Friday, July 17, 2015

Watch the Night Skies!

It's been a good year so far for space projects and sky-watching.

For those of us planet-bound, there has been a lunar eclipse in April, the Venus-Jupiter conjunction at the end of June, and even the rare appearance of Northern Lights in my area (I didn't see any, but some in town got some good pictures. All I got were mosquito bites).

In June, the European Space Agency's Philae resumed contact with its orbiter Rosetta.

New Horizons brought interest in space back in a big way earlier this week. Yes, I was one of those watching NASA TV online when New Horizons sent a picture before going dark on its flyby. The new pictures that have been released since contact has resumed have been gorgeous to see. Mountains! Craters! A "mountain in a moat"! Fissures! The detail is fantastic. The above site and NASA's JHU Mission to Pluto are the places to check for updated Pluto and Charon pictures if you want to see them before they're released elsewhere. If you like New Horizons on Facebook, you'll also see the images as they are released. It's also on Twitter.

The Planetary Society also has its blogs on non-planet objects and the first news conference.

For those preferring videos, Nova has aired "Chasing Pluto" and there is a documentary from NASA "The Year of Pluto".

I have been so pleased that women have been recognized as part of the New Horizons team and even reported as such in articles. I'm sure women have been involved in previous space projects, but you seldom saw them on camera. Even more encouraging to young scientists is The Student Dust Counter, a project designed by engineering and physics undergraduate and graduate students.

This isn't the last space project that will be reporting back. Dawn is still exploring Ceres, and Juno is still on course for orbit around Jupiter next year, though both have some changes reported in a Planetary Society blog recently. The Planetary Society maintains a chart of solar system missions with monthly updates on upcoming events.

I feel like a little kid again, looking up at the night sky and realizing that there is so much out there. It's been great to see that the New Horizons team seems to feel the same way. Seriously, how cool was it to hear that the dark area on Charon was informally named "Mordor"? I'm hoping the excitement generated by the success of this project produces more missions and interest in space. I'll be expecting more science fiction television shows and YA and children's books, but I'm hoping for many more actual space missions to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment