June 17 2012 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
The Oort Cloud - Facts for Kids
Where do comets come from? The Oort Cloud is home to a trillion comets at the edge of the Solar System, nearly half way to the next star. Sometimes they get kicked out and sometimes they come to visit the inner Solar System.
*Voyager 1 – still with us*
Voyager is over 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from home, but still within the heliosphere. You can see that in this picture: http://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/559452main_pia13892Label-946b-580x435.jpg
At a distance of 120 astronomical units (AU), it's beyond the Kuiper Belt and scattered disk. But the scientists know it's still in the Solar System by the type of radiation it's detecting. The levels of cosmic radiation have been increasing, but there's only been a gradual drop in the number of energetic particles from the Sun. When it's passed the Sun's protective shield, there should be an abrupt drop in the number of solar particles.
Voyager 1 is now so far away that it takes 16 hours and 38 minutes for its data to travel to Earth. Even though it's so far away it still a long way from passing through the Oort Cloud.
*Venus and Jupiter are back*
I'm already missing bright Venus and Jupiter in the evening sky. They're still around, but they've moved to the morning sky. If you're an early riser you can see them to the north-northeast before sunrise. I probably won't be out looking at four in the morning. But if you're an early riser or you live farther south and have a later sunrise, this is worth a look.
*Anniversary of first woman in space*
On June 16, 1963, the Soviet Union launched Vostok 6 with cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. She was the first woman in space and spent more time on her flight than the flight time of all the US astronauts put together. She remains the only woman ever to fly a solo space mission. An interesting fact about her selection is that besides her being a politically correct choice, she was a keen parachutist. There were no spacecraft landings or splashdowns for early cosmonauts. The way back to Earth was by parachute.
If you want to know more about the Vostok program, "First Orbit - film review" tells you about Vostok 1's historic voyage: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art5686.asp
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I wish you clear skies.
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