astronomy Newsletter


April 13 2011 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody!

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Saturn Facts for Kids
Saturn is golden in the sky and a telescope shows a ring system to take your breath away. If you could find enough water, Saturn would float, and its moons are amazing. But if you don't like freezing weather, 1000-mph winds and lightning storms the size of continental USA, don't plan any visits.

*First Orbit*

“Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it! “ Yuri Gagarin

Last night was Yuri's Night. Since 2001 this has been celebrated worldwide with parties and other events to celebrate the flight of the first man in space and to promote space travel. Last night was the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic flight. Here is a five-minute tribute to him with some super footage and lovely singing from the Red Army Choir:

Apparently, his "Let's go!" at the launch of Vostok 1 became a catchword in the Soviet Union. Besides being such a cool customer, his smile was completely infectious. His early death was a sad loss.

*Comparing Planets*

I've come across a handy little site that lets you compare the sizes of the Sun, our Moon and the planets (plus Pluto). It gives you pictures to scale and the diameter in either kilometers or miles. It's at Along the right hand edge there is a box marked ABOUT. You can click on this for help if you're not sure what to do.


(1) Project Ozma – started April 11, 1960
Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake set up this pioneering SETI experiment. SETI is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Its purpose was to use radio telescopes to monitor interstellar radio emissions for signs of an organized signal which could indicate intelligent communications. (None were detected by this project or any SETI projects since then.)

(2) Christiaan Huygens – born April 14, 1629
He was a Dutchman who was prominent in a number of fields, including astronomy. He designed his own telescope and made a number of discoveries with it. Galileo had been the first to see the rings of Saturn, but his telescope wasn't good enough to resolve them and his early drawings showed them as a moon either side of the planet or looking rather like handles. Huygens was the first to suggest that Saturn was surrounded by a disk. He also discovered Saturn's moon Titan and the European Space Agency (ESA) honored him by naming its Titan probe for him.

*The night sky*

This weekend, if it's clear, you should be able to see a bright Saturn and Spica (Virgo's brightest star) near the full moon. No, astronomers aren't fond of the full moon – but it will still be a very pretty sight. Here's a diagram to help you out from Sky & Telescope magazine:

*Fun Facts about the Space Shuttle*

I recently came across a NASA poster-style page about the Space Shuttle. I don't actually call information “fun facts,” but I suppose it is rather amusing to find out how many elephants it would take to equal the mass of the Space Shuttle Columbia. You can find it here:

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

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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor


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