet Union the leader of technology for long-term human spaceflight. In 1996, Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched with six astronauts. They spent 10 days in orbit retrieving the Japanese microgravity research spacecraft called Space Flyer Unit, and conducted research inside the mid-deck. In 1998, Lunar Prospector orbited the Moon, two months later finding frozen water beneath the lunar poles—one of its goals.
Friday, January 12
In 1986, the 24th Shuttle mission had Columbia deploy a Ku-1 communications satellite for RCA and do material science experiments for six days. The seven-man crew included citizen passenger US House Representative Bill Nelson, who’s district included Cape Canaveral, and future NASA administrator pilot Charles Bolden. This was the last Shuttle flight before the fatal Challenger launch explosion on Jan. 28th. Launched in 1997 was Shuttle Atlantis with a six-person crew that docked with the Russian space station MIR. Jerry Linenger, replaced John Blaha on a four-month rotation of American astronauts aboard the foreign spaceship.
Saturday, January 13
In 1978 NASA announced first six female astronauts Sally Ride, Rhea Seddon, Judy Resnick, Kathryn Sullivan, Shannon Lucid and Anna Fisher—all flew in space (Resnick died in the Challenger accident, her second flight). In 1993, Endeavour was launched with five astronauts spending five days in orbit deploying the fifth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and testing space suits and working tools in the cargo bay for construction of the International Space Station.
Sunday, January 14
On this 2005 date in space history NASA landed a tiny space probe on the alien moon Titan orbiting the planet Saturn. Ejected from the $1 billion Cassini spaceship in orbit about Saturn, the probe Huygens parachuted while taking photos of flowing methane rivers before landing on the shore of a small lake. It sent back data and photos for about an hour in the minus -200 F. degrees below zero surface.
Monday, January 15
In 1973 Luna 21 lands on the Moon a 40-mile-wide crater called Le Monnier. It deployed a complex rover, Lunokhod 2, that drove 23 miles, sending back more than 80,000 television images. The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is high above the eastern horizon by 9 pm, and above it is another bright star, Procyon. They are the brightest stars in the Big and Little Dogs, Canis Major and Minor.