The big square constellation Pegasus dominates the sky from the East in the early evening until after midnight in the West. The nearly Full Moon is close the Hyades in Taurus and the Pleiades and the sky will be very much illuminated. It will be difficult for deep sky observing and to see dim objects. The fainter planets Uranus and Neptune are in the South before midnight. But you will need a good binocular or small telescope to observe. Mercury is in the constellation Virgo and best seen in the early mornings before Sun rise. The red planet Mars, along with the bright planet Venus and the giant planet Jupiter are visible in the morning sky and are still close grouped together. Worthwhile a watch and please send in your pictures! Saturn, the planet with the rings is getting closer to the Sun and is visible in the constellation Scorpius before Sun set.
Wednesday 28 October
Today in 1992 scientists using sonar to map Scotland's Loch Ness made contact with a mysterious object, but declined to speculate what that implies about whether the legendary monster “Nessie” exists. The average depth of Loch Ness is 470 feet or 145 meter and it has a maximum depth of 788 feet or 240 meter.
After Sun set at 5.11 pm an Iridium flare appears in the South South West at 38° in the constellation Serpens Cauda.
Use a small telescope or binocular in the early morning. At 3.37 am the Jupiter Moon Io is in inferior conjunction. Jupiter is at altitude 12°. At 3.49 am the Jupiter Moon Io ends its shadow over Jupiter and at 4.45 am the Jupiter Moon Io actually end its transit. At 6.05 am the Jupiter Moon Ganymede ends its eclipse. By then Jupiter is at altitude 33°.
Thursday 29 October
Today in 878 a total solar eclipse of which London was just in the path of totality. King Alfred wrote "The sun was eclipsed the first hour of the day". Also Tycho Brahe mentioned in his Historia Coelestis to the Annales Fuldenses, of which the Sun was eclipsed after the 9th hour and the stars were visible.
The Moon is passing the Hyades in the constellation Taurus. Look for stars nearby in the early evening from 7 pm onwards. The Moon occults the bright star Aldebaran at 9.51 pm when it disappears and at 10.46 pm when the star reappears. The altitude is then 28° and the Moon phase is 92%. Do NOT keep staring at the Moon as it is rather bright and it will blind your eyes!
At 7.29 pm Mercury is close to the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. They are about 4° separated. Look in the early morning just before Sun rise.
Friday 30 October
Today in 1986 the first fiber optic cable across the English Channel began service.
The International Space Station (ISS) crosses the disk of Sun at 8.59 am. The transit duration is only 1.25s. You will need a solar telescope or a telescope with special filters. Do NOT watch the Sun without special equipment!
At 6.35 pm a bright Iridium is visible in the South East at an altitude of 46° in the constellation Pegasus.
After midnight, at 3.26 am the Jupiter Moon Ganymede is in Eastern Elongation. Jupiter is at altitude 12°.
Saturday 31 October
It is Halloween day/night!
At 8.58 am the Moon is in maximum declination North. This is the 2nd lowest Northernmost Moon position of the next 10 years. The former lower Northern Northernmost Moon position was on 3 October 2015. The next lower Northern Northernmost Moon position will be on 16 March 2016. At 9.08 am the Moon is in maximum libration North. The North Pole and Mare Frigoris are tipped into the Earth's view.
At 6.29 pm an Iridium flare appears in the South South East at 46° in the constellation Pegasus.
Not that you will notice, but at 8.41 pm on the Sun the Carrington Solar Rotation begins its rotation number 2170.
After midnight at 3.27 am the Jupiter Moon Europa ends it shadow over Jupiter. At 3.58 am the Jupiter Moon Europa is in inferior conjunction. At 4.55 am the Jupiter Moon Callisto is in Eastern elongation. At 5.23 am the Jupiter Moon Europa ends its transit over Jupiter. And at 5.56 am the Jupiter Moon Io is in Eastern elongation. You will need a small telescope to observe this phenomenon.
Sunday 1 November
At 1.40 pm the Moon is in maximum libration East. Mare Crisium limb is tipped into the Earth's view. This is the 2nd Easternmost East libration of the year. The former more Eastern East libration was on 4 October 2015. The next more Eastern East libration is on 23 October 2016.
At 4.57 pm, a very bright Iridium flare appears in the South South West at altitude 33° in the constellation Serpens Cauda.
At nearly 10 pm the Moon is close to the star Lam Gem. The limb separation is less than 2° or about 3.5 lunar diameters. The Moon altitude is only 6° so do observe later when the Moon is higher above the horizon. The Moon phase is 66%.
Venus passes 0.7 degrees South of Mars after midnight at 1.30 am. Watch the morning planets before Sun rise!
At 3.09 am the Jupiter Moon Io is in Western elongation and at 4.33 am the Great Red Spot of Jupiter is in Transit. You will need a small telescope to observe this phenomenon.
Monday 2 November
Today in 2000 an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts became the first permanent residents of the International Space Station (ISS) at the start of their four month mission. After their Soyuz spacecraft linked up William Shepherd, Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko entered the station, turned on the lights and life support systems, and proceeded to set up a live television link with the Russian mission control to confirm that the move-in was going well. They were confined to two of the space station's three rooms until space shuttle Endeavor arrived in early December with giant solar panels that would provide all the necessary power
At 1.10 am the planet Venus is in conjunction with Mars. They are only 41.4' or just over a lunar diameter separated from Mars. Look for this pair before Sun rise!
A very bright Iridium flare appears at 5.08 am in the North at an altitude of 34° in the constellation Draco.
Tuesday 3 November
Today in 1957 the Sputnik 2 was launched, with the first live animal sent into space. It was the Siberian husky dog called Laika which means “barker” in Russian. By design the spacecraft was not planned for recovery and Laika died in orbit. Biological data, the first data of its kind, was transmitted back to Earth while she lived. The data showed scientists how Laika was adapting to space. The information was important to the imminent planned manned missions. The 508 kg satellite remained in orbit for 162 days. Laika was considered a hero in the Soviet Union. The first human to pilot a spacecraft was Yuri Gagarin. He followed on 12 April 1961 aboard the Vostok 1.
At 12.23 pm the Moon is in Last Quarter. The Moon sets at 1.21 pm in the West North West. At 3.41 pm the Sun's equation of time is at maximum with 16.44 minutes. So the Sundials are early if you use them to watch the time ... Today the Sun culminates earliest of the year.
At 4.09 pm the planet Venus is in conjunction in right ascension with Mars. Venus is only 41.8' separated from center of Mars. Watch this pair before Sunrise in the early morning.
Before Sunrise at 6.05 am the Jupiter Moon Io begins its eclipse by Jupiter. And at 6.12 am the Great Red Spot transits over Jupiter. Use a small telescope to watch.
The Moon is close to the star Subra in the constellation Leo at 6.15 am. The limb separation is 4° or 8 lunar diameters. The altitude of the Moon is 46° and the Moon phase is 43%. The Sun elevation is -9°.
Wednesday 4 November
At 6.14 pm an Iridium flare appears in the South South East at 45° in the constellation Pegasus.
Get your telescope out or use a good binocular. At 3.25 am the Jupiter Moon Io's shadow begins to transit over Jupiter. And at 4.27 the actual Jupiter Moon Io begins its transit over the planet. At 5.35 am the Jupiter Moon Io is in inferior conjunction and at 5.42 am the Jupiter Moon Io ends its shadow transit.
Watch the Moons Earthshine just before 6 am along with the beautiful sights of the 3 planets Mars, Venus and Jupiter. Send in your pictures!
Get in touch with me via www.patrickpoitevin.weebly.com if you need more information.
SKY WATCH Special week 28 October - Pigs in Space?
Pigs in Space? No, we are not talking about the Muppet Show. And we are not talking about Loch Ness … because on 28 October in 1992 scientists using sonar to map Scotland's Loch Ness made contact with a mysterious object, but declined to speculate what that implies about whether the legendary monster “Nessie” exists. The average depth of Loch Ness is 470 feet or 145 meter and it has a maximum depth of 788 feet or 240 meter. And … we are not talking about 31 October when it is Halloween day/night! No way!
On Tuesday 3 November it is the anniversary of a dog in Space. In 1957 the Sputnik 2 was launched, with the first live animal sent into space. It was the Siberian husky dog called Laika which means “barker” in Russian. By design the spacecraft was not planned for recovery and Laika died in orbit. Biological data, the first data of its kind, was transmitted back to Earth while she lived. The data showed scientists how Laika was adapting to space. The information was important to the imminent planned manned missions. The 508 kg satellite remained in orbit for 162 days. Laika was considered a hero in the Soviet Union. The first human to pilot a spacecraft was Yuri Gagarin. He followed on 12 April 1961 aboard the Vostok 1.
What animal has been in Space so far?
On 12 April 1961 the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. He was far from the first living creature to journey outside the Earth’s atmosphere. In the past century, humanity has put quite some animals into space crafts and sends them off to space. Some of them were meant to be recovered, but others were never intended to see the Earth again.
The former Soviet Union (USSR) was well known for sending a series of dogs into space. Canines were selected because of the ease in training and their comfort with confined spaces. All of the dogs used were female because it was easier to design a space suit to collect waste from females. The most famous space dog was Laika, a stray found on the streets of Moscow. Laika was the first animal ever sent into orbit. A suicide mission aboard Sputnik 2. Not Laika's choice of course ... While most of the animals sent into space were intended to be later retrieved, Laika was never meant to survive. After a set period of days, they would feed her a meal of poisoned food to avoid the agonizing fate of starving to death. However, the craft took on excessive heat, and Laika’s vital signs ceased between five and seven hours after the launch. In 1960 two dogs named Belka and Strelka became the first animals to survive a trip into orbit. The next year, Strelka had puppies. As a gesture of goodwill, Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev gave one of the puppies, named Pushinka, to John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline as a gift. Pushinka would go on to have a litter of her own with Kennedy’s Welsh terrier, Charlie, and JFK would jokingly call their offspring “pupniks.”
Many do fear spiders. But spiders have been the subject of several space projects. Nobody cares ... In 2011 two golden orb spiders, named Gladys and Esmerelda, were housed on the International Space Station (ISS) where they spun webs and hunted in microgravity. The golden orb was used because it has a habit of dismantling its web every night and building a new one. This would allow the scientist to study more web constructions. A jumping spider named Nefertiti also lived on the ISS during 2011. She did not spin a web, instead choosing to pounce on her prey. Zero gravity seemed to have little effect on her hunting technique. Nefertiti was retired to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s insect zoo when returned to Earth.
Water bears are some of the toughest creatures on the planet, capable of surviving conditions that would destroy almost any other living thing. Resembling microscopic, bloated caterpillars, water bears seem nearly invulnerable. When confronted with harsh circumstances, the water bear enters a stasis where its biological functions almost entirely shuts down, allowing it to live for years without eating or drinking and in temperatures both broiling and verging on absolute zero. In 2007 about 3000 of these creatures were taken on the European Space Agency’s Foton-M3 mission, and were shown to be able to withstand the vacuum of space.
Roundworms called Nematodes are mostly parasitical. They are responsible for the trichinosis disease and infest our pet dogs as heartworms. They do not attract any sympathy, and once more, no one cares if they are sent to space .... These little buggers have also made several trips into space, and they accompanied the Apollo 16 mission to the Moon. In 2003 the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The seven astronauts aboard were killed, but all was not lost. A locker containing a nematode experiment was recovered from the wreckage, and despite insurmountable odds, the worms were still alive. These nematodes revealed that their species suffered some of the same effects as humans when traveling in space, including muscle deterioration and diabetic symptoms.
Frogs, toads, and newts, have been used by scientists for a long time to gauge the health of an environment. Occupying both water and land, amphibians are almost always the first to succumb to even the most subtle developments, including climate change, pollution, and the introduction of disease. Dozens of frogs have been sent to space, and at least one poor frog was caught in the crossfire of a flight he did not even get to go on. Pictures of NASA’s Minotaur V rocket blasting off in Virginia made headlines, an airborne frog in the foreground. Iberian ribbed newts have also made several space flights, beginning with the USSR’s Bion 7 in 1985. Scientists were interested in how the environment of space might affect the newt’s ability to regenerate.
Several monkeys have been sent into space, including squirrel monkeys, macaques, and rhesus monkeys. Well known for their contributions to medical research, the rhesus is highly intelligent and received the honor of being the first primate ever cloned. Albert II, a rhesus, was the first monkey in space after his predecessor Albert suffered a grim fate when he suffocated during a flight. The subsequent line of Alberts—III, IV, V, and V also died. Albert IV died a couple of hours after his return to Earth. Several other nations, including Argentina, France, and Russia, have also used monkeys for spaceflights. Unfortunately, many of them did not survive.
The closest living relative of humans, the contribution of chimpanzees to the space program has proved invaluable. The first chimp in space was Ham, a wild ape caught in Cameroon in 1959. He was trained in brutal fashion at Holloman Air Force Base through a system of positive and negative reinforcement. If Ham did what his trainers wanted, he was given a banana pellet. If he defied commands, he received mild electric shock. Ham’s test flight was dubbed Mercury-Redstone 2 and took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 31 January 1961. There were several malfunctions during the flight, but Ham performed well, and his space suit protected him. He would go on to live at Washington’s National Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo. He died at the age of 26. Ham was succeeded by Enos, a better trained animal that went on to orbit our planet twice. He returned to Earth alive, delighted to see his human friends. Unfortunately, his story had a sad ending. Enos died of dysentery about 11 months later. It was probably unrelated to his space adventure.
And what about fish? In 2012 the Japanese HTV-3 supply ship docked with the International Space Station. They had an aquarium filled with fish called “medaka” onboard. They conducted various experiments on the fish, which were ideal for this purpose due to their quick breeding habits and transparent skin. This allowed the researchers to observe their organs with ease. Like other animals, they were checked for bone degradation and muscle atrophy. Although they are in water, the fish are also subjected to microgravity and behaved oddly in it, swimming in loops instead of straight lines.
Rodents have a long history in space. Mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs have all been sent up over the years. Several experiments have been undertaken with rodents in space. In 2001 biomedical engineer Ted Bateman, working in conjunction with NASA and biotech company Amgen, used mice to test a protein called osteoprotegerin. They believed the protein might be useful in halting bone loss associated with aging, and since space accelerates the aging process, it was the perfect environment to conduct the study. Sure enough, the protein worked, and subsequent experiments may go a long way toward preventing bone diseases like osteoporosis in the future. Another experiment, which featured rats, was conducted by Jeffrey Alberts, a professor of psychology at Indiana University. By subjecting pregnant rats to zero gravity conditions and studying their offspring, he was able to observe the behavior of animals that had never experienced the limitations of gravity, which displayed a vastly more complex range of movement.
Housecats were a bit late to the space party compared to some other animals. The French first sent a cat into space on 18 October 1963. Whether it was a stray named Felix or his female equivalent Felicette remains a matter of contention. Felix’s or Felicette’s journey went well, but a subsequent flight a week later spelled doom for the poor kitty. Fifty years later, the government of Iran, which has begun to expand its horizons into space, has claimed they want to launch a Persian cat into space in the first few months of 2014. Not sure if this ever happened?
And … Many more animal astronauts could also be mentioned in this list. Such as scorpions, nematodes, cockroaches, bees, silkworms, snails, ants, crickets, sea urchins, shrimp, butterfly larvae, and probably some others, have made it into space. Technically, the first animals in space were fruit flies, sent up on a V2 rocket by the US in 1947. In 2007 Russian scientists announced the birth of 33 cockroaches. The first creatures to have been conceived in space.
Animals before Space?
On 20 September 1951 a monkey named Yorick and 11 mice were recovered after an Aerobee missile flight of 236000 feet or 44.7 miles at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Yorick got a fair amount of press as the first monkey to live through a space flight.
On 22 May 1952 two Philippine monkeys, called Patricia and Mike, were enclosed in an Aerobee nose section at Holloman Air Force Base. Patricia was placed in a seated position and Mike in a prone position to determine differences in the effects of rapid acceleration. Fired 36 miles up at a speed of 2000 mph, these two monkeys were the first primates to reach such a high altitude. Also on this flight were two white mice, Mildred and Albert. They were inside a slowly rotating drum where they could "float" during the period of weightlessness. The section containing the animals was recovered safely from the upper atmosphere by parachute. Patricia died of natural causes about two years later and Mike died in 1967, both at the National Zoological Park in Washington.
The Soviets kept close tabs on what the US was doing with their V-2 and Aerobee missile projects during the early 1950's. Basing their experiments on American biomedical research, Soviet rocket pioneer Sergei Korolev, his biomedical expert Vladimir Yazdovsky, and a small team used mice, rats and rabbits as one-way passengers for their initial tests. They needed to gather data to design a cabin to carry a human being into space. Eventually they chose small dogs for this phase of testing. Dogs were chosen over monkeys because it was felt that they would be less fidgety in flight. A test with two dogs would allow for more accurate results. They chose females because of the relative ease of controlling waste.
Between 1951 and 1952, the Soviet R-1 series rockets carried nine dogs altogether, with three dogs flying twice. Each flight carried a pair of dogs in hermetically sealed containers that were recovered by parachute. Of these early space-bound hounds, a few have been remembered by name. On 15 August 1951, Dezik and Tsygan ("Gypsy") were launched. These two were the first canine suborbital astronauts. They were successfully retrieved. In early September 1951, Dezik and Lisa were launched. This second early Russian dog flight was unsuccessful. The dogs died but a data recorder survived. Korolev was devastated by the loss of these dogs. Shortly afterwards, Smelaya ("Bold") and Malyshka ("Little One") were launched. Smelaya ran off the day before the launch. The crew was worried that wolves that lived nearby would eat her. She returned a day later and the test flight resumed successfully. The fourth test launch was a failure, with two dog fatalities. However, in the same month, the fifth test launch of two dogs was successful. On 15 September 1951, the sixth of the two-dog launches occurred. One of the two dogs, Bobik, escaped and a replacement was found near the local canteen. She was a mutt, given the name ZIB, the Russian acronym for "Substitute for Missing Dog Bobik." The two dogs reached 63 miles or 100 kilometers and returned successfully. Other dogs associated with this series of flights included Albina ("Whitey"), Dymka ("Smoky"), Modnista ("Fashionable"), and Kozyavka ("Gnat").
Over the past 50 years, American and Soviet scientists have utilized the animal world for testing. Despite losses, these animals have taught the scientists a tremendous amount more than could have been learned without them. Without animal testing in the early days of the human space program, the Soviet and American programs could have suffered great losses of human life. These animals performed a service to their respective countries that no human could or would have performed. They gave their lives and/or their service in the name of technological advancement, paving the way for humanity's many forays into space.
1947: First animal in space
1949: First monkey in space
1951: First dogs in space
1957: First animal in orbit
1968: First animal in deep space
2007: First animal survives exposure to space
Space fatalities with humans
Not listing are control failures, fatalities during training and testing, and non-fatal accidents (such as Apollo 13, etc.), the only in-flight accidents … There have been four fatal in-flight accidents on missions which were considered spaceflights under the internationally accepted definition of the term, plus one on the ground during rehearsal of a planned flight. In each case all crew were killed. To date, no individual member of a multi-member crew has died during a mission or rehearsal.
Parachute failure on 24 April 1967 of Soyuz 1 with Vladimir Komarov. The one-day mission had been plagued by a series of mishaps with the new spacecraft type, culminating with its parachute not opening properly after atmospheric reentry. Komarov was killed when the capsule hit the ground at high speed. The Soyuz 1 crashed 3 kilometers or 1.9 miles West of Karabutak, a Province of Orenburg in the Russian Federation, about 275 kilometers or 171 miles East South East of Orenburg. In a small park on the side of the road is a memorial monument. A black column with a bust of Komarov at the top.
Decompression on 30 June 1971 of Soyuz 11 with Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov. The crew of Soyuz 11 was killed after undocking from space station Salyut 1 after a three-week stay. A cabin vent valve accidentally opened at service module separation. The recovery team found the crew dead. These are the only human fatalities in space above 100 kilometers or 62 miles thus far. The Soyuz 11 landing coordinates were 90 kilometers or 56 miles South West of Karazhal, Karagandy, Kazakhstan, and about 550 kilometers or 340 miles North East of Baikonur, in open flat country far from any populated area. In a small circular fenced area at the site is a memorial monument in the form of a three-sided metallic column. Near the top of the column on each side is the engraved image of the face of a crew member set into a stylized triangle.
Vehicle disintegration during launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on 28 January 1986 with Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith and Dick Scobee. This was the first US in-flight fatality. The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds after lift-off on STS-51-L. The investigation found that a faulty O-ring seal allowed hot gases from the shuttle solid rocket booster (SRB) to impinge on the external propellant tank and booster strut. The strut and aft end of the tank failed, allowing the top of the SRB to rotate into the top of the tank. Challenger was thrown sideways into the Mach 1.8 wind stream and broke up with the loss of all seven crew members. NASA investigators determined they may have survived the spacecraft disintegration, possibly unconscious from hypoxia; some tried to activate their emergency oxygen. Any survivors of the breakup were killed, however, when the largely intact cockpit hit the water at 320 km/h or 200 mph. The vehicle impacted the water about 32 km or 20 miles East of Cape Canaveral. About half of the vehicle's remains were never recovered, and fragments still wash ashore occasionally on the coast of Brevard County, Florida.
Vehicle disintegration on re-entry of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on 1 February 2003 with Rick D. Husband, William McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark and Ilan Ramon. The Space Shuttle Columbia was lost as it returned from a two-week mission. Damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system (TPS) led to structural failure of the shuttle's left wing and the spacecraft ultimately broke apart. Investigation revealed damage to the reinforced carbon-carbon leading edge wing panel resulted from the impact of a piece of foam insulation that broke away from the external tank during the launch. The vehicle broke up over the South Western United States and fell in fragments over Eastern Texas and central Louisiana.