2019 promises to be a very interesting year for space fans. Not in vain, the course begins with a total lunar eclipse and several missions in full swing, both on the Moon and in remote regions of space.
We begin a new year in the calendar and, also in the solar year, composed of 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. And is that, since the Egyptians began to organize their times according to the sun (365 days and a quarter), then the Romans did and, finally, Pope Gregory imposed this premise, our lives are framed in the very orbit of the Earth around the star that illuminates us.
It is just a sample of how space conditions our daily lives, astonishes the curious and determines harvests, industries such as tourism or science as a whole. However, we are still digging the surface of galaxies, never worse: we have much to know and much to delude ourselves when we raise our eyes to the heavens.
In that framework, 2019 promises to be a very interesting year for space fans. Not in vain, the course begins with a total lunar eclipse and several missions in full swing, both on the Moon and in remote regions of space. Here are three of these events that we can not miss when looking at the stars …
Return to the Moon
So far, three countries have successfully landed on the lunar surface: the United States, Russia (former USSR) and China. But it seems that the race to consolidate positions in the satellite that accompanies us will be more fierce than ever in 2019.
Not in vain, to these three countries we have to add one more to the list, Israel: the non-profit company SpaceIL and the Israel Aerospace Industries will send a time capsule to the Moon. It will be one of the secondary payloads aboard a Falcon 9 rocket and inside it there will be three digital memories with documents as valuable for that nation as its Declaration of Independence, the Bible or dictionaries in 27 languages.
For its part, China is also taking outstanding positions in these fights: after its successful mobile vehicle Chang’e 3 landed in 2013, on December 7, 2018 was launched the Chang’e 4, which reached the lunar orbit on December 12 and the rover that mounts on board is scheduled to leave in early January to the surface. But since the Asian giant is already working on the Chang’e 5, designed to collect lunar material, which we should see already at the end of 2019.
Total lunar eclipse
The next January 21 will be one of those extraordinary phenomena and always arouse the fascination of children and adults: a total eclipse of the Moon. And is that, although there are between two and four lunar eclipses a year, almost none is total (the next planned is for 2021).
This total eclipse will last about an hour, although the phenomenon as a whole could extend several hours. It will be perfectly visible from all the American continent and partially visible from Spain during the dawn. To achieve this eclipse, the three celestial bodies (Earth, Sun and Moon) must be aligned or very close to it, in such a way that the Earth blocks the solar rays that reach the satellite.
And, associated with this eclipse, we will also see a supermoon, which is when it appears to be bigger and brighter – with reddish tones from the eclipse, when the Sun refracts the light – because it will be almost perigee, the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit.
We will travel beyond Pluto
On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gave us a first glimpse of Pluto, which is more than 5,000 million kilometers away. But this mission reaches 2019 a new milestone: reaching Ultima Thule (MU69 2014): an icy and irregular body that is located about 6,500 million kilometers from Earth.
With just 30 kilometers in diameter, Ultima Thule is inside the Kuiper Belt, an album believed to contain hundreds of thousands of icy worlds and perhaps millions of other comets. In addition, the New Horizons will fly closer to Ultima Thule than Pluto, which will allow a more detailed examination of its surface.