SJAA Ephemeris September 2012 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

The Last Month in Astronomy


AUG-05-2012 • Curiosity on Mars • “We are back on Mars” is how JPL scientists described their feelings when the Mars Science Laboratory called “Curiosity” successfully landed. To do a number of new technologies had to work perfectly including the “sky crane” that lowered the rover to the surface. Among other things, there were 79 pyrotechnic charges that had to work. One “pfffft” and it was game over.

JUL-23-2012 • Sally Ride Dies • • America’s First woman in apace, Sally K. Ride, has died from pancreatic cancer at age 61. She had been diagnosed at least 17 months earlier. Sally Ride rode on the Space Shuttle Challenger on June 18 1983. She also road on Challenger in 1984 and was scheduled to do so for a third time but the Challenger tragedy in January 1986 ended that possibility. She was an active member of both commisions following the shuttle disasters of 1986 and 2003. In 1987 Ride went to Stanford Univeristy at its Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989 she joined the faculty at U.C. San Diego. In 2001 she started the company Sally Ride Science creating science programs with an emphasis on getting the interest of young girls.

JUL-18-2012 • Hot, Small and Close • The Spitzer Infrared Space Observatory may have detected the smallest exoplanet discovered so far. The candidate planet, called UCF-1.01 is 33 light-years away and it appears to be two-thirds the size of Earth. The star that was being studied is GJ 436, already known to have a Neptunian sized planet. Spitzer, using a Kepler-style transit detection technique but in the infrared, detected unexpected dips. A look at archived data showed that the dips were periodic. The planet orbits its star once every 1.4 days and its temperature may be 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.


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