January 22 2014 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Astronomy no longer recognizes the "music of the spheres". Yet if heavenly bodies did make music, perhaps there are those who could hear it! Read about some individuals who've pursued astronomy and music in their different ways.
*John Dobson (1915 - 2014)*
John Dobson died last Wednesday (January 15) at his home in southern California. If you're not an amateur astronomer, you may have never heard of him. But he's almost legendary in astronomical circles. He's often been named as the individual that did more than any other to make deep space astronomy accessible to ordinary people. He did this through a radical telescope design which people could make for themselves at a reasonable price. And also by “sidewalk astronomy” where he took telescopes around the country and set them up wherever people were so that they could see the wonders of the heavens.
Dobson was an eccentric character, but passionate about astronomy. Many of today's sidewalk astronomers were inspired by him, and he was one of the founders of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers. The philosophy of the sidewalk astronomer is also reflected in Astronomy Day: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art56882.asp
*Rosetta wakes up*
There was much tension at ESA's space operations center in Darmstadt (Germany) on Monday. The Rosetta spacecraft was due to come out of hibernation after more than two and a half years in deep space, and everyone was waiting for the signal to show it had been successful. Jubilation when the signal came! (The little spike was the signal: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/250090585531799335/)
And why the hibernation? Rosetta had to get into an orbit that would let her catch comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it swings back in towards the Sun. This put the craft a long way from the Sun for a few years. Rosetta relies completely on solar energy for power - the first mission to do so when traveling so far from the Sun. Although the solar cells were of a new design, nonetheless the available sunlight was too weak for Rosetta to operate correctly. There was enough power to maintain the onboard computer and heaters to ensure the craft didn't just freeze up.
*In memoriam: Apollo 1*
On January 27, 1967, fire broke out in the cockpit of Apollo 1 on the launch pad during a test. Edward White, Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom perished in the inferno. They would have been the first crew to fly in the Apollo program.
*Moon goddess and Jade Rabbit*
I think the Chinese lunar mission is pretty exciting. It's great to have a rover on the Moon. The first full-color pictures were released by CNSA (Chinese National Space Administration) recently. Here's a panorama stitched together from the pictures: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/250090585531790658/ [Click to enlarge.] A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that the next human on the Moon may well be Chinese.
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I wish you clear skies.
Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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