Label: Space

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

October 1, 2012

Last week in the UK, people from all over England, Scotland and Wales called the police to report very bright lights in the night sky. One caller said, "I’ve seen shooting stars and meteor showers before, but this was much larger and much more colorful."

Experts think that what people probably saw was "space junk." Dr Tim O’Brien, from the Jodrell Bank Observatory, said it’s not possible to know the exact source. "It’s hard to say exactly, whether it was a chunk of rock coming in from outer space, burning up in the atmosphere, or a bit of space debris which we call space junk, which is basically man-made stuff from a spacecraft that’s burning up in the atmosphere."

I am guessing that it was probably space junk. Meteorites, or pieces of rock, usually blaze across the sky in a matter of seconds. That’s why people call them "shooting stars."

The truth is, we’ve left a pretty big mess of old hardware circling our planet. Those things tend to take longer to burn up as they enter our atmosphere, so more people see them.

 

Look at this diagram; the blue sphere is Earth. According to NASA, each dot represents a bit of known space junk that’s at least 4 inches (10 cm) in low-Earth orbit, where the space station and shuttles roam. In total, some 19,000 manmade objects this size or bigger were orbiting Earth as of July 2009. And there are lots of smaller ones, too.

 

No one is quite sure how to do it, but there is no question that it is time for us to clean up our room!


CREDIT: NASA/Orbital Debris Program Office.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space   •  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, planets, Solar System, space, Saturn   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 11, 2012

You may have already seen this magnificent photograph of Mars, taken by the mast camera on the Curiosity rover. Everyone has marveled at how much it looks like Earth, with its gravely surface and sandy dunes.

Here is a cool fact that you may not have heard about this photograph. If you were standing on Mars, these are not the colors that you would see in front of you. The dust in the planet’s atmosphere makes everything look very red, including this sandy dune.

The reason this photograph isn’t red is that NASA’s engineers are doing something called "white balancing" - adjusting the colors to make the scene look the way it would with the kind of light we have here on Earth. They do this to help out a particular bunch of Earthlings - the geologists who are studying the images with eyes that are trained to recognize rocks, minerals and other substances in more familiar light.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Cool Photo, space, Exploration, Mars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 25, 2012

          You may have heard that an astronaut named Neil Armstrong died today. He was a hero to me and to many others – the man who took a “giant leap for mankind” when he first walked on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Neil Armstrong was a man of courage, and although he was a private person, he gracefully accepted his role for the rest of his life as the “face” of the space program and a symbol of man’s exploration of the solar system beyond our own planet.

 

This is a photograph of a footprint on the moon, left by our astronauts back in 1969. It marked the first time that human beings walked on ground that was not Earth. That footprint may last for a million years or longer, because there is no air on the moon. Without air there is no wind to blow the dust around.

The print of that first giant step for mankind will live forever on the moon, just as Neil Armstrong’s brave quest to explore and learn more will live forever in our memories.

When asked how they would like Neil Armstrong to be remembered, his wife and family said:

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

I think we can do that, don’t you? 


 Read more about Neil Armstrong’s amazing journey and learn all about what it is like to be an astronaut in Seymour Simon’s SPACE TRAVELERS.

 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(96) Comments  •   Labels: science news, moon, space, Space Travel   •  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: Solar System, space, Exploration, Space Travel, Pluto   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 15, 2012

 

Saturn has many moons - 53 that have been discovered and named, nine more "provisional moons" which have been detected but only assigned a number until more is known about them. 

Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is of two of Saturn’s moons. The small one is one of Enceladus, ice-covered and just 300 miles (483 kilometers) wide, and covered by ice. It is dwarfed by one of the big Saturnian moons, the 3,200 mile (5,150 kilometer) wide Titan. The streak across the middle of the photograph is one of the planet’s giant rings.

Cool photo, don’t you think? It was taken by the Cassini orbiter, an unmanned spacecraft which continues to help us learn more about this gas giant.

 

Photo: NASA/JPL/SSI/J. Major

  


An updated version of Seymour Simon’s SATURN, with the latest information from the Cassini mission, will be published for Amazon’s Kindle Fire this September.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Cool Photo, planets, space, Saturn   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 1, 2012

NASA has released this photograph of a flaming meteor that unleashed a powerful sonic boom last week, rattling houses in California and Nevada. The meteor broke up as it traveled through our atmosphere, releasing the same amount of energy as if there had been a 5-kiloton explosion!

A sonic boom is an explosive sound caused by the shock wave of an object traveling faster than the speed of sound. The explosion was big enough to rattle windows, causes many Californians to think they had had an earthquake.

"An event of this size might happen about once a year," said Don Yeomans from NASA. "But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, so getting to see one is something special."

 

Who can tell me why most of these meteor explosions happen over the ocean, rather than over land where we can see them? Hint: Think about the big, blue ball that is our Earth…...

Answer: Brian B., one of our readers, was onto the right idea. Most meteors explode over the ocean because oceans make up 71% of Earth’s surface. That means that most atmospheric events are likely to happen over the ocean, simply because there is so much of it.

 

Photo: Lisa Warren / NASA-JPL via AP

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Cool Photo, space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 13, 2012

This image from the Hubble space telescope shows two galaxies, NGC 4038 and 4039, experiencing a galactic collision. They will eventual merge into a single galaxy. As they go through this process, billions of stars are being born!

 

 

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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

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