astronomy Newsletter


January 20 2016 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Williamina Fleming
Through the vision and dedication of Edward Pickering, Harvard College had one of the world's top observatories. Pickering had a secret weapon: a team of women computers. One of them was Mina Fleming who began her employment as a housekeeper and ended it as an astronomer of international repute.

*Birth anniversaries*
On January 20,
(1) Simon Marius was born in 1573. He was a German astronomer who claimed that he'd discovered the moons of Jupiter before Galileo did. The jury is still out on that one, but their names are the ones Marius proposed.
(2) Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, was born in 1930.

*Other anniversaries*
(1) On January 20, 2014 the Rosetta spacecraft came out of hibernation after a long cold trip through the outer Solar System.
(2) On January 22, 2003 Pioneer 10's last signal came to Earth. It's the second most distant probe from Earth at 114.423 AU. (1 AU is the average Earth-Sun distance.) It's headed in the direction of the constellation Taurus. Voyager 1 is the most distant – it's currently 134.403 AU.
(3) On January 25, 2004 the Opportunity rover landed on Mars. It's still there at work.

*See all five visible planets at the same time!*
All five visible planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – are together in the pre-dawn sky for about a month starting today. You can use the Moon as guide from January 27 to February 6. SeaSky has made some helpful charts for mid-northern North American latitudes, but – local conditions permitting – you can see them from anywhere.

In these 2 charts the moon appears larger than it does in the real sky. Mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia see the planets similarly positioned, with the moon somewhat offset toward the previous date. Spica is a star in the constellation Virgo. The green line on the above chart is the ecliptic ( ).
(1) South to southwest:
(2) Southeast to south:

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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