Post by: David Dickinson
In a classic swords to plowshares move, two converted WB-57 aircraft flown by NASA’s Airborne Science Program and scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado will greet the shadow of the Moon as it rushes across the contiguous United States on Monday, August 21st on a daring mission of science.
An angry monster lurks in the shoulder of the Hunter. We’re talking about the Red Giant star Betelgeuse, Alpha Orionis in the constellation Orion. Recently, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) gave us an amazing view of Betelgeuse, one of the very few stars resolved as anything more than a point of light.
Had your fill of binocular comets? Turns out, 2017 may have saved the best for last. The past few months has seen a steady stream of dirty snowball visitations to the inner solar system, both short term periodic and long term hyperbolic. First let’s run through the cometary roll call for the first part of the year: 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák, 2P/Encke, 45P Honda-Markov-Padjudašáková, C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS and finally, the latecomer to the party, C/2017 E4 Lovejoy.
Next up is a comet with a much easier to pronounce (and type) name, at least to the English-speaking tongue: C/2015 V2 Johnson.
So, are you excited for the 2017 movie season? U.S. Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us, and that means big ticket, explosion-laden sci-fi flicks and reboots/sequels. Lots of sequels. We recently got a chance to check out Alien: Covenant opening Thursday, May 18th as the second prequel and the seventh (if you count 2004’s Alien vs. Predator) in the Alien franchise.
Have you been following the Springtime parade of bright comets? Thus far, the Oort cloud has offered up several fine binocular comets, including Comet 2/P Encke, 41/P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, 45/P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, C/2016 U1 NEOWISE and C/2017 E4 Lovejoy. Now, another comet joins the dawn ranks, as it brightens up ahead of expectations: 2015 ER61 PanSTARRS.
It’s a shooting gallery out there. The spattered face of Earth’s Moon and large impact sites such as Meteor Crater outside of Flagstaff Arizona remind us that we still inhabit a dangerous neighborhood. But despite the inevitable cries for the “End of the World of the Week,” humanity can breathe a collective sigh of relief next Wednesday on April 19th, when asteroid 2014 JO25 passes safely by the Earth.
Had your fill of binocular comets yet? Thus far this year, we’ve had periodic comets 2P/Encke, 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková and 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák all reach binocular visibility above +10th magnitude as forecasted. Now, we’d like to point out a surprise interloper in the dawn sky that you’re not watching, but should be: Comet C/2017 E4 Lovejoy.