On this date in 1969, the manned Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 returned to Earth. It was during this mission, along with the Soyuz 5 mission, that the first docking between two spacecraft was achieved by the Soviet Union. A concise description of Soyuz 4 may be found on the excellent astronautix.com website here.
In 1908 on this date, Edward Teller was born. A Hungarian-American physicist, he was part of the Manhattan Project, the United States’ push to develop the nuclear bomb during World War II. Known colloquially as the “Father of the H-Bomb,” he did not care for the title, considering it to be in poor taste. An… Continue reading
As we lose Jupiter and Saturn to the glare of the Sun, we will gain a brief view of Mercury after sunset. You will find this elusive planet about 8° above the southwestern horizon around 5:20 pm. It will be a tough target due to twilight, but if you find the Moon, Mercury will be… Continue reading
Fall is a nerve-wracking time for honeybee keepers, who often fret about whether their bees have enough honey reserves to survive the winter or whether mites have decimated their bee populations. Bees will typically only leave their hive when the weather is pleasant (at least in the 50Fs and sunny), so it’s hard to walk… Continue reading
The kangaroo is a marsupial native to Australia. All marsupials are diprotodonts, meaning they have two front teeth, or incisors. But kangaroos are unusual because they have three pairs of incisors in their upper jaw and one pair in their lower jaw. Another unique characteristic of kangaroo skulls is that they are relatively long and… Continue reading
On this date in 1986, astronomer Stephen Synnott discovered three more moons in orbit around Uranus: Desdemona, Rosalind and Belinda. NASA has published an extensive overview of the planet Uranus on its pages here.
The observing window for Mercury this month runs from January 13 to February 3. You will find the planet in the southwest after sunset. Typically, the glare of the Sun will hinder seeing Mercury until 30 minutes after sunset. Your best bet to find Mercury will then be between January 19 and January 31.
On this date in 1920, the Smithsonian Institution publishes Robert H. Goddard’s monograph A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. Goddard’s work lays out the concept of using a multi-stage rocket for exploration of outer space and reaching the lunar surface, a concept which would later become fundamental to spaceflight. You can read Goddard’s treatise at… Continue reading
Tonight at 7:30 pm, the constellation Perseus will be overhead. This constellation contains several interesting objects visible in binoculars. The Perseus Double Cluster and the star Algol are good targets to start with. The Double Cluster is two open star clusters and Algol is a variable star.
On this day in 1959, McDonnell Aircraft Co., of St. Louis, Missouri, was selected to produce the Mercury spacecraft. Now a part of Boeing, McDonnell Aircraft’s work during the Mercury program is covered succinctly in this in-house article.