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The Curiosity Desk | June 20, 2018

Stargazer's Guide for June 2018

Solar flare
An X2.7 class solar flare flashes on the edge of the sun on May 5, 2015. This image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and shows a blend of light from the 171 and 304 angstrom wavelengths.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO
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The Curiosity Desk | June 20, 2018

Thursday marks the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The sun's "biggest" day of the year is reason enough for the Curiosity Desk to check in with local space guru, Kelly Beatty, Senior Editor for Sky + Telescope Magazine. But earlier this week, President Donald Trump made a big splash, announcing a new directive for America in space, at a meeting of the National Space Council.

"It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space," Trump said on Monday. "I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces."

"It's an interesting idea," said Beatty. "It's something he's been kicking around for a few months and talking up and he seems to be getting good feedback." Beatty went on to explain that Trump is proposing to reorganize all U.S. military activity in space, about 90 percent of which is currently overseen by the Air Force, under this new branch. Kelly also said that while the announcement made headlines, turning the plan into action will take more work.

"He can't just make it so," said Beatty. "The fact is that Congress has the power to decide what the armed forces do and what their makeup is."

Beatty weighed in with more thoughts on Trump's plans, including a new governmental approach to the old — and ever gathering — problem of space debris. Plus, a deep dive into the summer solstice and some celestial highlights to look for in the night sky this summer, when the sun is busy shining on the other side of the planet.

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