Dawn Arrives at Ceres Today!

Today is the day that the Dawn Mission completes a long 7.5 year long journey that has taken it past the orbit of Mars and into the asteroid belt, studying the second largest asteroid Vesta before heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres, where it has now injected itself into orbit, as of 7:39 am EST. This marks the first time in history a spacecraft has seen a dwarf planet up close, and with New Horizons passing Pluto in July, Dawn won the race in an astronomical photo finish. The Story So Far Launching on September 27th, 2007, Dawn orbited the Sun and...

The Moon, Mars, and Venus are Shining Together

Even though the weather has been insanely cold in Canada the past few weeks, there is an upside for astronomers.  Call me a perpetual optimist, but when it’s colder in Canada than it is on Mars, you have to find some kind of silver lining. The upside is that colder weather and clear skies are sometimes synonymous.  I’m not a meteorologist so I don’t have any reason to go into detail as to why, but we have had a lot of cold, clear evenings.  I’ve had a chance to go outside and test my new DSLR camera, at least for a...

The Gold Rush of the Galaxy – Exoplanets

I’ve always been a fan of data visualization.  We have so much raw data in the world that can reveal incredible information about our Universe, and the only thing stopping us is the time to analyse it all.  Sometime data visualizations pop up that really put things into perspective, help us see trends that we didn’t know of before, and offer insights into where we should look in the future.  I feel like I find something amazing that someone has produced on a daily basis, and being able to visualize complex data can give anyone a deeper understanding of the...

Planets as Old as Time Itself

There has been a lot of planetary news lately, in our own solar system and beyond.  With the DAWN spacecraft approaching Ceres, New Horizons finally reaching Pluto in a few months, and the Kepler Space Telescope giving results from it’s new observing run.  Not to mention comet Lovejoy, Mars Rover anniversary, and the Venus Metal Frost story. Normally I would pass on so much planetary news, even though it is one of my favourite areas of Astronomy.  This story, however, is just too good to pass up. Kepler 444, a very ancient star 117 light years from Earth, about 25% smaller than...

Dawn is Approaching Ceres

…and not the ‘dawn’ we refer to when watching a sunrise.  Dawn is a NASA spacecraft that was launched in 2007 with the goal of exploring the asteroid belt by observing its largest and most interesting objects up close.  The two largest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres, have been the largest mission goals of Dawn as it has journeyed through the belt. From July 2011 to September 2012, Dawn was in orbit around the 525 Km wide Vesta, snapping amazing photos and studying the giant in detail. Since it’s departure from Vesta in September 2012, the craft has been on route...

The Launch was a Success! Orion is Up!

After yesterday’s scrubbed launch due to valve issues, the Orion spacecraft has launched on its first full test flight aboard a Delta IV rocket.  This is the first step for humanity to reach beyond the Moon, and the Orion craft will eventually carry astronauts Watching it live and seeing everyone in the space flight community on twitter talking about it and posting pictures really makes you feel like a part of the mission itself.  I feel like I’m there in mission control along with the NASA staff, and having followed the progress of the mission for so long it feels...

Earth’s Shield! A Natural Barrier in Space

Have you ever heard of the Van Allen belts? If not you really should learn about them.  After all, without them the majority of life on Earth could not survive. So what are they and how do they keep us alive? The Van Allen Belts are a collection of charged particles, held in place by the magnetic field of Earth, that act as a barrier to prevent the most harmful radiation from the Sun from reaching the surface of the Earth.  They shift according to the incoming energy of the Sun, and if there is a large enough swell of...

China’s Unmanned Moon Probe Returns!

If you weren’t aware, new countries have entered the next space race.  India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) named ‘Mangalyaan’ was successfully launched on November 1st, 2013, and has been orbiting Mars since its arrival on September 21st of this year.  China has been in the mix since 2007, and have been working to gradually increase their capabilities. Their latest mission, called ‘Chang’e 5-T1,’ was launched on October 23rd, and spent 8 days travelling to the Moon, performing a flyby, and returning safely.  This is the test mission before they send Chang’e 5 in 2017, a mission that will land on the...