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M1 Crab Nebula
Messier's catalog of nebulous objects begins with M1 the Crab Nebula. In 18th-century telescopes it was just a fuzzy patch, yet imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, it's fascinating and intricate. But what is it? Why is it called the Crab Nebula? And what amazing secret does it hide?
On September 17, 1857 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was born. He was a Russian rocket scientist who was a pioneer in the field, working out the physics of space flight while the Wright brothers were still trying to get off the ground. There's a crater on the far side of the Moon named for him. More about Russian astronautics here: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art302542.asp
*Gaia – the first thousand days*
Three years ago the European Space Agency (ESA) launched Gaia. We don't hear much about Gaia. It collects data, but it doesn't take pictures, so there's nothing for the public to see. Gaia's job is to compile the most detailed 3D map ever of the Milky Way. She will be carefully charting one billion stars.
Last week, to mark 1000 days after the launch, ESA provided the mission's first data release: http://sci.esa.int/science-e-media/img/62/Gaia_mission_in_numbers_625.jpg The main feature was a catalogue of over a billion stars with their brightness and sky position. But there are also details about three thousand variable stars and two thousand quasars.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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