MassMutual Jr.Space Camp

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is an orbiting space telescope named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble. It receives commands from the ground control center and transmits various observations back to Earth via telemetry. Hubble's orbit outside the distortion of Earth's atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images, with substantially lower background light than ground-based telescopes. Hubble can even be used to observe UV light that is usually absorbed by the ozone layer.

(Image Credit: NASA)
Halley's Comet with the Milky Way
(Image Credit: NASA)
A comet is a relatively small extraterrestrial body consisting of ice, dust, and gas. It typically consists of a nucleus, the coma, and tail. The tail of a comet can be very long and bright, and is its most distinctive feature. Comets are small bodies in the Solar System. They orbit around the Sun in highly eccentric orbits. Halley's Comet is the best known comet and orbits the sun once every 76 years. It has been observed on many occasions throughout human history, the last observation being in 1986.

Meteors are bright trails of light in the sky caused by the increase in temperature of meteorites entering Earth's atmosphere at high speed. Sometimes, many meteors from the same origin in space streak across our sky, and this is called a 'meteor shower'. Typically, meteor showers last for only a few hours, while their activity may be spread over more than ten days. Meteor showers appear every year, especially the Lyrids in April and the Geminids in December. However, the number of meteor sightings may vary every year.

(Image Credit: NASA)

( Image Credit: NASA )
Sunspots are small regions on the surface (photosphere) of the Sun. The temperature of sunspots is relatively low compared with other regions of the photosphere, at approximately 4000℃. The life cycle of sunspots is short, lasting only for a few days to about three weeks. Sunspots usually appear in a group and observations show that sunspots become most active on the photosphere every 11 years. Most sunspots appear in areas far away from the solar equator. As time goes by, the number of sunspots starts increasing and appearing closer to the equator. If we record the location and number of sunspots over time, the famous ‘Butterfly diagram’ is recorded.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930 by Clyde W. Tombaugh, an assistant at the Lowell Observatory. The distance between Pluto and the Sun is 590 million km, which is nearly 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The velocity of Pluto's orbit is six times slower than that of the Earth and its orbit shape is highly elliptical. As a result, Pluto takes 248 earth years to complete one orbit around the Sun.

Moreover, since it is very distant from the Sun, the sunlight received is only 1/900 of that received on the Earth, which explains the extremely low temperature on Pluto (from -218℃ to -240℃).

On its discovery, Pluto was originally classified as a planet. However, due to its small size and irregular orbit, it has always been a matter of debate whether Pluto should be classified as a planet. The debate continued in August 2006, when Pluto was excluded from the list of planets in the Solar System as it failed to meet the definition of ‘planet’ as defined in the 2006 General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). It was therefore added to the new category of ‘Dwarf Planet’.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Pluto is classified as a ‘dwarf planet’ since it fails to satisfy the third criterion of the definition of ‘planet’, which states that a planet should be able to clear the neighborhood around its orbit. Hence, it is listed as ‘dwarf planet’ along with Ceres and Eris.

A ‘dwarf planet’ is a celestial body that

a. is in orbit around the Sun
b. has sufficient mass for its own gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape
c. has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and
d. is not a satellite

All other objects, except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as ‘Small Solar System Bodies’.

At its General Assembly in Prague in August 2006, the International Astronomical Union redefined the definition of ‘planet’︰

A ‘planet’ is a celestial body that

(a) is in orbit around the Sun.
(b) possesses sufficient mass for its own gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape.
(c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

( Image Credit: International
Astronomical Union )
(Image Credit: The University of Hong Kong)   
The stars in the sky inspired the ancient peoples who created many fabulous stories from their imagination by linking the stars into different patterns. Since every culture has different star legends, the International Astronomical Union in 1930 organized the scheme of constellations into a definite system. Since then, the night sky has been divided into 88 constellations with clear-cut boundaries, each star belonging exclusively to one constellation.

The Ecliptic is the route that the Sun traces out on the celestial sphere and whose route passes through 12 constellations. These 12 constellations are collectively known as the Zodiac, and they are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The Ecliptic in fact passes through a total of 13 constellations, the 13th constellation being called Ophiuchus. However, for historical reasons, it is not included in the Zodiac.
(Image Credit: NASA)
The Curiosity Mars Rover was launched by NASA on 26 November 2011 and landed on the Aeolis Palus plain in Mars’ Gale crater on 6 August 2012. As large as two mini golf-carts, Curiosity is a Mars rover and also serves as a science laboratory. The rover is equipped with sophisticated experiment instrumentation designed to carry out exploration tasks. Curiosity’s major mission is the exploration of the water, climate and geology of Mars, and will also check whether any conditions existed in the Gale crater that could sustain life.

The outermost layer of the Sun is the far-reaching corona. A ghostly halo of gas extending for millions of kilometres, the corona is invisible except during total solar eclipses or when using a coronograph. Temperatures in the corona inexplicably exceed one million degrees Celsius. Scientists have yet to discover the reasons explaining such high temperatures. The holes in the corona are caused by the sun’s magnetic field, and are where streams of particles in the solar wind break free and surge outward into the Solar System. Some believe the magnetic field may be responsible for the corona’s unusually high temperatures.

(Image Credit: ESO)
   (Image Credit: NASA)
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) defines a plutoid as a dwarf planet that is farther out in space than the planet Neptune. So far, about a dozen larger, Pluto-like bodies have been discovered. Three of them, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea, have become officially designated plutoids. There are millions of other bodies that revolve around the Sun in the vast area that stretches from Neptune to well past the orbit of Pluto. Astronomers believe that at least 70,000 of them have diameters greater than 100km.
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