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 F E A T U R E   A R C H I V E  

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Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille
Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762) was one of astronomy's greats. He surveyed nearly 10,000 stars in the southern hemisphere and invented fourteen new constellations still in use today. He was always thoughtful in dealing with others, but he really preferred the stars to people.

Night Sky Olympic Tribute
Planet Earth presents a grand international sporting spectacular every four years, the Olympic Games. Even if you're not fond of sports, it's a majestic pageant and a set of unfolding dramas that a scriptwriter couldn't hope to emulate. Here is my astronomical tribute to this magnificent saga.

Northern Lights Planetarium
Tromsø, far to the north of Norway, attracts summer visitors to see the midnight sun and winter visitors to see the aurora borealis. The Northern Lights Planetarium is the northermost planetarium in the world. It's worth a visit at anytime, but extra welcome if it's too cloudy to see the sky.

Obsolete Constellations
What happens to constellations when you don't want them anymore? Nothing, physically. They aren't real groups of stars like star clusters are. They're the products of human imagination, and they come and go. Here are half a dozen of my favorite obsolete constellations.

Once in a Blue Moon
"Once in a blue moon" is a common English expression and it refers to a rare event. But why a blue Moon? And what is a blue Moon if it isn't blue? There is no unique answer, but here are a few things it could be.

Oort Cloud - Facts for Kids
Where do comets come from? The Oort Cloud is home to a trillion comets at the edge of the Solar System, nearly half way to the next star. Sometimes they get kicked out and sometimes they come to visit the inner Solar System.

Orion the Hunter
The stars of Orion have been part of humanity's mythscape for thousands of years. Seven bright stars outline the hunter's body. One of them is a supergiant nearing the end of its life. Yet just visible to the unaided eye is a vast stellar nursery where the next generation of stars is forming.

Our Explosive Sun - book review
The Sun is the star of the Solar System and makes life on Earth possible. But it's also a danger to our technological civilization. Learn all about our fascinating star in the beautifully illustrated “Our Explosive Sun.”

Packing for Mars - book review
If you think being an astronaut is a glamorous occupation, Mary Roach's book “Packing for Mars” will bring you down to Earth. Playing in free-fall looks like fun, but without gravity, eating, hygiene and dealing with waste are not fun. Here's the lowdown. Still want to go to Mars?

Palomar Observatory
A mile above the California desert stands Palomar Observatory. Its 200-inch mirror was officially impossible to make, but George Ellery Hale's vision inspired a nation in the grip of the Great Depression and it became the jewel in the crown of astronomy for the second half of the twentieth century.

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