astronomy Newsletter


April 18 2015 Astronomy Newsletter

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Constellations - Facts for Kids
Some of our constellations go back thousands of years. Others were invented when Europeans began to explore the distant seas of the southern hemisphere. But what's the difference between a constellation, an asterism and a star cluster? And what does the constellation Pyxis represent?

*Death plunge onto Mercury*
NASA's MESSENGER mission to Mercury has already been going longer than originally expected. However it seems that it's practically running on fumes now. On April 24 they plan to try to lift the spacecraft into a higher orbit. That will take some fuel, but less fuel is used in a higher orbit. If that goes well, they will send it crashing to the planet's surface on April 30th.
You may wonder what the point of all this is. Principal investigator Sean Solomon says, "Having an impact crater, even a small one, whose origin date is precisely known, will be an important benchmark.” This means that the rate of space weathering on Mercury can be more precisely measured.

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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