The Galactic Times Newsletter #14 - December 1 - 15, 2021
This Just In--Lunar Base Sites, Water from the Solar Wind, Trappist-1; Planets Line Up in West, Great Meteor Shower Mid-Month, Comet in the Dawn; Astronomer Ships; 50% off Sale.
Cover Photo - The Trappist - 1 System
In This Issue:
Cover Photo — The Trappist-1 System
This Just In —Where To Build Lunar Bases?;
The Answer is (Water) Blowing in the (Solar) Wind.
Water Elsewhere, Trapped in Trappist-1. (Cover Story)
Sky Planning Calendar —
* Moon-Gazing - Watch the Evening Moon Pass Three Bright Planets, …
* Observing—Plan-et — … Watch Geminid Meteors and Comet Leonard before Dawn
* Border Crossings — No change! Sun still in…where??
Astronomy in Everyday Life — A Career in Shipping
The Classroom Astronomer Inbox Magazine Issue 14 Highlights
The Hermograph End of Year/Holidays 50% Off Sale
Welcome to The Galactic Times Inbox Magazine!
Click here http://www.thegalactictimes.com to see our revamped Home Page, with all past issue Tables of Contents and stories indexed by topic. You can also hear and find useful materials for education from our former podcast, now on this website (plus links to other Hermograph products and periodicals).
Head to our (Free) Subscription page and Subscribe, or read in the Archive at this link: https://thegalactictimes.substack.com, or just enter the box below…
If you are enjoying this twice-monthly newsletter, please support it by 1) using the link at the end to spread copies to your colleagues and friends and urge them to subscribe (why should you do all the emailing, right? We’re glad to do it!) and 2) help us pay the bills by taking advantage of our End of Year **50%** Discount Sale on Hermograph books and products. If you are an educator, subscribe to the Classroom Astronomer Inbox Magazine, too!
This Just In—
* Where To Build Lunar Bases?
This could be the ‘earliest map of lunar bases’ in some future century. This map shows sites near the Moon’s South Pole, where astronauts in the Artemis program are expected to land in a few years, blue areas showing where carbon dioxide has been located, and they are generally near where underground ice may be trapped as well. Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Norbert Schorghofer, in his paper in Geophysical Research Letters, says that years of measuring surface temperatures via the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter indicates these ‘cold traps’ would be places where solid carbon dioxide might be found. The carbon would be valuable as a source of building materials, just as the nearby water would be needed for life survival. Like water, building materials are all but impossible to ship from Earth, so having native supplies of both increases the viability of lunar bases in the near future. Read more at https://psi.edu/news/lunarco2coldtraps .
* The Answer is (Water) Blowing in the (Solar) Wind
It has been long assumed that the Earth’s oceans come largely from cometary material. But somehow, it seems, comet water and ocean water aren’t quite the same, in terms of isotopes.
In an article in Nature Astronomy, astronomer Luke Daly and a team of 24 others examined the water content in a grain of asteroid Itokawa brought back by the Japanese probe Hayabusa. This surface grain would have received billions of years of solar wind radiating upon its surface, which in turn, surprisingly, makes water molecules in the asteroid material—light-weight water molecules, in terms of the hydrogen present. In the past, then, as asteroids would collide with the earth, this lighter water would add in to that of the comets’ and cause the isotopic mixture found on Earth.
* Water Elsewhere, Trapped in Trappist-1
In a separate Nature Astronomy piece, a computer model for Trappist-1’s system seems to indicate that water might have been incorporated into those worlds faster than in the Solar System’s. Trappist-1 has seven Earth-sized planets (see Cover Photo) that are all in a resonant orbital system. That is, they all orbit synced to each other. This could not have happened, the theoreticians say, if there had been any planets as large as the Moon, for such worlds’ gravities would have disrupted the forming planetesimals that made the existing worlds. They would cause a lack of orbital resonances, as well. In our System, those planetesimals gave us a late period of ‘bombardment’ that still shows up as craters on non-Earth worlds, and a large part of our water supply. The implication is that the Trappist worlds grew in just a few million years, faster than in our System, and any water supplies there would have been built up faster there, too. Perhaps life was created there earlier, too?
Sky Planning Calendar
Moon passages by a star, planet or deep sky object are a good way to find a planet or other object if you’ve never located it before.
December 2 The Moon passes (North) above Mars by less than a degree, and if you are in East Asia or Hawaii, you can watch the Moon pass over Mars in the morning twilight.
(Adapted from Sky View Cafe, for December 2, 5:45 AM)
December 4 New Moon AND perigee, so we have a Super(bly Invisible) New Moon! Nothing to see…well, unless you are in the South Atlantic, the extreme southern tip of South Africa, the extreme southeastern tip of Australia, or you are a penguin or researcher in Antarctica. A total solar eclipse can be seen for the last group/place; all others mentioned get a partial eclipse.
(Adapted from Sky View Cafe)
December 6 The first of three planet passages by the Moon! First up, this evening, is Venus, missed eventually by Luna by less than 2 degrees; in North America the Moon will be below this most brilliant Evening Star.
December 7 The Moon is about 4 degrees below Saturn.
December 8 The Moon is below Jupiter, passes it during the night by 4 degrees for Asian viewers, and then …
December 9 …Jupiter is to the Moon’s right.
December 11 First Quarter Moon.
The peak 30 days of Venus’ current evening appearance has arrived, and with a supporting cast of Giants!
Venus is finally in easy view above the horizon, and shining brilliantly, most brilliant on the 4th. On that date it will be one minute of arc in size (1/30th the Size of the average Moon), the maximum it gets this apparition. It is just about one-third illuminated, but by mid-month it is only lit up 15%, a big bright thin crescent! Compare its shape to the Moon when it passes the planet on the 6th. To see the phase best, look for Venus in binoculars during twilight, so that the contrast between the planet and the sky is less. (Here is a case of less is more…Venus’s brilliance is so much that it glares in dark sky…you can see the phase but less easily!)
For the next 2-3 weeks, Venus is the brilliant dot at the end of the slanted exclamation point of evening planets. Above and left is Saturn, bright yet dimmest by far of the three worlds. Above and left of THAT is Jupiter, second brightest planet.
On the 4th, when Venus is at greatest brilliance, the three planets are equidistant from each other.
On the 14th, the three are the most compact, 31 degrees (equal about to 3 closed fists at arms’ length).
Two days later, Venus and Saturn will be at their closest, 14 degrees.
Shortly thereafter, Venus stops its eastward motion and rapidly heads Sun-ward. Part of the reason why this happens at month-end and not at last month’s Greatest Elongation from the Sun is that retrograde phenomena includes Earth’s motion, not just the other planet’s alone.
Venus sets about 1 hour and ten minutes after twilight ends on the 1st; about half that by mid-month.
What about Venus’ supporting cast? This is Saturn’s last good month to be observed. By mid-month it sets about two hours after twilight ends. It will set a lot closer to twilight’s end by month’s end. As for Jupiter, it always (this month) still shines on the celestial stage for another 90 minutes, roughly.
(Mercury will guest star near month’s end but is not yet in the wings. We’ll discuss it in TGT 15.)
Mars is finally getting some dark time. It rises before morning twilight begins from December 8th onward. But it is not very bright or impressive, nor near any guiding bright stars or planets, yet, except when the Moon passes it earlier this month.
Earthling alert! Dates to remember: December 4 (what a busy day this is this year!) is the earliest end of twilight, and on the 7th, earliest Sunset. Our nights start beginning later….
The best winter meteor shower, the Geminids, peaks the morning of the 14th. If you were right underneath it, you could see up to 120 meteors per hour! It used to be only equal to summer’s Perseids but it has steadily increased past that in output over the past decade or so. Like all showers it is best before dawn, and THIS time, the two-days-past-First Quarter Moon sets around 2 AM local time and that is when Gemini is at its highest altitude in the sky. A good 3 or so hours of good—though cold so bundle up well and have hot caffeine around!—observing. You’ll get maybe half as many meteors on the nights before or after.
Meanwhile, here comes Comet Leonard. It may reach 4th magnitude, about as bright as the faintest stars near Arcturus in the map below. [Note, as the saying goes, comets are like cats—they have a tail and do what they will—it could be brighter or dimmer!] It will be closest to Earth December 12, and closest to the Sun on January 3rd. Being fuzzier and larger in apparent diameter than a star, ‘naked eye-ness” is a debatable point, but it should be a decently easy binocular object. It already sports a nice, photogenic tail though how much will be visible in binoculars is also subject to the comet’s whim.
In the chart below, set for about 5:45 AM on December 3rd, don’t confuse the comet’s fuzzy head with another fuzzy nearby, the bright globular cluster Messier 3! On the 6th it will be north (left) of orange-y Arcturus, an easy way to find it. Any tail(s) it has should be pointing upwards away from the horizon. After this, you’ll have to live in the Southern Hemisphere to view the comet, post-solar conjunction.
(Art adapted from Sky View Cafe)
Traditional Zodiac calendar—Sun in Sagittarius.
Reality—As discussed in the last issue, the Sun is in….Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer! And it will be there until after this issue expires. Then for the briefest of times, astrology will match astronomy. Wow…..
Oh, and Dr. Fauci didn’t respond to our sending him the article about his sign. He’s probably rather busy….
Astronomy in Everyday Life
* A career in shipping
As an avid lover of history, I came across this tidbit unexpectedly. Ships are named in many different ways, but rarely have I seen ship names with occupations, let alone the occupation of astronomer. Yet, the United Kingdom has had two ships named Astronomer. Both began as merchant ships—transporting cargo. Both were converted to wartime usage.
The first ship named HMS Astronomer was built in 1917. In its initial days it was a steam merchant ship for Liverpool shipping line T. & J. Harrison. [I wonder if they named it thusly because of Harrison, the clockmaker, who solved the determining longitude problem? Did they have other ships with historical occupations or astronomical connections?] In 1939, the Admiralty requisitioned the ship to be a Boom Defence vessel, meaning it laid down a kind of sea fence to thwart submarines. It didn’t apparently help this ship—a U-Boat sunk it in 1940—but thankfully all but 4 of the ships 105 complement survived the sinking.
The second ship was also a Harrison craft, built in 1977 as your basic cargo container ship (one of those types that currently seem to be in short supply). In 1982 she got grabbed by the British Navy for use in the Falklands War as a transport for helicopters and aircraft. They renamed it the RFA Reliant, used later in the Mediterranean off Lebanon, decommissioned back to Harrison in 1986, and scrapped in 1998 at the ripe old age of 21.
(Both photos courtesy Wikipedia and Creative Commons)
The Classroom Astronomer Newsletter Issue 14 Highlights
This premium Inbox Magazine is a subscribers-only publication, though a free Lite version is available.
Cover Photo - November 19th Eclipse
Welcome to This Issue! - TCA is going to 30 Issues!; Two Additions to Our Revamped Homepage!; New Column—Sky Lessons
Article - We —Had— an Eclipse….
Sky Lessons (New Column) - Night events to teach astronomy to students
Astronomical Teachniques -
IAU-Shaw: The Stars—Making Constellations With Rubber Bands;
IAU-Shaw: Gravity and Space-Time;
IAU-Shaw: Tactile Galaxies, for Sighted and Visually Impaired Together;
IAU-Shaw: Miscellaneous Things Noted.
The RAP Sheet – Research Abstracts for Practitioners -
- An Interactive Gravitational-Wave Detector Model for Museums and Fairs;
- The First Paragraph Is As Good As It Gets: STEM Articles in Wikipedia and Opportunistic Learning;
- Development and Application of a Concept Test on the Subject of Stars.
Connection to the Sky - Students LOVE Black Holes and Destruction!
The Hermograph End of Year/Holidays 50% Off Sale
Every year, Hermograph Press tries to clear its inventory shelves with an End of Year sale, in which a discount coupon nets you a discount off the sale. Sort of like Hermograph Roulette. With each issue of The Galactic Times and The Classroom Astronomer, the discount increases, but historically, the inventory goes down on some items so quickly that if you wait too long, there isn’t any inventory on an item you want to buy at a greater discount! To wit, there is only a limited supply of Spectrum Viewers left! And this is the final and greatest discount of the sale….
Until December 24th, the discount off any item in the Hermograph Store is:
== 50%, use Code EOY4. ====
==Astronomy and Education Related Items==
==Historical Tourism Books==
Does not reduce shipping charges or applicable sales tax. Shipping, though, will be free for US orders over $60.
If this is your first issue and you’d like to continue to receive issues,
Spread the word and get others to sign up!
Articles for The Galactic Times Newsletter are welcome. So are sponsorships and advertisements. Query us at the email address below!