Upcoming Cosmic Events

Three big astronomical events coming up over the next month.

1. August 20, Sunday, is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2. In 1977, Voyager 2 was launched on a journey to the outer planets. Along with Voyager 1, these two satellites did the first flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  Traveling at over 38,000 miles per hour, Voyager 2 is now 15 billion miles away from earth. It is approaching the edge of our solar system. It will encounter the star Sirius in 300,000 years.

2. The following day, Monday August 21, is a solar eclipse. This is the first major eclipse across the United States since 1918. Beginning in Oregon and passing down through South Carolina, there will be a 70 mile swath of complete darkness across the states. Most of the US will see at least an 80% eclipse (here in Indianapolis, we’ll have 93% coverage). The entire event will be over an hour in length, with the full eclipse only a couple minutes in length.

Be sure to never look at the Sun without proper protection, especially during an eclipse. Regular sunglasses do NOT give ample eye protection. Only special eclipse sunglasses with an ISO 12312-2 rating. I purchased 10 pair on Amazon for $3.99, including shipping. Order now, to ensure they arrive on time.

3. September 5 is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1. Launched 16 days after Voyager 2, its trajectory brought it first to Jupiter, and so it was named V-1. Having traveled 18.5 billion miles from earth, Voyager 1 is the first and only manmade item to leave our solar system (August 2012). It currently is measuring the interstellar gases and winds.

Voyager was part of the plot in Star Trek movie with Captain Kirk finding an alien modified version centuries in our future. I thank Voyager for making me the Trekkie I am today.

The satellites run on a nuclear powered electric motor expected to run down by 2025. After that, they will not have enough energy to transmit anything else to earth. Voyager 1 will encounter star AC +79 3888 in about 40,000 years. The star is further out, but is approaching earth, shortening the time to arrival.

 

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