It has been an interesting week in terms of space. Highlights included an announcement from NASA that it is willing to buy moon dust, (lunar soil samples), collected by private company explorers through the end of 2024. There were video clips of the massive fires on the west coast as viewed from space. These images can be of the long-term impacts. The clips show the smoke is visible from nearly 1,000,000 miles away. In a celebrity twist, William Shatner, also known as Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” series, supports a bill named the Star Fleet Amendment, asking the US Space Force program to rename colonels to captains. The bill is backed by a Texas Representative, and former Navy Seal, Representative Dan Crenshaw.
If you’d like to learn more, check out NASA.gov. The site has several virtual STEM options for students, which includes a section for educators and offers a ‘NASA at Home’ virtual program. Space.com also offers news, space flight and skywatching information, and more.
Thursday, September 17th
The moon is traveling between Earth and the sun in its new phase. Sunlight is only reaching the far side of the moon and the moon will be completely hidden from view. This new moon is occurring a day before perigee, the moon’s minimum distance from Earth, tides will be larger around the world.
Friday, September 18th
Observers might spot the very slim crescent moon just above the western horizon, and to the upper right of Mercury. The moon and Mercury will both fit into the field of view with binoculars.
Tuesday, September 22nd
In the eastern sky in the mornings around the 22nd, a bright Venus will pass the slower-moving belt asteroid Vesta. At closest approach on Tuesday morning, Venus will be positioned about two finger–widths to the right of Vesta. To see how both objects move compared to the stars around them, try to view it several mornings in a row—ideally before 6 AM when the sky begins to brighten.
On Tuesday, the sun will also cross the celestial equator moving southward, marking the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn here. Equinoxes occur in March and September when the day and night are of equal lengths and the sun rises due east and sets due west.