To be a Planet, or Not to be a Planet?

Astronomers are constantly rethinking old theories and designing new ones to fit new ideas

Astronomy News – astrophysics: planets; the number and type of planets

Count the planets in the solar system and make an assessment of their various sizes and distances from Sol and the Earth as you leave on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. You’ll find that the line between planet and smaller planetoids, like asteroids and meteorites, has yet to be firmly set in place in the astronomy books, and in the universe.

We were all taught during our school indoctrination of nine planets circling Sol at varying distances. Mercury and Venus lie closest to Sol, with the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn residing at greater distances from Sol, while Uranus, Neptune, and disputed Pluto orbit at the greatest distance on average as compared to the other planets. Millions of school and reference books, thousands of articles, and countless periodicals also include references to Pluto being officially recognized as the ninth planet in the solar system. The publishers of these publications will be calling for a rewrite of all of this material and the history books will have to be changed if some astronomers and space scientists have their way.

Planet X came spinning into the view of Caltech astronomer Michael Brown on July 29, 2005 and changed the way astronomers and star gazers think about Pluto and the definition of a planet. An icy, Kuiper Belt resident Michael named after Xena the warrior goddess of the famed television series, at least until the International Astronomical Union speaks on this matter, Planet x orbits Sol at a distance nearly twice as great as Pluto’s. Planet X’s 560-year orbit is also inclined to the ecliptic by nearly twice as much as Pluto’s, which results in Planet X being closer to Sol than Pluto during its orbit, at times.

Planet X is still a bit of an enigma to astronomers

Astronomy takes you to the Kuiper Belt
The largest Kuiper Belt objects compared

How much bigger is Planet X than Pluto? Astronomers have measured the brightness and distance of Planet X from Sol, as compared to objects of known brightness in the solar system. Based on their data and calculations, astronomers believe Planet X to be bigger than Pluto, but just how much bigger has yet to be firmly etched in stone by the various astronomical societies and agencies tasked with determining if Planet X is indeed bigger than Pluto and by how much. This fuzzy-news has pushed Pluto into tenth place in the nine planet race in the solar system and into second place in the size ranking of the objects in the Kuiper Belt and astronomers, and star gazers have only searched a small percentage of the Kuiper Belt for objects bigger than Pluto.

Will bigger objects than Planet X be discovered in the Kuiper Belt or somewhere on the outer fringes of the solar system? The first Kuiper Belt objects were viewed by star gazers and astronomers in the early 1990s, but since this time, larger and larger objects have been located in the Kuiper Belt. In 2002, an object half the size of Pluto was discovered floating in the Kuiper Belt, which astronomers named Quaoar. Just two years later, 2004DW and Sedna were discovered, each respectively two-thirds and three-quarters the size of Pluto. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if star gazers and astronomers were to find an even larger object floating in the Kuiper Belt than Planet X at some point in the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.

The definition of a planet has changed over the years

Hubble has given us our best views of Pluto, so far. This photo shows Charon as well.
Compare the various sizes of the planets as you pass by
A distance object at best, Pluto looks quiet and serene here

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Mankind’s Next Great Step into the Cosmos

The James Webb Space Telescope Takes Mankind to the Edge of Infinity

The James Webb Space Telescope Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time

The study of astronomy takes astronomers to places undreamed of in human consciousness

Astronomy News – Mankind’s Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time is about to voyage into unknown areas of the universe in search of answers to questions that were in the minds of the first-star gazers. Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe or is life abundant? Plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in 2014, or earlier in 2015, are still on target, and this telescope will allow mankind to delve into regions of the universe and look for answers to these questions and more technical questions. The largest telescope ever constructed by mankind, the James Webb Space Telescope is slowly beginning to take shape in three NASA space centers around the United States.

A combined effort between the Canadian space agencies, NASA, and the European Space Agency, the James Webb Space Telescope is designed to allow us to view the universe in ways never before experienced by humankind. Once launched into space the James Webb Space Telescope will maneuver into position orbiting the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sol system, L2. This position in the solar system is just one of five locations where the gravitational pull of the Earth is equal to Sol’s. At this remote location a service call by astronauts is definitely out of the question and budget limits of the program. The James Webb Space Telescope simply must work upon arriving on station at L2, without the possibility of servicing by astronauts.

The absolute need for the James Webb Telescope to operate without a hitch upon arriving on station, and the facts learned during the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, has convinced the designers and engineers working on the James Webb Space Telescope that a new testing program is needed to ensure every component in the James Webb Telescope works as designed, before being launched into orbit. Over in the gigantic thermal-vacuum test chamber of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas technicians are currently preparing to begin tests designed to test the entire optical train of the James Webb Space Telescope. They want to ensure the optical system of the telescope operates as a single unit in a vacuum and at the correct operating temperature for optimum performance of the optical systems. In January, engineers started testing six of the primary mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope, to ensure everything is as it should be. By the end of 2014 engineers should be nearing completion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s 18 mirror segments, and all flight instrumentation should be tested and ready to go.

These mirror segments are currently undergoing testing by NASA technicians

The James Webb Space Telescope will take mankind on the next leg of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Once on location at L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will fully deploy its 18 hexagonal, gold-coated mirror segments to form a primary mirror with an effective diameter of 6.6 meters (259 inches). This is a full 6 times the light-collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope, but the designers and engineers have also added systems driven by software that will analysis the incoming image, and allow astronomers to fine tune the view by controlling the mirrors overall shape.

Out orbiting L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will be far from problematic heat sources, and with a tennis-court sized sunshade shielding the telescope from Sol, the heat-sensitive instrumentation of the telescope will cool passively in the cold darkness of space and time, to the required operating temperature of -388 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 Celsius).

Astronomers believe the first stars created after the Big Bang possessed as much as 100 times Sol’s current mass, shine millions of times brighter than Sol, but only lived a few million years, before exploding in the first supernovae. The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of allowing mankind to Journey to within about 180 million years after the Big Bang if astronomers are correct, and possibly view the first moments of the universe in space terms. Astronomers will also use the James Webb Space Telescope to view celestial objects that have been exciting the human imagination since they were first discovered in the time of the first-star gazers. Astronomers are currently preparing for the beginning of the era of the James Webb Space Telescope. They’ll soon be proposing all kinds of Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time that will hopefully provide a few answers to these questions that have been exciting mankind since the first time a human looked upward into the night sky.

Thousands of people have contributed to the designing, engineering and eventual launch into orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

Read about the Anasazi Indians

Read about astronomers viewing a supernova they think might have given birth to a black hole

Take a Nightly Celestial Ride during September

Astronomy during September is amazing

Astronomy News – Huddle around a campfire and journey to the stars –

The nights of September 2010 will feature essentially the same night sky as the one your ancestors used as a basis for many of the myths and stories that have been passed down to the modern world of today. September’s star gazers can sit huddled around the fire each night of the month, just as their ancestors did thousands of years in the past. The perfect time to board your time machine to the stars and take a journey through space and time or lay your back upon the cold earth and let the night’s sky open your mind to the possibilities of the universe.

The nights of September 2010 will feature essentially the same night sky as the one your ancestors used as a basis for many of the myths and stories that have been passed down to the modern world of today. September’s star gazers can sit huddled around the fire each night of the month, just as their ancestors did thousands of years in the past. The perfect time to board your time machine to the stars and take a journey through space and time or lay your back upon the cold earth and let the night’s sky open your mind to the possibilities of the universe.

Astronomy during September is unforgettable

The Moon is one of the first places the human journey to the beginning of space and time visited

The Last Quarter Moon will step onto September’s celestial stage on September 1, at 1:22 P.M Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and start September’s celestial dance. Heavenly Venus will join the dance at 2 P.M. EDT on September 1, as she passes to within about 1.2 degrees south of Spica and will form a line with Mars on one side and Spica spinning in the middle.

Mercury will be in inferior conjunction at 9 A.M. EDT on September 3. Mars will dance to within 2 degrees north of Spica at 10 A.M. EDT on September 4, but this dancing pair will slowly fade from view over the next few days, as the Moon moves closer to the Earth.

Mercury is the hardest of the planets to view, but if you look late in September, you have the best chance of seeing Mercury.

Moon astronomy takes patience

The Moon will light up the night sky at 11:58 P.M. EDT on September 7. Earth’s satellite moves to within 221,948 miles of spaceshipearth1 on this date and the show on this night can light up the night sky. A New Moon will greet star gazers at 6:30 A.M. EDT on September 8 and on September 9 the moon will pass to within 8 degrees south of Saturn at 6 P.M. The celestial dance between Saturn and the Moon can light up your imagination as the Moon makes a pass by Saturn.

Saturn is part of astronomy royalty
On September 1, Saturn will set an hour after the Sun and will stand about 5 degrees high in the west sky 30 minutes after sunset

Asteroid Flora will take astronomy lovers for a ride

Asteroid Flora will be in opposition on the tenth of September at 11 P.M. EDT. Asteroid Flora is a difficult celestial body to view for beginning stargazers. Should you desire to take a look at asteroid Flora at her finest on this night, it might be wise to obtain the help or advice of veteran stargazers in your search.

The Moon will also be dancing in the night’s sky on September 10. The Moon will pass to within 5 degrees south of Mars at 4 A.M. EDT and will then dance across the night sky and pass within 0.3 degrees south of Venus at 9 A.M. EDT.

Asteroid Laetitia will be in opposition on September 14 at 6 A.M. EDT. This is your chance to view a celestial body that has been entertaining star gazers and filling them with awe and wonder for thousands of generations.

The third week of September begins with a First Quarter Moon 1:50 A.M. EDT on September 15. Four days later, on September 19, Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation of 18 degrees at 1 P.M. EDT. The Moon will pass within 5 degrees north of Neptune at noon EDT on September 20, viewers should see both Neptune and the Moon in the night sky, but this will depend on environmental conditions at the time of viewing.

Asteroid 8 Hebe is at opposition at 2 A.M. EDT on September 21. The thirteenth biggest asteroid by mass in the known solar system and the fifth brightest celestial body in the asteroid belt, asteroid 6 Hebe is believed to be the source of H chondrite meteorites and IIE iron meteorites, which account for about 40 percent of the meteorites that land on Earth.

The Moon is at apogee (252, 379 miles from Earth) at 4:02 A.M. EDT on September 21. Apogee is the point at which the Moon is at its farthest distance from the Earth in its orbit.

Mighty Jupiter rules the night on September 21, the largest planet in our solar system will be in opposition at 8 A.M. EDT on this day and Neptune will follow into opposition at 1 P.M. EDT. Jupiter shines at magnitude 2.9 on this night and will look bigger visually than at any time since October 1963, at about 49.9 ” across.

Jupiter is the king of the planets
Jupiter will be as visible as it has since 1963 during opposition on September 21.

Astronomy royalty takes center stage

Jupiter will still be one of the brightest celestial objects in the night sky on September 22 and viewers should be able to get a great view of mighty Jupiter in all its glory using their time machine to the stars throughout the month. Jupiter will pass within 0.9 degrees south of Uranus on September 22, at 3 P.M. EDT, and this is a great time to take a look at two of the biggest celestial bodies in the solar system. Watch for a few hours, before Jupiter passes to within 0.9 degrees south of Uranus, and you can see the Earth enter autumnal equinox at 11:09 P.M. EDT.

A Full Moon will occur at 5:17 A.M. EDT on September 23. The Moon will travel toward Neptune and Jupiter during the next hour and forty-five minutes and will pass within 7 degrees north of Jupiter and 6 degrees North of Uranus at 7 A.M. EDT. Viewers that watch throughout the day will get to see Venus at her brightest at 4 P.M. EDT, at this time, Venus will shine at magnitude 4.8, the perfect time to view demure Venus in September’s night sky.

Venus, for lovers, and unforgettable astronomy

Venus is once again the main attraction on the night of September 29. Venus will pass within 6 degrees south of Mars at 2 A.M. EDT on this night and will shine bright enough for good viewing using your time machine to the stars or good viewing binoculars.

September 30 will see Saturn enter into conjunction with Sol, at 9 P.M. EDT. This is a great opportunity to view the ringed planet and view a celestial body that has fascinated the human imagination for generations. Keep watching until 11:52 P.M. EDT and you’ll see the Last Quarter Moon appear in the night sky at 11:52 P.M. EDT.

Astronomy continues next month

Read about the present news on the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.

Development Motor-2 Still Has Uses for NASA

NASA will be handing more and more of the job over to private astronomy firms in the decades ahead
The DM-2 roars to life

Development Motor-2 not ready for prime time, just yet

Astronomy News – Constellation program testing Development Motor-2 –

Reports of the death of NASA’s Constellation program appear to have been a little premature as rocket scientists were testing Development Motor-2 (DM-2), currently the world’s largest and most powerful solid rocket motor, on August 31 in static tests conducted by ATK Aerospace Systems in Promontory, Utah. The development of the DM-2 has been managed by the Ares Projects Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and despite reports that this booster wouldn’t be used in the near future to power Constellation program space vehicles, it appears the DM-2 is being prepared to go to work.

The DM-2 roared-to-life in a mighty column of flame during a two-minute, full-scale testing of the most powerful engine humans have yet designed and built for space travel. The DM-2 is actually suited to be used on heavy-lift vehicles used by the American space program to move heavy loads from Earth into space and it’s still possible we’ll see the DM-2 used for this very job in the future. The stationary firing of the first-stage development solid rocket motor referred to as the DM-2 was monitored by more instruments than at any time in NASA’s history, with a record 760 instruments measuring 53 variables of the test-firing.

The DM-2 is designed to produce about 3.6 million pounds of thrust at ignition, enough power to lift a significant amount of weight mass into space orbit. This full-scale testing of the DM-2 is designed to collect information and data that will be combined with previous tests to allow rocket scientists to better evaluate the potential of the DM-2 for future NASA programs. The DM-2 is similar to the successful solid rocket boosters NASA used to lift the space shuttle into Earth orbit but include significant improvements and upgrades designed by NASA and ATK engineers. Engineers added a fifth segment to the DM-2, a larger nozzle throat, and upgraded the insulation and liners, all additions they expect to make a difference in performance and reliability of the DM-2 as compared to previous rocket engines.

What’s next for the DM-2 and the engineers in charge of its development? After additional testing, the DM-2 will be certified to be used by NASA at temperature ranges between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There has been no additional information provided by NASA and ATK concerning future plans for the DM-2, but apparently they have something in the pipeline. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the months ahead in the century of the environment with the DM-2.

NASA will be looking to private firms for more help during the decades ahead

Read about the present news on the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.