astronomy Newsletter


January 20 2015 Astronomy Newsletter

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Taurus the Bull
In Greek myth Taurus is Zeus's guise for the seduction of Europa. But the bull's red eye still glares at Orion in an enmity created long before the rise of ancient Greece. Today's Taurus is a constellation memorable for its two beautiful star clusters and one of the sky's most amazing objects.

*Beagle 2 found*
On Christmas Day 2003 Mars probe Beagle 2 was set to land on the red planet. It was one of the stories I told in my article Christmas in the Skies: This little probe was a British production, led by Professor Colin Pillinger, a larger-than-life character and very keen space scientist. He and the probe (named for the Beagle on which Charles Darwin sailed) had a large popular following. A well known British pop group provided the call sign for the probe, and artist Damien Hirst designed its color calibration chart:

So there was widespread gloom when nothing was ever heard from Beagle. In February 2004 it was officially given up for lost. Until last week. In pictures taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Beagle has been located. It doesn't appear that it did crash and break up, but that it failed fully to open. Therefore it's antenna couldn't be extended and no communication was possible. Sadly, Colin Pillinger died last May without ever knowing the fate of his great endeavor.

*Opportunity – 11 Years on Mars*
On January 25, 2004, the Opportunity rover landed on Mars for its three-month mission. It's still collecting data. However, recently it has been having memory problems - I know the feeling! - so no one knows if the mission is finally coming to an end. Opportunity's sister Spirit sent her final transmission in March 2010. It seems likely that she couldn't get into position to get enough sunlight to charge the solar panels, and simply froze in the Martian winter. Here's the story:

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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