February 4 2014 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Galactic Winter Games
Welcome to the Galactic Winter Games, a starry tribute to Earth's Winter Olympic Games. It's a tour of some really cool cosmic sights – as well as some hot ones, such as one of the biggest explosions in the Universe.
Today is the anniversary of Clyde Tombaugh's birth. He was born on February 4, 1906. Tombaugh was an American astronomer working at Lowell Observatory in Arizona. He was best known as the discoverer of Pluto. At the time, everyone assumed it was a planet, in fact, the “Planet X” which Lowell had believed existed. Tombaugh died in 1996, so he didn't know that Pluto was later designated as a dwarf planet. On the other hand, he also didn't know that he had discovered the first Kuiper Belt object. You can find out more about Pluto's status here: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art45809.asp
*Jade Rabbit is in trouble*
The lunar rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) is in trouble. The rover should have shut down as lunar night fell, but had a technical malfunction and wasn't able to do that. It's now well into the night, which is two weeks long and it's cold, down to -170 Celsius (-275 Fahrenheit). Next week when the Sun has risen on the Mare Imbrium, we will learn if Yutu survived the night. Even if it does, the technical problems may still not be solvable.
*Astronomy and Music*
I've started a Pinterest board called “Astronomy and Music” at http://www.pinterest.com/astrobella/astronomy-and-music It has pictures of the people mentioned in my “Musical Astronomers” article of the week before last. And if you're curious about William Herschel's music, there are recordings of some of his compositions. In particular, an orchestra in London has recorded quite a number of them. You can find them on You Tube if you do a search, but I've also pinned a recording of an oboe concerto (in three parts).
*Activity on the Sun and in the Sky*
The active region AR 1944 disappeared from sight as the Sun rotated on its axis, and usually we'd expect the sunspot to disappear. However it's come around again and is now designated AR 1967. Aurora watchers were very hopeful, and with good reason. On Saturday night February 1, the entire sky over Tromso, Norway was filled with aurorae between 9pm and midnight. Here is a stop-motion video, covering a period of one hour, from a Japanese all-sky camera in Tromso. (It may take a little while to load.) http://polaris.nipr.ac.jp/~acaurora/aurora/Tromso/html/2014020121m.html
It must have been breathtaking.
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I wish you clear skies.
Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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