December 1 2010 Astronomy Newsletter
If you're lucky enough to have a clear morning, you might find the waning crescent moon and a bright Venus in the early dawn sky tomorrow.
And following last week's introduction to the winter sky, here is more about my favorite constellation. Hope you go out and have a look at him one evening.
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.
(1) Most of the mentions go to the achievements of the big space agencies like NASA and ESA, so this week I'd like to say that Monday, November 29 was the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first Australian satellite, making it the fourth space nation. Since 1970, although Australia makes a significant contribution to astronomy, it has unfortunately not continued to develop an equivalent space industry.
(2) On Thursday and Friday, December 2 and 3, there are two similar anniversaries a year apart. On December 3, 1973 Pioneer 10 made its closest approach to Jupiter and on December 2 of the following year Pioneer 11 made its closest approach to Jupiter.
(3) The Sun is our friend, giver of life on Earth. But solar storms endanger astronauts, satellites and even power supplies on Earth, so we'd like to know more about it. So Happy Birthday, SOHO, who is fifteen on Thursday. This is the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which is one of the space observatories studying the sun.
Have a look at their website http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/ for live and recorded images of the Sun and the area around it. If you explore the site, you'll see how people have been using SOHO images to discover comets.
*Take the sky to work on your Blackberry*
I don't actually have a Blackberry myself, but a friend showed me the app. He was delighted to be able to sit and look at Hubble Space Telescope images while traveling to work. They lack the grandeur of the pictures on a big screen, but according to the site reviews, a lot of people have been pleased with them.
Some reviewers point out that it isn't properly an app, but is a link. This didn't bother other people. Overall, it's rated 3 out 5, but this disguises the extreme feelings in which people often loved it or loathed it. Here is the link if you want to have a look. It is free. http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/5997.
That's all for this week. Wishing you clear skies.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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