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OverSky for September 2003: GOODBLYE GALILEO

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  • Erich Landstrom
    OverSky for September 2003: GOODBYE GALILEO. posted by Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System Educator On the last night of summer, the constellation of Lyra
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 17, 2003
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      OverSky for September 2003: GOODBYE GALILEO.
      posted by Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System

      On the last night of summer, the constellation of Lyra
      the Harp stands straight overhead at sunset. Lyra is
      part of the "Summer Triangle" asterism, formed by
      three stars in three separate constellations. The
      brightest star is Vega in Lyra, shining at the zenith,
      lighting the world under it. Next is the star Deneb,
      which is located in the constellation Cygnus the Swan.
      Finally, the star Altair soars above the Earth in the
      constellation Aquilla the Eagle. These three stars
      appear as a right triangle with Vega at the 90 degree
      intersection and Deneb and Altair along the

      According to Greek myth, both the swan and the eagle
      were sacred to the Roman god Jupiter, and Lyra once
      belonged to the musician Orpheus, a singer so great he
      could charm the birds out of the trees. On the day of
      his wedding, his bride Eurydice was bitten by a snake
      and died. Orpheus descended into the underworld, and
      sang so persuasively of his love, that Pluto agreed to
      let her follow Orpheus back to earth with one
      condition. Orpheus was warned he must not to look
      backwards at Eurydice even once during their ascent.
      But just as their journey was almost over, as Orpheus
      stepped into the sunlight, he was so eager to see his
      wife that he turned to look at her. At once she
      slipped back into the grave forever. Orpheus died by
      being torn limb from limb by a group of women angry
      with him for rejecting their advances. Orpheus� lyre
      was placed in the sky by Jupiter, where it became the
      constellation Lyra.

      Like a modern-day Orpheus, NASA�s Galileo spacecraft
      comes to its finale on September 21st. It too will be
      torn limb from limb, as it enters the underworld of
      the planet Jupiter. Galileo was launched on October
      18, 1989, and arrived at Jupiter in December 1995.
      En-route it visited Venus; asteroids Ida, Dactyl, and
      Gaspra; and the Earth and Moon. Although Galileo�s
      damaged main antenna meant it could never sing as
      sweetly as Orpheus, it did return impressive
      information. Galileo's primary mission was to study
      Jupiter's atmosphere, magnetosphere, and the four
      largest moons for two years (1995-1997) from the
      orbiting spacecraft and an atmospheric probe. In an
      extended mission, for two more years (1997-1999)
      Galileo studied in further detail and closer range
      Jupiter's icy moon Europa and its fiery moon Io.
      Galileo continued its studies under yet another
      extension, called the Galileo Millennium Mission,
      which saw joint observations of Jupiter with the
      Cassini spacecraft as it flew by on its way to Saturn.
      The Galileo spacecraft made a final visit to Jupiter�s
      moon Amalthea in November 2002. The rendezvous set it
      on a course to impact with Jupiter itself on September
      21, 2003. It will be destroyed to prevent possible
      contamination while still controllable, lest it drift
      into an unwanted impact with the moon Europa, where
      Galileo discovered evidence of a subsurface (there�s
      that theme again!) ocean that is a possible habitat
      for extraterrestrial life. Follow the descent at

      Speaking of modern myths, in a clever
      interdisciplinary approach, the wizardry of Harry
      Potter has been blended with the �wow� of the Galileo
      mission by Dr. Tony Phillips from NASA's Marshall
      Space Flight Center. His Science@NASA website story
      �Harry Potter and the Moons of Jupiter,� cites serious
      astronomy references Hermione makes in �Harry Potter
      and the Order of the Phoenix.�
      I�ll bet she knows where the constellation of Phoenix
      is in the southern hemisphere, too.
      LUNAR ALMANAC SEPTEMBER 2003 (All times are Eastern
      September 3: First Quarter (8:34 AM)
      September 8 & 90: Moon by Mars (dusk)
      September 10: Full Harvest Moon (12:36 PM)
      September 16: Moon at apogee (404,714 km); lower high
      tides, higher low tides.
      September 18: Last Quarter (3:03 PM)
      September 20: Moon by Saturn (dawn)
      September 24: Moon between Jupiter and Mercury (dawn)
      September 25: New Moon (11:09 PM)
      September 28: Moon at perigee (362,834 km); higher
      high tides, lower low tides.
      Tip: The full moon's diameter measures about 1/2 of
      one degree in the night sky.

      SOLAR ALMANAC SEPTEMBER 2003 (All times are Eastern at
      the 80 deg. N. longitude of West Palm Beach. Add 20
      minutes to each time for each 5� west.)
      Sep. 1: Sun Rise: 6:59 AM EST, Sun Set: 7:40 PM
      Sep. 14: Sun Rise: 7:05 AM EDT, Sun Set: 7:26 PM
      Sep. 28: Sun Rise: 7:12 AM EDT, Sun Set: 7:08 PM

      EARTH: the autumn equinox begins at 6:47 AM EST on
      September 23rd. Going to try balancing an egg?
      MARS is magnificent even as it drops a magnitude (mag.
      -2.5), its ginger glow easily visible after sunset in
      the southeast. Mars continues to move retrograde
      through Aquarius until the 29th.
      SATURN shines (mag. +0.1) between the kneecaps of
      Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, visible high in
      southeast at dawn.
      JUPITER (mag. -1.7) and MERCURY are low in the east
      about an hour before sunrise in the constellation Leo,
      and sets about 3 � hours after the Sun.
      VENUS in Virgo is too close to the Sun to be seen
      after sunset.

      Join the "science giant" Erich Landstrom on SCIFI
      OVERDRIVE radio program for science fiction, and
      science fact stranger sounding than fiction. It�s like
      Paul Harvey, with pointy ears. Listen to a broadcast
      Monday mornings on the Business Talk radio network and
      at www.scifioverdrive.com over the Internet!

      Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System Educator
      Solar System Educators Program http://www.ssep.org
      [Hands-on teacher training workshops sharing NASA's
      missions of research, discovery and exploration!]

      Science fiction & science fact stranger than fiction.
      Listen Monday mornings on http://www.SCIFIOVERDRIVE.com

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