astronomy Newsletter


January 4 2017 Astronomy Newsletter

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Five Astronomical Non-events 2016
The astronomical delights of 2016 are wonderful discoveries and beautiful heavenly events. Not so delightful are the flaky stories and shaky science and “intelligent aliens” as the answer to any mystery. Here's my selection of five such non-events from 2016.

*Vera Rubin R.I.P.*

American Astronomer Vera Rubin died on Christmas day. Her work in the 1970s on galaxy rotation radically changed our understanding of the cosmos. By now most people have heard of “dark matter”, but if it's matter that we cannot detect with our telescopes, how was it discovered? Rubin discovered that the stars at the edge of galaxies rotated faster than they should if visible matter was all there was. She provided the evidence of gravitational interactions that showed there must also be invisible matter present.


(1) January 3, 2004: NASA's Spirit rover landed on Mars. The mission was planned to last 90 Martian days, but Spirit collected data for over six years. More about Spirit:
(2) January 5, 2005: UB313 (Eris) was discovered, which got the planet debate going. More about Eris:
(3) January 7, 1610: Galileo first mentioned his discovery of three moons of Jupiter. As he continued his observations, he also saw the fourth major Jovian moon.
(4) January 8, 1587: Johannes Fabricius was born. He was a Frisian/German astronomer and a discoverer of sunspots (in 1610), independently of Galileo Galilei.
(5) January 8, 1942: Stephen Hawking was born. The English theoretical physicist is probably the best known scientist in the world – he's even been in The Simpsons.

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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