Blog Archives

Orbital Mechanics Made Simple

Today’s lesson in orbital mechanics. I was spending New Year’s Day looking over an old 2017 “Year In Space” calendar before recycling it when I found this statement concerning the Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer travels in Earth’s orbit but at

Posted in Spacecraft Tagged with: ,

The Great American Eclipse of 2017

Only two weeks away now! Rather than write a lengthy post, I’m just going to address the main questions I’ve been getting over the past few months. The sun is going to be 90% obscured at my home. Is it

Posted in Sky Phenomena Tagged with:

How Big Is That Star?

Two of the most fundamental properties of any astronomical object are size and distance. How big is it, and how far away is it? The vast scales of cosmological distances are determined by a variety of methods, just as one

Posted in Stars Tagged with:

Back to the Moon!

The last time humanity ventured out of low Earth orbit (LEO) was in December 1972. The Apollo 17 mission, last in the series, took Gene Cernan, Jack Schmitt, and Ron Evans to the moon, where Cernan and Schmitt spent a

Posted in human spaceflight, Spacecraft, The Moon Tagged with:

Supermoon!!

A short post about something that is all over the news now. No, not the election. I’m talking about the latest “supermoon”. This is a term I don’t believe I had ever heard before about five years ago. I don’t

Posted in Sky Phenomena, The Moon Tagged with:

Mars or Bust!

Ready to go to Mars? Elon Musk is. So is Robert Zubrin. And so is NASA. But I wouldn’t book my flight quite yet. There are some significant challenges to be overcome before any human footprints are left on the

Posted in human spaceflight, Mars, Solar System, Spacecraft

Jupiter and the Fourth of July

There are currently 24 active spacecraft exploring the solar system beyond low Earth orbit, ranging from the relatively nearby–Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is mapping our moon–to the far-flung. Voyager 1 has actually left the solar system and is currently 135 astronomical

Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft Tagged with: ,

Mars Opposition 2016

That increasingly bright and obviously red object rising in the southeast late at night (around 10:30 pm EDT from Lynchburg) is Mars. It will rise ever earlier as it moves into position exactly opposite the sun in our sky on

Posted in Mars, Planets, Sky Phenomena Tagged with:

The 29th of February

A relatively rare event—an extra day in February, the every-four-years February 29th—greets us again this Monday. Why does this happen? As you might expect from my posing the question on this blog, the answer is wrapped up in astronomy. In

Posted in Uncategorized

That Einstein Was a Smart Guy

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Two black holes collided and merged, releasing unimaginable quantities of energy in the form of gravitational waves. Last year these waves were detected on Earth by an exquisitely sensitive pair

Posted in Uncategorized