astronomy Newsletter


July 30 2013 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Telstar – Herald of the Modern Age
The Space Age has changed the way we communicate, and in 1962 Telstar was the herald of this change. It was an experimental satellite, but it helped to make the world more intimate. Telstar was disabled by nuclear testing, but it lives on in a pop song and modern telecom satellites.

*Meteorite to be part of Olympic medals*

On February 15, 2013 a large meteor exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The shock wave caused a fair bit of damage and a number of injuries from flying glass and other debris.

Next year the winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. The athletes that win gold on February 15th are to receive medals which incorporate fragments of Chelyabinsk meteorite.

Here is more information about meteors and meteorites:

*Maria Mitchell's birthday*

Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) was the first professional woman astronomer in the USA, the first American woman to discover a comet and the first woman to become a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a professor at Vassar she was ahead of her time in having her students doing serious practical work and learning to record their observations in a professional way. Mitchell was an active suffragette and battler for women's rights.

*NASA testing Kepler*

In May a reaction wheel failed on the Kepler spacecraft. It needs three to position itself precisely in three dimensions, but that left it with only two. A spare wheel was already in use after a previous failure. Since the optics are still ok, the week before last tests began to try to see if they could get one of the two failed reaction wheels working again.

The tests have had some success. There is movement in both wheels. BUT we're still waiting for the most important outcome. The wheels need to move smoothly, so the critical test is to see how much friction they are generating.

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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