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The Mars Rover Is So Worth It, But Meteor Showers Are Free

Posted By Beth Daniels On August 11, 2012 @ 11:13 am In Entertainment | Comments Disabled

[1]I love space stuff — not enough to take physics or anything, but enough to really wish I had the cash to chase solar eclipses [2] around the world. Why? Because I was in grade school during the best years of NASA’s Apollo Program [3] and some of my fondest memories are of our little family huddled around the TV to watch the launches [4] and splashdowns [5] of Apollos 14 to 17.

I know the exact date Neil Armstrong [6] walked on the moon because it happened on my sister’s sixth birthday (July 20, 1969 [7]) and our mom made a “Pin the Man on the Moon” game for her party. On my birthday in 1973 the comet Kohoutek [8] reached its perihelion [9], which is the only reason I know what both perihelion and unfulfilled media hype [10]mean. Ah, the early ’70s; it was all Tang [11], Space Food Sticks [12], NASA mission patches [13] and a pop-cultural appreciation of science and the vast wonder of the universe. Even we campers at the JCC took a break from jacks to watch Skylab [14] flit across the night sky at a sleepover scheduled for the occasion.

It all kind of faded away in the 1980s with the terrible tragedy of the Challenger disaster [15] and such fitful happenings as the post-Hippie yawnfest that was the Harmonic Convergence [16] and all those sad, sad Star Trek movies (yes, nerdlingers, except for The Wrath of Khan [17]).

Maybe the awesomeness skips a decade, because the 1990s were spectacular for the casual astronomer. I saw a total lunar eclipse [18] on a dusty, cluttered rooftop in Cairo [19] in 1992; a breathtaking display of meteor showers on a different, cleaner rooftop in Turkey a year later; then a total solar eclipse [20] in the spring of 1994 in Berkeley, and the collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter [21] a few months after that. You could see the comet Hyakutake [22] not too far from any U.S. city in 1996, and anyone walking around town at night in 1997 could see the comet Hale-Bopp [23] (two tails, very bright) on her way to dinner in Dupont Circle.

Again, skip a decade and here we are in the 2010s, which have been pretty excellent so far: we had a once-in-a-century Transit of Venus [24] in June this year and the successful landing of the land rover ”Curiosity” [25] on the planet Mars just the other day. I’d say the heavens have opened up again.

And late tonight (August 11/early August 12) is the peak of the Perseids [26], the best meteor showers of the year, [27] so please, go out and celebrate the wonder of popular science by standing out on your lawn or driving out to a park someplace this weekend. Look for the constellation Cassiopeia [28] (it’s shaped like a wide “W” in the northeast) and fix your eyes on the space just below the back of her chair toward the constellation Perseus [29] and watch. If the weather cooperates, you’ll never forget it.

Space stuff is awesome: it’s forever and it’s free — all you need to do is look up.

Photo by jking89 [1] via Flickr

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URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jking89/3728675898/

[2] chase solar eclipses: http://www.eclipse-chasers.com/

[3] NASA’s Apollo Program: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/index.html

[4] launches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKbljFi0WBc&feature=relmfu

[5] splashdowns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-Vd75Ptg9I

[6] Neil Armstrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong

[7] July 20, 1969: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTBIr65cL_E&feature=related

[8] Kohoutek: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Kohoutek

[9] perihelion: http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/segwayed/lessons/cometstale/frame_orbits.html

[10] unfulfilled media hype : http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&dat=19731212&id=50UgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PpwEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6025,2282663

[11] Tang: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf1kw5Yp9Ck

[12] Space Food Sticks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPZ8HHRR1A0&feature=related

[13] NASA mission patches: https://www.google.com/search?q=mission+patches+apollo&hl=en&sa=X&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&rlz=1I7TSNF_en&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=irUlUJ7TE8OWywGY_YDoCQ&ved=0CE4QsAQ&biw=1093&bih=498

[14] Skylab: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/skylab/index.html

[15] Challenger disaster: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster

[16] Harmonic Convergence: http://www.radioastrology.com/TFG/HarmConv.htm

[17] The Wrath of Khan: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084726/

[18] total lunar eclipse: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/lunar.html

[19] cluttered rooftop in Cairo: https://www.google.com/search?q=cairo+rooftops&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&rlz=1I7TSNF_en&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=ZGEmULmoIoLBygHRj4GwBw&ved=0CDMQ_AUoAQ&biw=1093&bih=498

[20] total solar eclipse: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/solar.html

[21] collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXgq3Iq4wOk

[22] Hyakutake: https://www.google.com/search?q=hale-bopp&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&rlz=1I7TSNF_en&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=CaIlUL7_GeXKyQGn4IG4CQ&sqi=2&ved=0CDgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1093&bih=498#hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us%3AIE-Address&rlz=1I7TSNF_en&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=hyakutake+&oq=hyakutake+&gs_l=img.3..0j0i24l4.353607.359312.0.360208.,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=622d408f18e67fd4&biw=1093&bih=498

[23] Hale-Bopp: https://www.google.com/search?q=hale-bopp&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&rlz=1I7TSNF_en&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=CaIlUL7_GeXKyQGn4IG4CQ&sqi=2&ved=0CDgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1093&bih=498

[24] Transit of Venus: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/2012-venus-transit.html

[25] land rover ”Curiosity”: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

[26] Perseids: http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm

[27] meteor showers of the year,: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

[28] Cassiopeia: http://stardate.org/nightsky/constellations/cassiopeia

[29] Perseus: http://stardate.org/nightsky/constellations/perseus

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