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, Babylonians, Sumerians,…

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The Historical OSIRIS-REx Mission to the Asteroid Bennu

Tuesday marked yet another historic day for space exploration. The OSIRIS-REx space probe touched 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 Solar System. However, the asteroid is unique in that it is a NEO or a “near-earth object.” NEO’s are asteroids that orbit the Sun within at a distance of 1.3 astronomical units. An astronomical unit is equivalent to about 93 million miles and is the equivalent of the Earth’s distance from the Sun. One fun fact about this asteroid is that its name, Bennu was derived from an Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun, creation, and…

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A Spiritual Moment: Movement and Change Through Time and Space

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 signs come from? Where did “military” time come from? Hint: The…

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The Elegance of Astronomy Symbols

I have always been fascinated by astronomy symbols and the messages they communicate. As a graphic designer, my favorite projects was 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 astronomical 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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Mae C. Jemison: When Art and Science Combine

By Emily ZubritskyCan you be a dancer, an astronaut, a doctor, and a professor? Yes. But you'll need the tenacity and intellect of Mae C. Jemison, whose belief is that the arts and sciences should be taught together and are not at all separate.Jemison made history on September 12, 1992, when she became the first African-American woman to travel into space aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47. She didn't mean to become a role model but quickly became one to girls, and in particular girls of color, everywhere.And what is it that made Jemison so successful? A supportive family, a drive to learn, and a balance of art and science. Jemison was born in Alabama but raised on the South Side of Chicago. Since age 11, she was an avid dancer, practicing many different types, such as African dancing, ballet, jazz, modern, and Japanese dance. While attending Morgan Park High School in Chicago,…

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Super Planet Crash – The Ultimate Space Game

Have you ever wondered how different masses in space interact with each other gravitationally and how stable solar systems form? Then you will want to check out the game Super Planet Crash.Super Planet Crash is a planetary-gravity game that originated from an open-source program used by astronomers to detect planets outside of our Solar System. The game is the work of Greg Laughlin Stefano Meschairi at UC Santa Cruz.This fun and addictive game entice users to create planetary systems utilizing several different astronomical bodies, including Earth-like planets, Super-Earths, Ice Giants, Giant Planets, Brown Dwarfs, and Dwarf Stars. How To Play Super Planet Crash The game starts with a single Earth-like planet orbiting a central parent star. The challenge is for players to create a solar system by adding additional masses within a distance of 2 Astronomic Units from the parent star (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun).The…

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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. Star Trek: The Next Generation featured the moon in an episode when Wesley Crusher once beamed to Mimas in an emergency after some suspect piloting Wes and pals, but that’s another issue. Let’s talk about Mimas, shall we? Mimas received its name from one of the Greek “Giants” in 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…

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Stargazing Becomes Space Travel for Anousheh Ansari

By Emily ZubritskyI just watched Anousheh Ansari’s TED talk and felt so inspired that I may only find a way to get myself to space! Ok, let’s be honest, I probably won’t go to space. But her story definitely inspired me to pursue my own hopes and dreams. Please watch it yourself as we need more inspiration in this world around space travel and all things positive Anousheh Ansari’s TED TalkSince she was a little girl, Anousheh Ansari would stare up at the stars and dream of going to space. On September 18, 2006, she became the first female private citizen to travel to space. How’s that for following through with a dream!Ansari was aboard the mission Soyuz TMA-9 and traveled with commander Mikhail Tyurin and flight engineer Michael Lopez-Alegria. She landed safely back on earth on September 29, 2006. While aboard the aircraft, Ansari agreed to perform some research for the…

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Interview with Shawna Pandya

Shawna Pandya is a practicing surgeon, motivational speaker, citizen-scientist astronaut, aquanaut-to-be. Superwoman maybe? Well, she is one of the most intelligent, motivated, goal-achieving people 'I've had the pleasure to meet. Last summer, I spoke with Dr. Padya about her experience in a pseudo-mars environment, a career in the space industry, and how she handles a life pursuing her dreams.Dr. Pandya holds an Honors Neuroscience BSc, an MD from the University of Alberta and an MSc from the International Space University in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, France. Dr. Pandya also attended Singularity University, an international learning community geared towards scientific progress and "exponential" technologies. During her attendance at Singularity University, she co-founded CiviGuard, a real-time, disaster relief, and emergency response platform.Currently, Dr. Pandya is a citizen-scientist astronaut candidate with the Polar Suborbital Science of the Upper Mesosphere (PoSSUM) project. The PoSSUM program is an international program dedicated to the study of the upper atmosphere. The…

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Why Is Pluto Not a Planet?

History of Pluto's Discovery Pluto was previously considered a planet since it's 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 as 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 was able to observe Pluto as a spherical world using a 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar. Kuiper estimated that Pluto's diameter was around 5,900 kilometers. Pluto was observed as it passed near…

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