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Astronaut Photograph of the Sochi Olympic Park

13 February 2014
The US space agency, NASA, recently published an interesting photo (Fig. 1), of the Sochi Olympic Park at night, taken by an astronaut of the International Space Station (ISS). Interestingly, the Fisht Olympic Stadium and the flame are visible below and right of center. The Olympic Park is one of the venues of the 2014 Winter Olympics, organized in Sochi, Russia, and scheduled for 7-23 February 2014.


A Breathtaking View of Saturn!

12 February 2014
NASA recently published an exquisite image of Saturn (Fig. 1), acquired by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft. The Cassini probe was looking down on Saturn, from high above the plane of the planet’s magnificent rings. Interestingly, the image shows clearly the giant hexagonal jet stream, circling Saturn’s north pole.


Earth as Viewed from Mars

10 February 2014
NASA recently published a wonderful image (Fig. 1), acquired by the Curiosity Mars rover, a six-wheeled car-sized robotic rover, exploring the surface of Mars, the Red Planet. The image shows Earth as it appears from Mars. As a star-like object, our home planet was shining brighter than all the stars in the Martian night sky.


Countering Asteroid Impacts

06 February 2014
With a mandate from the UN, space agencies from around the world will establish a high-level group to help coordinate global efforts in case an asteroid is found to be on a collision course with Earth.


Zooming in on Saturn’s Hexagon

30 December 2013
NASA recently published a wonderful natural-color image of Saturn’s hexagon, a huge hexagon-like cloud system on Saturn’s north pole. The image was obtained by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft.


Spacecraft to Map One Billion Stars

24 December 2013
On 19 December 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Gaia spacecraft, an ambitious mission, to accomplish mapping and cataloging the precise positions and distances of over a billion stars, located in our Galaxy and some other galaxies. The data will allow producing the largest and most accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way Galaxy ever. Gaia will also perform observations of basic physical properties of the stars, such as brightness and color. Intriguingly, its observations are expected to yield numerous discoveries of exoplanets, planets orbiting outside the solar system.


Chinese Mission Lands on the Moon

16 December 2013
After entering Moon orbit, on 6 December 2013, the Chinese space mission Chang’e 3 landed successfully on the Moon, on 14 December. This is the first spacecraft to softly land on our satellite, since the Soviet Luna 24 spacecraft in 1976. Intriguingly, since Luna 24, there have been lunar missions, such as NASA’s Lunar Prospector, a Moon-orbiting spacecraft, which were deliberately crashed on the Moon.


Chinese Spacecraft Enters Moon Orbit

07 December 2013
On 2 December 2013, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched its Moon-bound spacecraft Chang’e 3, consisting a robotic lander and a rover. On 6 December, Chang’e 3 successfully entered lunar orbit, in preparation for a controlled lunar landing, scheduled later this month. This would be the first soft landing on the Moon, in 37 years, since the Soviet Luna 24 mission. Interestingly, Chang’e is the name of the goddess of the Moon, in Chinese mythology.


Saturn, the Sun and Three Planets

17 November 2013
NASA recently published a spectacular image of Saturn, the ringed giant, acquired by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft. At the time of obtaining the image, Saturn was aligned to the Sun and three other planets: Earth, accompanied by its Moon, Mars, the Red Planet, and Venus, Earth’s twin. The Sun was eclipsed by Saturn, while the three planets, look quite tiny, as very small points of light, in the background, since they were hundreds of millions of kilometers away from Saturn. Saturn’s magnificent rings, backlit by the Sun, glow in various fascinating colors.


A Distant Earth

10 November 2013
A team of astronomers has discovered the first Earth-sized planet beyond the solar system that has a rocky composition like that of Earth. The planet, known as Kepler-78b, orbits very close to its parent star, every 8.5 hours, making it a very hot object and not hospitable for life. Planets orbiting outside the solar system are known as exoplanets or extrasolar planets. Since 1992, astronomers have discovered more than 1,000 exoplanets.


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