May 22 2013 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Dwarf Planets – a Tour
Join the dwarf planet tour. It will take you so far away that the Sun seems to be no more than another bright star. You'll see a dwarf planet the shape of an American football, one whose a month is the same length as its day, and the one that upset the fans of Pluto.
*Winners of the 4th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest*
The contest is organised by The World at Night (TWAN) in collaboration with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Global Astronomy Month. It was open to anyone anywhere, but the images had to have been taken since the beginning of 2012 and in the TWAN style. This means they combine the night sky set against the “Earth horizon, often with a notable scenery or landmark” in what's sometimes called landscape astrophotography.
The theme was “Dark Skies Importance” and there were two categories, “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights”. There were over 700 entries from 45 countries. You can see the winners on this video: http://vimeo.com/65960743 It's a visual feast, and if your sky doesn't look like this, it's a reminder of what is lost through light pollution.
*Have we lost Kepler too?*
At the end of April the Herschel Space Observatory ran out of coolant, which ended its mission. It was launched in 2009 with a planned life of three years, so there was a bonus of nearly a year. There are thousands of measurements that still haven't been analyzed.
The Kepler mission was also launched in 2009 with an expected life of three to three and a half years. It has been hunting for exoplanets by watching 150,000 stars for changes in their light which might show a transiting planet, i.e., a planet crossing in front of its star. Kepler has completed its primary mission and has also been working on extra time. Unfortunately, it needs three stabilizers in order to point accurately and steadily, and it now has only two. NASA hasn't written it off yet, but . . . .
Besides Venus and Jupiter moving closer together in the sky, Mercury will also be joining in. On May 24 all three planets could be visible within a 2.5 degree circle. Here is a short video that shows you the planets after dusk from May 20 to June 20: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MdFrE7hWj0A
For a variety of astronomy images, follow me on Pinterest at: http://pinterest.com/astrobella/
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I wish you clear skies.
Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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