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10 Things for the Week of March 9-15
Columnist: Autumn Burdick

10 Things for the Week of March 9-15
7 March 2014

It's Planet Week, here at 10 Things. We got one for just about each, and a few more ...

1. EARTH: EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE

Hopefully, you set your clock ahead one hour on Saturday, March 8th. (I know it can be very confusing, but hey, it is going to be brighter later from here on out; that is until we "fall back," of course.) It's daylight saving time.

2. OUT OF THIS WORLD

Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin would have been 80-years old on Sunday, March 9th. Yuri was the first human being to fly in space. It all took place on April 12, 1961 when Yuri made a 108-minute orbital flight of the Earth in a Vostok 1 spacecraft.

(Sadly, Yuri died at the young age of 34 when he crashed while piloting a training jet in 1968.)

3. NEPTUNE: PLANET PREDICTOR

Tuesday, March 11th is the 203rd birthday of Urbain Le Verrier (1811-1877). Le Verrier was the mathematician responsible for the discovery of Neptune by predicting the position of the planet.

Did you know that Neptune was the first planet located through mathematical predictions rather than through regular observations of the sky?

4. MARS: ... AND BARBIE?

Barbie is turning 55 on Sunday, and who could tell. Did you know that there is a Barbie Mars Explorer doll? She comes in a box with an illustration of what looks like the Curiosity rover in the background.

And speaking of Mars ... Wednesday, March 12th is the 40th anniversary of the Soviet Union's Mars 6 lander. Mars 6 returned the first data from the Martian atmosphere. NASA's MAVEN mission is on its way to Mars right now to study how, and how fast, atmospheric gases are being lost to space today, and infer from those detailed studies what happened in the past.

5. URANUS: TELESCOPIC FINDING

Thursday, March 13th is the 233rd anniversary of William Herschel's discovery of the planet Uranus: Uranus was the first planet found with the help of a telescope.

6. E = MC2

Friday, March 14th would have been the 135th birthday of Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Where would we be without Albert Einstein and his theories of relativity? It was through the genius of Einstein that we now have TVs, lasers, GPS systems, remote controls, digital cameras, solar cells and so much more.

7. THE MOON: BIRTHDAY

Another astronaut octarian is Eugene (Gene) Cernan. Gene will turn 80-years old on Friday March 14th. A veteran of three space flights, Gene is the 11th and last man to have walked on the moon.

8. COMETS: OPPOSING SIDES

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner will be at opposition on Saturday, March 15th. What does that mean? It means that the comet, the Earth and the sun will be positioned in a straight line in relation to each other, with the Earth in the middle. The comet will be directly opposite from the sun. However, Giacobini-Zinner will be at 4.455 AUs away when this occurs, which is much too far away for our eyes to see.

9. VENUS: THE SONG / THE PLANET

55 years ago Saturday, March 15th, Frankie Avalon's song, Venus, hit number 1 on the song charts.

Frankie does not sing of the planet, but it can't but make us think of it. It wouldn't be until three years later on December 14, 1962 did Mariner 2 become the first mission to Venus. Mariner 2 is actually the first successful planetary flyby EVER.

10. MERCURY, AND JUPITER AND SATURN TOO

Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation (28 degrees) on Friday, March 14th. Elongation is an astronomical term that refers to the angle between the sun and a planet, as viewed from Earth.

Mercury is one of our most elusive planets. Mercury is so close to the sun that we on Earth cannot see it most of the time. However, on elongation days (there are only six per year), it is your best chance to view this planet. Look for Mercury (and Venus too) in the southeast before dawn.

P.S. Night-time sky-watchers can catch sight of Jupiter in the evening and Saturn between midnight and dawn this month.


Read More by Autumn Burdick

About: Autumn Burdick
Photo of Autumn Burdick
Autumn is the science writer who enjoys bringing this weekly look at upcoming events and stories from around our solar system to you. Follow SSE on Twitter: @NASASolarSystem
Read More by Autumn Burdick
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Last Updated: 7 Mar 2014