Astronomy Club: September Newsletter

September 30, 2019

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

The Autumnal Equinox occurred on Monday, September 23. On this day, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres experienced an equal amount of daylight. This happens twice a year when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the Sun. For those of us “lucky” enough to live in the Northern Hemisphere, this day marks the beginning of astronomical fall with the daylight hours getting shorter until the Winter Solstice in December. For those that live South of the equator, it is the beginning of Spring. The Equinox occurs when the Sun is directly in line with the equator. So, in hopes of heading off any fall melancholy, here is a bit of dinner party trivia to comfort you as the days get shorter and the temperatures drop: The word “equinox” comes from Latin aequus, meaning “equal,” and nox, “night.”

News and Current Events

NASA 2020 Mars Rover Naming Contest – NASA is conducting a nationwide search for a name for the Mars Rover being launched next year. All K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter the Mars 2020 Name the Rover essay contest. One grand prize winner will be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Mars Rover will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. The name will be selected on February 18, 2020 so contact your teachers for more information.

Lift off – For the first time in history, we will attempt flight on another world. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory technicians have installed the Mars Helicopter on the, as yet un-named, Mars Rover. Once we land on Mars, this copter will be capable of short low altitude hops to extend the reach of the Rover itself.

Badhai! – India just became the eighth country to make lunar orbit and the fifth country, after the Soviet Union, the United States, China and Israel to attempt a soft landing on the Moon. The Chandrayaan-2 Mission (Indian Space Research Organization-ISRO), achieved lunar orbit but, unfortunately, contact was lost with the lander/rover segment of the mission. Congrats to India!

Gadgets and Gear

Jupiter’s Moons – With Jupiter still in prime viewing position in the evening skies, there are some great tools that will help you with identifying the Galilean Moons. Check out the IOS app “Jupiter’s Moons” and the Android app by the same name. Both are free to download and can calculate the Moons positions and transits as well as transits of the Great Red Spot.   

Mind-blowing Facts

Does it tickle? – A neutrino is a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron but has no electrical charge and a very small mass, which might even be zero. Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe. At any given moment there are about 100 billion solar neutrinos streaming through every centimeter of your body. At night they travel through the entire Earth to reach you.

Topic: Astronomy