The big space news right now is the Friday announcement from NASA about the May 27th launch of our own astronauts from Cape Canaveral Florida! So, let’s talk about that and more in this month’s Astronomy Update.

Friday, Director of NASA Jim Bridenstine announced that Colonel Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will launch to the international space station on Space-X’s crew Dragon spacecraft.

The Falcon 9 rocket will be used in the launch. Back on January 19th, SpaceX tested the rocket and the Dragon escape system.

With the current social distancing rules in effect, traveling to Cape Canaveral to see this launch in person is not recommended. While there are parks to see the launch all around the area, more than likely they will be closed off. The best way to see this will be on NASA TV.

As the launch date gets closer, I’ll share a list of links so you can watch it from your phone or on your home television set.

A few weeks ago, I talked about Comet Atlas which was discovered a few years ago. This comet was predicted to get closer to the sun and Earth and potentially give us a show with a new object that we could have seen with the naked eye! About two weeks ago, astronomers speculated and later confirmed that the comet split apart. So sadly, this comet won’t be a bright show as we all hoped. 

While the social distancing rules are still in effect, the NASA Mars Curiosity rovers team is still making sure the vehicle sized robot is still working smoothly on the 4th planet from the sun. According to NASA’s JPL Facility, about 20 people are needed to develop and test a simple command for the rover. Instead of all of them being in one room, they are spread out all over the region.

I read an interesting quote from the Science Operations Team Chief Carrie Bridge. She says: “It’s classic, textbook NASA. We’re presented with a problem and we figure out how to make things work. Mars isn’t standing still for us; we’re still exploring.”

Finally, the Lyrid Meteor shower peaks on Wednesday the 22nd and you’ll need to have a dark sky to see the meteors. This year, the peak is expected to be between 10 to 15 meteors per hour. The rule of thumb I use is if you see way more stars than you can count, you’re likely in a good spot. Happy Viewing!

Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson