Daily Archives: April 5, 2015

Messenger’s Last Legs

The MESSENGER mission, short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging sent up the probe in August 2004. In March 2011 it became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. The probe has done a lot in its years around the Solar System’s first planet including: constructing the best-ever maps of Mercury and discovering carbon-containing […] Continue reading

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Gamma-ray Bursts

Let’s start this post with what gets everyone’s attention during class: mass extinction. This somber topic always seems to turn heads. If collisions and exploding suns aren’t enough to make you fear extinction billions of years away, a new paper introduces us to a new threat that potentially could have wiped out most of life […] Continue reading

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Comet Brightness – Not Related to Test Scores

A comet is an icy Solar System body with very elliptical orbit that takes it close to the Sun on one end and far from the Sun on the other. When it gets close to the Sun it begins to outgas, forming a visible atmosphere called a coma and often also a tail. One noticeable […] Continue reading

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Beyond Pluto

Not long after a couple of astronomers announced hints of a giant planet prowling beyond Pluto, a team in Spain says there may actually be two supersize planets hiding in the outer reaches of our solar system. After the discovery of a potential dwarf planet 2012 VP113 in March, astronomers started questioning the curiously aligned […] Continue reading

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The Mystery of the Mass Extinction

Before reading the section in Chapter 12 of the textbook on cosmic collisions (Section 12.4), I had not realized that there exists some controversy as to whether or not an impact killed the dinosaurs. I had always been taught that an asteroid hitting the Earth resulted in the mass extinction and had never considered that […] Continue reading

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What would life be like on Pluto for humans?

photo from space.com Above is an artist’s conception of what Pluto would look like if one could stand on one of the dwarf planet’s moons and stare back at Pluto.  But this article goes on to tell us what our experiences would be if we were to actually step foot on the surface of Pluto […] Continue reading

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The Galilean Moons

When I went out observing on the 24th Avenue Parking Garage the other night, every astronomical object that I saw through the telescope amazed me, but Jupiter especially captured my attention. I had never viewed Jupiter through a telescope before, and on this beautiful and mostly clear night, I was able to clearly see not […] Continue reading

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Searching for intelligent life

Humans have always fascinated themselves with the idea that maybe we aren’t so alone in the universe. We have made efforts to find extraterrestrials and so far turned up nothing. Is there any hope for them finding us first? A number of organized attempts have been made to let “others” know that we exist. The […] Continue reading

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Jupiter’s volcanic moon: Io

Io sports a surface temperature well below zero (around -130 degrees C). This is heavily contrasted by the fact that Io is also the most volcanically active body in our solar system. It is known to have over 400 currently active volcanoes. If you weren’t yet convinced about the effects of tidal heating, think about […] Continue reading

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Voyager 2

Almost all of the information and pictures scientists have today from the outer planets is due to flyby missions such as NASA’s Voyager 2. As we learned in the last unit, flyby space probes are especially helpful because they can pass by and gather information on multiple planets within one single mission, and that is… Continue reading Voyager 2 Continue reading

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