Saturday, December 1, 2012
Little Mercury, So Close To The Sun
NASA's spacecraft Messenger, which has been orbiting planet Mercury since Summer 2011, has been sending back amazing and undeniable proof that the planet closest to the Sun, and thus the hottest, is partially covered with polar ice...water ice, to be exact.
How is this possible, on a spicey hot planet that roils with flame and poisonous gases and spits like a dragon?
Mercury has two faces; the hellish Sun face, where mid-day temperatures can reach 825 degrees Kelvin, and the darkly frozen face, where deep craters produced by ancient comets hold polar ice pack, the depth of which is still unknown.
Mercury is a mighty planet, but not strong enough to tilt away from the Sun's gravitational pull. It barley tilts on its axis, thus allowing a very big snowball to exist in hell!
December presents several awesome star gazing opportunities; beginning tonight, the 5 planets of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and Saturn will all be visible to the naked eye at one time or another.
Tonight, in fact, Jupiter will be very close to Earth and will not swing so near again until 2021.
You can view Jupiter, along with Mars, in the evening sky, even as early as dusk.
In order to see Venus, Saturn and Mercury, you will need to rise early (pre-dawn or dawn) to view this cluster of planets. Look to the Southeastern horizon.
Later in December, on the 12th, 13th and 14th, the Geminid meteor shower will dance across a darkened, new moon sky.
The shower should be visible after 8 p.m.--be sure to head out of town where human-made light is at a minimum.
And finally, on the 27th, the sky will be illuminated with the full Cold Moon. Moon strolling in the brilliance of this lovely moon is highly encouraged. Because the sky is dark for almost 12 hours on this evening, the moon will be a long and quiet companion.
If there is snow on the ground, no one will be sleeping for all the reflected light and energy....but no matter, you can sleep later!
Take advantage of this full moon, to bask in her powers of bringing the dark unconscious into bright awareness!
for additional information, please check out: www.earthsky.org