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Skywatch ofr the week of October 3, 2022

Skywatch Monday 10-3-2022.mp3


Last week when hurricane Ian was making a mess of things, I made some basic observations that had also been done centuries ago by Ben Franklin. On October 21st, 1743 in Philadelphia, a big storm came in from the northeast. But his brother up in the northeast in Boston told him that they got the storm later. The storm hit Philadelphia first? Franklin gathered a lot of weather reports and found that the storm had moved up the Atlantic seaboard, moving counter to the local surface winds. And so Ben Franklin discovered the cyclonic nature of a hurricane. Last Wednesday evening, the winds over my house in Fort Pierce blew hard from the south on Wednesday evening, then changed directions, coming from the west, and finally shifted again to the north as Ian approached us from the south and then breezed by us as it moved north and east.

Skywatch Tuesday 10-4-2022.mp3


Sixty-five years ago, on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. A few months later, the United States launched Explorer 1, and another satellite now orbited the earth. Today, thousands of satellites are in orbit; and every so often, you can see one passing overhead. It looks like a moving star, or like a light from a high-flying jet, but the satellite moves along at a pretty good clip, crossing the sky in only a matter of minutes, and yet you can't hear any sound coming from it, because it’s out in space. A couple of hundred miles up, satellites reflect sunlight down to the earth, and so are visible for a couple of hours after sunset or a couple of hours before sunrise, a time when we are in earth's shadow, but the satellite is just outside it.

Skywatch Wednesday 10-5-2022.mp3

Wed Oct 5, 2022 ROBERT GODDARD

Robert Goddard was born a hundred and forty years ago today, on October 5th, 1882. When he suggested that rockets could take us to the moon, the New York Times announced that he was wrong, because everyone knew that rockets couldn’t work in outer space because there was no air for them to push against. But Goddard understood that a rocket’s exhaust did not push against the air; the action of the combustion in the rocket created the reaction of the exhaust pushing against the rocket itself (Newton’s Third Law). In 1926 he launched the first liquid-fueled rocket which replaced gunpowder-like solid fuel.) The advantage here is that, unlike solid fuel rockets which go until they run out, you can throttle up and throttle back liquid fuel engines and obtain a great deal more control over the speed and flight path of the rocket.

Skywatch Thursday 10-6-2022.mp3


The planet Mars has now made its way into the late evening sky; you’ll find it as yellow-orange-tinted starlike object lodged in the horns of the constellation Taurus. Toward the end of autumn, our planet will be catching up with and passing Mars at a mere distance of some 50 million miles, which means that Mars will be getting nice and bright over the next few months. Because of this, Indian River State College will be presenting the show, “Red Planet Rising” at the Hallstrom Planetarium, beginning this Friday night and Saturday afternoon. We’ll talk about Mars and the possibility of one day sending people to the red planet to kick over a few of its rocks and see what’s going on up there. Join us starting this Friday night. Call the IRSC Box office at 462-4750 to get tickets and more show information.

Skywatch Friday 10-7-2022.mp3


The moon will be full this weekend. Tonight, it’s in its fat, waxing gibbous phase, over in the constellation Aquarius, which is well up in the southeastern sky after sunset. You’ll be able to see the moon, weather permitting, even at sunset; but once it gets dark, look off to the left of the moon, and you’ll find the planet Jupiter, appearing as a very bright star, owing to its great size and relative closeness to the earth in its orbit, less than four hundred million miles away. We have planetarium shows at the College tonight, and afterwards, we’ll be looking at the moon and Jupiter, plus the planet Saturn, if skies permit. Members of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society and our student Hallstrom Astronomy club will be on hand to provide guided views through the telescope.