astronomy Newsletter


June 29 2013 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Creepy Crawlies in Space
What was the first Earth creature to go into space? Not a dog, but a fruit fly. Insects and arachnids have been mini-astronauts for over sixty years. They have also inspired the naming of heavenly objects.

*Which astronomer?*

On the Astronomy site, “People” contains stories about the lives of a number of astronomers. Have you tried the quiz called “Which astronomer?” You only have to match up the description in each question to one of the four choices given. All of the descriptions are of people featured on the site and the answers have links to the relevant article. A good way of getting a potted summary of some of the great figures in the history of astronomy.

*Birthday George Ellery Hale*

George Ellery Hale (June 29, 1868 – February 21, 1938) was a prominent solar astronomer, who made a number of discoveries in his field. But his most lasting contribution to astronomy was founding three major observatories: Yerkes, Mt Wilson and Palomar. Each one, in its turn, featured the largest telescope in the world. Each was a big step forward in telescope technology, greatly extending our knowledge of the Universe.

*Anniversary of the Tunguska event*

A large asteroid / small comet leveled hundreds of miles of Siberian forest on June 30, 1908. The area was sparsely inhabited, but something that size could destroy a metropolitan area with a vast number of casualties. The somewhat smaller body that exploded above Chelyabinsk in February gave a hint of the potential.

*Opportunity's next objective*

Mars rover Opportunity is in the tenth year of her three-month mission! Here is a panoramic view that shows Solander Point along the edge of Endeavour Crater, her next objective. Solander Point is the raised area in the upper right of the picture.

*Another space mission finished*

You could almost believe the old superstition about things happening in threes. (1) The Herschel Space Observatory ran out of coolant at the end of April, thus finishing its mission. (2) In mid-May Kepler lost a second gyro and can no longer point accurately enough to collect data. (It hasn't yet been officially written off, but it's still not working.) (3) Earlier this week the French space agency CNES announced that it has had to retire its planet-hunter CoRoT. They haven't been able to restore the computer which failed last November. There will be a controlled de-orbit and the satellite will burn up on re-entry.

In case this sounds like a lot of failures, I should point out that all three missions have performed beyond the original expectation and have provide a vast amount of data which will take a few years to analyze.

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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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