Blog Archives

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:

What’s Up?

Two short-lived sky phenomena are on tap in the near future, one taking place only tens of miles above us, the other millions of miles away. Geminid meteor shower: Each December we are treated to one of the better meteor

Posted in Sky Phenomena, Solar System Tagged with: ,

Planet Lineup

These beautifully clear fall mornings we’ve been experiencing have offered a rare opportunity to see four of the five naked-eye planets all lined up for our viewing pleasure. This morning at 6:45 am EDT, this was the view on Lynchburg’s

Posted in Sky Phenomena, Solar System

New Horizons Update

If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t seen any more images from the Pluto flyby lately, here is the reason: But there is exciting news from the New Horizons team! They have selected a tentative target among Kuiper Belt Objects

Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft 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

Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena, Solar System Tagged with: , ,

New Horizons Update

As the New Horizons spacecraft closes in on its July flyby of Pluto, its cameras capture ever higher resolution images.  Here is a link to the latest released images.  It’s starting to get real!

Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft Tagged with: ,

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

Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena, Solar System Tagged with: , ,