Interesting Astronomy Stories of 2009: January/February/March
International Year of Astronomy
2009 is dubbed as the International Year of Astronomy honoring the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning his telescope to the sky. 135 nations participated with events and activities encouraging everyone to look upward and become acquainted with the beauty and the mystery of the universe.
2009 was the 5th anniversary of NASA Mars rovers Spirit, which landed on Jan 3 2004, and Opportunity, which landed on Jan 24 2004. The plan for these rovers was about 3 months worth of exploring. No one even imaged they would still be working today. Their accomplishments are numerous including discoveries about the Martian ancient environment, traveling 13 miles across Mars, climbing up a mountain and into a crater, fighting with sand traps and surviving dust storms. They also sent back over 250,000 pictures.
Researchers at MIT solve the mystery of magnetization found in the rocks the Apollo missions brought back from the Moon. Research on the oldest of the rocks which is older than any rocks from Mars or even on Earth, provided some strong evidence that around 4.2 billion years ago the moon had a liquid core similar to Earth’s that created a magnetic field. The rock used was one gathered on the Apollo 17 mission. It was also one of the most beautiful rocks with green and milky white crystals.
NASA and Google launch a new 3-D virtual exploration of Mars. The program enables you to fly through deep canyons and high to the top of mountains, much higher than any found on Earth. You can also explore the planet through the eyes of the rovers and other Mars missions.
To view Google Earth's Mars mode
-Install Google Earth 5.0
-After installation, open Google Earth 5.0
-Look for the ringed planet icon in the horizontal menu bar that runs across the top of the display window
-Click the ringed planet icon, and a dropdown menu appears: "Earth, Sky, Mars"
Comet Lulin graced the February sky with a magnitude great enough to be seen even in urban skies. This green comet appeared to have made its first appearance to the inner regions of our solar system and its first exposure to sunlight. The green color is created by the gases in its atmosphere that glow green when hit by sunlight.
The Hubble, You Decide contest’s winner was announced. The public was given a chance to vote for their favorite target out of 6 candidates for the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph. After about 140,000 votes, the interacting spiral galaxies called Arp 274 or the Antennae Galaxies was chosen by more than 50% of the voters. Hubble’s full color image was then released to the public in April.
NASA’s Keppler Mission launched. Its mission is to identify Earth-sized planets orbiting stars at the distance required for water to pool on its surface. Finding and confirming Earth-sized planets possibly capable of sustaining life will take at least three years.
More Interesting Stories of 2009:
My source for the stories I chose for each month is Astronomy Magazine Newsletters. Pictures came from various sources and are noted below each picture.