Lost in space or exploring the unknown?

Written by Miruna Cândea

Since the beginning of time people have wondered what is hidden beyond the blue sky. Each night our ancestors could see a lot of little shiny dots, which they have called “stars”. Nowadays, not only do we know the distance, name, age and galaxy of each of these stars, but much more about the whole universe.

source: New Scientist

In this article you can read about the astronomical phenomena that will occur in 2019, the missions prepared for this year and some interesting facts about space.

Watch the sky in 2019!

2019 will feature some interesting astronomical phenomena.

Jan. 5–6: Partial solar eclipse

Although not as revered as a total solar eclipse, a partial eclipse is still an awe-inspiring sight. This one will be visible in some parts of eastern Asia, but will be best viewed from north-east Russia where it will reach 62 percent coverage.

Jan. 20–21: Supermoon lunar eclipse

The first of three consecutive supermoons in 2019 — when the full moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit and therefore appears larger in the sky — January’s full moon will also coincide with a total lunar eclipse in some parts of the world, taking on a dark-red colour as the moon passes behind the shadow cast by the Earth. The eclipse will be visible across North and South America and in the most extreme western parts of Europe and Africa. The second supermoon of the year will occur on February 19 and the third on March 21.

Jan. 22: Conjunction between Venus and Jupiter

An astronomical sight to wake up early for! The pair of bright planets will be visible above the horizon in the wee hours of the morning, fading with the rising of dawn. Venus will be glistening brightly at a magnitude of -4.3, outshining gas giant Jupiter and its magnitude of -1.9. Both will be in the constellation of Ophiuchus and share the same right ascension, with Venus passing just 2 degrees 26' north of Jupiter — in reality there is over 365 million miles (588 million kilometers) between the two planets at their closest point to one another.

June 10: Jupiter reaches opposition

The king of the solar system will be at its closest approach to Earth and fully illuminated by the sun, reaching a magnitude of -2.6 in Ophiuchus, making this the best opportunity to set your sights on it. Jupiter will be clearly visible to the naked eye as an orange-tinted star. A good pair of binoculars will reveal Jupiter’s four largest moons, looking like smaller stars within the planet’s vicinity and creating a wonderful target for astrophotography. A medium-sized telescope should reveal some contrast in the swirling cloud bands.

July 2: Total solar eclipse

After the show-stealing Great American Eclipse passed over the entire continent of North America in August 2017, this event may not seem as spectacular, but it will still be a magnificent sight to behold if you happen to be in the path of totality in central Chile or Argentina. A total solar eclipse is a rare phenomenon caused by the moon — being the same apparent size from Earth as our sun — passing in front of the sun and blocking its light. This reveals the mysterious, hot halo of the sun’s corona. Neighboring South American countries will also be treated to a partial solar eclipse, where the moon covers part of the sun’s face, creating a ‘bite’ out of its glowing disc

July 9: Saturn reaches opposition

Saturn will be well placed for observation in Sagittarius, fully illuminated by the sun as it makes its closest approach to Earth. Even though Saturn will still be over nine-times the Earth-sun distance, it will be visible to the naked eye as a magnitude 0.1 golden-hued “star.” On top of this, Saturn’s rings will be inclined at an angle of 24 degrees to us — almost the maximum inclination they can have — so viewing through a medium-sized or larger telescope you will be treated to one of the best views of the planet’s famous ring system, as well as some of its larger moons.

Nov. 11: Mercury transit across the sun

The passage of a planet across the sun is a rare event to witness. A telescope equipped with a solar filter will be required to watch this transit safely, with a magnification of at least 50x recommended for a good view of Mercury making its way around the sun, which is 277 times bigger than its closest planet. The transit will start at sunrise across North America, with the entire transit visible from the East Coast, South America and West Africa. The transit will be visible from the whole of Africa, Europe and Scandinavia as the Sun sets. Mercury will not make another visible transit until November 2032, so make sure you take this chance!

Dec. 26: Annular solar eclipse

A solar eclipse is only possible because the apparent size of the sun and moon are the same in the sky when viewed from Earth. Also known as a ‘ring of fire’, an annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is too far away from Earth to block the entirety of the sun’s light The path of the eclipse will start in Saudi Arabia, travelling east across South India, North Sri Lanka and Indonesia. A partial eclipse will also be visible throughout most of Asia and North Australia.

New missions and events in 2019

January 1 — New Horizons — Flies by Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69: NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive HeaderNew Horizons Pluto Kuiper Belt FlybyNSSDCA/COSPAR ID: 2006–001ADescriptionNew Horizons is a mission designed to fly by Pluto and its moon Charon and transmit images and data back to Earth. It will then continue on into the Kuiper Belt where it will fly by a one or more Kuiper Belt Objects and return further data.

Late January — Hayabusa2- Japan’s Hayabusa2 will extract surface samples from the Ryugu asteroid.

The Moon should receive at least a pair of new robotic visitors in 2019.

The European Space Agency is planning to launch the CHEOPS space telescope at some point in October or November.

January 30 — Chandrayaan-2 — Launch of ISRO (India) lunar orbiter, lander, and rover. The primary objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

January — SpaceIL — SpaceIL is a lunar lander funded and built by the non-profit organization SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, with technical support from the Israel Space Agency. The mission is scheduled to launch in January 2018 and land on the Moon roughly two months later.

September — OSIRIS-Rex — The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission is designed to return a sample of material from near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid Bennu

Did you know that…

1. Space is completely silent.

2. The hottest planet in our solar system is 450° C.

3. There may be life on Mars.

4. Nobody knows how many stars are in space.

5. Halleys Comet won’t orbit past Earth again until 2061.

6. A full NASA space suit costs $12,000,000.

7. Neutron stars can spin 600 times per second.

8. There may be a planet made out of diamonds.

9. One day on Venus is longer than one year.

10. In 3.75 billion years the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will collide.

11. If two pieces of the same type of metal touch in space they will permanently bond.

12. There is floating water in space.

13. The largest known asteroid is 965 km (600 mi) wide.

14. The Moon was once a piece of the Earth.

15. The Sun’s mass takes up 99.86% of the solar system.

16. There is a volcano on Mars three times the size of the Everest.

Although we have learned a lot about the universe lately, even more mysteries and secrets are waiting to be found and explored.