Coming attractions in space
Oct. 9, 2009 at 7:19 PM ET
Hrvoje Polan / AFP - Getty Images
The moon and Jupiter have a close encounter in the skies
above Zagreb in Croatia in December 2008. This month
provides another peak opportunity for observing Jupiter.
Even if today's big moon crash wasn't the kind of spectacular you were expecting, there are plenty of other space extravaganzas in the works over the next few weeks. Read on for more reasons to keep watching the skies.
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- Lunar letdown or smashing success? The LCROSS moon impact was probably oversold as a celestial smashup - partly because of cool videos like this QuickTime preview. Journalist/researcher Joel Raupe points out on the Lunar Networks blog that the mission was never meant as entertainment, while the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla suggests that NASA could have drawn more attention to the incredible views of the moon during LCROSS' approach. Check out NASA's YouTube channel for the replay. There's also a "Citizen Science" Web site where observers can upload impact imagery. One thing is certain: This won't be the last we hear from LCROSS. The Hubble Space Telescope's scientists, for example, still have to weigh in with their data.
- Extravaganza in space and on Earth: Another highly hyped extravaganza, billionaire space passenger Guy Laliberte's two-hour tribute to water, is due to air over the Web starting at 8 p.m. ET today. Among the earthbound VIPs on the guest list are former Vice President Al Gore, pop star Shakira and U2 singer Bono. Laliberte is the founder of Cirque du Soleil as well as the world's first "space clown," so if anyone can put on a show from space, he can. "Moving Stars and Earth for Water" plays out first on the One Drop Foundation's Web site as well as RDI and DIRECTV, but NASA TV will rebroadcast the show at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, with encore airings on Sunday and Monday. (Check NASA's schedule.)
- See the space station: Laliberte is due to come down from the International Space Station over the weekend, but during the week that follows, North Americans should have plenty of opportunities to see the space station in early morning skies. Check out NASA's real-time sighting guide for the details on where and when.
- Get the jump on Jupiter: If you're wondering what that big, bright star in evening skies might be, it's probably the planet Jupiter. The conditions for viewing Jupiter are heading toward a peak, and the scientists behind the International Year of Astronomy have set aside Oct. 22 to 24 as a special time for observing the planet and other sky wonders. Check out the "Galilean Nights" Web site for details, including an interactive event locator.
- Marvel over meteors: We're also building up toward one of the best meteor showers of the year, the Leonids, with the peak expected on Nov. 17-18. Two factors could make this the best year for the Leonids since 2001: First, the moon will be in its new phase and thus won't interfere with dark skies. And second, Earth is expected to pass through a relatively dense stream of particles laid down by the Comet Tempel-Tuttle in the year 1466. As a warmup, you'll want to check out this month's Orionid meteor shower, which peaks on the 21st.
- More space crashes to come? For scientists, LCROSS worked out pretty well - so well, in fact, that similar probes may be sent out to crash into asteroids or other celestial bodies. "This is actually something that is being considered," LCROSS project manager Dan Andrews told reporters. In the meantime, have a chuckle or two over this image of what some folks may have expected to see today, this picture celebrating LCROSS' aim, and this video of a "high-five FAIL" during the LCROSS aftermath.