This week I will be looking at initial reports into the Schiaparelli failure on Mars, it looks like it is another ESA soft ware error. This plus the bright star list continues with Aldebaran in Taurus, the A-Z of constellations is Canis Major and the Messier marathon continues with M12 in Ophiuchus.
This plus what's in the night sky this week, the latest astronomy news and the astronomy society meetings in the north.
The Astronomy Show with Martin Lunn on Drystone Radio 103.5 FM, on line at www.drystoneradio.com or listen on the podcast.
On November 28th 1964 Mariner 4 was launched. It
would become the first spacecraft to visit Mars and send back photographs.
Although scientists knew that there were no canals or
intelligent life on the red planet, many assumed that there would be tundra
like plants and lichens there.
Mariner 4 flew past Mars on July 15th 1965 and
the photographs that Mariner 4 sent back although very grainy and of poor
quality compared to those that are sent back from modern space craft showed
that Mars was not covered in simple plant life, but looked more like the
surface of the Moon.
In one moment in time Mariner 4 changed all the old fashioned
romantic views of Mars. Today with rovers on the surface and space craft
orbiting Mars, scientists are still trying to answer questions set by the first
probe to visit Mars, Mariner 4.
On November 21st 1964 NASA successfully places in orbit two satellites by means of
the same launch rocket for the first time.
In this case a Scout launcher. Designated Explorers 24 and 25 the craft
are a 12 feet balloon and a 2 feet diameter magnetic/radiation investigation satellite
The prime purpose of Explorer 24 was basically the same as the Beacon satellites of 1959 and 1960 and to provide data on atmospheric drag.
On 17 November 1970 an interesting space craft landed on the
surface of the Moon. It carried the
first remotely controlled robotic lunar rover, Lunokhod 1. The Lunokhod looked
like a ‘giant saucepan on wheels’.
For the next ten months the rover was driven
by operators in the Soviet Union, with the total distance travelled being about
10 km. For comparison, in six years of operation the Mars Exploration Rover
Opportunity has travelled about 12 km.
After landing, the rover drove down a ramp onto the lunar
surface and tested its eight wheels. The rover was driven by solar power during
the day; at night it parked and relied on thermal energy from a polonium-210
radioisotope heater to survive the cold (-150°C).
Lunokhod 1 sent back valuable data concerning the
composition of the soil, close up views of the local topography, and important
measurements of the soil.
Contact was lost with the rover on September 14, 1971, a
second rover Lunokhod 2 would land on the Moon on 16th January 1973.
The only flight of the Russian space shuttle called Buran
which means ‘snowstorm or blizzard’ took place on November 15th
The project began in 1980 with the first full scale model
being produced in 1984. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union the project
Sadly on May 12th 2002, the hangar which was in a
poor state of repair at the Baikonur Cosmodrome housing the Buran shuttle collapsed
during a massive storm. The shuttle was destroyed, and 8 workers were also
On November 14th 1971 Mariner 9 became the first
space craft to enter orbit around another planet in this case Mars. Mariner 9
would send back over 7,000 photographs or about 85% of the surface of Mars
before the mission ended in October 1972. Previous missions which have been fly
byes had sent back only small numbers of photographs.
Mariner 9 photographed river beds, craters, extinct
volcanoes including Olympus Mons the largest volcano on Mars and in the solar
Also photographed were canyons including the Valles Marineris, a canyon
so big that it is bigger the USA. Valles Marineris is named after the Mariner 9
Today Mariner 9 remains as a derelict satellite in orbit
around Mars. It is expected to remain in orbit until approximately 2022, when
the spacecraft will probably enter the Martian atmosphere and either burn up or
crash into the planet's surface.
Sometimes called Tycho’s Star this was a Super Nova, this is
a star that destroys itself in a massive explosion. It was not discovered by
Tycho but he gave the most accurate series of observations on the star, which
is why the star bears his name. This
supernova would become the most brilliant object in the sky during the last 500
He first saw the star on November 11th 1572. For
several weeks it outshone every star in the night sky. It could even be seen in
daylight, when the Sun was low in the sky. It was about -4.5 making slightly
brighter than Venus.
At this time of course people believed that the heavens
never changed so to see a new star suddenly appear certainly caused a massive
amount of interest.
The star was visible
to the naked eye (there were no telescopes at this point) for about 16 months
fading from view in March 1574.
Tycho Brahe 1546-1601 was the last of the great pre telescopic
Comet Arend–Roland was discovered on November 8, 1956, by
Belgian astronomers Sylvain Arend and Georges Roland on photographic plates.
that time the comet was at visual magnitude 10, in April 1957 it reached
magnitude -1, making it one of the brightest comets of the mid-20th
century. At its closest it was within 29 million miles of the Sun.
Discover what a super moon is, you can see the biggest super moon of the 21st century on November 14th, there won't be a better one until November 2034!!
With the longer darker nights discover what can be seen in the night sky this week.
The regular features include, The A-Z of constellations which this week is Cancer the Crab, the bright star is Altair in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle and we have reached Messier 10 in the Messier Marathon.
This plus the latest astronomy news, the astronomy scrapbook and what is happening in the regional astronomy societies. And even a little music!
The first person to observe a transit of Mercury was the
French astronomer Pierre Gassendi, on November 7th 1631.
was able to use the newly published Rudolphine tables of Johannes Kepler, the
first man to understand the elliptical nature of planetary orbits around the
In the 1627 tables, which were dedicated to Kepler’s patron, Emperor
Rudolph II of the Holy Roman Empire, Kepler made a number of predictions of
upcoming events – in particular, a transit of Mercury in November 1631 and a
transit of Venus in December of the same year.
Kepler died in 1630 without knowing if his predictions were
The first professor of astronomy at Gresham College died on
November 4th 1613. It is believed that he was born in 1565. He was an antiquary and mathematician. He was professor of Gresham College between 1596/7.
Mariner 10 was launched on November 3rd 1973 and
would go onto become the first space craft to visit the planet Mercury. It was
the last of the Mariner series; Mariner 9 had successfully imaged Mars while
Mariners 11 and 12 would be converted to become Voyager 1 and 2.
Although Mariner 10 flew past Venus and made scientific
studies there it is usually associated with Mercury. It was not the first space
craft to visit Venus there had already been several; in fact the first was the
earlier Mariner 2 in 1962.
Mariner 10 performed its first fly past of Mercury on March
29th 1974. Mariner 10 would make scientific studies and photographed
around 45% of the surface of Mercury.
Its mission ended in 1975 when its fuel ran out. It is
assumed to still be orbiting the Sun today.