SpaceX’s wild ride to the first commercial space taxi launch started with a dream of Mars and lots of failures.
In late May, the California company will try to send two astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. It’s a milestone in the effort to commercialize space, which once was the exclusive play place of governments.
While SpaceX builds and launches rockets, it really stems from eccentric founder Elon Musk’s dream to go to Mars. Three initial failed launches threatened to put SpaceX out of business except NASA stuck with the startup and now it’s getting a lift itself.
How To Watch The Mesmerising Penumbral Lunar Eclipse This Week – Tyla
A penumbral lunar eclipse is taking place this Friday 5th June – and you may be able to catch a glimpse of the mesmerising spectacle if conditions are good.
A penumbral eclipse is more subtle than a total eclipse but just as fascinating, according to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, explaining that the phenomenon occurs “when the Moon travels only through the outer, fainter part of the Earth’s shadow, or ‘penumbra’.”
They add: “This happens when the Earth moves between the Sun and Moon but the three do not form a perfectly straight line.
“The penumbra causes only a slight darkening of the Moon’s surface, with the Moon still exposed to some direct sunlight, so this type of eclipse is easy to miss.”
This process of passing through the Earth’s shadow not only means that the moon’s surface appears darker, but that it may appear to take on a reddish or tea-coloured tinge.
The Strawberry Moon is the nickname given to the full moon in June. It is said that Native Americans and European tribes would give names to the moon because they used it to map out their yearly calendar and times of harvest.
This Friday’s penumbral eclipse will be visible from most of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the East coast of South America.
It’s worth noting that a penumbral eclipse can be more difficult to see with the naked eye – this is because only a portion of the sun’s light is blocked from reaching the moon.
According to NASA, the eclipse starts at 18.46 BST and ends at 22.04 BST. If you want to try to catch from your window, it will be at its clearest at 20.25 BST.
The moon will be 230,000 miles from the Earth – quite a close point in its orbit – which means that it should appear quite big.
This year’s penumbral eclipse will pass close pass to the giant red star, Antares, which is around 12 times the size of our own sun.
Happy gazing, earthlings.
The June 2020 Night Sky – Portugal Resident
Welcome to the June night sky. This is the month of the summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere. It happens on the 20th this year and, after that date, the Sun will appear to move slightly lower each day in the mid-day sky. June 20 is, therefore, the longest day of the year and the first day of summer.
Although June also has the shortest nights of the year, it’s not short on meteor showers with more than a dozen of them visible during the month. This means that on any dark night in June, you will have a better-than-average chance of seeing a shooting star.
On the 21st, there is an annular eclipse of the Sun. These types of eclipses occur because, at that time, the Moon is slightly further away from the Earth than usual and, therefore, does not cover the solar disc fully and the ring of fire effect will be seen. Unfortunately, this event is not visible from Europe. The eclipse track is mainly over the Middle East and central China, with the famous city of Wuhan just missing out on the ring of fire but seeing an 86% eclipse at 4pm local time.
The gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn are now rising just after midnight over in the south-eastern sky. They are both in the far southern constellation of Sagittarius.
Jupiter is the brightest of the pair, and this year Jupiter can be used to help find Pluto. This close encounter between the largest and the smallest planets in the solar system will happen three times this year and is called a triple conjunction. This is quite rare and the last time that it occurred was 65 years ago.
Pluto is seven times further away from the Sun than Jupiter and much smaller, so it is more than a million times fainter and can only be seen in a large telescope and a dark sky.
The ringed planet Saturn is always a fine sight through any small telescope with its rings and multiple faint Moons visible.
Jupiter has four major moons, and these are quite easy to see with any small telescope. Jupiter’s Moons were discovered by Galileo using a tiny homemade telescope magnifying about 20 times and this was more than 400 years ago.
The Moon is full on the 5th, last quarter on the 13th, new on the 21st and first quarter on June 28, 2020.
Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
281 322 527 | firstname.lastname@example.org www.torredetavira.com
To see the June Sky Map click on the pdf link below
To the Commercial Heavens We Go! SpaceX, NASA and Space Privatisation – CounterPunch
It would be too simple to regard the latest space venture, funded by Elon Musk, as entirely a matter of vast ego and deeply-pocked adventurism. But it would be close. The successful delivery of astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken of NASA as part of the joint mission with SpaceX to the International Space Station by the Dragon capsule proved intoxicating for followers and devotees. Behnken was himself keen on the idea of travelling into the heavens away from a messy, trouble-torn planet. “This is still something that we are going to be successful at, and we’re going to do it in the face of the pandemic.” Good of him to think so.
The theme of inspiration in the face of terrestrial disaster is a mammoth one, even if that inspiration tends to avoid earthbound maladies. “If SpaceX can pull it off,” wrote an enthralled Miriam Kramer for Axios, “its first crewed flight … will mark a beacon of hope in an otherwise dark time for the world.”
The element of chest thumping was always going to be hard to avoid. Since 2011, NASA has been relying, with occasional reluctance, on Russia’s Soyuz rockets to get to the International Space Station. The Space Shuttle programme had become extortionately expensive, ballooning to $1.5 bn a flight. The razor gangs took issue. The private sector, in other words, has been used to extract US astronauts from the Russian teat. Those at NASA were thrilled in announcement. “This is the first time in human history [NASA astronauts] have entered the Space Station from a commercially made spacecraft.”
Kramer is unsparing in her praise for the effort. It is all patriotism and, as with all things patriotic, silly in its competitiveness. Despite any intimations of a broader human purpose (from universe to universal), this was done for US interests. “The space program has provided this kind of hope during dark times before.” A few unfortunate reminders are furnished, including the reading of the book of Genesis by those in the orbiting Apollo 8 capsule on Christmas Eve 1968 “as millions of people watched back on Earth.”
As this was done, the US was also fracturing, bloodied by political assassination (Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy), anti-war protest and racial unrest. No resolution seemed in sight, at least in the country, so a distracting focus was found. One of the Apollo 8 crew, Frank Borman, remembered a telegram he and his colleagues received on landing, a true pearler amongst the millions. “Congratulations to the crew of Apollo 8. You saved 1968.”
This was merely a soppy aside. During the 1960s, the sceptics gathered and lectured humanity for finding escape from more terrestrial ills which demanded their attention. Humans were making a mess of things and looking to the skies. English historian Arnold J. Toynbee had little time for such matters. “In a sense, going to the moon is like building pyramids or Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles. It’s rather scandalous, when human beings are going short of necessities, to do this. If we’re clever enough to reach the moon, don’t we feel rather foolish in our mismanagement of human affairs?”
The sentiment has not changed much, depending on where you are looking for it. The rot is very much there, and the eyes are looking elsewhere. Renewable energy advocate Giles Parkinson sees it all as silly extra-terrestrial expenditure, ignoring the obvious problems facing Planet Earth. “Money that’s thrown at things like space travel, and exploration for oil and gas – that’s money that could also be spent on addressing the climate change issue.”
Musk stands for a different attitude. Renewables and space are merely ends to be exploited. He intends cluttering space with 11,943 satellites by 2025, with the hope of putting a total of 42,000. Like any egomaniac, he must make this all sound purposeful, wrapping it in the rhetoric of the “multiplanetary” society that intends to give every human on Plant Earth speedy Internet access.
Such projects as Musk’s are bound to, and have already interested, the military industrial complex. Whatever gloss of achievement given, space is very much like the Americas for Christopher Columbus, to be acquired, consumed, and plundered. Commercialism, industry, and the armed forces are all converging into a soufflé of interests that will carve the heavens for military commanders, egomaniacs and space buccaneers. Very notably, SpaceX is drawing in its defence contracts.
It continues to woo and impress the talking heads with more guns than butter. In 2016, the launch and retrieval by Musk’s company of its Falcon 9 first-stage booster once it had done its job, namely placing a satellite into orbit, induced perorations of praise. “Until now,” as Jeffrey Becker wrote at the time, “getting into orbit meant throwing away most of the rocket on the way up in order to place a minute fraction of the total vehicle mass into space, an approach to spaceflight akin to throwing away a 747 after crossing the Atlantic.”
From a human perspective, the latest SpaceX venture may not have been as enthralling as others. There was little in the way of romance, and much in the way of brattish bravado from Musk. But make no mistake about it. The commercial world is stretching its corporate tentacles into space, and wishes to go a very long way.
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