astronomy Newsletter


April 9 2014 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Titan Facts for Kids
Saturn's moon Titan is bigger than a planet. It's the only moon with a thick atmosphere. In fact the atmosphere is so smoggy, we can't see the surface. But the Cassini-Huygens mission has found out many of its secrets, including lakes and sand dunes and maybe volcanoes.

*Christiaan Huygens (1629 - 1595)*

Dutch mathematician, astronomer, scientist and diplomat, Christiaan Huygens was born on April 14, 1629. Using a telescope that he made, he studied Saturn. He was the first to realize that the planet had a ring system. Until then it wasn't clear why Saturn sometimes had an odd shape. Galileo thought perhaps it had a moon either side. Huygens also discovered the planet Titan.

*Opportunity gets dusted off*

The main reason people thought that the rovers Spirit and Opportunity would only last about three months is the Martian dust. It would cover the solar panels that the rovers need for power. I usually think of the wind as blowing stuff around and making it dusty. But, surprisingly, every now and again the Martian wind blows the accumulated dust off of the solar panels. This happened last month and Opportunity has had a 70% increase in available power. Nice clean solar panels:

*Don't miss the lunar eclipse April 14-15*

This is the first total lunar eclipse since 2011. (You can read about lunar eclipses here: It's the first in a tetrad, which is a series of four total eclipses over two consecutive years. There are eight tetrads in the 21st century, which is the maximum number possible. The number of tetrads in a century varies from zero to eight.

If you happened to find yourself on the Moon when the eclipse occurred, you would see a total eclipse of the Sun. I like this painting of the imagined scene, even though it wouldn't look like this: The disk of the Moon just covers the Sun's disk when we see a solar eclipse from Earth, because they appear to be the same size from here. However, from the Moon, Earth appears four times bigger, so it would pretty well cover the Sun's corona.

*Yuri's Night”

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin was the first person to orbit the Earth. Three years ago Christopher Riley recreated his historic voyage on the fiftieth anniversary. Astronauts on the Space Station provided the footage. You can read about “First Orbit” at: It also includes a link to the film, which is available online.

Yuri's Night is celebrated on April 12. It commemorates that first flight and promotes space. When I looked at the website I saw that there were parties in 45 countries. Maybe there's one near you. Or put your feet up and have some nibbles and watch the film – not as exciting as Gagarin's flight, but more comfortable.

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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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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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