Saturday, December 26, 2015

Astronomical Localism


"The vastness of the universe becomes even more incredible when you consider how very much we still don't know about the immediate vicinity of our own star," writes Rochester City Newspaper's Rebecca Rafferty about the "New Discoveries in Our Solar System" show at the Rochester Museum & Science Center's Strasenburgh Planetarium.

"Pictured is a photograph by the Rosetta space probe of Comet 67P.... passing near the Sun." We also get to see "geysers on a moon of Saturn, more clues about water on Mars, another spacecraft approaching Jupiter, and the latest Pluto pictures downloaded from the New Horizons spacecraft."

Not mentioned and most fascinating of all were the bright spots on Ceres, the brightest objects on the surface of any body in our solar system. The Great Red Spot is no longer as great as it was when I was a kid, but we know a lot more about Europa, not to mention Enceladus.

Ms. Rafferty is right about "how very much we still don't know about the immediate vicinity of our own star." I would go further and say that "the immediate vicinity of our own star" is more fascinating because of its proximity. Exoplanets bore me to no end, but little Ceres never ceases to amaze!

Still, it's important to have a hold on what we can see with the naked eye, and I got a much-needed review of the Night Sky. I have long been able, of course, to use the Big Dipper to find Polaris, an important survival skill. And Orion, Cassiopeia and my favorites the Pleiades are like childhood friends.

After today's review, however, I now know those two stars I've long wondered about were none other than Castor and Pollux, the twin heads of my star sign, and I can now easily find Sirius, a personal favorite due to the Chinese zodiac.

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