Chapter 8 - Astronomy
The peaceful glow of the moonlight in our sky belies a violent history. Evidence suggests that the Moon formed when a Mars-sized object collided with the young Earth, and detailed computer models show us how such an impact could form our lunar companion in just one month.
Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science
Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of
Education at the American Museum of Natural History. This visualization
was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Could a space rock destroy life on Earth? Learn more about asteroids, comets, and other space objects and what happens when they collide—with each other and with our planet.
After a seven-year trip, the Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn in July 2004. Since then, Cassini has been capturing never-before-seen imagery of the ringed planet and its moons. By the mission's end in July 2008, the craft will have made 70 orbits of the Saturnian system, using cameras, magnetometers, spectrometers, and radio antennas to analyze the planet's magnetic field, composition, rings, atmosphere, and 33 moons more completely than ever before.
On January 14, the orbiter's Huygens probe descended through the murky atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. The probe is the first in history to analyze and image Titan's atmosphere and surface characteristics.
Stop along Cassini's and Huygens's journey with the interactive at left. You can view historical images of Saturn, spy on the planet's rings, tour the Cassini orbiter, meet Saturn's moons, and learn what scientists expected to see on Titan. To visually recreate Cassini's route to Saturn, the animation uses real space data from the Digital Universe Project, a collaboration of NASA and the American Museum of Natural History. The Digital Universe includes dozens of datasets collected by the Museum and is constantly updated.
Since its discovery in 1930, we've looked at Pluto as our solar system's ninth planet. But residing in the icy realm of the outer solar system, where the sun's brightness is less than 1/1000 of the brightness here on Earth, Pluto is nothing like the other planets of our solar system. It differs tremendously from the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, but does not resemble the rocky terrestrial worlds Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
If you could take a trip to a black hole, would you? Before you answer, take a peek at what you'd encounter. The trip certainly would qualify as adventure travel!
It probably comes as no surprise that telescopes do a better job of collecting light and observing outer space than your eyes. But do you know why? (Hint: the answer is NOT magnification!)
About 4.6 billion years ago, our solar system came into being. This comic strip explains the processes that led to the creation of the planets and the asteroid belt.