Browsing Posts in Ministry of Astronomy

A huge, nearly planet wide, dust storm on Mars is blocking the Sun and greatly decreasing the power output of both Mars rover’s solar panels. The rovers have been instructed to conserve power by shutting down all science systems and Opportunity has been instructed not to contact Earth for two days. The rovers are drawing […]

Tonight, I went swimming with The Princess in the pool after dinner. It was getting dark and she liked that there were pink clouds in sky. While the sky was still quite light, Venus popped out in the sky to the west, shining brightly (-4.6 magnitude). I vowed to stay out until Saturn became visible, […]

Most years, the first day of spring lands on March 20th and some years it lands on my birthday, March 21. This year, one author looked at 13 calendars and six said the first day of spring is March 20 and six said it was on March 21 (one, a Star Trek calendar, only mentioned […]

Wednesday, Mercury will pass between the Earth and the Sun in what is called a transit. Transits of Mercury are pretty rare, they only occur 12 times a century and the last one was in 2003 (see photo). Transits of Venus are even more rare. Transits used to be very important to astronomy. By having […]

Today NASA reinstated a Space Shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission had been previously cancelled due to safety concerns after the Columbia disaster in 2003. Flights since then had been to the International Space Station which could offer refuge in case of a problem with the shuttle. The Hubble is an […]

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly ruled last week on a new definition of planet: 1. It must have enough mass and gravity to gather itself into a ball. 2. It must orbit the sun. 3. It must reign supreme in its own orbit having gravitationally “cleared the neighborhood” of other competing bodies. Since […]

Today is aphelion day — the day the Earth is farthest from the sun. The eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit means we are about 3 million miles further from the Sun then we are at perihelion. Of course our climate is dominated by the 23.5° tilt of the Earth’s axis so it is summer here […]

NASA astronomers got some cool video of a 10 inch diameter meteoroid hitting the moon. You may think that is a small object, and it is. However, it was moving fast. When it hit at 85,000 miles per hour, that kinetic energy was mostly changed to heat energy, 4 billion joules worth, creating a flash […]