RECENT ADVANCES IN ASTRONOMY
| This is an artist’s conception of a Mars Exploration Rover. It’s purpose is to gather data and samples of Mars geology. Dated February 26, 2003.
Credit: Image by Maas Digital LLC for Cornell University and NASA/JPL, Courtesy of Wikipedia
This is a great time to be an astronomer. New telescopes, new unmanned probes to other planetary bodies, and new analytical techniques are rapidly increasing our understanding of the cosmos and its origins. The Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and a number of probes to other planetary bodies in the solar system, and the powerful Hubble Telescope have virtually revolutionized our view of the cosmos, and we can expect many more exciting discoveries in the future.
Recent advances have included:
*The Mars rovers: These incredible, mobile robots have given us astonishing images and data about the Red Planet. Iron-oxide nodules photographed have supported the notion that there was water present on mars in the past, which strengthens the possibility that life my have evolved here independently.
* The age of the universe: Recent observations of a certain class of exploding stars or supernovas (called Class 1a, of a known brightness) indicates that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate, driven by some unknown force called “dark energy”. The estimate of the universe’s origin, the so-called “Big Bang” is now put at precisely 13.798 million years, at which point time, space, matter, and energy came into existence.
|Hubble against Earth’s horizon. The Hubble Space Telescope hovers at the boundary of Earth and space in this picture, taken after Hubble’s second servicing mission in 1997. Hubble drifts 353 miles (569 km) above the Earth’s surface, where it can avoid the atmosphere and clearly see objects in space.
Courtesy of NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
* Identification of planets in other solar systems: Several hundred planets, most much larger than the earth, have been discovered orbiting other star systems.
*Close encounters and even a soft landing on asteroids: The so-called “Earth-crossing” asteroids, those with paths that could potentially hit the earth and cause catastrophic damage, are major long-term threats to the planet, so the more we know about them, the better we will be able to deal with them in the future.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
You should be interested in your place in nature. Recent astronomical discoveries have given us a much better appreciation of the vastness and variability in the universe, and the very special conditions that make up the planet we live on.
This webpage features the latest news from NASA.
This is a website about the expansion of the universe.
This is a National Geographic article which details the discovery of DARK MATTER. It proves Einstein’s theory of gravity on a cosmic scale
This is a press release by NASA detailing the discovery of ice of Mars.
PULTO ISN’T A PLANET??!! This is a wonderful article about the history of Pluto and the decisions which lead to the reclassification of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet
This is an article about the discovery of planets orbiting other stars (presenting the possibility of another Earth-like planet).
This article outlines some of the coolest astronomical discoveries from 2008.
FOR YOUNGER READERS:
Rusch, Elizabeth. The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012.
Siy, Alexandra. Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet. Watertown MA: Charlesbridge, 2011.
FOR OLDER READERS:
Boss, Alan. The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets. New York: Basic Books, 2009.
Coles, Peter. Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Dickinson, Terence. Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images. Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books Limited, 2012.
Krauss, Lawrence M. A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing. New York: Free Press (A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), 2012.
Panek, Richard. The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Boston/ New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
Schilling, Govert. Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries. New York: Springer Science and Business Media, LLC, 2011.
Scientific American Editors. Exploring Mars: Secrets of the Red Planet. New York: Scientific American, 2012.
Seife, Charles. Alpha and Omega: The Search for the Beginning and the End of the Universe. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.
Silk, Joseph. The Big Bang: Third Edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2001.
Wiens, Roger. Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity. New York: Basic Books, 2013.