Marty Scott is the astronomy instructor at Walla Walla University, and also builds telescopes and works with computer simulations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The past several weeks have been a busy time for the Mars rover Curiosity. Events included stops at two waypoints on the way to Mount Sharp, the longest one-day drive of its journey so far and the discovery of the apparent absence of methane in the Martian atmosphere.
In August I introduced you to comet ISON. In the last two months we have learned much more about the comet.
Curiosity, we may have a problem. Because Congress failed to pass a budget or an emergency spending bill, the federal government has been in shutdown mode since Oct. 1. This forced NASA to furlough 97 percent of its employees and cease most of its operations.
About every 175 years the orbits of the outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — are arranged so that a spacecraft on a particular flight path can swing from one planet to the next without the need for large onboard propulsion systems.
Curiosity and other missions sent to Mars have discovered evidence that Mars was a wetter planet in the past, with a thick atmosphere.
During the formation of our solar system — in the outer regions where it is cold enough to permit ices of water, methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide to exist — the comets were born.
Curiosity has started its journey to Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile-high mountain rising from the center of Gale Crater.
Every year in mid-August the Earth intersects the orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle independently discovered this comet in 1862.
At a location on Mars called Yellowknife Bay, NASA’s Curiosity rover last March found clay rocks with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and sulfur.
There are many objects in the sky you can see with your unaided eyes, but these are only a small fraction of the objects you can see if you use a telescope.