A Song to laugh about the 176 Moons of the Solar System

About a year ago I had an idea for a music video.  I wanted to take a concept in science and put it to music, making it funny, catchy, memorable, and educational.  I wrote out the majority of the lyrics but left it alone for a few months, until I connected with the right friend.  My good friend Bob Wegner is a very talented guitarist and audio engineer, and as we spoke about the idea he wanted to be the guy to record it.  We spent an afternoon doing the vocals and guitars, and he cleaned it up and made...

Rosetta Measures Nitrogen Around Comet 67P

As the Rosetta spacecraft remains in orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet is slowly drifting toward its closest approach to the Sun, known as perihelion.  As the comet moves closer to the Sun, intense sunlight liberates gases and dust in streams of material that form clearly visible streaks.  The orbiter is able to sample some of the material liberated from the comet, and for the first time it has seen the tell-tale signature of Molecular Nitrogen. Nitrogen is abundant on Earth as a gas, constituting the majority of our atmosphere.  It is also present in the atmospheres of Pluto and Neptune’s...

Think the Seasons are Crazy here? Check out Kepler-432b!

It’s been cold lately.  The temperature has fallen somewhere between Hoth and Pluto, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.  It seems we complain about the weather no matter the season.  It’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too bright, too dark.  We do have a lot of variation in the seasons, but compared to some other planets, Earth is pretty mild in its climate. One such case is the recently discovered Kepler 432b.  A massive planet six times heavier than Jupiter with a comparable size, it orbits closer to its parent star than Mercury...

New Horizons Returns First Pluto Pic!

Being 2015, there has been a lot of talk about the New Horizons spacecraft in the first month of the year, since it’s due to reach it’s rendezvous with the enigmatic dwarf planet in July.  I remember watching the launch in 2006 while in university, and have been talking about it to audiences during my planetarium shows.  I feel close to the mission, and being able to see it reach Pluto this year brings back the first feelings I ever had about discovering the universe as a child. So when the spacecraft woke up a few weeks ago, so did...

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...

Asteroid Belt vs. Kuiper Belt vs. Oort Cloud

Ever wondered the difference? The Asteroid Belt, shown above, consists of hundreds of thousands of rocks, with all kinds of different shapes, ranging in size from the Dwarf Planet Ceres at 950 Km in Diameter, down to small bits the size of dust particles.  It lies between Mars and Jupiter. The Kuiper Belt (pronounced Kai-per) consists of Icy rocks, and it a major source of short-period Comets in the Solar system.  Extending beyond the planet Neptune, Pluto was discovered to be one of the largest objects in the belt. The mysterious Oort cloud is a collection of Comets, thought to...