July 3 2013 Astronomy Newsletter
Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at BellaOnline.com.
Cosmic 4th of July
What links the USA's Independence Day holiday, the Crab Nebula and NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft? What links the American War of Independence with the planet Uranus? And what is the Fireworks Galaxy? Read on to find out.
Happy Fourth of July to all the American readers!
*Pluto's tiny moons named*
Back in February I told you that the discovery team was looking for advice on naming Pluto's baby moons P4 and P5. There was a web page where you could cast a vote. It had a list of names relating to the classical underworld, which was Pluto's realm. But someone had also got the name Vulcan onto the voting list - with the backing of William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk). Then with the massed support of Star Trek fans, Vulcan ended up with by far the most votes.
Spot the odd one out. . . Pluto's large moon is Charon, the ferryman who rowed the dead across the river Styx to Pluto's realm. The other two tiny moons are Nix and Hydra. Nix was Charon's mother and goddess of the night. Hydra was the 9-headed serpent that guarded Pluto's realm. Vulcan was the god of fire, volcanoes and smithery.
The IAU rejected the name Vulcan as inappropriate and accepted the other two most popular names in the voting: Styx and Kerebros. As though a 9-headed serpent weren't enough, there was also a three-headed dog to guard the entrance to Hades. This was Kerebros. And Styx, of course, was the river that was the boundary between the living and the dead.
*July 4th anniversaries*
1054: The Crab Nebula supernova was observed by Chinese astronomers.
1868: Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born. Her discovery of the relationship between the period and the luminosity of Cepheid variables made possible Edwin Hubble's work. http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art29166.asp
1997: Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars.
2005: The Deep Impact probe collided with comet Tempel 1.
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I wish you clear skies.
Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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