Celestial events in the skies for the week of Jan. 16-22, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The Moon is New phase on Tuesday, returning to our evening skies to dazzle our senses. The evening is absent of planets, but the morning skies have Jupiter and Mars, both to be featured this Summer. Saturn is too close to the Sun, and Venus has just wheeled around the Sun and will be the bright, evening “star” beginning in February.
Tuesday, January 16
On this 1969 date in space history, the Soviet Union performed the first outer space docking of two manned spacecraft, Soyuz 5 and 6. Two cosmonauts in Soyuz 5 left their commander and spacewalked to the two empty seats beside the Soyuz 6 commander—the first and only transfer of crews by spacewalks. NASA’s Apollo and Lunar Module were linked by docking hatches. In 2003 Columbia was launched on the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program–which ended 17 days later in disaster. During launch, a hole was punched in the left wing by a piece of insulation off the big fuel tank. The hole went unnoticed and created a weakness during the fiery reentry, destroying the spaceship as it flew over Texas the morning of Feb.1.
Wednesday, January 17
Looking southeast at 9 pm you immediately Orion and several more bright stars, include the brightest, Sirius, above the horizon. Sirius makes a “Winter Triangle” with Procyon high to the left and red Betelgeuse to the right, the shoulder of Orion. Sirius and Procyon are in the Big and Little Dog, respectively (officially Canis Major and Canis Minor).
Thursday, January 18
The thin crescent Moon is hanging above the evening twilight, ready to make another cycle through our night skies. Everyone has a pair of binoculars—turn them toward the Moon and enjoy the view. Than turn them to the Pleiades Star Cluster high overhead and count more stars than just the Seven Sisters.
Friday, January 19
Happy 88th birthday to Apollo 11 moonwalker Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, who landed on the first historic Moon landing with commander Neil Armstrong, deceased. Aldrin is the astronaut standing in the small crater on the Moon in the iconic image that has Armstrong reflected in the helmet faceplate. He is very active on Twitter with his globe-trotting adventures as one of the world’s VIPs.
Sunday, January 21
All month and into February the predawn sky has bright Jupiter with red Mars to it left. They climb into the eastern darkness by 4 am in the constellation Libra the Scales, ahead of Scorpius. They are washed out by sunlight by 6:45 am, but will dazzle our Summer nights ahead.
Monday, January 22
On this 1978 date in space history, the resupply ship Progress 1 docked with the Salyut 6 space station; in 1992 Discovery was launched with seven astronauts who worked for 8 days in the Spacelab module in the cargo bay, mostly on effects of microgravity on a variety of organisms. In 1998, Endeavour became the eighth of eventually nine Shuttle missions to Russia’s Mir space station and the fifth exchange of American astronauts. And in 2003 last signal received from grandfather of interplanetary spacecraft, Pioneer 10 now escaping the Solar System 12 billion miles away.