Blog Archives

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,

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

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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Posted in Planets, Sky Phenomena, Solar System

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!

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

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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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