Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Out in space

+ After Hubble: Global Push for a World Space Observatory. "If NASA stands firm on its decision to let the Hubble Space Telescope die in about 2007, scientists will lose among other things their only tool for studying ultraviolet (UV) light coming from all corners of the cosmos. To fill the need, astronomers around the world are advocating the construction of a World Space Observatory they say could launch by 2009." So far this concept is supported by 14 countries, and others say they are interested. Although none of these is the US. Bad US, bad. Get involved.

+ Venus Transit- June 8th- "Put a big red circle around June 8 on your calendar. On that day, you may have a chance to see a celestial event not witnessed by human eyes in 122 years when Venus crosses in front of the Sun...The beginning will be visible from northern and western portions of Alaska, all of Asia, Indonesia and Australia, the eastern half of Africa and northern and eastern Europe, as well as the northernmost parts of Greenland. The end will be visible over central and western Asia, all of Africa, Europe and Greenland as well as northernmost and eastern sections of North America and northern and eastern parts of South America. Australians will be able to catch the beginning stages before sunset. Europeans will be able to see most, if not all of the transit, starting at around sunrise with the end coming in the early afternoon with the Sun high in the sky. For much of the eastern United States and Canada, the Sun will rise with Venus already on the Sun?s disk with the transit nearly over." The last transit occured in 1882, and the next one will occur June 6, 2012, but will only be visible "from the Pacific Ocean and the extreme east coasts of Siberia, Japan and Australia (North Americans will see the opening stages before sunset)." After that the next one will be on December 11, 2117. The transits, according the article occur in groupings of two within 8 years and then not again for about a century.

+ Two comets- One for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere. For those in the Northern Hemisphere- Comet NEAT will become an evening object in the sky near the end of April and "during the first week of May, most northern observers will anxiously be awaiting darkness to fall, straining for clear, unobstructed views toward the southwest horizon for their first sighting of Comet NEAT. Probably the first good opportunity for most will come on the evening of May 5, approximately an hour after sunset. Look low in the southwest for blue-white Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky. Comet NEAT should be hovering about 10 degrees to the left of Sirius (your clinched fist, held at arm?s length, is roughly equal to 10 degrees). On May 13, a line drawn from Castor to Pollux (in Gemini) and extended out three times the distance between these two stars will bring you to Comet NEAT."
For those in the Southern Hemisphere, "Comet LINEAR will probably not become readily visible to most until mid-April, thereafter it will appear to climb progressively higher each morning in the east-northeast sky. During the first ten days of May, the comet should be an easy target for observers south of the equator, rising about 2 to 3 hours before sunrise." Also "Southern Hemisphere observers will have a decided advantage over their northern counterparts, being blessed with not one, but two unusual opportunities to see both comets in the sky at the same time! Through most of April, they will be in the morning sky and then from late May into early June, they?ll again be visible simultaneously in the evening sky, possibly even for a brief time to northerners as well."

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