astronomy Newsletter


June 9 2010 Astronomy Newsletter

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NASA's New Horizons is on its way to visit Pluto, but it has a long way to go yet. Meanwhile here's a profile of dwarf planet 134340 Pluto, largest object in the Kuiper Belt and former planet. It's a lot of titles for something so small.

Following the theme of last week's post on Uranus and Neptune, I should mention that today is the 198th anniversary of the birth of Johann Gottfried Galle (06.09.1812-07.10.1910). He found the planet Neptune using Urbain LeVerrier's prediction.

There is evidence that a number of astronomers had previously seen Neptune, but failed to identify it as a planet. Their number included John Herschel. Now wouldn't that have been a story for both father and son to have discovered new planets!

But yesterday, June 8th, was the 385th anniversary of the birth of Giovanni Cassini (06.09.1625-09.14.1712). He was a highly accomplished astronomer, but is particularly well known for his connection with Saturn. He discovered four of Saturn's moons and also the gap in the rings now called the Cassini Division.

Because of this connection NASA named its Saturn probe after him. The homepage is here and it's fascinating. The photographs alone could keep you distracted for a long time.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Saturn. Not only is it a stunning picture, but if you look carefully on the left-hand side just outside the brightest-looking rings, there is a little dot. It looks as if it could be one of Saturn's moons, but it's actually the Earth.

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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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