June 10 2014 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Stars – Ten Facts for Kids
Stars are nuclear reactors. If a really big one took the Sun's place, it would swallow up the Sun and everything as far away as Jupiter. Yet others aren't much bigger than Jupiter. Big stars don't live very long and die in a blaze of glory. Smaller ones live for billions of years.
*Potentially-habitable planet discovered 13 light years away*
Two new super-Earths have been discovered recently. A super-Earth is a planet larger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune, and probably rocky. The planets are orbiting Kapteyn's Star, a red dwarf, smaller and cooler than the Sun. It's only 13 light years away from us, which is close in galactic terms.
One of the planets, Kepteyn-b, is five times Earth's mass and is also in the habitable zone of its star. The habitable zone of a star is the region around a star in which water could be liquid.
But what has most excited astronomers about the discovery is that Kapteyn's Star is a very old star, over twice the age of the Sun. Obviously, we don't have enough information to know if Kapteyn-b really is habitable and if so, whether there is life there. But it does mean that life has had a long time to get started on Kapteyn-b, and potentially a long time to evolve.
On June 13, 1983 Pioneer 10 became the first probe to cross the orbit of Neptune and into the Kuiper Belt. Interestingly, the craft had already crossed the orbit of Pluto which, at the time, was closer to us than Neptune. On February 17, 1998 Voyager 1, which was moving faster than Pioneer 10, became the most distant spacecraft. It has since then become the first probe to leave the heliosphere. Voyager 1 – the First Starship: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art183205.asp
*First woman in space*
On June 16, 1963 Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She launched aboard Vostok 6 and spent three days in orbit. Her flight is the only solo spaceflight ever made by a woman.
*Happy Father's Day*
Special greetings to all of the fathers out there on their day. I hope your children appreciate you throughout the year.
Please visit astronomy.bellaonline.com for even more great content about Astronomy.
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I wish you clear skies.
Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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