Sky ChartsSpring Skies
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The Phoenix Mars lander mission may be over, and there are those mourining its demise. What we learned from Phoenix will likely end up being a leap of knowledge about the red planet. Space Shuttle Endeavour is docked at the space station bringing up ESA's Leonardo section as well as tools for home improvement and plumbing. Thursday November 20th marks the tenth anniversary for the International Space Station. May there be many more!
We have been watching the skies for over 10,000 years and though our smarter ancestors could figure out the rhythms of the Sun, Moon and stars, they often though up some inventive reasons why things rose, moved across the sky and set below the horizon.
Those who follow the Space Shuttle Program are all too used to hear the dread words of “launch delayed.” One might even wonder why they don't turn it into one of the acronyms NASA is so well known for. But in a move which caused many to turn their heads to be sure they'd heard it right – NASA is now considering moving up the launch date for STS-125, Atlantis' trip to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Many people mistakingly think that Galileo invented the telescope. In fact he didn't, but he was the first person to point the telescope skyward at night and make observations. These observations would challenge the very beliefs and teachings of the Christian church – and change the way we looked at the universe forever. Check out our article Galileo's Telescope Observations, and the Name of our Newsletter.
How Long Will the Sun Shine? We tend to take our Sun for granted, its always been there and we don't think much about its demise. We know that some stars end their lives by exploding and some just fade away. How long will our Sun live and how will it die?
Most everyone on the planet knows that the Earth is rotating, but not so many think about how fast the Earth is moving, or why it's rotating in the first place.
We only get one or two naked eye comets per decade, and though this particular one seems to defy all the usual traits of comets - you'll want to see it just the same!
Today was perhaps one of the most difficult days for the crews on the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Discovery. Tuesday was the third of five scheduled spacewalks and tasks included reattaching a huge solar panel plant that had been relocated, and inspecting the gears which rotate the solar panels to face the Sun. All went well despite the difficulty of the task but during the unfurling of the solar array, ISS commander Peggy Whitson noticed the solar blanket ripping and aborted the operation. In spite of the damage, the array is producing 97 percent of anticipated power.
Without a doubt, in the Northern Hemisphere, the group of stars known as the Big Dipper is the most often and easily recognized. Not everyone saw it as a giant celestial dipper and there is a myriad of stories about this group of stars.
Most of us appreciate the beauty of a full Moon sedately moving across our night skies. The Moon seems unchanging, as if for eons it has been there, controlling the tides, going through its phases every month and inspiring poets and lovers. It might surprise you to know that in the past, things were much different, and they are still changing.
Of all the planets in the solar system, none have intrigued the public more than Mars. Mars is easy to observe and changing surface markings can be seen with even a small telescope. It was the changing variegated surface markings that led to the speculation of life on the red planet.
Cosmic Fun Facts
Brighter Sun, Darker Earth
In a few billion years, as our Sun nears the red giant phase, it will be about 2.5 times brighter than it is today. The Earth, however, will bedarker because the hotter Sun will boil all the oceans away, clouding the Earth with thick blankets of steam.
Mars is a small world of giant geological features. It contains the largest can yon in the Solar System, Valles Marineris, 2800 miles (4,500km) long. If this giant canyon was super imposed to scale on a map of North America, it would stretch from New York to California!
Driving to the Stars
Alpha Centauri is the nearest star system to Earth, 4.3 light years away, but you wouldn't want to drive there. If you had a cosmic car with an unending fuel supply, driving at 55 miles per hour it would still take 52 million years to reach the star!
Looking for a Good Book?
We've lots of suggestions on great astronomy and science books in the StarrySkies Bookstore.
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