February 16 2011 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Rhea Moon of Saturn
Rhea was the wife of Saturn in classical mythology. Rhea the moon zips around Saturn in four and a half days. It has an oxygen atmosphere, but we won't be moving there anytime soon. Even in direct sunlight, it's -281 degrees and Rhea's "atmosphere" is similar to a vacuum on Earth.
If you haven't read about some of Saturn's other moons, here is an earlier article: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art28136.asp
There are some very famous names in the anniversaries for this week.
Galileo was born on February 15, 1564. He was a great astronomer, mathematician and physicist who is as well known for his conflict with the Church as for his science. Galileo was one of the first to observe the heavens with a telescope, seeing mountains on the Moon, the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus. If you would like to learn more about the life and times of Galileo Galilei, the Galileo Project is full of interesting materials. http://galileo.rice.edu/index.html
*Tombaugh discovers Pluto*
On February 18, 1930 American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. There was a search on for a ninth planet and everyone thought Tombaugh had found it. The reason people were looking was that the orbit of Neptune seemed to be disturbed, suggesting that a large planet was affecting it. More modern measurements show that there isn't any deviation and that Pluto was too small to have affected it anyway. You can read about Pluto's discovery and its reclassification as a dwarf planet here: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art45809.asp
Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473. He wasn't the first person to suggest that the Sun was at the center of the Solar System, rather than the Earth. However he was the one who wrote about it and tried to provide observations and a scientific framework. If you want to know more about his life: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art40794.asp
By the way, on Copernicus's birthday in 1986, the Soviet space station Mir was launched.
On February 20, 1962 John Glenn in Friendship 7 became the first American to orbit Earth.
I'm off to Norway next week, hoping to see the northern lights. SpaceWeather.com reports high solar activity expected tomorrow, but we'll have to wait and see what it's like next week!
That's all for this now. Wishing you clear skies.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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