Friday, September 5, 2008

Asteroid visit by Rosetta - today! - and ATV deorbit highlights of September 2008

After August brought us two or three eclipses, September 2008 isn't that rich in natural celestial extravaganzas - so we produce them ourselves when Rosetta flies by asteroid (2867) Steins today at 18:58 UTC. Downlink of images and other data will take a few hours, so it gets really interesting only tomorrow. Also this month the ATV will become a huge man-made meteor - which some plan to observe from the air.
  • Sep. 6, 10:00-11:00 UTC news conference - streamed on the web - on the outcome of the Steins encounter which ESA already is blogging about quite frantically.

  • Sep. 12: Venus 0.4° from Mars; may be a telescopic daytime target.

  • Sep. 13: Uranus in opposition at mag. 5.7.

  • Sep. 19: Venus, Mars and Mercury form a 4° triangle; may be visible telescopically in daytime in Europe, for more Southern regions see below.

  • Sep. 20: Another Plejades occultation by the Moon (in the wee hours for Europe).

  • Sep. 27: Waning crescent Moon visits Saturn - the morning visibility of the latter (with rings at a shallow angle) begins.

  • Sep. 29: Controlled deorbiting of the ATV over the Pacific Ocean - the reentry will be observed from two airplanes for scientific reasons.
Observers in the Southern hemisphere have more planetary fun now with Venus, Mercury and Mars easily seen in the evening sky on Sep. 2 (another picture). From lower Northern sites the trio may be visible very low on the W horizon these days, but binoculars will be needed.

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