astronomy Newsletter


September 8 2010 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

Moon Facts for Kids
The Moon has no air, no sound, no weather and no liquid water. But you could see the Earth in the sky, shining more brightly than the Moon does from Earth. And since there is less gravity, you could jump quite high and the footprint you left might last hundreds of years.

And of course, adults can read it too!


1) Six years ago today (September 8, 2004) the Genesis spacecraft crash landed on its return to Earth.

Genesis was a sample-return mission designed to collect material from the solar wind. The particles of the solar wind come from the outer part of the Sun, which we think hasn't changed since the beginning of the Solar System. This means we can use it to see the changes that have occurred elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Genesis crash landed when a parachute didn't open and many of the samples were contaminated. However not all of them were lost and the scientists involved in the analysis feel that the mission was successful.

2) Saturday is the 133rd anniversary of the birth of Sir James Jeans, English astronomer and physicist. The “Jeans length” is still known today to those studying starbirth. It tells us how big a cloud of dust and gas needs to be in order to collapse under gravity. This has to happen for stars to form. Jeans also was known for his many popular books on science.

*The sky*

1) Tonight the Moon is at perigee. Its orbit around the Earth is elliptical, so it isn't always the same distance away from us. When it is at perigee, it's at its closest. When it's farthest away, it is at apogee. This link lets you see the difference in apparent size: The difference seems amazing, but you wouldn't be likely to notice it looking at the sky. This is because we have no real sense of the size of the Moon without some sort of reference point.

2) Mercury had gone behind the Sun, but from now until the end of the month, it's visible before the Sun comes up. “Absolute Beginners – Seeing Mercury and Venus” will give you some hints on looking for Mercury.

3) Jupiter is currently the brightest natural object in the night sky – except for the Moon It's bright enough even to be outstanding even in a city with all its lights. Jupiter is now rising earlier and you might spot it from 8.30 in the evening onwards til the early hours of the next day.

Jupiter is at opposition the week after next. That means it's at its closest point to the Earth, as you can see in this diagram: I'll tell you more about this next week.

4) I've been enjoying seeing some beautiful passes of the International Space Station. In one of them, there was even a bright flash as it caught the Sun at just the right angle.

*Big event*

The Saturday after next (September 18) is the first International Observe the Moon Night. Last year there was a National Observe the Moon Night in the USA.

It sounds to me like a great excuse for a party and probably you and your friends have several pairs of binoculars amongst you. I'll be updating this thread on the astronomy forum with new ideas and information as I get them:

You might even find an organized event going on near you. Have a look at the map:

BTW We're used to seeing great photographs of the Moon, but Deirdre Kelleghan draws her observations, instead of using a camera. I thought you might enjoy this lovely drawing she did:


I didn't get the right URL for anyone who wanted to submit an original song for NASA's astronaut wake-up, though you might have found it on the site from the one I did give:

Please visit for even more great content about Astronomy.

To participate in online discussions, this site has a community forum all about Astronomy located here -

I hope to hear from you sometime soon, either in the forum or in response to this email message. I welcome your feedback!

Do pass this message along to family and friends who might also be interested. Remember it's free and without obligation.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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