Blog Archives

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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Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena, Solar System

Ceres Awaits

Dawn is sneaking up on Ceres from behind. On March 6, this well-traveled spacecraft slipped into orbit around the dwarf planet (or asteroid; take your pick) after having spent 14 months orbiting the asteroid Vesta and more than two years

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Getting to Pluto

What were you doing on January 19, 2006? If you were in any way connected to the New Horizons mission to Pluto, you were at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch it being launched on its long journey.

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Earth Calling Dawn

On March 6, the Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of Ceres which is, depending on your preferences, either the largest asteroid of the solar system, or one of many dwarf planets. On its approach, Dawn’s cameras took these

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

In Saturn’s Shadow

One of the most astounding images of the space age is about to be replicated. Take a look at this image of a backlit Saturn eclipsing the sun. This is a mosaic of images taken over three hours in September,

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Is Interplanetary Space Too Hot For Humans?

Radioactively hot, that is. While the Curiosity Mars Rover was cruising for eight months between Earth and Mars, one of the instruments aboard was measuring the radiation levels encountered along the way. The Radiation Assessment Detector—RAD—was inside the spacecraft, shielded

Posted in human spaceflight, Mars, Solar System, Spacecraft

Weekend Sky Show

The two brightest planets in the sky, Venus and Jupiter, have been drawing closer and closer to each other as seen from Earth for the past several days. This weekend they will be joined by the hard-to-see innermost planet Mercury

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Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena, Solar System

Catch a Comet

This week, Comet PANSTARRS will be a naked eye object for observers in the northern hemisphere. But you need to be quick–it is low on the western horizon, close to the sun. If you are too early, the sky is

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Posted in Sky Phenomena, Solar System

Warning: 14-Year-Old Geek Ahead

Most people my age who have wound up in some sort of a science-related career (and many who have not) can trace their excitement about the subject to the space programs of the late 1950s and 1960s. I’m no exception.

Posted in human spaceflight, John Glenn, Lynchburg College, Mars, Solar System

Lots of Links About Asteroids

The nearly simultaneous and completely coincidental occurrences of a near miss by an asteroid and the biggest meteor to hit the Earth in more than a century have prompted a lot of questions. There is so much that is fascinating

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Posted in Sky Phenomena, Solar System