Label: Stars

April 18, 2013

Poem in My Pocket

When I was a kid, the poem that meant the most to me was called "When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer," by Walt Whitman. It really captured the feeling I had when I looked at the night sky and wondered about my place in the universe. Where did I fit in? And what else is out there?

Today is "Poem in my Pocket" day, so this is the poem I am carrying in with me in my pocket today. For kids like me, who love to look at the stars and wonder, here is how it goes:



When I heard the learn’d astronomer;

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;

Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.


Photo: The Milky Way viewed from the Kofa Mountains in Arizona (credit Richard Payne)

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Earth Day 2013, Stars, Poetry   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 30, 2012

We are a little bit late with our posting of today’s Cool Photo of the Week because of the power outages here on the East Coast. But, we’re back online just in time to share this special, COOL HALLOWEEN PHOTO OF THE WEEK!

This ghostly sight is known as the Cygnus Loop Nebula, a supernova remnant that is about 1,500 light-years away from Earth. This nebula is the gassy remains of a supernova - the gigantic explosion when a huge star blew itself up.

And since the Cygnus Loop Nebula looks like a ghost, it reminds me to wish all my readers a Happy, Out of This World Halloween!


Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: space, Cool Photo, Stars, Halloween, Holidays   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 14, 2011


This is a photograph of the Heart Nebula (IC 1805 in Cassiopeia). A nebula is a cloud of dust and gas in space; the word "nebula" comes from the Latin word for "cloud."

This one is composed of glowing hydrogen gas, and the very bright spot in the middle is a cluster of stars, some of them nearly 50 times the mass of our sun! The energy generated by this mass of stars creates the bright red color as well as its "heart" shape.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our readers!


Photo: NASA 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Stars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 5, 2011


10-year-old Kathryn Gray of Birdton, New Brunswick, Canada has discovered a supernova, the youngest person ever to make such a finding. How would a ten-year-old have access to the equipment needed to spot a supernova, you might ask? She was working with her father, astronomer Paul Gray.

Supernovas happen when huge stars explode and die. You can see it through a telescope because an exploding star gives off a very bright light, much more brilliant than anything around it. Kathryn’s supernova happened in a distant galaxy called UGC 3378, which is about 240 million light-years away from our Milky Way Galaxy.

Kathryn was helping her father by studying “before and after” images of the same place in that galaxy, using an instrument called a blink telescope – that way you can see when something new has happened. And sure enough, she found a supernova.

If her teacher asks the class this week to write about “what I did over my winter vacation,” Kathryn Gray is certainly going to have a story to tell!


Photo Credit: David Smith/AP


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Stars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 3, 2011

This is a photograph of galaxy NGC 1275, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Though this galaxy is 230 million light-years away, it is one of the closest to our own Milky Way galaxy. The thin red strings surrounding the galaxy are cool gases, as compared to the white hot - 100-million-degrees Fahrenheit! – gas in the center.



Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: A. Fabian (Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK)


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Cool Photo, Photography, Stars, Hubble Telescope   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 14, 2010

I received a wonderful (electronic) packet of letters today from an elementary school teacher in Casablanca, Morocco. It began with the salutation "Salam Aleikum (peace be upon you - our greeting here)," which I thought was a very nice way to begin my day!

Stars book coverShe sent me some letters written by students in her fifth grade ESL class, who have been studying my book STARS. They asked some great questions, which I thought I would answer here.


Q: (from M’hamed M.) I want to tell you that I loved Stars.  I wonder: why did you change from a teacher to writer?

A: I had been writing science articles and books for many years while I was a teacher, and I finally had so many contracts for new books that I decided to focus full-time on writing. However, I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped being a teacher. As long as I am writing books and visiting schools to speak to kids, I’m still teaching, and that makes me very happy.


Q: (from Ahmed A.) I would love to read the book Cats.  I hope the book Cats is your favorite. 

A: Well, Ahmed, I do love cats very much. You might like to read this story about my two cats, Newty Frewty and Mittens, and how they got their names. Asking an author which is my favorite book is like asking a parent which is their favorite child! I love all my books the same, and if I have a "favorite," it is the one that I am writing at any given moment.


Q: (from Nadia C.) Do you write about dolphins? Do you have children?

A: Yes, Nadia, I have written a book called DOLPHINS. They are wonderful animals, and very intelligent. You might like to read this story about experiments that you and your class can do to learn about dolphins.

Yes, I do have children. My oldest son, Robert, is a professor of Computer Science at George Mason University, outside of Washington, DC. My youngest son, Michael, lives in Los Angeles and is a television director. And I have a step-daughter, Jules, who is studying Literature at American University in Washington, DC.

And finally, Alia Z. shared some wonderful information about STARS in her letter.

(Alia) I am going to tell you wonderful and splendid fact. Stars are red balls of gas. There are millions of stars in one galaxy.  Galileo saw stars that nobody on earth ever saw before.

I am always happy to hear from my readers, and especially pleased when the letters come from overseas. Thanks to all the kids at the George Washington Academy in Casablanca for reading my STARS book and taking the time to write!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Kids Write, Teachers and Librarians, Stars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 24, 2010

A very exciting discovery was announced today at the Observatoire de Haute-Provence, France.

Astronomers have detected a planetary system containing at least five  - and maybe seven - planets that orbit a star called HD 10180, which is much like our own Sun. They say this is the "richest" system of exoplanets - planets outside our own Solar System - ever found.

Up until now, astronomers had known of fifteen systems with at least three planets, but never one that was this similar to ours in terms of the number of planets (seven as compared to the Solar System’s eight planets). The team also has evidence that the distances of the planets from their star follow a regular pattern, as also seen in our Solar System (this is known as the Titius-Bode law).

The star is 127 light years away, in the southern constellation of Hydrus.

Researchers used the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) instrument at the European Southern Observatory to monitor light emitted from the system. The lead author of the paper, Dr. Christophe Lovis, explained how the planet searcher works. "If there is one planet it will induce a little movement - the star will come towards us and move away….and what works for one [planet] works for many." Using HARP, Dr. Lovis and his team were able to measure this complicated mix of movements and break it down into individual planets, calculating the mass of each planet and the path of its orbit.

Martin Dominik, one of the researchers on the project, told reporters why this discovery is so important to us here on Earth. "[This] marks the way towards gathering the information that will put our own existence into cosmic context."

I have been an amateur astronomer all my life, and was President of the Junior Astronomy Club at the American Museum of Natural History when I was in high school. I love science news stories like these - I guess that is why I’ve written as many books as I have about space. Kids can read more about stars and the exoplanets that orbit them in my book STARS.











Photo Credits for this Science News story:

The first photograph shows a close-up of the sky around the star HD 10180. The picture was created from photographs taken through red and blue filters and forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. Provided courtesy of ESO.

The second image is an artist’s impression of the new solar system, also courtesy of ESO.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Solar System, Stars, Universe, Exoplanets   •  Permalink (link to this article)