Imagine you’re standing on the rocky, rust-pink surface of Mars. You’ve just finished a hard day’s work helping to build the first human base on another planet, so you decide to take a break and watch the sunset. As you gaze west across the Martian desert, a small, wan sun sinks through the hazy, orange-brown sky. The light wanes, and the temperature drops from a balmy daytime high of -15° F to an evening chill of -120° F (good thing you’re wearing your spacesuit). The weak wind that has been kicking up dust devils all day drops away, leaving you in a silence deeper than any quiet on Earth.Continue reading “Blue Sky at Night, Martian’s Delight: The Atmosphere of Mars”
Distances to stars are huge. That should not surprise us. Space is big. Unbelievably big. How do we know the distances between our sun (a star) and those other stars in the night sky?Continue reading “How Far is ‘Far’ When it Comes to Stars?”
Today is the 2018 summer solstice, which marks the longest day of the year and the official start of the summer season for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Many of us in the Midwest enjoy celebrating the occasion by going outside to fire up the barbecue, soak up the sun, and enjoy some much needed vacation time in our flip flops and swim trunks. Any Pagan readers out there most likely recognize the June solstice as an event of great spiritual significance with a number of associated rituals and religious practices. But for most of us, it’s just a warm weekday toward the end of June and an opportunity to spend more time outside. Back in March, we discussed the science behind the spring equinox. But what happens (astronomically speaking) on the summer solstice? Here are the most important facts to know about the longest day of the year. Continue reading “Everything You Need to Know About the Summer Solstice”
On December 16, 2017 at about 5:00 PM CST, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon passed within 64 million miles of Earth. That’s about 27 times the distance to our Moon. While this may sound like a long distance (indeed, it would take on the order of one million hours to drive that distance in a car!), this particular approach will be our closest encounter with the asteroid for another 75 years. Continue reading “Are We Prepared for a Large Asteroid Impact?”
Since the 1960s, the United States government has been shooting lasers at the moon. No, this is not a covert government conspiracy or a relic of the Cold War. It is NASA’s attempt to prove Einstein’s theories right.
Let me explain.
How do you study light from the beginning of the universe? What happened right after the Big Bang? Continue reading “Spotted from Antarctica: the Oldest Light in the Universe”
The world is preparing to send humans to Mars. This will probably be the most technologically challenging undertaking the world has ever known. Continue reading “Voyager 1 and the Depths of Interstellar Space”
2020 is a leap year. Don’t forget! In 2020, we will have 366 days instead of our usual 365, giving us the enigmatic February 29th. Didn’t we just have a leap year in 2016? Why do we have leap years at all?Continue reading “Why Do We Have Leap Years?”