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Book review by David Freiberg: Universe Today Book Reviewer

Most of us get up in the morning, shower, eat breakfast and sleepily make our way to work. Whether we work in an office, outdoors, with the public or in any number of exciting Earth-based careers, our daily commute can hardly compare to that of a moon astronaut! In Earthrise: My Adventures As An Apollo 14 Astronaut, Edgar Mitchell shares his personal story of how he came to share a career with a scarce 11 other people in history.
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How Many Moons Does Saturn Have?

by Elizabeth Howell on April 23, 2014

A collage of Saturn (bottom left) and some of its moons: Titan, Enceladus, Dione, Rhea and Helene. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

A collage of Saturn (bottom left) and some of its moons: Titan, Enceladus, Dione, Rhea and Helene. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Saturn’s moons have such a variety of environments between them that you’d be forgiven for wanting to spend an entire mission just looking at its satellites. From the orangy, hazy Titan to the icy plumes emanating from Enceladus, studying Saturn’s system gives us plenty of things to think about.

Not only that, the moon discoveries keep on coming. As of April 2014, there are 62 known satellites of Saturn (excluding its spectacular rings, of course). Fifty-three of those worlds are named. While this sounds like a large number of satellites, there’s another planet that has even more — Jupiter, with 67 to its name.

Most of these moons are pretty small ones, just a few miles across, but on the other hand there are larger ones such as the moon Titan. Below are descriptions of some of the more prominent moons.

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Saturn at Opposition: Our 2014 Guide

by David Dickinson on April 23, 2014

Saturn as imaged from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico on April 15th. Credit: Efrain Morales.

Saturn as imaged from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico on April 15th. Credit: Efrain Morales.

Planet lovers can rejoice: one of the finest jewels of the solar system in returning to the evening night sky.

The planet Saturn reaches opposition next month on May 10th. This means that as the Sun sets to the west, Saturn will rise “opposite” to it in the east, remaining well positioned for observation in the early evening hours throughout the summer season. In fact, we’ll have four of the five naked eye planets above the horizon at once for our evening viewing pleasure in the month of May, as Jupiter also rides high to the west at sunset, Mars just passed opposition last month and Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation on May 25th. Venus is the solitary holdout, spending a majority of 2014 in the dawn sky. [click to continue…]

UPDATE, 11:42 a.m. EDT: Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson finished their spacewalk in just 1 hour and 36 minutes, nearly an hour faster than what NASA budgeted for. Early tests show the replacement computer is working well, providing backup once again for the robotics, solar arrays and other systems on station.

Can two astronauts fix a broken computer quickly on the International Space Station, preventing possible problems with the solar arrays and robotics? Watch live (above) to find out.

The NASA spacewalk involving Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson is scheduled to start today (April 23) at 9:20 a.m. EDT (1:20 p.m. UTC), with coverage starting around 8:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 p.m. UTC). The spacewalk is scheduled to last 2.5 hours. Bear in mind that the times could change as circumstances arise.

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The Inner and Outer Planets in Our Solar System

by Elizabeth Howell on April 23, 2014

Artist's impression of the solar system showing the inner planets (Mercury to Mars), the outer planets (Jupiter to Neptune) and beyond. Credit: NASA

Artist’s impression of the solar system showing the inner planets (Mercury to Mars), the outer planets (Jupiter to Neptune) and beyond. Credit: NASA

In our Solar System, astronomers often divide the planets into two groups — the inner planets and the outer planets. The inner planets are closer to the Sun and are smaller and rockier. The outer planets are further away, larger and made up mostly of gas.

The inner planets (in order of distance from the sun, closest to furthest) are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. After an asteroid belt comes the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The interesting thing is, in some other planetary systems discovered, the gas giants are actually quite close to the sun.

This makes predicting how our Solar System formed an interesting exercise for astronomers. Conventional wisdom is that the young Sun blew the gases into the outer fringes of the Solar System and that is why there are such large gas giants there. However, some extrasolar systems have “hot Jupiters” that orbit close to their Sun.

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