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Year of the Solar System Logo

A comet stretched across the night sky.

Getting cozy with craters on the Moon.

Watching meteors streak across a background of stars and planets.

Logging on to see the first images download from the latest spacecraft to land on Mars.

What was your first connection to the wonders of our solar system and beyond?

The latest stories shared by readers are listed below.

Don't forget to share your own sky story.


12 Jul 2012: Mars Workshops

This summer, we held two weeklong workshops for high school science teachers, about the Moon and Mars. We have incredible teachers from across the USA and around the world, prepared to tackle cratering, volcanism, differentiation, and the ongoing exploration of our solar system!

- Christine S., Education Specialist, Houston, Texas

28 Mar 2012

This is a small story. I always think how the life originated in Earth, then how does earth got this much beauty like sky blue color of with little fog on that. How amazing a day starts with great thinking,while each and every star is look like kids, who smiles by looking the Moon. How big is that? While we look the sky in morning the sky is happy as well as in evening its get a pleasant face. So each and every thing in the world is enjoyable. Enjoy the world.

- Sachin T., , ,

2 Feb 2012

I am a geography teacher in high school and the Solar System is part of the curriculum. I was very motivated with the Year of the Solar System, thus it will be an even more valuable to get students to take an interest in this subject. I will follow by all means possible. Thank you for this initiative.

- Eliane d., Professor, Campo Belo, Brasil

4 Jun 2011

von Schiller Homeschool, in conjunction with Civil Air Patrol, NASA Explorer Schools and the El Paso Housing Authority have been conducting STEM based classes in an afterschool informal education setting since late February 2011. Our goal is to incorporate STEM understanding, mastery and applicability through early access and literacy of aerospace and aviation study.

- Jeri H., Aerospace Educator/ Domestic Engineer, El Paso, Texas, United States of America

2 May 2011

The National Solar Observatory has opened the largest solar system model west of the Mississippi, the third largest in the U.S., and the sixth largest in the world.

The Sunspot Solar System Model is built at a scale of 1:250 million. The scale was set by having the Sun at Sunspot and Neptune at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. Earth is a mere 2 inches wide and the Sun - the focus of our work - is 18 feet, 3 inches wide. Signs mark orbits of the planets along NM 6563, the Sunspot Scenic Byway, spanning 14 miles from just below Cloudcroft to the National Solar Observatory's Sunspot Astronomy and Visitors Center. On the model's scale, you drive at 13 times the speed of light coming down the highway.

At Sunspot, visitors encounter models of the planets and graphics describing the solar system, with emphasis on the Sun, which dominates our lives. Educational materials are being developed so the model can be used in classrooms anywhere (the Sun's size matches radar domes scattered across the country). We soon will install a dome representing the Sun and other stars.

Details are available at:
http://www.nso.edu/staff/dooling/solar_system/

Contact:
Dave Dooling, Education and Public Outreach Officer
National Solar Observatory
Sunspot, NM, 88349
575-434-7015; dooling@nso.edu

- Dave D., Education Officer, National Solar Observatory, Sunspot, New Mexico

23 Jan 2011

900 People Attend Public Lecture on What Happened to Pluto

(http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html)

A record 900 people attended that lecture in the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series on Jan. 19, 2011 given by Mike Brown of Caltech. Dr. Brown, the author of the new book "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming!" spoke about his discovery of other worlds beyond Neptune (including Eris, which is the same size as Pluto) and how it forced astronomers into a re-examination of the definition of a planet. Although he expressed a fond-ness for Pluto and for its discoverer, the late Clyde Tombaugh, and would actually have benefited personally from having Eris be called the 10th planet and going down in the history books as a planet discoverer, Brown nevertheless fully agreed with the prevailing opinion among astronomers that there is something fundamentally different about Pluto, Eris, and their siblings that makes them into a separate category from the eight planets.

The audience at the talk ranged from children as young as 10 years old to retired people from many San Francisco Bay Area communities. There were huge numbers of questions for Dr. Brown after the talk -- so many that we had to cut them off to give him a chance to take a breath, before he spent another hour kindly autographing books for every person who wanted his signature.

The evening certainly showed that interest in defining the membership in the planets club had not died down since Pluto was kicked out.

Dr. Brown's talk will be available as a podcast at the above web site.

- Andrew F., Astronomy Professor, Los Altos, California

5 Jan 2011

Say Hello to Astronomy from Bray Ireland by Deirdre Kelleghan

January 3rd I held an almost impromptu star party for the new astronomy group attached to St Conan's National School in Bray Co Wicklow. The group is so new it has not got a name yet so for the moment we will call it St Conan's Young Astronomers. About 50 children and adults arrived at the green Sans Souci Wood, a very cold evening for stargazing.

On offer the sky had a very close conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus plus the Galilean moons in the same view. Jupiter and Uranus will not be this close again till 2024 .The magnificent winter constellation Orion the hunter rising over Sans Souci House was impressive even in the slight haze. The star forming cloud M42 in the sword of the Orion was a prime target. Several other messier objects and constellations got a run out.

Parents and children lined up to see the largest planet in our solar system shine and show off in the sky over Bray. As part of the experience I encouraged some of the children to draw Orion and its nebula after the y had seen it in the large binoculars.

Four of the boys did a great job on the sketches Sean Stanley, Kevin Morley, Sam Ferrie and Tony Jackson. We were joined by several enthusiastic neighbours and friends all braving the cold to learn a little appreciation for the night sky.

Partial Solar Eclipse South Beach Greystones Co Wicklow

January 4th a fantastic sunrise greeted the families and individuals who turned up at the beach at 08:30 hours. The solar disc was already partially eclipsed as it rose over the sea in-between thin gray cloud slivers. Some of the St Cronan's boys arrived with their parents to see this phenomenon.
Random dog walkers were delighted to be taken by surprise and handed special eclipse glasses to view the event. Smiles all around beamed from the golden sun splashed faces. The attendees sported trendy eclipse glasses provided to me by NASA Goddard. There were hollers and woops!!! of delight from both kids and adults (including me) as the moon appeared to slide over the left hand side of the rising sun. The colours created by the sun seemed to warm the winter and bring joy with every passing minute to our motley gathering by the sea.

- Deirdre K., Artist, Bray, Ireland

12 Oct 2009

I saw a wonderful region of stars in the sky and it is the most funny shape I ever saw.

It looks like a man walking his dog.

- Matthew G., Student, Cleveland, Ohio

7 Oct 2009

I was looking at the sky from on top of my roof as there is no balcony and my home is located on a low area so i have too observe the sky on top of the roof. So what happened was just as i was going back disappointed i saw a beautiful shooting star shining brightly on its descent towards earth i didn't know why but i felt an accomplishment by seeing that thing it just made my day

- navamugunthan k., , ulu tiram, Malaysia

26 Feb 2009: Solar Navigation

Late afternoon, March 30 2007. Pulled over in Toledo's rush hour traffic, searching for another cross street, searching the skies for air traffic, so I could place myself on the large city map I was using to get home.

Suddenly I think the sun, the sun! I made a 270 degree scan of the sky and saw the sun behind me. I knew I could turn right and head south to Troy. It was empowering and reassuring to realize I didn't need my giant city map or a GPS system, I only needed to glance up and be on my way. This event marked my first significant relationship to the sky. Now navigating by the moon as well...and presenting Moon Talks for Stillwater Stargazers, NSN.

- Patricia S., , Troy, Ohio,

30 Jan 2009

So there there I was. So first of all I should tell you I am an urban observer (only some times I am not). I was in my backyard. I guess there were roughly 10 constellations there (me and my friends had an constellation competition). I have some pods(personal observatory domes) and an 19 inch telescope.

I was trying to find the Orion nebula and ... ow! my dad bumped into me. "you just moved the image!" Then i looked through the eyepeice and there I saw the Orion nebula.

"Wow. Awesome! Hey, thanks dad!" I shouted.

- Aashman V., child, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2 Dec 2008

The focus of Galapagos cruise was the amazing life -- sea lions, giant tortoises and iguanas -- and geologic wonder of these volcanic Pacific Islands. But the spellbinding appearance of Venus and Jupiter on a November night very nearly stole the show.

Venus, hundreds of miles from civilization, shines like a tiny flashlight in bright tapestry of stars. Jupiter, too, was stunningly clear and I regretted not bringing binoculars to the deck for a chance to see the four biggest moons that Galileo discovered centuries ago.

A few nights later, as a guide showed us constellations, we saw two meteors leaving bright trails as they fell to Earth.

The great stargazing made our nights as stunning as the days among the exotic creatures of the Galapagos Islands.

- Phil D., Editor, St. Petersburg, Florida,

2 Dec 2008

Summer Nights with My Father

I grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota during the '50s when the night sky was still dark in that region.

Summer nights were steamy inside the farmhouse, with our old electric fan doing little more than moving the hot air from one side of the living room to the other.

If one were brave enough to take on the inevitable swarms of mosquitoes outside, the evening breezes that rustled through the elm trees were a source of relief from the heat.

While Mom cleaned up after dinner, Dad and I sought the comfort of the outdoors and headed out the kitchen door to sit on the front steps.

When he turned off the yard light on the electric power pole, a canopy of stars was revealed with the Milky Way arching gracefully overhead.

"There's the Big Dipper," he would say, pointing to the dominating feature in the Northern sky, "and if you follow a line from the two stars on the side of the dipper, you'll see the North Star."

As his finger traced an unseen line in the sky to Polaris, he continued, "The North Star is at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. Can you see it?"

I nodded my head, all the time taking in the vastness and beauty of the sky above me as well as the joy of having Dad all to myself. His tour of the constellations would continue until I started to yawn. By that time, Mom had her evening chores done and called me to get ready for bed.

In 1954, Dad and I watched a total Solar eclipse from those steps. A few years later, as the satellites that began populating the sky passed overhead, we were there waiting.

The years have passed, and sadly, so has my father. The farmhouse is gone, and the steps are no more. However, the summer nights I spent with my father remain as some of the most cherished memories I have of him.

- Kay F., SSA Coordinator, Pasadena, California,

11 Nov 2008

It's easy to get mesmerized by the campfire coals while camping at Joshua Tree National Monument in California. So I was stunned at the expansive view of the sky when you step only a few feet from the firelight.

On a cold November night, I saw for the first time the Milky Way Galaxy and Sirius, the Dog Star, which I first mistook for an airplane because it was flashing blue and red so brightly and clearly. Luckily, a friend was able to tell me what I was seeing.

It is easy to see why ancient cultures worshipped the sky. When you're far from the bright city lights -- a rare treat for me -- the stars and planets stand out and its easy to see how the ancients traced patterns into constellations and thought the planets moving against that infinite background were powerful gods.

I'm very glad for my magical night under the stars.

- Emmylou W., Housewife, St. Petersburg, Florida

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