astronomy Newsletter


March 2 2011 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody!

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Icarus at the Edge of Time book review
Icarus flew too close to the Sun with wings of wood and wax. The wax melted and he fell to his death. Brian Greene's Icarus of the future flies too close to a black hole and finds that he should have paid more attention to Einstein.


George Abell (March 1, 1927 – October 7, 1983)

George Abell, an astronomer with an international reputation, was born in Los Angeles where he lived most of his life. He cataloged some four thousand galaxy clusters, providing the definitive reference work on these objects. He was a professor of astronomy at UCLA, but in addition to his research he was dedicated to the education of young people. Abell taught for many years in a summer school program for high school students.

Joseph von Fraunhofer (6 March 1787 – 7 June 1826)

Fraunhofer was a glass-maker who made precision microscopes and telescopes. He also invented the spectroscope, which has proved to be invaluable for the advancement of astrophysics. Looking at the Sun with a spectroscope he saw not only the visible light spectrum (rainbow), but also 574 dark lines. Many years after Fraunhofer's death, they were explained as atomic absorption lines, i.e., certain wavelengths of light absorbed by elements in the Sun. This series of lines is still called Fraunhofer lines. You can see some of them here:


(1) New Horizons flew past Jupiter four years ago on February 28, 2007. It's on its way to Pluto and then into the Kuiper Belt. It's not expected to arrive at Pluto until the summer of 2015, so it still has a long journey.

(2) Two Venera probes provided firsts on March 1st. Venera 3 became the first space probe to land on another world when it landed on Venus in 1966. Unfortunately, its communications were damaged, so no pictures were sent to Earth. However on March 1, 1983 Venera 13 sent back the first color pictures from the surface of Venus.

(3) Pioneer 10 was launched on February 2, 1972. Nearly forty years later, it's on its way to the edge of the Solar System.

*Northern Lights*

I spent last week in Norway, most of it beyond the Arctic Circle. The crossing of the Arctic Circle was "celebrated" by newbies with a ceremony on the ship's deck involving ice water down the back of the neck. I won't say it was cold, but that night the ice cubes were still there. However we were treated to several auroral displays.

I had to get back to work so I missed a very strong one last night. Here is a photograph taken last night in Norway by Geir Oye and posted on

That's all for this now.  Wishing you clear skies.

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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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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor


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