June 2 2010 Astronomy Newsletter
Uranus and Neptune Twin Planets
Uranus and Neptune are ice giants and twin planets. They are very similar in many ways, but they aren't identical twins. Uranus orbits lying down and Neptune is much warmer than it should be.
Here is a picture of Uranus taken with the Hubble Space Telescope: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap971126.html And another one of Neptune: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap040626.html
By the way, it was on June 5, 1989 that Voyager 2 began its regular observations of Neptune.
A few other anniversaries this week:
On June 2, 2003, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched Mars Express. It's still in orbit and taking high resolution pictures of the Martian surface.
There is a geographical coordinate system for Mars and the Martian prime meridian (equivalent to Greenwich on Earth) goes through a feature named Meridiani Planum. This covers 8000 square kilometers (3000 square miles)--about the size of Vatnajakull, Iceland's largest glacier. In this picture, the dark area is probably volcanic ash.
The European Space Agency itself had its thirty-firth birthday this week. It was formed on May 31, 1975. Currently, eighteen European Countries are members and it often cooperates on space missions with NASA and other space agencies.
On June 3 fifty-five years ago, the first spacewalk by an American astronaut occurred. They're now so frequent, it's hard to remember what a big occasion it was. Here is a picture of Edward White's historic spacewalk: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap050604.html
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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