astronomy Newsletter


October 18 2012 Astronomy Newsletter

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Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Lick Observatory - 10 Fascinating Facts
Lick Observatory lies high on a mountaintop overlooking Silicon Valley. Known for major contributions to astronomy, it also has some unusual features. Its benefactor James Lick is buried under one of the main telescopes and its original seismogram of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake is on display.

*New neighbor*
Our nearest neighbor in space, the Alpha Centauri system, has an Earth-mass planet. We're not getting too excited about its being a sister planet to Earth because it's closer to its star Alpha Centauri B than Mercury is to the Sun. It's certainly not in the habitable zone, but other planets may yet be found in the triple star system. Even though the planet has a low mass, it was discovered through its gravitational affect on its star. You can find out more about how this works in the article “Searching for Extrasolar Planets” at

*Planet in 4-star system*
Citizen scientists have discovered a planet in a system of four stars. The Neptune-sized planet orbits an eclipsing binary (a pair of stars in orbit around each other) and these two stars plus the planet are orbited by a second pair of stars. Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano found the planet through studying Kepler mission data as part of the Planet Hunters project. To learn more about citizen science, click here

*Astronomy Day*
The 2012 Fall Astronomy Day is on Saturday October 20th. You can find out more about this special national event at “Astronomy Day – Bringing Astronomy to the People” at

*Solar activity*
Solar activity has been on the increase this week and you don't have to go to Iceland or Alaska to see an aurora. Here is a striking photo of the White Dome Geyser in Yellowstone National Park (USA), taken by Robert Howell: Do you wonder what causes an aurora? If so, you can find out here:

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans,
Astronomy Editor

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