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 F E A T U R E   A R C H I V E  

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Tales of the Northern Lights
The aurora is an ethereal, shifting light in the northern sky and is associated with many tales and beliefs. It can look like the dawn, so Galileo named it after Aurora goddess of the dawn. It has reminded others of dragons, spirits, dancers, shield maidens, herrings or the legendary fire fox.

Aurorae - Polar Light Shows
There's a glow on the northern horizon. The Sun set hours ago and there are no city lights there. You could be seeing nature's great polar light show - an aurora. It's most likely if you're fairly far north or south, but a solar storm may include mid-latitudes too.

Icarus at the Edge of Time - book review
Icarus flew too close to the Sun with wings of wood and wax. The wax melted and he fell to his death. Brian Greene's Icarus of the future flies too close to a black hole and finds that he should have paid more attention to Einstein.

Choosing and Using a Telescope
You've learned about the night sky with binoculars and you want to see more. What kind of telescope is good for a beginner? Here are some hints for choosing and using your first telescope. They've come a long way since Galileo first looked up through a telescope.

Rhea Moon of Saturn
Rhea was Saturn's wife in classical mythology. Rhea the moon zips around Saturn in four and a half days. Although it has an oxygen atmosphere, we won't be moving there anytime soon. Even in direct sunlight, it's -281 degrees Fahrenheit and the "atmosphere" is similar to a vacuum on Earth.

Start Observing - with Binoculars
What does every astronomer need? Most people would answer "a telescope." But, actually, binoculars are the best way to start observing the sky. Many experienced astronomers use them in addition to a telescope. Here is some guidance about getting started.

Bode and Bode's Law
Johann Elert Bode, the author of the greatest star atlas of the Golden Age of star atlases, is better known today for Bode's Law. Strangely, Bode's Law is neither a law nor original to Bode. So what was it? How did it inspire the Celestial Police? How did Neptune ruin it all?

Ecliptic and Equinoxes
The objects in the night sky seem to be projected onto the celestial sphere. A coordinate system lets us say where everything is, but something's not quite right. The north polar star will be Vega one day. Astrological star signs don't match the constellations any more. What's going on?

Mercury Facts for Kids
Since Pluto became a dwarf planet, Mercury is the baby of the planets. It's close enough to the Sun for lead and zinc to melt during the day. Yet there is frozen water at the poles. Before space probes came along Mercury was a mystery hidden in the Sun's glare, but that's changed.

Teaching Why We Have Day and Night
Why do we have day and night? For thousands of years most people thought it was because the Sun went around the Earth. That is certainly what it looks like, so how can you explain that day and night happen because the earth spins on its axis? Here are some ideas.

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