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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

December is one of my favorite months. I enjoy the change in the weather and all of the winter festivities and holiday happenings. I especially enjoy the beautiful holiday lights displayed in my neighborhood and around town, but those aren’t the only lights I’ll look for this month. Did you know that one of the most wondrous light displays in the world is happening this week? It’s not a holiday display, it’s a meteor shower! The Geminid meteor shower is occurring December 10th through the 16th, and is expected to peak overnight from the 13th to the early morning hours of the 14th. The Geminid meteors get their name from the constellation of Gemini, which the meteors seem to radiate from as they traverse the night sky. There is a new moon on the 13th which should provide dark skies to easily see the meteors in locations with clear weather.

Unfortunately for the Bay Area there is a storm moving in and visibility might be hindered or non-existent in some areas. If the skies do clear you should be able to see the Geminid meteors from many locations. If the lights are too bright where you are try taking a drive away from the city glare. The meteors should be visible Thursday night starting around 9 or 10 pm, but the best time to view the meteors is very late, between midnight and 2 am. If the skies are clear you can expect to see approximately 80 to 120 meteors per hour during peak time. Take a look at this time-lapse video of the Geminid meteors from a previous year to get an idea of what you might see.

If it’s too cloudy outside or if you would prefer to be warm while watching the Geminid meteors, you can watch them from the comfort of your own home! NASA will be live streaming the meteor shower and featuring a live chat module starting at 8 pm PST on Thursday, December 13th. You can find more information here.  If the skies are clear and you decide to brave the winter weather to view the meteor shower outside, be sure to keep warm!

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In Russia April 12th is Cosmonautics Day. This holiday celebrates the first manned flight into space. This year marks the 51st anniversary of that space flight. Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet Cosmonaut, became the first man in space by orbiting around the Earth in a Vostok 1 spacecraft. His trip around the Earth lasted a total of 108 minutes. Exactly twenty years later NASA launched the first orbital flight of the space shuttles program. The Columbia went into space on April 12th, 1981 and orbited the Earth 37 times during the trip. Around the world April 12th is known as Yuri’s Night in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned flight  and the collective space exploration milestones reached since. If you would like to learn more about space and space travel you might enjoy a trip to the Chabot Space & Science Center. There is a multimedia exhibit called NASA’s Destination Station at The Tech Museum through this Sunday, April 15th.

If you would like to know more about space travel you can take a look at space.com or take a look at what materials we have at the library here. We also have biographies about Yuri Gagarin here.

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How to Build a Planet

An astronomer from NASA/JPL explains how a planet is formed. Yep. Youtube really does have everything.

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13 Astronomy Links

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Thursday Thirteen #66

It’s no secret to anyone who has seen my cube here at work that I love astronomy. So, today, I thought I’d gift you all with 13 Astronomy-related links. I hope that you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed hunting them down.

1. NASA.gov – This is obviously one of the basics when it comes to outer space, if you are U.S.-based, anyway.

2. Hubblesite – The home of the Hubble Space Telescope, and its fabulous pictures.

3. Mars Atlas – If you need information about the Martian terrain, this is the place to go.

4. Planet Quest – This is the official website for Exoplanet Exploration from JPL. Will they find a habitable world?

5. The International Year of Astronomy – Did you know that 2009 is the international year of Astronomy? Pop by this website to see events occurring near you.

6. NASA on Youtube – Your home for videos about the goings on at NASA.

7. NASA Ames Research Center – Located on Moffat Field in California. They even offer a NASA exploration center that you can visit.

8. The JPL Youtube channel – News and Videos from the home of many rovers of Mars.

9. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory – I knew that the Smithsonian was cool, but I didn’t know that the SAO had a section on Extreme Astrophysics.

10. The Chandra X-ray Observatory Center – Like the Hubble’s site this one also has pictures and research data. They even have pictures with Black Holes in them.

11. Mars Exploration Rover Mission – Keep your eye on the Rovers.

12. Astronomy Picture of the Day – APOD offers up everything from the silly to the extraordinary, one picture at a time.

13. NASA on Twitter – Along with several other Astronomy-related entities (such as the Mars Rovers) you can follow NASA on Twitter.

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Thursday Thirteen #33
My husband recently got a job working with NASA. I adore NASA, so you can imagine how happy this makes me. This week I bring you Thirteen Things in our Solar System in his honor.

13 Things in the Heavens:
1. The Sun – Our very own star doesn’t seem to have its own proper designation, beyond the Latin “Sol” so beloved of Science Fiction writers. It burns in space a mere 92.96 million miles away from us. At its core, the temperature is a toasty (approximately) 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Ceres – Ceres is a dwarf planet named after a Roman goddess. It lives in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is the most massive known body there. It is 950 kilometers in diameter.

3. Jupiter – The largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter has a whopping 49 officially named moons. Its Great Red Spot is a huge spinning storm that has been going on for a very long time.

4. Neptune – Spinning serenely through space 2.8 billion miles away from the Sun, it takes Neptune 165 years to make one complete orbit. The reason for Neptune’s bluish color is still unknown.

5. Mars – I love the red planet. Did you know that Olympus Mons is the largest volcanic mountain in the solar system? For more information about this planet, check out the Phoenix Mars Mission site.

6. Venus – Only slightly smaller than the Earth, Venus actually rotates in the opposite direction. Venus has no moons.

7. MakeMake – Named after a creator god of Rapa Nui, MakeMake was officially named and listed among the ranks of the plutoid dwarf planets on July 2008. Now…if only I knew how to properly pronounce that…

8. The Kuiper Belt – No, this has nothing to do with Sports Announcer, Dwayne Kuiper. It’s an area of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Its existence was only confirmed a decade ago.

9. Io – Io is one of Jupiter’s moons, and the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

10. The Oort Cloud – Not, as you might imagine, a cloud of Oorts. The Oort Cloud is the outer edge of the solar system and its vast spherical cloud of icy bodies is the source of long-period comets.

11. Pluto – Poor Pluto was downgraded to a “dwarf planet” on 24 August 2006. It lurks in the Kuiper Belt. No spacecraft has visited Pluto at this point, but New Horizons is on its way.

12. Saturn – Saturn may not be the only planet with rings, but it certainly has the most beautiful ones. It is listed as having sixty moons at this point, but not all of them have been officially named.

13. Eris – Eris was originally known as Xena. It is a Kuiper Belt Object that is larger than Pluto.

Sources:
* Encyclopedia of the Solar System (2nd ed.), Edited by Lucy-Ann McFadden, Paul R. Weissman, and Torrence V. Johnson
* NASA: Solar System Exploration

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