astronomy Newsletter


December 11 2014 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Natural History Museum London - Astronomy Tour
How about an astronomy tour of the Natural History Museum in London? It won't take more than 13.8 billion years – or much less, as your watch measures it. Highlights will be the evolution of the Earth, and pieces of Mars and the Moon, one of the oldest known meteors, and diamonds from stardust.

*Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1938*
Today – December 11 – is the birth anniversary of Annie Jump Cannon. She was a truly extraordinary woman – a superb astronomer and a champion of women's education and equal rights. Cannon's influence is felt even today in stellar astronomy. She devised the OBAFGKM classification system whose traditional mnemonic is Oh Be a Fine Girl (Guy) – Kiss Me. And she classified the spectra of nearly a quarter of a million stars for the Henry Draper Catalog whose publication she oversaw after the death of the director of Harvard Observatory. (The HD numbers are still in common use.) More about Annie Cannon here:

*New Horizons is awake*
On December 6th, the mission control center in Maryland got a message from New Horizons. It took about four and a half hours for the message to get there, but the spacecraft is awake! It's on its way to Pluto and has awoken from its final nap. Since the launch in 2006, it's spent about two-thirds of its time in hibernation - this cuts the costs and saves wear and tear on the instruments. They'll be needed for the summer fly-by of Pluto and its moons, but also for the onward journey through the Kuiper Belt.

*More birthdays*
(1) Gerard Kuiper (1905-1973), Dutch-American astronomer, was born on December 7, 1905. His name is known because the Kuiper belt of icy bodies beyond Neptune bears his name. But he had a distinguished career. Kuiper discovered Uranus's moon Miranda and Neptune's moon Nereid, as well as a number of binary stars. He also founded the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, which he directed until his death. His expertise enabled him to assist NASA in its selection of landing sites for Apollo missions.

(2) Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), a Danish nobleman, was born on December 14, 1546. He was the greatest astronomer ever of the days before the telescope. Using instruments of his own design, the accuracy of his observations was at the limit of what could be achieved without a telescope. But more than that, he observed regularly and had a set of observations that was unparalleled. These observations made it possible for Kepler to formulate his laws of planetary motion. More about Tycho's dramatic life:

*Hubble holiday cards - free*
Greeting cards with beautiful Hubble Space Telescope images are designed for any of the winter holidays. There are several download options and advice on printing. But I've realized that if you email your greetings, you can download an image as a jpeg (or pdf), and insert it into a file with your greetings and news. It makes for an unusual and attractive greeting.

*The Geminids are coming*
Don't forget to watch out for the meteor shower the night of Saturday 13-14 December. It's one of the great sights of the year.

Please visit for even more great content about Astronomy.

I hope to hear from you sometime soon, either in the forum or in response to this email message. I welcome your feedback!

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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