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Oversky for December 2003: FIRST FLIGHT

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  • Erich Landstrom
    OverSky for December 2003: FIRST FLIGHT posted by Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System Educator From author Douglas Adams: “This is what The Hitchhiker’s
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 9, 2003
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      OverSky for December 2003: FIRST FLIGHT
      posted by Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System
      Educator

      From author Douglas Adams: �This is what The
      Hitchhiker�s Guide to the Galaxy has to say on the
      subject of flying: There is an art, or, rather, a
      knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to
      throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day
      and try it.�

      December 17, 1903 wasn�t a nice day. It was a cold,
      damp, windy day with temperatures below freezing and
      steady winds blowing at 27 miles per hour. But it was
      also the day men first flew in a heavier-than-air
      machine. At 10:35 AM, the world�s first successful
      powered aircraft lifted off the beach at the Outer
      Banks of North Carolina. Pilot Orville Wright took it
      on a 12-second, 120-foot journey into history. With
      December 17, 2003, marks the centennial anniversary of
      the world's first powered flight
      (www.centennialofflight.gov).

      In the 100 years since brother Wilbur took the
      controls of the Wright Flyer, consider how far we have
      come. For the fourth and flight of the day, Wilbur
      covered 852 feet in 59 seconds. By December 17, 2003,
      NASA�s Voyager 1 spacecraft will have flown 8.4
      billion miles beyond the Outer Banks into outer space,
      in 26 years. Its instruments register that the solar
      wind of electrically charged gas blown constantly from
      the Sun has died down from about 700,000 miles per
      hour to less than 100,000 mph, and still Voyager 1
      flies on (http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/).

      On December 24, 1968, three astronauts had flown
      1,267,200,000 feet in 3 days, so far above the dunes
      of Kitty Hawk, NC, that they were now flying above the
      hills of the Moon. Apollo 8, the first manned mission
      to the Moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve.
      That evening, the astronauts; Commander Frank Borman,
      Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module
      Pilot William Anders did a live television broadcast
      from lunar orbit in which they showed pictures of the
      Earth. On December 24, 2003, ESA's Mars Express probe
      is scheduled to arrive at Mars. On Christmas Eve, the
      British-made Beagle 2 lander is expected to throw
      itself at the ground and land safely using parachutes
      and airbags. Like the first flight on Earth 100 years
      earlier, the weather on Mars at Isidis Planitia will
      be cold. Temperatures on the red planet fall below
      �125�C but there is not enough moisture in the
      atmosphere to make it damp. The first images of Mars
      from the cameras of Beagle 2 and Mars Express are
      expected to be available between the end of the year
      and the beginning of January 2004
      (http://www.beagle2.com).

      Appropriate to all this flying, the constellation of
      Pegasus the Winged Horse is straight overhead at
      sunset in December, with Mars just beneath it. The
      stars of the �Great Square� that form Pegasus� torso
      are all bright, formed by a four star diamond with
      magnitudes between 2 and 3: alpha Peg, beta Peg, gamma
      Peg and Sirrah. Originally the fourth star was called
      delta Peg, but nowadays this star is assigned to the
      neighboring constellation Andromeda. She rides on the
      wings of an airborne equine, a fable of flight for all
      time.

      LUNAR ALMANAC DECEMBER 2003 (All times are Eastern
      Time)
      December 1: Moon by Mars
      December 7: Moon at apogee (406,275 km); lower high
      tides, higher low tides.
      December 8: Full Moon (3:37 PM)
      December 10: Moon by Saturn
      December 15: Moon by Jupiter
      December 16: Last Quarter (12:43 PM)
      December 22: Moon at perigee (358,348 km); higher high
      tides, lower low tides.
      December 23: New Moon (4:44 AM)
      December 25: Moon by Venus
      December 30: First Quarter (5:05 AM)
      Tip: The full moon's diameter measures about 1/2 of
      one degree in the night sky.

      SOLAR ALMANAC DECEMBER 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.)
      December 1: Sun Rise: 6:51 AM, Sun Set: 5:26 PM
      December 15: Sun Rise: 7:00 AM, Sun Set: 5:29 PM
      December 31: Sun Rise: 7:08 AM, Sun Set: 5:37 PM
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      PLANET PLACEMENT
      VENUS (mag. -4.0) passes from Sagittarius to
      Capricornus, low in the west at sunset.
      MERCURY (mag. 0.5) is lower than Venus and to her
      right in Capricornus, easily visible in the west after
      sunset during the first 2 weeks of December.
      MARS shines beneath the Circlet of Pisces at mag.
      -0.5). Its ginger glow is easily visible after sunset
      in the south.
      SATURN shines (mag. -0.83) between the kneecaps of
      Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, visible low in
      the west-northwest at dawn.
      JUPITER beams brightly (mag. -2.6) at the hind feet of
      Leo high in the southeast before dawn.
      EARTH sees the shortest day of the year for the
      northern hemisphere, as the winter solstice occurs on
      December 22nd at 2:04 AM EST.

      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
      http://sseforum.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm
      [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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