Tag: Moon

This Week’s Book Review – Final Frontier

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss polling revealing 51 percent of Americans support ICE deportation raids compared to just 35 percent who are opposed. They once again dive into the controversy involving Donald Trump, Ilhan Omar and theTrump rally chants of “send her back.” And they shake their heads […]

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To the Moon! 50th Anniversary Year Starts

 

This is the 50th anniversary of Americans reaching the Moon, fulfilling President Kennedy’s challenge, to reach the Moon and safely return, before the end of the 1960s. The first man set foot on the Moon, 20 July 1969. This week marks the beginning of the methodical series of Apollo missions that led up to Apollo 11.

On 11 October 1968, Apollo 7 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, carrying a full crew, to simulate the crew going to the moon. The lunar module was not yet ready for live testing, so that component was not included. The three-man crew was Walter M. Schirra, Jr., commander, Donn F. Eisele, command module pilot, and Walter Cunningham, lunar module pilot.

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First off: Apologies. Apologies to NASA, to anyone who worked on the Apollo missions. Apologies to those on this site who really get a kick out of geology, physics, astronomy, atoms, … cells… nucleic stuff….periodic table….zzzzz…I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes, science stuff. I find those subjects a little dry, but thank God many […]

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Christmas Greetings from the Moon

 

The first manned mission to the moon, Apollo 8, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. On that evening 47 years ago, the astronauts — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — held a live broadcast from above the moon’s surface, in which they showed images of the Earth and moon as seen from their tiny spacecraft. They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis and wished a Merry Christmas to all the people on “the good Earth.”

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Saturday Night Science: Occultation of Venus

 

Occultation of Venus, 2004-05-21, by Ivan Elder, Budapest, HungaryOn Monday, the Moon will pass in front of the planet Venus. This event is visible from all of North and Central America (and only from those areas), and will occur during daylight hours for all observers, except those in Alaska and the Northern Canadian West, who will be able to observe it in the dark, albeit low in the sky. During the occultation, look to the southwest to see the thin, illuminated crescent of the Moon — found around four times the width of your fist held at arm’s length from the Sun — creep up on the brilliant (magnitude −4.2) gibbous disc of Venus and cover it, with immersion taking around 23 seconds.

The picture at the top of this article is from the daytime Venus occultation of May 21, 2004, when Venus was in a crescent phase. In this occultation, Venus will be in a gibbous phase and will appear brighter. If you have never seen Venus in broad daylight with the unaided eye before, this occultation will present a superb opportunity, since all you have to do is find the Moon before the occultation begins and Venus will be right there. If you have clear skies, Venus isn’t particularly difficult to see in daytime if you know where to look. Having it right next to the Moon — as we will immediately before and after the occultation — not only gives you an easy-to-spot guidepost, it provides a reference for your eye to focus upon, which can otherwise prove a problem when spotting Venus (essentially a point source) against a featureless blue sky.

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Why Mars Instead of the Moon?

 

moon-meetMaybe I am influenced by having read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress when it was first published, but I am wondering about all the recent PR for a manned mission to Mars — even by some people who are not named Robert Zubrin — and whether it is just the romance of going to another planet. The Moon seems to make much more sense for a first permanent base (i.e. not an orbital space station) for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s closer.
  2. There is micro-gravity.
  3. If you go underground, you might be in decent shape for protection against high energy particles.
  4. There appears to be water ice in some of the craters.
  5. Mining on the Moon might, or might not, be worth the effort of going there. (Isn’t a useful isotope of Hydrogen available on the Moon and not on Earth?)
  6. The Moon, being out of the deepest part of Earth’s gravity well is, from a propulsion energy perspective, about halfway to anywhere in the inner solar system.

So what are the arguments in favor of Mars and against the Moon, besides “been there, done that?”

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Saturday Night Science: Final Totality

 

perimoonOne of the most remarkable celestial coincidences is that the Moon and Sun — as viewed from the Earth — have almost the same apparent size. Depending on its position in orbit, the Moon can appear either larger or smaller than the Sun, resulting in solar eclipses on Earth occurring in two varieties: total, when the Moon is close enough to appear larger than Sun and completely cover it, and annular, where a more distant Moon fails to completely cover the Sun’s photosphere, resulting in a “ring of fire”.

This size coincidence is striking, especially since it hasn’t always been the case, nor will it be the case forever. Billions of years ago, the Moon was much closer to the Earth and total eclipses were far more common, yet less spectacular because the Sun’s corona and prominences wouldn’t have been visible all around the Sun. Eventually, tidal-driven recession of the Moon from the Earth will put an end to total solar eclipses visible from Earth and all subsequent eclipses will be annular. Some have actually argued that the closely comparable apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon have contributed in some way to the evolution of human intelligence, providing an “anthropic” explanation of why we happen to be observing such a marvel at the epoch in geological time when it happens to occur.

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