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Today is a day of celebration! Amidst the seriousness and caution we are all practicing to protect one another, let us take a moment to be thankful for the many achievements that were accomplished within the field of Astronomy.
We are ever thankful for the three decades we’ve been able to share with the Hubble Space Telescope, generating spectacularly beautiful images and revealing our universe like never before. For example, the Hubble Deep Field image shown below shows galaxies so far away that we are just now seeing the light they released 12 billion years ago. We are seeing them the way they looked 12 billion years in the past, about the same time when our own Milky Way Galaxy was just coming into existence!
This is the 25th anniversary of the landmark SOHO satellite, which has been providing us with a continuous view of the Sun in X-rays, UV and visible light and giving us an advanced warning of approaching solar storms. This feat is even more remarkable when you realize the spacecraft is too far away to receive any repairs and was only intended to last three years! And this is the 30th anniversary of the almost tragic Apollo 13 mission, where dedication and human ingenuity turned a disaster into triumph.
Speaking of weather, two years ago when Mars was last passing nearest to the Earth, an early summer on Mars kicked up a global dust storm that ruined the view. This October, Mars will be passing nearby again and we expect the view to be much better. Mars is already getting brighter in the predawn sky, where you’ll also currently find Jupiter and Saturn. All three planets are rising earlier each morning and will be up all night this Summer. Venus is that brilliant “star” seen high up in the West after sunset, where it is outshining everything except the Sun and the Moon.
Though we are all actively practicing social distancing and have had to give up our usual festivities, the DDO Defenders hope these small reminder of past astronomical accomplishments and upcoming events can bring us all hope for the future. We will continue to plan and prepare for when we can all meet again in person! Until then, stay healthy and intrigued!
Happy 90th Birthday Pluto! Hope you’re having a lovely time in the Kuiper belt! ✨
It was 90 years ago on this date that the world learned there was a ninth major planet in our solar system, discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, a 23-year-old researcher at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. But in 2006, following the recent discovery of many more Pluto-sized bodies orbiting in the same region of our solar system, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to reconsider the way “Major Planets” are defined, and Pluto was reclassified to now belong to a new designation, the “Dwarf Planets”.
Note that a similar reassessment was made back in the 1850s following the discovery of Ceres in 1801, which was the first-known ninth planet to be discovered in our solar system. But within a few years, many other planets had been subsequently discovered all orbiting in the same region between Mars and Jupiter. And so it was decided that Ceres and all these other planets would be given a new designation: they are now all called “Asteroids” or Minor Planets. — Today Ceres also meets the criteria and therefore is also classified as being a dwarf planet for the same reason that Pluto is. Ceres is the first dominant object to be discovered orbiting in the Asteroid Belt; and Pluto is the first dominant object to be discovered orbiting in the Kuiper Belt.
To learn more about Pluto, have a look at the following: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/birthday-pluto-s-discovery-science-takes-look-back-dwarf-planet-s-long-strange-history
And to learn more about Ceres, have a look at: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/ceres/overview/
Fifty years ago, humanity made the first successful attempt to personally visit another celestial body. But since then, we have ventured no further than near-Earth orbit, one thousand times closer than going to the Moon. So when WILL humanity finally follow up on its first step towards being a truly space-faring species? Join us as we explore this and other questions on Saturday, July 6th at the David Dunlap Observatory.
This Friday we will have a special guest speaker at DDO’s astronomy family night!
An Evening With Astronaut Dr. Dave Williams, Friday June 7, 2019, 9pm – Presentation and Book Signing
We are pleased to welcome Canadian astronaut Dr. Dave Williams, Canada’s spacewalking record holder, to the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) to talk about his personal experiences as an astronaut, aquanaut and former director of Space and Life Sciences at NASA. He is the author of “Defying Limits: Lessons from the Edge of the Universe” — an inspirational, uplifting, and life-affirming memoir about passion, resilience and living to the fullest. And for members of the younger audience, he has collaborated with co-author Loredana Cunti on a series of exciting children’s books. Dr. Dave will be available for book signing after his presentation. Copies of his books will be available for purchase during the evening.