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Sync your calendar with the solar system
 
Autumnal equinox

September 22

Autumnal equinox

The autumnal equinox is one of two points in Earth’s orbit where the sun creates equal periods of daytime and nighttime across the globe. Many mark it as the first day of the fall. See what it looks like from space here.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft could try to collect a sample from the asteroid Bennu NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

October 20

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft could try to collect a sample from the asteroid Bennu

 

This NASA spacecraft has been orbiting an Empire State Building-sized near Earth asteroid for more than a year. It will attempt to collect a sample during a brief touch down on its surface, and eventually return it to Earth. Read about Osiris-Rex’s landing site here.

The Orionids meteor shower will peak Petar Petrov/Associated Press

Starting October 21

The Orionids meteor shower will peak

Starting in the evening of Oct. 21, through the next day’s dawn, you might get your best chance to catch a glimpse of the Orionids meteor shower. Learn more about the major meteor showers and how to watch them here.

SpaceX could launch more astronauts to orbit in its Crew Dragon capsule Joe Raedle/Getty Images

October 23

SpaceX could launch more astronauts to orbit in its Crew Dragon capsule

In May, SpaceX carried two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Now that those astronauts have safely returned to Earth, NASA is preparing for Crew Dragon to transport a team of four, including a Japanese astronaut, on the capsule’s second piloted trip. Read more about how NASA became SpaceX’s customer here.

The Leonids meteor shower will peak James S. Wood/Arizona Daily Star, via Associated Press

Starting November 16

The Leonids meteor shower will peak

Starting in the evening of Nov. 16, through the next day’s dawn, you might get your best chance to catch a glimpse of the Leonids meteor shower. Learn more about the major meteor showers and how to watch them here.

A lunar eclipse will be visible in the Americas, Australia and parts of Asia and Europe. Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Starting November 29

A lunar eclipse will be visible in the Americas, Australia and parts of Asia and Europe.

 

This will be a subtle, penumbral lunar eclipse much like the one in July, but shifted to the East. Moon gazers in the Americas and Australia can try to detect the change, as can people throughout East Asia. Read about forthcoming lunar astronomy events here.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft could return a sample from the asteroid Ryugu to Earth JAXA, via Associated Press

December 6

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft could return a sample from the asteroid Ryugu to Earth

 

Throughout 2019, this Japanese probe collected multiple samples from this near Earth asteroid, including a memorable operation that blew a hole in the space rock’s surface. After returning to Earth, it will eject a sample capsule that will attempt to touch down in the Australian outback. Read more about Hayabusa2 here.

The Geminids meteor shower will peak Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Starting December 13

The Geminids meteor shower will peak

Starting in the evening of Dec. 13, through the next day’s dawn, you might get your best chance to catch a glimpse of the Geminids meteor shower. Learn more about the major meteor showers and how to watch them here.

A total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of South America Toni Greaves for The New York Times

December 14

A total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of South America

Darkness will fall during daytime in parts of South America as the moon obscures the sun. See last year’s total solar eclipse in Chile and Argentina, here.

The Ursids meteor shower will peak Ian Webster and Peter Jenniskens

Starting December 21

The Ursids meteor shower will peak

Starting in the evening of Dec. 21, through the next day’s dawn, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Ursids meteor shower. Learn more about the major meteor showers and how to watch them here.

Winter solstice Robert Simmon/NASA

December 21

Winter solstice

It’s the scientific start to winter in the Northern Hemisphere, when this half of the world tilts away from the sun. Read more about the solstice here.

Answers to common questions we’ve received

  • Does the calendar work with Android devices?
  • Yes. Use the signup at the top of this page to subscribe using your Google account. The calendar will be synced to your phone.
  • Is there a webcal/iCal feed I can use to subscribe directly?
  • I subscribed to the calendar on my iPhone but it isn’t showing up on my computer or tablet. How do I fix that?
  • You will need to add an iCloud Calendar subscription. Use the webcal link mentioned above.
  • Can I subscribe if I use Outlook?
  • Yes. Using the webcal link above, you can add the calendar to Outlook.com or an Outlook desktop client.
  • How do I submit feedback, or suggest another important space or astronomy event that I think you missed?
  • Email us at spacecalendar@nytimes.com.
  • How do I unsubscribe?
  • Google Calendar: Unsubscribe using a desktop computer
    iCloud: Delete the calendar from iCloud.com
    iPhone/iPad: Open “Settings,” then “Accounts,” and remove the Space Calendar subscription. If you do not see any entry for Space Calendar, follow the directions for Google Calendar or iCloud.
When Voyager 2 Calls Home, Earth won’t Be Able to Answer for next 11 months

When Voyager 2 Calls Home, Earth Soon Won’t Be Able to Answer

NASA will spend 11 months upgrading the only piece of its Deep Space Network that can send commands to the probe, which has crossed into interstellar space.

Antennas belonging to the Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia.
Antennas belonging to the Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia.Credit…Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

By 

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Voyager 2 has been traveling through space for 43 years, and is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth. But every so often, something goes wrong.

At the end of January, for instance, the robotic probe executed a routine somersault to beam scientific data back to Earth when an error triggered a shutdown of some of its functions.

“Everybody was extremely worried about recovering the spacecraft,” said Suzanne Dodd, who is the Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The mission’s managers on our planet know what to do when such a fault occurs. Although it takes about a day and a half to talk to Voyager 2 at its current distance, they sent commands to restore its normal operations.

 

But starting on Monday for the next 11 months, they won’t be able to get word to the spry spacecraft in case something again goes wrong (although the probe can still stream data back to Earth). Upgrades and repairs are prompting NASA to take offline a key piece of space age equipment used to beam messages all around the solar system.

The downtime is necessary because of a flood of new missions to Mars scheduled to leave Earth this summer. But the temporary shutdown also highlights that the Deep Space Network, essential infrastructure relied upon by NASA and other space agencies, is aging and in need of expensive upgrades.

 

On any given day, NASA communicates with an armada of spacecraft in deep space. These long distance calls require the most powerful radio antennas in the world. Luckily NASA has its own switchboard, the Deep Space Network or DSN.

The DSN is one of space exploration’s most valuable assets. It comprises one station in the United States — in Goldstone, Calif. — and two overseas in Canberra, Australia, and Madrid. It has been in operation nonstop for 57 years, and without it, spacecraft that traveled beyond the moon couldn’t communicate with Earth. It is used not only by NASA, but also the European Space Agency and the space programs of Japan, India and soon even the United Arab Emirates.

 

This summer, four missions are scheduled to launch to Mars. When the spacecrafts arrive at the red planet next year, three of them will need additional bandwidth to speak to Earth (China will use its own dishes for its Mars mission).

Each station on Earth is outfitted with three 34-meter antennas and one 70-meter antenna. They switch back and forth depending on where a spacecraft is in relation to our planet, and you can see which spacecraft are talking to Earth in real time by visiting NASA’s DSN Now website.

Because of Voyager 2’s trajectory relative to Earth, it can talk to only one station and one antenna in the network: Canberra’s 70 meter dish, also known as DSS 43. And that dish will need to be improved for the new Mars missions, prompting a shutdown and temporary dismantlement.

“Frankly, there’s never a good time to take down an asset and never a good time to fix the potholes in the road,” said Ms. Dodd, who is also director of the group that manages the Deep Space Network for NASA. “But you know you’re going to do the work at the airport, not during the Christmas rush. You’re going to do it when it’s less busy.”

Image
Engineers at work on the Voyager spacecraft in November 1976.
Engineers at work on the Voyager spacecraft in November 1976.Credit…NASA/JPL-Caltech

Because Voyager 2 is considered a “geriatric” spacecraft, losing contact with it for any length of time is risky. And for the next 11 months, Earth’s ability to communicate with the probe, now in what’s considered interstellar space, will be limited.

“There is risk in this business as there is in anything in spaceflight,” said Glen Nagle, NASA’s outreach and administration lead for the station in Australia. “It’s a major change and the longest downtime for the dish in the eighteen years I’ve been here.”

 

One of the biggest risks is keeping Voyager 2’s communication antenna pointed at Earth. To do this, the probe fires its thrusters more than a dozen times a day to stay oriented. The mission’s managers have to trust that the automation on board will be executed relatively flawlessly for nearly a year.

Staying warm enough is another major concern. The Voyager team has been slowly shutting off instruments in order to use their heaters to keep the spacecraft’s fuel lines at a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’ve done the analysis to show that we can get through the downtime,” with some margin for error, said Todd Barber, the propulsion engineer for the twin Voyager spacecraft. (Voyager 1 is able to communicate with other dishes.)

While the team won’t be able to command Voyager 2, they will still be listening to the spacecraft. By combining the power of the other antennas in Canberra, they will be able to collect its scientific observations.

“The Canberra site will still be getting data back from the spacecraft,” Ms. Dodd said. “The science data will still be coming down.”

Being able to only listen could prompt some anxiety. While Voyager 2 will keep collecting and sending back science data, should something go wrong, members of the team will be powerless to help it, and will just have to watch with their hands tied.

“We’ve been planning on this for over a year,” Ms. Dodd said. “I think like any good planning, we’re prepared for it. And we’ve done our best, you know, we’ve done the best that we can.”

 

And the operations to restore Voyager 2 during its recent troubles may highlight how much more life it could have in deepest space, Ms. Dodd said. Never before had all of the spacecraft’s instruments been shut off in this manner. Much to the mission managers’ delight and surprise, they were all brought back to life.

“They also came back on, which is actually pretty remarkable,” she said.

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Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the distance of Voyager 2 from Earth. It is more than 11 billion miles from Earth, not 13 billion. (Voyager 1, the spacecraft’s twin, is more than 13 billion miles from Earth.)

 

A version of this article appears in print on

March 6, 2020

, Section A, Page 7 of the New York edition with the headline: Earth to Voyager 2: Phone’s Broken. Call Home by Monday or Wait 11 Months.Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe