10 Things for the Week of March 17 - 23
16 March 2013
Here's your weekly look at upcoming events and stories from around our solar system.
1. BREAKING NEWS
Scientists are headed to Texas this week for the 44th Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, a major gathering where they will share the latest discoveries from deep space. Among the topics, the nearly 80,000+ images MESSENGER has taken of Mercury. For the first time in history -- completed just last week -- we have a complete map of the innermost planet and its online for you to explore.
2. NASA TO GO
Moving too fast to read? Get your NASA on the go with the This Week at NASA podcast (audio and video).
Fifty-five years ago Sunday (March 17), America launched its second satellite Vanguard 1. Vanguard (pictured above) was a crucial step in testing three-stage rockets that would later help us break out of Earth orbit and into deep space.
4. CODENAME: "EASTERBUNNY"
On Tuesday (March 19), dwarf planet Makemake is at opposition, meaning it is on one side of Earth directly opposite the sun. That can sometimes mean a good viewing opportunity. But at 51.435 AU (about 4,782,000,000 miles or 7,695,000,000 km) only the most powerful telescopes can see Makemake as a faint point of light.
Trivia Alert: Makemake's discoverers nicknamed it Easterbunny because it was discovered in March. The Easter connection was preserved with the choice to officially name the tiny world after a Rapanui fertility god. The Rapanui are the native people of Easter Island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.
5. EQUAL DAY AND NIGHT
Wednesday (March 20) is an equinox, a date when day and night are equal.
6. VISIT YOUR LOCAL PLANETARIUM
Fifty-four years ago, England's first planetarium opened at Madame Tussaud's in London. Celebrate this anniversary at your local planetarium today.
This week marks the loss of Sir Issac Newton (1642 to 1727) and Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), two visionaries whose ideas and imaginations launched the Space Age in very different ways. Newton's "Naturalis Principia Mathematica" is a cornerstone of spaceflight. Clarke's visionary science fiction inspired a legion of planetary scientists, including Carl Sagan.
8. CONJUNCTION FUNCTION
Talk about different outlooks. This week in 1345 an alignment of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars was blamed for the Black Death that killed a third of Europe's population. On the flip side, a 1953 BC alignment of the sun, moon and five planets in the spring sky became the foundation of the Chinese calendar.
9. THE GREAT COMET OF 1996
Seventeen years ago, the world buzzed as newly-discovered Comet Hyakutake lit up night skies, the brightest comet in two decades. This year also promises to be good for comet watching. Comet PANSTARRS is fading after peak viewing opportunities last week. But astronomers say in November comet ISON could blossom into a striking naked eye object visible even in broad daylight.
10. RANDOM TRIVIA
"This is the first convention of the space age-where a candidate can promise the moon and mean it," David Brinkley on the 1960 Democratic National Convention. The winner of the election -- John F. Kennedy -- followed through on that idea.
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