Getting Started in Stargazing Tonight

Our movement and change through time and space are fundamental characteristics of what it means to be alive. Imagine a world where everything was still, no time, no past, no future, nothing. Without movement and change, absolutely nothing would exist. As much as the entropy of change eventually dooms us all, it also gives us life. There is no life without movement. There’s no life without change, time, and space. The stars and planets give an overwhelming perspective on movement, change, space, and time. It’s fundamental to how we live our lives. Look at your watch. Have you ever wondered why an hour is 60 mins? Why are there 24 hours a day? Seven days in a week? Why do we have months, seasons, or years? Who made up the rule that months are around 30 days? Where did your zodiac sign come from? Where did “military time” come from? The Greeks,…

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5 Reasons Why Titan is A Better Destination Than Mars
Titan Composite, Monochrome and False Color

5 Reasons Why Titan is A Better Destination Than Mars

Titan is a cold, icy world surrounded by a thick, hazy, orange atmosphere. Standing on its surface would resemble standing on the planet Vagra II of Star Trek TNG. Although there’s more than likely no black gue serving as the embodiment of evil oozing about its surface, it’s also unique in that it is the only place we know of other than Earth to have bodies of surface liquid on its surface.We’ve had a long history of observing Titan. Most of our telescopes perceive it as a fuzzy orange ball of light, near Saturn, however, multiple missions have given us new insight into this beautiful world and why it makes for an intriguing destination for interplanetary discovery, even more so than Mars.Since its discovery in 1655, Titan has been visited by Pioneer 11 in 1973, Voyager 1 in 1980, Voyager 2 in 1981, and the Cassini in 2004.Cassini–Huygens mission, launched by NASA,…

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OSIRIS-REx Exciting Mission to the Asteroid Bennu
Asteroid Bennu from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

OSIRIS-REx Exciting Mission to the Asteroid Bennu

The movie Don't Look Up was interesting if not weird. However you feel about the movie, its premise of a comet is coming to destroy Earth is low, but not impossible. That's one of the main reasons NASA launched the OSIRIS-REx Mission to explore the asteroid Bennu. It's not a comet, however, the asteroid is close enough to cause damage. "OSIRIS-REx" is an acronym that stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, and Regolith Explorer. The OSIRIS-REx mission sent a space probe to Bennu back in December 2018 to "touch down" on the near-Earth asteroid Bennu some 200 million miles away to collect a sample and return to Earth in 2023. Yes, 200 million miles is NEAR Earth. The $1.16 billion OSIRIS-REx mission will be the first American spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid if the mission is successful. Bennu is one of the millions of asteroids in our…

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The Polarizing Reasons Pluto is Not a Planet Anymore
Icy mountains on the surface of Pluto. Photograph: New Horizons/NASA

The Polarizing Reasons Pluto is Not a Planet Anymore

Pluto was previously considered a planet since its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto had little resistance to its classification as the ninth planet upon its discovery.This may have been a slight case of confirmation bias since the presence of a "ninth planet" or "planet X" was hypothesized by Percival Lowell. Lowell believed that the apparent discrepancies of Uranus were the causation of another planet beyond Neptune.Pluto was within only 6 degrees of the predicted location of the ninth planet predicted by Lowell. However, Lowell predicted that this planet would be around 6.6 the mass of Earth.As telescopes improved, we were able to learn more about Pluto. In 1950, Gerard Kuiper observed Pluto as a spherical world using a 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar. Kuiper estimated that Pluto's diameter was around 5,900 kilometers.In 1965, Pluto passed near a star allowing astronomers to conclude that Pluto was a small body. As…

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Why Saturn’s Moon Mimas is so Awesome

Mimas is Saturn's seventh moon and one of the most mysterious objects in the Solar System. One would think that Mimas inspired the Death Star from the 1977 film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but the movie was made three years before the crater's discovery by Pioneer 11 in 1979.Voyager 1, Voyager 2, the Cassini probe in 2010 have visited Mimas since its discovery. Mimas, however, did make a pop culture appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 5, Episode 19, The First Duty. The episode featured the moon when Wesley Crusher was beamed to Mimas in an emergency after some suspect piloting Wes and pals, but that's another issue."Mimas" was derived from the "Giants" in Greek mythology. But don't confuse the Giants with the Titans. Both groups have the same mother and father, Gaia and Uranus. Although they had the same parents, how the Giants came into this world is just a tad bit…

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The Majesty of Gas Giant Planets

When we hear the term "gas giant planet", our minds race directly to several planets located within our Solar System, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets share several defining characteristics that allow them to be lumped into the same category.In particular, the high percentage of helium and hydrogen within their overall composition places them apart from other more terrestrial solar bodies. However, the term gas giant planet is a bit misleading in that it tells us very little about the actual composition of these unique worlds.Gas giant planets are composed of a high percentage of solid material. Due to the extreme pressure within the core of a gas giant, hydrogen may be converted into a metallic solid or liquid form.Frequently, there are other materials interspersed within this solid matrix as well. Although all gas giants contain high amounts of hydrogen and helium within their overall composition, they may also have…

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The Elegance of Astronomy Symbols

I have always been fascinated by symbols and the messages they communicate. As a graphic designer, my favorite projects were creating logos. I love the elegance and slickness of silhouette logos that tell a story with just a glance. I had similar feelings when viewing the art and graphics of the classic Halo video game. Within the lore of Halo, an ancient species named the Forerunners designed beautiful, grandiose architecture that within the context of the game, looked ancient, spiritual, and foreign, yet technologically advanced. Their symbols communicated a species outside of time. This is how I’ve seen astronomy symbols. They represent objects that have been around millions of years before us and more than likely millions of years after us. They are simple yet elegant and are a reflection of the mythology that helped ancient people interpret what they saw in the heavens. The experience was spiritual in the sense that I’m…

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