Planet Talk

Solar Eclipses, Ganymede, and other Space News…

This week in the astronomical world has been rather eventful!

On June 10th, 2021, Earth got to view a solar eclipse! This particular eclipse was unique because it was annular. Annular solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth, but the moon is relatively far in its orbit. This distance makes it so that the moon cannot cover the entire Sun, leaving the effect of a “ring” shape, known as the “ring of fire.” Those in northern latitudes were able to see the ring of this annular solar eclipse to its full effect, while other regions further south were able to capture a stunning partial eclipse (nearly 70% of the moon was covered) early in the morning!

Solar Eclipse 2021 Live: Surya Grahan June 2021 Today India Live Updates -  Date, Timings, Live Streaming Online
This image shows what the “ring of fire” looks like during an annular eclipse.

In other news, recently, Juno, NASA’s orbiter spacecraft, just flew closer to Ganymede than it has in over a decade! Ganymede is Jupiter’s largest moon, and this flyby allowed for more detailed and stunning images of the moon’s surface and craters.

Image of Ganymede taken by the JunoCam on June 7th.

The US Senate recently passed the US Innovation and Competition Act (on a 68-32 vote), aimed at increasing scientific and astronomical innovation and countering China’s technological influence. This Act allocates almost 250 billion dollars to American scientific research, including 10 billion dollars for the development of private crewed moon landers for NASA. The majority of this 10 billion dollars is going towards NASA’s Artemis program. Artemis is an ongoing project directed at establishing human presence on the moon by the end of this decade.

On June 7, Jeff Bezos announced that he is scheduled to take off from Earth aboard the New Shepard, along with his brother Mark. This trip on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle will be the first crewed flight, making it a distinctive and special experience. The flight is scheduled to leave from Blue Origin’s West Texas facility on July 20, which is the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The flight itself is only going to last around 11 minutes. However, even for this short ride, Blue Origin is allowing room for one other occupant. The seat was auctioned off for a total of 28 million dollars. Bidding opened at $4.8 million but surpassed $20 million within the first few minutes of the auction. The winning bidder will be able to travel to the edge of space along with Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark.

A New Shepard rocket launches on a test flight.
This is an image of New Shepard launching a test flight.

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