This weeks upcoming predictable space and astronomy events and anniversaries (17 – 23 March 2014)

March 16, 2014 | By | Add a Comment
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Posted 16 March 2014 This post is biased towards events that can be seen with the unaided eye or via the Internet. It also can only cover predictable events. Random events such as asteroid impacts won’t be listed. Where events are time specific, I have listed the events in AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time) and AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time).

Planets: Jupiter will continue to be prominent as the brightest ‘star’ in the early evening sky. Look above the Northern horizon at the end of evening twilight to locate it. Mars is now only weeks from its 2014 opposition (useful information on the 9 April 2014 opposition here and here) and is now visible low above the Eastern horizon after 7:30 pm AEST / 8:30 pm AEDT. Note that as Earth and Mars draw closer, Mars will continue to become noticeably brighter. Saturn rises just after 8:45 pm AEST / 9:45 pm AEDT.  As for Mars, look for Saturn low on the Eastern horizon.

Venus is the brightest ‘star’ in the morning twilight sky. To locate Venus, look above the Eastern horizon as the sky brightens. Mercury will be visible in the bright morning twilight sky low above the Eastern horizon (closer to the horizon than Venus). Mercury rises around 3:50 am AEST / 4:50 am AEDT mid-week. If you haven’t seen Mercury, it will be much easier to see at a more convenient time in the evening twilight sky later this year (September and October 2014). Both Uranus and Neptune are located too close to Sun for useful observation.

International Space Station: The International Space Station is visible low in the evening sky this week for Canberra, Australia over the period 21 – 23 March 2014. Information on passes for Canberra (with links to finder charts) can be found here. Go here for satellite viewing information / predictions for all Australian locations.

Monday 17 March 2014: 3:08 am AEST / 4:08 am AEDT Full Moon

Monday 17 March 2014: 56th anniversary (1958) of the launch of the fourth ever artificial satellite and the first solar powered satellite Vanguard 1 by the United States. Although communication with it was lost in 1964, it remains the oldest artificial satellite still in orbit. It was designed to test the launch capabilities of a three-stage launch vehicle as a part of Project Vanguard, and the effects of the environment on a satellite and its systems in Earth orbit.

Tuesday 18 March 2014: 49th anniversary (1965) of the first spacewalk / EVA by Alexey Leonov was the first person to walk in space on the Voskhod 2 flight instead. He was outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes and nine seconds on 18 March 1965, connected to the craft by a 5.35 meter tether. At the end of the spacewalk, Leonov’s spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not reenter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit’s pressure to bleed off and was barely able to get back inside the capsule.

Wednesday 19 March 2014: Mercury at aphelion.

Wednesday 19 March 2014: Mars, Spica (the brightest star in the ancient Greek constellation Virgo ‘The Virgin’) and the Moon make a temporary triangle low on the Eastern horizon. Mid-evening sky.

Thursday 20 March – Friday 21 March 2014: Moon passes Saturn. Mid-evening sky.

Friday 21 March 2014: 3 am AEST / 4 am AEDT Autumn equinox (Southern hemisphere)

Friday 21 March 2014: 13th anniversary (2001) of the deliberate destruction of the Mir space station that operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, owned at first by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. Mir was the first modular space station and was assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996. Mir held the record for the largest artificial satellite orbiting the Earth until that record was surpassed by the International Space Station after Mir’s deorbiting on 21 March 2001. Mir served as a micro-gravity research laboratory in which crews conducted experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and spacecraft systems in order to develop technologies required for the permanent occupation of space.

Mir was deorbited in the so-called spacecraft cemetery area in the southern Pacific Ocean 3900 km southeast of Wellington, New Zealand. This location has been chosen for its remoteness, so as not to endanger or harm human life. Other spacecraft that use the South Pacific re-entry location include several other unmanned resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station, the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle and the European Space Agency Automated Transfer Vehicle.

Saturday 22 March 2014: 8:05 am AEST / 9:05 am AEDT Live webcast of Ariane 5 rocket launch from Kourou, French Guiana.

Sunday 23 March 2014: 6 am AEST / 7 am AEDT Venus greatest elongation West (46.6 degrees). Venus can be easily seen in the morning predawn sky.

Sunday 23 March 2014: 49th anniversary (1965) of the launch of Gemini 3. The Gemini program was the second United States manned space program and the seventh manned United States spaceflight. Gemini was a two person spacecraft.

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