Celestial events in the skies for the week of Mar. 13-19, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The evening skies are moonless, and Orion, Taurus and Gemini are in their glory until they set after midnight. The Big Dipper is standing on its handle in the northeast while the “W” of Cassiopeia is in the northwest. Jupiter is visible after midnight as a bright yellow “star” in the east, while Mars and Saturn are above the eastern horizon by 4 am. Notice that bright “star” after sunset, that’s Venus with fast-moving Mercury nearby through this week.
Tuesday, March 13
On this 1781date in space history, William Herschel discovered the sixth planet Uranus from the backyard observatory in his mansion in Bath, England. He was the greatest telescopic astronomer to just use his eyes, discovering thousands of double stars, nebula, galaxies and star clusters—though the exact nature of these objects would await photography, pioneered by his son, John.
Wednesday, March 14
Three interesting men of space history share this birthdate:1845 was born Giovanni Schiaparelli, who was the first to call lines he saw on Mars “canals;” 1879 was born Albert Einstein—need I say more?; and 1934 was the birthdate of the late NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon in December 1972.
Thursday, March 15
On this 2009 date in space history, Space Shuttle Discovery was launched on the STS-119 construction mission to the International Space Station and a swap of astronauts. Three space walks added a new support truss where more solar panels were installed.
Friday, March 16
On this 1926 date in space history, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid fuel rocket (the size of a two-liter bottle) on his Aunt Effie’s farm in Massachusetts. Forty years later this date in 1966, Gemini 8 was launched with astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott quickly docking with a rocket sent up earlier. They narrowly escaped death when a stuck thruster spun their spacecraft once a second, nearly blacking them out. Armstrong’s quick reaction saved them, and an emergency landing went smoothly.
Saturday, March 17
New Moon, and St. Patrick’s Day…which has nothing to do with astronomy. But on this 2011 date in space history, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft began orbiting Mercury. The successful mission ended after the entire surface of the first planet was photographed by Messenger.
Sunday, March 18
On this 1965 date in space history, Alexei Leonov, 79, took the world’s first space walk outside the Voskhod 2 spaceship. Watching inside the spaceship was cosmonaut Pavel Belyayev. Leonov also commanded the Soviet spaceship that docked with an Apollo manned spacecraft in 1975 and is a Russian national hero.
Monday, March 19
The morning sky before sunrise is beautiful with three planets and the Milky Way rising. Jupiter is brightest directly south, and to its left will be reddish Mars. To the left of the Red Planet will be Saturn.