Hello from the Southeastern Planetarium Association. I’m currently at the SEPA 2015 and while I’m here I participated in a brief story-telling workshop where planetarians got together to share their favorite stories of the night sky. I chose to tell the story of the largest star ever observed (so far): UY Scuti.
Tonight marks an interesting alignment of two bright planets in the sky with our moon. Through the rest of June you can look up and see Jupiter and Venus, along with the moon, in a triangular fashion just after sunset.
Since Pluto’s discovery by Clyde Tombough in 1930, it has remained a great mystery. It’s difficult to study since it’s about 3 billion miles away from the sun. The Hubble Space Telescope has been able to capture images of the dwarf planet, but Hubble is really geared towards taking pictures of giant objects like galaxies, not dwarf planets–so the images we have of Pluto are fuzzy. However, Pluto is about to get its first sharp images courtesy of the New Horizons spacecraft as it passes the dwarf planet by 7,800 miles by July 14th. With this date looming only next month, let’s take some time to take a fresh look at Pluto and the seven biggest misconceptions that people have of it.
For over six decades, scientists have speculated that there might be structures of plasma residing in the upper atmosphere of Earth, affecting civilian and military satellite-based navigation systems. Thanks to Australian researcher, Cleo Loi, this theory has been confirmed.
While on board the International Space Station, geophysicist Alexander Gerst spent a lot of time looking back down to Earth from 205 miles above. In his tenure aboard the ISS he took loads of photographs, documenting hurricanes, floods, dust storms, and oil fields. One of his favorite things, however, was taking pictures of how clouds cast shadows. The results can be quite dramatic.
Carl Sagan once proposed the idea of sailing through the cosmos via a solar-powered spacecraft. This spaceship would use sunlight radiation to power its flight much like a boat uses the wind for propellant. On May 20th, the Sagan co-founded Planetary Society will initiate its first test flight for such a solar vehicle: the LightSail.
The second meteor shower of the year will be in the form of the Eta Aquarids, an event that springs from the result of the passing of Halley’s Comet. The Eta Aquarids is an annual event that runs from around April 19th through May 28th. This year, the peak viewing time will be May 4 through Tuesday night, May 5th.
At 3:30pm ET on April 30, 2015, and after four years of studying, NASA’s Messenger Probe crashlanded the surface of Mercury. After being in service for more than a decade, it is the first vehicle to ever make it to Mercury. However, it didn’t leave without saying goodbye.
Forty-six years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to ever walk on the moon. Since that date, July 20, 1969, the moon has become the subject of much debate and scientific analysis. From what Neil Armstrong first said as he took those initial steps to conspiracy theories about hoaxes, few historical events have captured the interest in mankind quite like the Apollo 11 moon landing. However, a few facts about this event have remained obscure through time.
This week NASA is celebrating a quarter century of discoveries from one of the most revolutionary scientific instruments of all time, the Hubble Space Telescope. Launched into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990, the Hubble changed our understanding of the age of the universe, the evolution of galaxies and the expansion of space itself. Along the way it has had the equivalent of knee and hip replacement surgery: Five times, astronauts on the space shuttle paid a visit to swap out old batteries and install new instruments. Hubble’s fate, however, is uncertain. The Hubble was designed to be serviced by the space shuttle, but the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, and the Hubble hasn’t had a repair job since 2009. At some point, under the laws of entropy that dominate the cosmos, the Hubble will begin to deteriorate.