January 26 2011 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
The 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?
*Hanny's Voorwerp – the story continues*
Last month I mentioned Hanny's Voorwerp. A Dutch teacher named Hanny van Arkel was taking part in a citizen science project when she discovered something strange. “Voorwerp” is Dutch for “thing.” So what have astronomers decided the voorwerp is? To find out, download the graphic (comic) version as a pdf – great story and graphics. http://hannysvoorwerp.zooniverse.org/sandbox/Downloads/VoorwerpComic.pdf
*Uranus in the spotlight*
Twenty-five years ago this week Voyager 2 visited Uranus. It is still the only probe to have done so. The Jet Propulsion Lab has the story and pictures: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-023
On January 28, 1687 Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius was born. He built his own observatory and worked there for many years. He was the last major astronomer to do important work without a telescope. He's known for, amongst other things, his extensive study of the Moon, discovery of four comets and the idea that comets revolve around the sun in parabolic orbits. He was the author of a number of books and did much of his later work with his wife Elisabeth. Elisabeth is often considered the first female astronomer and after her husband's death finished and published two of his works.
This week sees the anniversaries of two tragic events.
On January 27, 1967 Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were all killed in a horrific fire in the cockpit of the spacecraft during a test on the launchpad.
Almost exactly nineteen years later, on January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after launch. Many children were watching the launch from their classrooms because one of the seven astronauts was Christa McAuliffe, the first Teacher in Space.
*Some of the most beautiful photographs ever*
I have seen such fantastic astronomy photographs that I can't imagine seeing any that are even more beautiful. But the latest offering from the wonderful astrophotographer Stephane Guisard has once again taken my breath away. The pictures were taken in the ruins of Tikal, one of the great cities of the Mayas, abandoned a thousand years ago. Have a look at the combination of stars and the magnificent monuments of an ancient civilization. http://www.astrosurf.com/sguisard/Pagim/Tikal1.html
That's all for this now. Wishing you clear skies.
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