Celestial events in the skies for the week of Jan. 30 – Feb. 5, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
That super, blue, blood-red Moon is this Wednesday when our celestial neighbor slips into Earth’s shadow and the Full Moon turns dark and ruddy. The early morning lunar eclipse is visible in totality only from those living west of the Mississippi River. The East Coast will see the Moon setting in the morning twilight.
Tuesday, January 30
A great photo opportunity as the nearly Moon rises in the twilight against the background of mountains, buildings and bare trees. This “moon illusion” makes the Moon look bigger when it is low and seen next to earthly objects. Yet you can always cover the one-half degree wide Moon with an outstretched pinky finger!
Wednesday, January 31
On this 1958 date in space history, America orbited its first spacecraft, Explorer 1. Russia had orbited the first spacecraft in October 1957, Sputnik 1, which had a beeping transmission signal. Explorer 1 had several scientific instruments to record the energized Van Allen belts circling Earth.
Thursday, February 1
On this 2003 date in space history, Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed during reentry over Texas, just two minutes from completing a 17-day science mission. The seven astronauts losing their lives were commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark, and Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon.
Friday, February 2
On this 1966 date in space history, the Soviet Union safely landed the ball-shaped Luna 9 on the Moon. Luna 9 bounced several times, and then activated cameras to show earthlings the first view of an alien landscape.
Saturday, February 3
Three Space Shuttles were launched on this date: Challenger in 1984 with five astronauts and communications satellites to deploy; Discovery in 1994 with a crew of 6 and Spacehab in the cargo bay; and Discovery again a year later in 1995 in an approach and fly around of the Russian MIR space station with first female pilot Eileen Collins in control with five other astronauts.
Sunday, February 4
Even in the moonlight you can see Orion the Hunter with his two dogs and their bright stars in the south. Sirius the brightest star in the sky is in the Big Dog, Canis Major, and above is Procyon in Canis Minor. Don’t ignore the sky to the north, with the “M”-shaped stars of Queen Cassiopeia in the star-rich region of the winter Milky Way. The Big Dipper is nearly hidden as it drags across the north horizon.
Monday, February 5
On this 1971 date in space history, Apollo 14 landed on the Moon in place called Fra Mauro. America’s first spaceman, Alan Shepard, deceased, and rookie Edgar Mitchell, deceased, became the fifth and sixth men to walk on the Moon.