NASA Space Place Digest For March, 2018

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science!

The following four articles were sent to Space Place partners and subscribers, provided in a format that offers discussions of topics of astronomical interest. As these posts are graphics-intensive, only the intro snippet is provided here with links to the full article provided for each.

All About Exoplanets

All of the planets in our solar system orbit around the sun. Planets that orbit around other stars are called exoplanets. Exoplanets are very hard to see directly with telescopes. They are hidden by the bright glare of the stars they orbit.

An artist’s representation of Kepler-11, a small, cool star around which six planets orbit. Credit: NASA/Tim Pyle

So, astronomers use other ways to detect and study these distant planets. They search for exoplanets by looking at the effects these planets have on the stars they orbit.

Read the full article…

How Do We Weigh Planets?

In real life, we can’t pick up a planet and put it on a scale. However, scientists do have ways to figure out how much a planet weighs. They can calculate how hard the planet pulls on other things. The heavier the planet, the stronger it tugs on nearby objects—like moons or visiting spacecraft. That tug is what we call gravitational pull.

Your weight is different on other planets due to gravity. However, your mass is the same everywhere!

Read the full article…

What Is a Volcano?

A volcano is an opening on the surface of a planet or moon that allows material warmer than its surroundings to escape from its interior. When this material escapes, it causes an eruption. An eruption can be explosive, sending material high into the sky. Or it can be calmer, with gentle flows of material.

Lava fountain at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai`i. Credit: J.D Griggs, USGS

These volcanic areas usually form mountains built from the many layers of rock, ash or other material that collect around them. Volcanoes can be active, dormant, or extinct. Active volcanoes are volcanoes that have had recent eruptions or are expected to have eruptions in the near future. Dormant volcanoes no longer produce eruptions, but might again sometime in the future. Extinct volcanoes will likely never erupt again.

Read the full article…

What’s It Like Inside Jupiter?

It’s really hot inside Jupiter! No one knows exactly how hot, but scientists think it could be about 43,000°F (24,000°C) near Jupiter’s center, or core.
So, astronomers use other ways to detect and study these distant planets. They search for exoplanets by looking at the effects these planets have on the stars they orbit.

The reddish brown and white stripes of Jupiter are made up of swirling clouds. The well-known Red Spot is a huge, long-lasting storm. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Jupiter is made up almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. On the surface of Jupiter–and on Earth–those elements are gases. However inside Jupiter, hydrogen can be a liquid, or even a kind of metal.

These changes happen because of the tremendous temperatures and pressures found at the core.
Read the full article…

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“Planet 9 From Outer Space” – Thursday, April 19 At Liverpool Public Library

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

And apologies for the short-ish notice. This is not a showing of the movie “Plan 9,” but risks being just as cheesy. CNYO makes its yearly (if not more often) return to LPL this Thursday with a lecture that actually overlaps nicely with a lecture topic from a few years back that was presented at a CNY Skeptics meetings – We step out from our discussion of Ceres and Pluto into a discussion of Pluto and the theorized Planet IX (not to be confused with Planet X). As always, we check on the state of the binocular loaner program as well, with hopes that all have been reserved and none are available.

Link details can be found at

Caption: The 6 most distant objects known in the Solar System, then the predicted orbit of the unknown 7th. Image courtesy of Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Planet 9(,) From Outer Space

Event Type: Adult Programs
Date: 4/19/2018
Start Time: 7:00 PM
End Time: 8:30 PM
Description: History, Politics and Physics Out Beyond Neptune

google map directions to LPL.

Pluto had a remarkably good and lucky run as the 9th planet in our Solar System. Its demotion to dwarf planet status in late 2006 was due to a number of factors, driven largely by the discovery that Pluto is not alone either in size or in location out beyond Neptune’s orbit. Modern telescopes have discovered numerous dwarf planets out in the Kuiper Belt – a region of the Solar System for which Pluto is now the most famous member. By determining the orbits of these distant objects, astrophysicists have even made the prediction that something much larger in size must be lurking in the distance – large enough to qualify as a true planet if and when it is officially observed.

Dr. Damian Allis is a NASA Solar System Ambassador, director of CNY Observers and writes the monthly “Upstate New York Stargazing” column for and

Location: Carman Community Room
Presenter: Cindy Hibbert

Upstate NY Stargazing In April: The Lyrid Meteor Shower – Posted To And

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The April, 2018 UNY Stargazing article is up for your reading and sharing pleasure at and

Links: &

There are still random listserv mentions of hosted Messier Marathons among some of the local clubs. Be sure to check your local astronomy club to see if any events are being scheduled. I wasn’t sure if the article was going to come out before or after the Tiangong-1 final descent, so kept the opening discussion of potential problems with things “up there” general. On top of some excellent planetary viewing this month, The Lyrids make their yearly return, then we continue to zodiac discussion with Gemini – perfectly placed in the western skies this evening for some strain-free scope and bino observing.

The good, the bad, and the potentially ugly things that fall from space. Micrometeorites (, a SkyLab fragment (from wikipedia), and the Chelyabinsk meteor trail (Alex Alishevskikh).

When asked to list the contents of our Solar System, some stop at the Sun, planets, and moons. Others will remember comets – a list of objects that grows much longer every year. For those looking for up-to-date info, see – we have comfortably cleared the 4000 comet mark. Some may add the asteroid belt – a region between Mars and Jupiter which looks less like the chaotic debris field from “The Empire Strikes Back” and more like oases of larger rocks separated by vast, empty deserts of tiny particles. Don’t forget the currently 18,000-long list of NEOs, or Near-Earth Objects.

These are among the more than 18,000 reasons why the late-great Stephen Hawking and others have championed the need for colonization beyond the Earth’s surface.

Changing positions in the sky is one thing – changing elevations is very different. Occasional bright flares make the news when captured on video. Events like Tunguska and Chelyabinsk remind us that there thing in space we might miss that could level cities. We are fortunate that most of the roughly 160 tons of debris from space that hits the Earth *each day* is in the form of micrometeorites that you could start collecting with a strong magnet and a flat rooftop.

The highly-anticipated demise of the Tiangong-1 over the weekend was a reminder that we may not be able to always rely on the “dilution-solution” of handling our garbage. Our planet is large, spherical, mostly covered in water, and largely unpopulated – but the number of satellites going to space will only increase as launches get cheaper. It remains to be seen if nations will opt to address the dangers of space junk before or after something serious – and unavoidable – happens here on the ground.

Read more…