On this date in 1974 the U.S. probe named Mariner 10 flew by Venus. This unmanned spacecraft sent the first close up images of Venus back to Earth.
On this date in 1473, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Poland. From his observations, Copernicus believed that all the planets orbited the Sun. This became known as the Heliocentric Theory of the solar system.
On this date in 1971 the Apollo 14 astronauts became the first humans to play golf on the moon! Alan B. Shepard Jr. hit the golf ball during the mission’s second extravehicular activity.
Last quarter moon occurs today. The Moon is believed to have formed from an impact between Earth and a Mars sized object about 4.51 billion years ago.
Tomorrow morning look for the planet Saturn rising in the southeast. An easy way to distinguish a planet from a star is stars twinkle and planets normally do not.
The planet Venus is starting to climb out of the Sun’s glare on its way to an evening apparition that lasts most of 2018. Our first glimpse of the bright planet will come near the end of February.
The surface temperature of Venus reaches nearly 900° F. The atmospheric pressure at the surface is 90 times that of Earth. On top of this its atmosphere contains clouds of sulfuric acid.
As the Moon reaches its farthest point from Earth today it will be exhibiting a waning crescent phase. Moonset occurs at roughly 2pm so it can be seen during the day. Just make sure you do not look at the Sun!
On this date in 2001 NEAR-Shoemaker became the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid. NEAR transmitted 69 close-up images of Eros and then soft-landed on the asteroid.
Looking south at 8pm you will find the constellation Orion. He is easily distinguished by the three bright stars in a straight line. If you look below his belt with binoculars the nebula M42 will be found.
The planet Venus takes 225 Earth days to orbit the Sun. A day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days. On Venus one day is longer than its year.
On this date in 1930 Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. The New Horizons mission visited Pluto in 2015 and is now less than one year away from its second target. This target is a Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69.
On this date in 1947 the first animals in space were launched aboard a V-2 rocket. The animals aboard were two fruit flies who were recovered alive after they reached an altitude of 68 miles.
Like all planets Venus orbits the Sun in a counter-clockwise direction. However its axial rotation is opposite that of the other planets. Because of this on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
If you look southeast at 3am tomorrow morning you will find the planets Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter will be higher in the sky and Mars will have a red color.
First quarter moon occurs today. As the Sun sets look for the Moon high in the southern skies near the V-shaped star cluster called the Hyades.
Tonight if you look south around 8pm you will find the Moon exhibiting a waxing gibbous phase. North of the Moon you will find the bright yellow star Capella which is the 6th brightest star we can see.
More than 40 spacecraft have explored the planet Venus. Only six of them were able to send information from the surface of Venus. These were the soviet mission named Venera 7, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 14.
The Space Launch Systems (SLS) is NASA’s newest and most powerful rocket that will be used for future deep space missions. The Exploration 1 Mission will be the first to use SLS which should launch in 2019 or 2020.
The atmosphere of Venus is very different from Earth’s being mostly carbon dioxide with a little nitrogen, oxygen and other trace gases. It also rotates much faster than the surface making one rotation every 5 days.