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Snapshots From Mars

Remember this picture? To my mind this is one of the most amazing images in the history of planetary exploration. It shows the Mars Phoenix lander descending under a parachute to the surface of Mars in 2008, and was taken

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Curiosity’s Curious Path to Mars

NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) released this new video to explain the unbelievably complicated procedures by which they hope to land the Curiosity rover on Mars: Why so complicated? My favorite blogger Emily Lakdawalla begins a multi-part series today,

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Conjunctions and Oppositions

One of the great lessons of astronomy is that appearances can be deceiving—things are not always what they seem to be. What appear to be pin pricks of light too dim to see in the daytime are in fact enormous

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Posted in Planets, Solar System

Astronomy in 2011

(This post has been edited slightly from the original to include the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and to correct a misstatement about galactic black holes.) As the end of calendar year 2011 approaches, I thought my readers might enjoy a look

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Posted in Cosmology, Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft, Stars

Planets In The Morning

One of the more pleasing aspects of astronomy is the extent to which it is utterly predictable. The North Star will never appear in the southern sky, the Southern Cross will never be visible from Virginia, and if Orion is

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Posted in Planets, Solar System
Neal Sumerlin

Neal Sumerlin, retired Professor of Chemistry and founding Director of the Belk Observatory at Lynchburg College

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