VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
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It’s rare that astronomers declare news with great certainty, so the announcement that water ice was confirmed in Mercury’s poles is an “exclamation point.” The amount of ice is also astounding—100 billion to a trillion metric tons, or something like layering Washington, D.C. with 2 to 2.5 miles of ice.
Photographer Christoph Malin says he’s not an office guy. That’s good, because the time he spent milking the skies above La Palma, a volcanic island in the Spanish Canaries, means we get to enjoy a taste of astronomy paradise in his time lapse “Island in the Sky.”
When the Moon slips between the Earth and Sun this week, Slovak astronomer Vojtech Rusin will be ready on a hotel balcony in Cairns, Australia to witness his 19th total solar eclipse. He tells StarStruck what it takes to follow the stellar phenomenon.
When Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, got a call from DC Comics about its latest Superman storyline, the famed astrophysicist saw an opportunity to make real science a part of superhero lore. He said to DC: How about I find you a real star that could be home to Superman’s native planet, Krypton? He did, and here’s how.
Armchair astronomers take note: This space atlas is for you. Yes, that kind of atlas—a series of maps and charts that evokes the ability to navigate a place, usually by ship or some sort of vehicle. The maps are remarkably detailed—Mercury’s surface incorporates the latest data from the orbiting Messenger spacecraft and the crater names might surprise you (Mark Twain, Botticelli, Dali, Shakespeare). On Venus nearly every feature is named after goddesses or famous women.
What places best describe humankind’s fascination with the universe? Try Navajo star ceilings, the Temple of Isis in Egypt, or Stonehenge. Maybe it’s Qing Dynasty instruments at the Beijing Ancient Observatory or mountaintop telescopes in Chile. These places are now recognized as astronomical heritage sites as part of a joint initiative of UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union.
Not many people can say they’ve met the first man on the moon. But mingle with astronomers gathered in Beijing for a conference and you’ll come across one or two—even at breakfast—who can reflect personally about Neil Armstrong.
I’m writing this by way of introduction as Victoria Jaggard, the founder and curator of Breaking Orbit, heads to new frontiers (see her post below). We met, most appropriately, at an event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and quickly discovered a mutual fondness for rockets and astronomy. I’m excited to be joining…