Wednesday, 27 October, 2021

Mercury, Venus to Glide Across Taurus


Dr. Rishi Shah

As it darkens the night skies of this month would offer the mesmerisng marvels of the heavens in full glory. Major planets could be viewed during dawn and dusk. Stars and constellations along with other celestial wonders that prominently pepper the celestial realms could be savored with satisfaction throughout the night. Planets Mercury and Venus could be glimpsed tersely after sundown low in western sky. It would be gliding across the constellation Taurus (bull). On 17 May Mercury would reach its greatest eastern elongation from the Sun.

Captivating Encounter
It would be the best time to monitor Mercury. Their captivating close encounter could be noticed nicely towards the end of the month. The red planet Mars can be admired in western sky after nightfall for few hours against the backdrop of shimmering stars that sketch two thin fantasy figures describing the zodiacal constellation Gemini (twins). It would be sinking slowly into the western horizon. The scintillating sights of two mighty planets Jupiter and Saturn can be astound in southeastern sky during wee hours before the sunrise.
They would be then lost in solar glare. They would be mingling with the shiny stars that dwell in northern and southern sections of charismatic constellation Aquarius (water bearer) and Capricornus (sea goat).
Far-away greenish planet Uranus would be relaxing in Sun’s vicinity. Recognizing it before day-begin in eastern sky would not be so simple. It would be drifting through charming constellation Aries (ram). The far-flung bluish planet Neptune could be seen shortly in eastern sky before day-break from mid-month. It would be hurtling across northern region of Aquarius.
The distant diminutive dwarf planet Pluto could be perceived in southern sky for a few hours before sunup. It could be verified among the sparkling stars residing in northern segment of confounding constellation Sagittarius (archer). Avid asteroid-hunters could chase calmly 4-Vesta and 29-Amphtrite across the southeastern and southwestern sky from evening till almost midnight among the stars that depict the imaginary hindquarters like dim Chertan or Coxa or Purva Phalguni and the heart of lion like ruddy kingly Regulus aka Magha in constellation Leo.
They would be solely 165 and 79 light-years away. Sporadically slow-moving fireball caused by puny piece of asteroid grazing through atmosphere awesomely eighty five kilometers above earth lately during evening had enthralled onlookers in Spain with chilling consternation. It was witnessed thrillingly as it had whizzed impressively for purely and peculiarly one minute at seventeen kilometers per second and headed back out fast into space.
An average Eta Aquarid meteor shower would be displaying on average up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak from the night of 06 till the early onset of morning twilight on 07 May 2021. This shower has been allegedly produced by dust particles left behind by the iconic comet 1P/Halley, which has been observed since ancient times.
The comet debris would smash into earth’s upper atmosphere at incredibly 66.67 kilometers per second and burn-up sheer one hundred kilometers above earth’s surface. Roughly half of these swift-moving meteors leave persistent tracks resulting from ionized gas that would glow for seconds after the meteor has passed.

Earth Crosses Halley’s Path
Our earth would also cross the orbital path of Halley’s Comet at the end of the year, giving rise to the Orionid meteor shower, which would be enjoyed well during the predawn hours near 21 October. Eta Aquarids would run annually from 19 April to 28 May. The second quarter waning moon could choke some of the faintest meteors this year, but still ardent sky-gazers could catch quite a few fulgent ones. The meteors would seemingly emanate from the radiant point staying alongside the star Eta Aquarii that would be nestling nonchalantly in constellation Aquarius. It would be circa 168 light-years away.
The new moon would fall on 11 May, while the full moon would mystify moon-lovers on 26 May. The revered mother’s day and venerated Buddha Jayanti would be celebrated joyfully on these days respectively. This full moon has been popularly nicknamed the flower full moon, because during this time of the year colorful spring flowers would bloom abundantly. It would manifest the second of three super-moons for 2021.
The moon would make its closest approach (perigee) to the earth at perhaps 357.310 thousand kilometers and reckoned to be larger and brighter than usual in compelling constellation Scorpius (scorpion). On 26 May a total lunar eclipse would occur when the moon would slide completely through the earth's veiled shadow alias umbra. During this type of eclipse, the moon would gradually get murkier and then take on ravishing rusty color.
The super full moon total eclipse for barely fourteen minutes would be explicitly visible weather permitting from the Pacific Ocean and parts of eastern Asia, Japan, Australia and western North and South America. The moon would march through the earth's shadow between 15:30 hours and 18:37 hour our local time creating the opportunity to relish the total and partial lunar eclipse. The eclipse would be generally visible from any location where the moon would be above the horizon during the eclipse-time. However, we will not be able to watch this startling spectacle, since the moon would be beneath the horizon during eclipse. On this day the moon would rise at 18:50 hour and set at 04:52 hour the next day. Only penumbral eclipse could be discerned till it would end at 19:35 hour.
Lunar eclipses betide when the Sun, earth and moon are aligned in one straight line, so that earth would slip between the Sun and moon and would cast a shadow onto the moon. When earth would partially block Sun's light, the moon would proceed through earth’s penumbra and look less luminous than usual, but not completely inky. But when the earth would seal sun-light and the moon would creep through earth’s tenebrous umbra, the moon would disappear entirely to be un-illuminated.
Lunar eclipses can be easily applauded with the unaided eyes. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses could be safely peered without using any kind of certified filters or special shaded glasses. If the moon would be exactly on the same plane of earth revolving around the Sun, the earth would crawl
between the Sun and moon, lunar eclipse would transpire every month.
But the moon's orbit is weirdly tipped up by scant five degrees relative to the earth's trail around the Sun. Thus, lunar eclipses would befall at full moon, if the moon is close to or at the earth-Sun plane at points distinctly designated as the moon's ascending or descending nodes. Moon would intersect incessantly this earth–Sun plane twice each month.

JWST To Launch
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in collaboration with European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) would be probably launched in October 2021 on the ESA's Ariane-5 rocket from French Guiana. The cost of JWST has been estimated to be approximately ten billion US Dollars.
It has been named after James Edwin Webb, the second administrator of NASA. The JWST would become the largest space observatory with a huge sunshield base that would mimic the size of tennis court. It would become the worthy successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope (HST) operating since 1990. The cosmologists would attempt to map the dark matter around galaxies for expounding the conundrums of these arcane substances perplexingly prevalent in universe. Experts would try to unravel how the universe had commenced to expand and galaxies coalesced.
They would try to comprehend the queer gravitational effects of invisible dark matter and help to advance the understanding of mind-boggling mysteries in relation to life’s origin. Scientists would survey precisely the patch of sky around the comely constellation Sextans (instrument). JWST would effectively be gazing at objects evolved around 13.6 billion years ago basically one hundred million years after the hypothesized Big Bang when the first stars and galaxies started to exist. It would sail around the Sun. After flying up to 1.5 million kilometers from earth it would arrive at the gravitational sweet-spot dubbed as second Lagrange Point, where JWST would maintain its stable position.

(Dr Shah is academician at NAST and patron of Nepal Astronomical Society, or NASO)