Label: Solar System

May 20, 2013

The Cassini spacecraft continues to send back simply extraordinary photographs of Saturn. The latest is an image of an enormous hurricane currently raging at Saturn’s north pole. The eye - just the eye - of this hurricane stretches 1,250 miles (2,000 km) across. That is the length of the entire West Coast of the United States - from the southern tip of California all the way up to the Canadian border.  

Scientists don’t know how long this hurricane has been in existence, because when Cassini arrived the north pole was covered in winter darkness (a year on Saturn lasts 29 Earth years). But now that it is light, we can see this huge storm which seems very similar to, though much bigger than what we call a hurricane here on Earth.

This photograph is false-color, by the way. That means that color has been added to the original image to help us see the details.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Solar System, Hurricanes, Saturn   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 5, 2013

Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is a magnificent shot taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been sending us photographs from Saturn for almost nine years. This one is particularly beautiful because we can see Venus - a tiny, bright speck - shining in the distance.

We often see Venus in the early morning here on Earth, shining like a bright "morning star." This is an entirely different view, since Venus is seen here from a distance of 884 million miles (1.42 billion kilometers) away from Saturn.  If you want to try to imagine how far 884 million miles is, it is TEN TIMES the distance our planet Earth is from the sun. That’s quite a camera on the Cassini probe!

The early Romans named the dazzling white planet Venus, after their goddess of love and beauty. Gazing at this lovely image, you can certainly see why.

Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI

You can read more about both VENUS and SATURN in my newly updated eBooks, which are part of the StarWalk Kids streaming collection of digital books for schools and libraries. These "Read and Listen" books have top quality, professionally-recorded narration and come with "Teaching Links" to support Common Core use in the classroom. Educators: Click here to sign up for a free, 30-day trial for your school.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, eBooks, Cool Photo, Solar System, Exploration, Saturn, NASA, Venus   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 8, 2013

The Cassini orbiter - an unmanned space probe - sent back this magnificent image of Saturn last month. The reason this photograph is so spectacular is that the orbiter is shooting from the "dark side" of Saturn, so the planet is glowing with the sun’s light behind it.

Look closely at the bottom left-hand corner of the photograph - do you see anything there? Those two little spots are Enceladus and Tethys, two of Saturn’s moons.

Here’s what Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team at the Colorado-based Space Science Institute, said about this image:"Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those we have taken from Saturn’s shadow. They unveil a rare splendor seldom seen anywhere else in our solar system."

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: space, Cool Photo, Solar System, Saturn   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 12, 2012

Welcome to Writing Wednesday, where every week we give you a chance to post your writing here on the Seymour Science blog. Today we thought we’d have some fun, and let you do a piece of creative writing about space. It’s "Science Fiction" Writing Wednesday!


The Topic: Saturn and its rings. Saturn is one of the "gas giant" planets in our solar system. Often, when I try to describe the size of objects in the solar system, I find that I need to use comparisons. The numbers are just so huge that no one can imagine what they mean. For example, I can tell you that Saturn’s circumference (which you would measure by wrapping a giant tape measure around its equator) is 235,298 miles or 378,675 kilometers. But who can really imagine how large 235, 298 miles is? I can’t.

A better way to think about this is to use a comparison. To give you an idea of how big Saturn is, we can compare it to Earth. Saturn’s circumference is 9.4 times larger than Earth’s circumference. We can all understand that that is BIG.

Now, for the science fiction part. I found a great image this week (thanks to the USA Science and Engineering Festival for sharing!). This picture is also designed to help us understand how huge Saturn is, by imagining how long it would take to drive all the way around one of the rings. Of course, no one could never ever really do that. But doesn’t knowing that it would take 258 full days if you were driving 75 miles per hour the whole time help you to understand just how huge Saturn is? 


Your assignment: Imagine that you are in a that spaceship/ truck, driving on Saturn’s rings at 75 mph. Write a paragraph or two describing what that journey would be like. What are Saturn’s rings really like? Are they solid? What are conditions in space? Tell about the food and water you would need. Would you be lonely? Use what you know about Saturn and about space to imagine what you would encounter. Use lots of descriptive details to make you imaginary journey come alive for your reader.

When you are finished writing, click on the yellow "Comments" at the bottom of this post to enter your writing.


Photos: NASA, Earth Sky Photos

Note to Eucators: Today’s Writing Wednesday excercize is designed to support CSSS Writing Standard #3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, space, planets, Solar System, Saturn   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 7, 2012

We usually do "Cool Photo of the Week" only during the school year, but this photograph is too spectacular to pass up.


This is a shot of a huge storm on the surface of the sun. The storm is 93 thousand miles high (about 150 thousand kilometers). The tornado-like plasma twister is about 10 to 12 times taller than the diameter of planet Earth. That’s right - it is spurting 12 Earths high!

The huge sun storm, called a prominence, spiraled up from the surface of the sun on July 12, split into 4 strands and twisted into a knot before fading away. The entire storm lasted just a few hours.


You can read lots more about the star at the center of our solar system in my book THE SUN. Find it at your local library this summer!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(92) Comments  •   Labels: Cool Photo, Solar System, sun   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 6, 2012

It’s finally happening! After 8 years of planning and a interplanetary journey from Earth to Mars that took eight months, the one-ton Curiosity rover came down for a soft landing on the surface of Mars.  


The landing spot was in the middle of  96-mile-wide Gale Crater. Curiosity immediately sent back this photo of its own shadow on the Martian soil. 

Curiosity will soon be sending back many full-color photos of Mars. After a number of weeks of tests, the rover will be rolling up the sides of a nearby mountain looking for traces of water and carbon in Mar’s history. Why water and carbon? Because the presence of water and carbon are good indicators that life may have once existed on Mars. 

Stay tuned for new developments about Mars and look forward to a new book on Mars that I’m writing now. Is there (or was there ever?) life on Mars? We’re going to find out soon!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Solar System, Exploration, Mars, NASA   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 12, 2012

Today, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope announced that they have discovered Pluto’s fifth moon. Scientists have been looking closely at the space around Pluto because they are preparing for the 2015 Pluto flyby of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons is going to give us our closest look yet at the dwarf planet, so NASA engineers want to map as many potential crash hazards as they can and design the safest possible course for the probe.

For the moment, the new moon is simply called S/2012 (134340) 1, or "P5" for short. Eventually, the International Astronomical Union will give names to P5 and P4, the fourth moon that was discovered late last year, and they will probably be names from Greek mythology. Pluto’s first three moons were named after mythological characters associated with the underworld. Greeks believed Charon was the ferryman who carried souls across the river to the underworld. Hydra was the serpentine monster that guarded the gates of the underworld, and Nix is named after the Greek goddess of the night.

The team is waiting awhile before naming P4 and P5, in case a P6 comes along. One thing for sure is that we’re going to learn a lot more about Pluto and the objects orbiting it in the next three years.

The timing of this discovery is good for one of my new eBooks. We are updating SPACE WORDS: A DICTIONARY for publication as an eBook, and my editor just changed the Pluto entry to state that it has five moons. Surely this will be the most up-to-date reference out there when it is published in late July!


Photo: M. Showalter / SETI Institute / NASA / ESA

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: space, Solar System, Space Travel, Exploration, Pluto   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 29, 2012

Welcome to Writing Wednesday and Happy Leap Day! Every week there is a new opportunity to publish your own creative writing on the Seymour Science blog. This week, we are asking you to use your writing to help your friends understand Leap Year.

The Facts:

     A leap year is a year when an extra day is added at the end of the month of February. This happens approximately every four years.


     We have a leap year because a standard year is not actually exactly 365 days long - it’s 365.2422 days long. That is the number of days that it takes our planet Earth to make a full rotation around the sun. A long time ago - 46 B.C. exactly - the Roman emperor Julius Caesar realized that we had a problem. If we kept counting the year as only 365 days, that leftover .2422 days would start to add up. Gradually, over hundreds of years, our calendar would slip, until we’d be having a summery month like July happen in winter.

     So, Julius Ceasar brought in a group of scientists who figured out that if we added a day every four years, we would keep our seasons on track. This became known as the Julian calendar, which pretty much the whole world still uses today.

Your assignment: Write a paragraph explaining Leap Year to your fellow Earthlings!

How to make your writing powerful: Read and re-read the three paragraphs above. What are the most important details to include if you are explaining Leap Year to someone? Which words do you think are important to include?

When you are finished writing, click on the yellow "Comments" at the bottom of this post to enter your writing. Happy Leap Day!


Use your Extra Leap Day to learn about the Solar System with Seymour Science! 30% off planetary eBooks until March 2nd for all Earthlings! 



Posted by: Liz Nealon

(20) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Solar System, Earth   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 23, 2012

The latest period of heavy solar flares erupting on the surface of the sun continues (as do the beautiful auroras that they create for us to see here on Earth).

Solar flares are actually great bursts of superheated plasma. There is a NASA satellite that can capture amazingly detailed images of the sun’s surface, and scientists pieced together photographs snapped every five minutes to create this amazing video of recent solar activity.

Each of the loops of plasma that you see in this video is two to three times larger than Earth. What an amazing sight!

You can see more photographs and learn more in Seymour Simon’s book, THE SUN.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Video, Solar System, sun   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 9, 2012


Did you know that Seymour Simon’s SCIENCE DICTIONARY is available on his website for you? Here is an interesting definition from the Science Dictionary that may have come up in the research that many of you have been doing this week for your contest entries. Have you come across these words - Kuiper Belt? This is what the Kuiper Belt looks like.

Now click here for Seymour’s definition, to help you understand what Kuiper Belt means. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: space, Solar System, Science Dictionary, Pluto   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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