astronomy Newsletter


January 7 2014 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Top Ten Astronomy Stories of 2013
What were the big astronomy events of 2013? Here are my top ten choices. They include a big bang over Russia, a Moon goddess and Jade Rabbit, a telescope in the high Andean desert to look for the first galaxies and the launch one of the most ambitious space missions ever.

There is also a sort of New Year bonus in that I'm turning an overly long article into two shorter ones. The first revised article went up on Sunday.

Constellation or Asterism?
Constellations and asterisms are both patterns of stars. So what is a constellation? And If Saturn is in the constellation Virgo, has it left the Solar System? Why is the Big Dipper an asterism and not a constellation?


(1) Discovery of Eris
On January 5, 2005, distant UB313 was discovered. It was announced as a new planet because it seemed to be bigger than Pluto. This really heated up the debate on defining a planet and when the smoke cleared, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had some new definitions. Neither Pluto nor the new discovery were planets, but rather “dwarf planets”. In keeping with the mythological theme – and the tone of the discussion – the new body was named Eris, the goddess of discord. You can read more about Eris and Pluto here:

(2) Discovery of the Galilean moons
On January 7, 1610 Galileo discovered Callisto, Europa and Io, though he didn't find Ganymede until the 13th. The moons didn't get individual names for about three centuries. Galileo just numbered them, and called them the Medici Stars after the ruling family of Florence. There's more about Jupiter's four largest moons at:

(3) Stephen Hawking - born January 8, 1942
Hawking is probably the most famous living scientist. His scientific work is in the area of theoretical cosmology and he's particularly associated with the theoretical understanding of black holes. However he also wrote a best-selling book on cosmology called “A Brief History of Time” in which he shared an understanding of the evolution of the Universe with the general public. Another part of his scientific outreach is to collaborate on a series of children's books with his daughter Lucy Hawking. So far there are three of these. The most recent one is reviewed here:

(4) Founding of the Royal Astronomical Society
The organization was founded on January 12, 1820 and it was called the Astronomical Society of London. The society changed its name when it was granted a royal charter in 1831. William Herschel was its first President, though he couldn't be active because of ill health. His sister Caroline was awarded the society's Gold Medal for her work in astronomy, and in 1835 was made an honorary fellow. However women couldn't become full members of the society until 1915. More about the Herschels here:

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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