23 – Planet X

The theory of a large planet lurking somewhere far past Neptune has been around for a while. But just recently scientists have found some real evidence for its existence. They say there are objects in the Kuiper Belt that wouldn’t move they way they do if that planet was not there. The alleged planet is so far away that we can’t see it from here, so who knows how long it will be until we can capture a picture of it, assuming it even exists!

Real or not, how do you think Pluto feels about everyone already calling this mysterious object a planet? 😉

22 – New Horizons

NASA’s New Horizons craft has been travelling for 9 years and will be arriving tomorrow (7/14/15) at Pluto! NH will just be doing a fly by before it heads further out into the Kuiper Belt. Int he mean time, we have been getting some WONDERFUL shots of Pluto, and finally figuring out he has a bit of a reddish color (previously I colored him purple in the comic. That’s changed now).

This is super exciting and I hope you are all watching New Horizons as closely as I am!

21 – Super Jupiter

We have a lot to thank Jupiter for. Our biggest planet is not just pretty to look at, it stands in the way of a lot of possible threats to us. Jupiter’s mass creates a gravitational pull strong enough to fling comets and other objects back out of the solar system and away from us.

One of example of this was back in 1994 when Jupiter took the brunt of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which got caught in its orbit.

But don’t give Jupiter all the praise just yet. That same gravity that saves us could also, one day, turn a comet or asteroid towards us.

But for now, let’s just thank our stars that Jupiter is out there protecting us!

(Or, if you’re in a destructive mood and want to see how Jupiter could possibly destroy us all someday, you can go read this: Could Jupiter Wreck the Solar System?

20 – Saturn’s Hex

The vortex at Saturn’s north pole is oddly hexagon shaped. As it tursn out, the shape comes from smaller vortices at the edges. Scientists have been able to create these hexagon shapes in labs creating currents similar to those on Saturn. You can watch a video of that HERE.

We only recently started getting the best views of this when Saturn finally hit the portion of its orbit where the sun hits its north pole, and Cassini was there to catch it! We’re learning more about how this strange storm acts as Saturn’s northern hemisphere reaches it’s Summer solstice.

18 – Uranus’ Tilt

Uranus is the only planet in our solar system who appears to be rolling on his side around the sun. Scientists believe that soon after Uranus’ formation, the planet was knocked sidewise by a collision with one or more large celestial bodies. If you were knocked in the head like that you might be a little “off” too!

You can read more about Uranus from NASA right HERE!

16 – Blood Moon

A total lunar eclipse happens every time the Earth comes in between the Sun and Moon and the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. Instead of the moon becoming completely dark and disappearing from the night sky, the light of the sun is bent and filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere shining a red glow on the moon. Think of it as every sunrise and sunset happening on the Earth at that moment coloring the moon! Because of its red hue during a total eclipse, it’s been called a Blood Moon.

Total lunar eclipses are more common than total solar eclipses and are visible to the entire side of the Earth it’s happening for, while total Solar Eclipses are only visible for a tiny area on Earth.

The next total lunar eclipse is happening next week for much of the Western Hemisphere and some of the easternmost parts of the Eastern Hemisphere. For more info on how you can see that click HERE.

15 – Perihelion

Happy Perihelion Day!

When an object in orbit of the sun reaches its closest point to the sun, that is its Perihelion. Even Earth has a perihelion since our orbit is elliptical rather than circular, and the sun is not right in the center of it.

A comet’s perihelion can be much more interesting because of how close they get to the sun at that point.

Today comet ISON reaches perihelion as it rounds the sun. ISON is special in that it’s a “sungrazing” comet and it’s getting so close to the sun that we’re not sure if it will survive the swing around it. It may completely fall apart today.

But if it doesn’t, it’ll come out the other side and head back into space, and will potentially be shining brightly and beautifully in our pre-dawn skies. At least for a few days.

Here’s more about ISONs Perihelion today. [click!]

And here’s more about perihelions in general. [click!]