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Photojournal: NASA’s Image Access ~ Part of the vast web presence that NASA maintains, this subdomain holds a photographic record of the images from their various explorative endeavours. These range from pictures of Neptune or Mercury’s surface, through to Pluto in the greatest detail we can expect currently. The user-friendly database is very easy to navigate…
Planetary Fact Sheets ~ A no frills website this one, maintained by Dr. David Williams of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It has a comprehensive astronomical fact sheet for each of the main players in our solar system, along with major satellites, the asteroids and notable comets, plus there’s some great detail on Chiron too.
Planetary Missions ~ This basic webpage is maintained by the staff at NASA. It offers a listing and links to further information, for every space mission with a planetary focus there has been, not only those from the US. Their chronology of lunar and planetary exploration is interesting too, with details of future missions to the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars.
Planet Positions ~ Way better than it sounds, this is a JavaScript-based animation showing the path of planets along the ecliptic, against the backdrop of the stellar fiduciaries. You cannot change your location, there is no working indication of time or date, and once you’ve animated the planets there is no easy way of stopping them. Kind of cool, anyhow…
Pluto and Charon ~ From the definitive Nine Planets site of Bill Arnett, a man more sick than most at Pluto’s recent demotion from planet to dwarf … erm, planet. Pluto and Charon are of comparable size, are very close together and orbit one another round a mysterious central point. Can we really understand Pluto, without thinking also of its binary twin?
Pluto Flyby ~ I couldn’t really profess any relevance this week, without mentioning the Pluto flyby of the New Horizons space probe on July 14, 2015. Nine and a half years travelling, to be 7,800 miles from Pluto’s surface, while hurtling past at 31,000 mph. This feature has the pictures and lots of human interest, but downloading the data gathered may take NASA over a year.
Pluto’s Moons Tumble Chaotically ~ Didn’t you always imagine they would? Astronomers are getting to grips with the complexities of what they’re now calling the Pluto system, as the New Horizons mission prepares to pass within 10,000 km of it on July 14, 2015. Astrologers have known the power of Pluto for ages, while astronomers were undermining the status of this body.
Portal to the Universe ~ Cornerstone of the International Year of Astronomy (2009), Portal To The Universe aims to be a one-stop-shop for the latest astronomy information. Featuring news, video, images, blogs and audio this site serves as an index and aggregator using collaborative tools, enabling comments on existing posts or adding your own feed.
Project Apollo Archive ~ Around 13,000 images, covering the manned Apollo space missions that eventually led to six lunar landings, have been released from NASA’s archives in their original and unedited form. Budget cuts are blamed for these being published on Flickr, just as many might share their holiday snaps, although it does lend a gritty authenticity to proceedings.
Provisional Designation ~ You may wonder how the asteroid (469219) 2016 HO3 was named. In time, it’ll have a proper title, but for now the number in brackets shows this is the 469,219th. minor planet to be discovered. “2016” is the year, “H” was the half-month and “O3” means the fourteenth body during that period, in the third journey through the alphabet, without the letter “I”.
Quasi-satellites ~ In the broadest sense, a moon is an astronomical body orbiting a planet. Although our Moon is the Earth’s only known natural satellite, there are a number of near-Earth objects (NEOs) with a solar orbit resonant to our own. Asteroid 3753 Cruithne is the most well-known, but tiny (469219) 2016 HO3 spotted during April 2016, looks the best example yet.
RASNZ ~ The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) has several worthwhile features on its website. At 11.5% larger than the UK but with just 7% of the population, I guess it is remarkable that my site gets so many hits from their part of the world. Out of an arguable 193 countries existing today, NZ comes in a regular twelfth depending on how you count my traffic.
Roche Limit ~ After last week’s public service announcement on the Hill sphere, here is notice of its celestial precursor, called the Roche limit. Where the former defines the outer extreme at which any celestial body can orbit another, the latter dictates how distant matter must be to form in to a moon. Astronomer Édouard Roche, calculated this theoretical boundary in 1848.
Rosetta ~ The Rosetta mission is the European Space Agency’s attempt to land on a comet. Named after the Rosetta Stone, they hope just as this helped decode a lost civilization, so Philae their lander will gather data that unlocks the mysteries of the universe. Launched in 2004, touchdown on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is now scheduled for November 12, 2014…
ScienceDaily: Space & Time ~ ScienceDaily is one of the Internet’s most popular science news websites and since 1995, has built to more than three million visitors every month. This is the Space & Time feed, where you can keep up with the latest events and comment around the cosmos, but there are other sections too, on a range of science topics.
SDSS / SkyServer ~ SkyServer brings the database of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and its mission to build a high-quality, three-dimensional map of the universe, directly onto your desktop. This site offers a number of helpful tools for teachers, students and for anybody else who wants to discover more. Their scrolling sky tool is a neat touch…
Sedna ( 2003 VB12 ) ~ As our telescopes and research facilities improve, increasing numbers of celestial bodies are now being located in the outer reaches of the solar system. As of March 2004, the largest of these is called Sedna. A complete astronomical introduction to this latest discovery can be found here…