Blog Archives

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:

Pluto Is Still Not a Planet

Sorry, Pluto lovers. A recently published paper by Jean-Luc Margot of UCLA (as a Star Trek Next Generation fan, I had to give the author’s full name) proposes a mathematically rigorous way to define a planet. Pluto, for all its

Posted in Exoplanets, Planets, Solar System Tagged with:

ICY WORLDS AND THE PUZZLES OF PLUTO

Over the next 16 months, the data collected during the New Horizons spacecraft’s mid-July flyby of Pluto will find its way back to Earth, a few bits at a time. Already there are surprises in the data so far received.

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

The Great Age of Planetary Exploration

How do you measure the milestones in your life? We all have events that help us mark the passage of years: school and jobs, marriage and family, births and deaths. These are of course primary in all our lives, but

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

Nine Years to the Ninth Planet

Yes, you read that right. In honor of Pluto’s imminent debut on computer screens worldwide, I’ll award it planetary status for the next few months. After all, when the New Horizons spacecraft nearing Pluto now was launched in January 2006,

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

Venus, Jupiter…and Earth

Those of us of a certain age will remember these song lyrics: When the moon is in the seventh house And Jupiter aligns with Mars… Jupiter is about to align not with Mars, but with Venus, the ancient goddess of

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A Cosmic Dance

The two brightest planets in the sky right now—and the two brightest planets, period—are Venus and Jupiter. Shortly after sunset at the end of April, Venus is the very bright object in the west, and Jupiter is only a little

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Bright Objects

In case you were wondering, the two very bright objects visible in the sky shortly after sunset are Venus (in the west) and Jupiter (in the southeast). After the sun and the moon, these are the two brightest natural celestial

Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena Tagged with: , ,

Dwarf Planets and New Planets, Oh My!

Just about the time that one NASA spacecraft is closing in on Ceres (formerly known as an asteroid, now semi-officially designated as a dwarf planet) and another nears its encounter with Pluto, a group of astronomers has suggested that there

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

Dusty Mars–Bad. Windy Mars–Good.

My favorite writer about planetary science is, hands down, Emily Lakdawalla. She writes an occasional article for Sky & Telescope magazine, whose editor informed me on a recent astronomy-themed tour that “Emily is the consummate professional”. Where you can really

Posted in Mars, Planets