What’s Up in the Sky
At any moment of the day, countless awe-inspiring celestial events are unfolding in the sky. With a universe of options, it can be hard to pin down what to observe, what to look into or what to remember. Each week, this column will take a peek at what’s happening in the sky and in the world of astronomy in general to provide a quick list of highlights that can jumpstart your own explorations.
What to observe:
November 12 - North Taurids Meteor Shower Peaks
Set to peak around November 12th, the North Taurids Meteor Shower usually does not produce a prolific amount of meteors per hour. But of the less than 10 that do occur, there is a greater chance that some of these might be of the quite spectacular and particularly bright “fireball” variety. The Taurids, which appear to radiate from the Taurus the Bull constellation, will appear best in the Northern Hemisphere. Although the ideal time for meteor viewing is usually in the first few hours after midnight, the waning gibbous moon will provide enough interference to warrant pre-moonrise observing. To view the show, all you need is your naked eye, a good place to lie down under a dark open sky and patience.
What to look into:
November 12 – Rosetta Spacecraft to Launch Philae Lander for Comet Touchdown
In August, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft completed an epic 10-year journey toward a historic rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Since its arrival, it has been busy snapping photos, collecting data and mapping the comet’s surface to select the ideal destination spot for its passenger – the Philae lander. Now the mission is prepping for a culminating moment – the deployment of this passenger probe toward a landing on the comet’s nucleus. If the effort is successful, it will be the first controlled touchdown of a spacecraft on a comet’s nucleus. Philae will be released from Rosetta at 8:35 GMT on November 12th and head toward the pre-selected landing site, which has been named Agilkia. By 16:00 GMT, Rosetta’s mission headquarters hopes to receive confirmation of Philae’s successful arrival. Once it has touched down and anchored itself, Philae will take the first images of the surface of a comet and begin scientific investigations into composition. Live-streaming events of the landing are planned. The ESA’s coverage can be accessed at http://rosetta.esa.int. The Slooh Community Observatory (http://live.slooh.com) will begin their coverage at 19:00 GMT on November 12th.