Spectacular Space Events of 2019
On the first day of this year, a NASA spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule (an object that takes 297 years to complete its orbit around the sun), and sent back home pictures of a strange microcosm, which resembled a bowling pin. That started off a year that promises to be a treat for people who contemplate about the cosmos. From achieving new space exploration landmarks, to awe-inspiring meteor showers, this year holds a lot in store for the space-venturing human race. Let’s have a look:
Total Lunar Eclipse
This year we were treated to another total lunar eclipse. On the 20th and 21st of January, the moon passed through the inside area of the Earth’s shadow. The passage was completed over a five-hour timeframe.
Tangible shifts in hue and brightness were seen as the eclipse progressed. The US moon gazers reported that the eclipse lasted from the evening of the 20th to the morning of the 21st. Pro tip: The moon will remain dark for around an hour; during that time keep an eye out for a light patch around 6˚ to the East to see about 1,000 swarmed up stars. The constellation is referred to as the Beehive Cluster.
Samples of An Asteroid Will Reach the Earth
Hayabusa2, the exploration probe released into space by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reached Ryugu, the distant asteroid, last year. Images taken by its rovers have already reached us, but this year, it intends to go the extra mile (quite literally).
Hayabusa2 will start lowering itself to get near to the asteroid, until it’s at a distance of 20 kilometers from its surface. At this time, it will extract fragments from Ryugu and send them back home for observation. This whole process will happen between the 18th and 23rd of February, 2019.
NASA’s Men Will Venture Back into Space
SpaceX has been working on Crew Dragon for a lot of years, and it’s rumored that the spacecraft will be test-launched as soon as this February. After it has been cleared for a journey across space, NASA astronauts will board it and venture back into space after a period of 8 years.
The destination for the spacecraft will be the International Space Station, and it will carry food among other resources for the crew working up there. We are expecting that this mission will happen somewhere around June.
Total Solar Eclipse
The last total solar eclipse took place in 2017 and was viewable across the United States. It’s no surprise that it got dubbed the “Great American Eclipse”. This time however, Southern Hemisphere is the place to be, if you want to witness the magic happen.
Experts believe that the eclipse will start at sunset on July 2, and will run for a good 4-5 hours. The best viewing locations are Argentina and central Chile. However, if you don’t mind a classical cross-ocean voyage, the Pacific Ocean will be a good vantage point too.
The Perseids Meteor Shower
Meteor showers are awe-inspiring events that don’t happen often enough. On the nights of August the 12th and 13th, step out to your backyard, as the Perseids, the meteors created from the debris of Swift-Tuttle, the famed comet, are expected to light the sky.
The Perseids have been named after Perseus, the constellation that is present close to the originating spot of the meteors. Mark your calendars; you don’t want to miss this!
CHEOPS Probe Will Leave Earth
The European Space Agency have been working on the Characterising ExOPlanet Satellite (or CHEOPS) for years, and it’s set to be released between the 15th of
October and the 14th of November. CHEOPS will become the first satellite with the mission to study and measure light emitted by orbiting planets, from outside our solar system.
This exoplanet research could write new chapters in the field of human colonization. Up till now, theorists and dreamers have simply gotten their hearts broken by seeing our neighboring planets be inhospitable, so knowing more about planets similar to Earth, would be revolutionary.
The Geminids Meteor Shower Peak
This year will have two (not one) meteor showers. This showstopper will happen on the 13th and 14th of December, so you have a lot of time to clear your schedules.
The Geminids meteor shower promises to showcase objects that are intense and bright. However, since the night will be 96% full moon, the show might get a bit obscured, but let’s hope for the best.
More Lunar Landings
SpaceIL is set to launch a lunar probe within a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket which will cost around $88 million. This is Israel’s attempt to become the fourth country to land on the moon, after the US, China and Russia. The 1,322-pound probe will be the lightest and the smallest lander to hit the moon’s surface. The launch is set to happen in February.
In addition to Israel, India is also planning to set foot on lunar soil. The Chandrayaan-2 probe, a project of the Indian Space Research Organization, might also get launched in February. 2019 sure is a great year for the moon (If it likes company).
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