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Kevin M. Berg

Astronomy News

In the News May/June

Chang'e-6 Moon Mission is Exciting!
May 3rd,   China's 6th Chang'-e lunar mission successfully launched today!   This multi-level mission will use the newly deployed Chinese lunar communication satellite, deliver an autonomous lunar module to core samples from the far side of the Aitkin basin, and will return the samples to Earth for analysis.   Not to mention the mission's collaboration with France, Sweden, Italy, and Pakistan who have all provided science objectives on this mission. This is ambitious!   Learn more about this mission in the brief online article at space.com.

June 2nd,   After a month of lunar orbiting reconnaissance a landing spot was selected and today the sample-return mission touched down successfully in the huge South Pole Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon!   The mission plan calls for two days of coring and sample retrieval of about 4.5 pounds of materials.   As you read the headlines, notice that most of the news articles dwell on the political prestige of this accomplishment rather than on the science of the mission.   PBS is no exception, Rivalry with U.S..

June 3rd,   The Chang'e-6 lunar ascent was successful in the waning hours of June 3rd!   The ascent module then docked with the return capsule on June 6, transferring the samples into the return vehicle.   At some point, the ascender will be released to impact the lunar surface and the orbiter-return vehicle will leave orbit about June 21-22.   The samples will be brought back to Earth for analysis, roughly by June 25.   Stay tuned for the exciting end of this mission!

Human Cargo Aboard... Get it Right!
May 6th   How long?   Since 2014, same as SpaceX!   That's how long Boeing has been working on perfecting their semi-reusable Starliner spacecraft, built to shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS.   Getting it right is no small task; soon NASA will have two options to fulfill future missions.   Today's launch was scrubbed due to a faulty valve; the launch is currently scheduled for no sooner than May 17th.   For more information, see this brief news item in space.com.

June 1st   May 17th morphed into a June 1st launch date.   Disappointingly, with astronauts aboard for this first crewed Starliner mission, the June 1st liftoff was cancelled in the final minutes of the countdown.   The NASA press release explained that the termination was "due to an observation of a ground launch sequencer.   The system was unsuccessful in verifying the necessary redundancy."   As always, better safe than sorry.   Stand by for the next scheduled launch date.

June 5th   Today was the day! All systems were go, the launch was successful, and two astronauts are aboard the Starliner destined to arrive at the ISS on June 6th, for a one week stay before returning home. Congratulations to one and all!

June 21st   For astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, the planned one-week stay aboard the ISS, departing around June 12th, has become an extended stay due to helium leaks and thruster malfunctions on the Boeing Starliner.   As of today, the return trip will not occur before June 26th.   Read this short article on space.com for additional details.

Summer's Bright Stars are Back!
The bright winter stars that surround Orion's famous red supergiant star Betelgeuse made their final appearances last month.   By the end of this month, the remaining bright winter stars, Capella, Pollux, and Castor, will have followed suit. Shortly thereafter, Leo the lion with its bright Spring star Regulus will end its dominance in the night sky.   Three "new" bright stars begin to catch our eye in the early summer East sky, Vega, Deneb, and Altair, the stars of the summer triangle, the gatway stars to the summer Milky Way.   The brightest star in the summer sky, Arcturus, is now nearly overhead, with Spica to its lower right.   Antares, the heart of Scorpius, beautifies the Southeast night sky with its ever-twinkling bright orange light.   Goodbye to our old friends.   Hello, new friends!

Summer Solstice Today!
June 20th    What?   We have peaked?   The sun has reached its highest altitude for the year?   So Soon?   It may seem that summer weather has just arrived in Michigan, but a slow astronomical change begins on the 21st as Earth on its tilted axis continues its annual trek around the sun, with the sun achieving imperceptibly less altitude every day on Earth's steady journey to the next notable event, the Fall Equinox.

June's Lunar Cycle:
The New Moon occurs on the 6th, First Quarter on the 14th, Full Moon is on the 21st and the cycle completes on the 28th with the Last Quarter Moon.

On-Line Programs to enjoy on a cloudy night!
--Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Image of Aristarchus Crater released Dec 1st, 2022 LROC,.
--The McDonald Observatory Archive of livestreams can be found Here.
--The STSCI lecture series archives can be found Here.

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