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Article of the Month: November 2015

Image credit: Daniel Munizaga (NOAO South/CTIO EPO), using the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, of an eight-image sequence of the partial phase of a total lunar eclipse.

Images credit: NASA / Kepler Dan Fabricky (L), of a selection of the known Kepler exoplanets; Rebecca G. Martin and Mario Livio (2015) ApJ 810, 105 (R), of 287 confirmed exoplanets relative to our eight solar system planets.

Our Solar System Is Almost Normal, But Not Quite

It was just over 20 years ago that the very first exoplanet was found and confirmed to be orbiting a star not so different from our own sun. Fast forward to the present day, and the stellar wobble method, wherein the gravitational tug of a planet perturbs a star's motion, has been surpassed in success by the transit method, wherein a planet transits across the disk of its parent star, blocking a portion of its light in a periodic fashion. Thanks to these methods and NASA's Kepler spacecraft, we've identified many thousands of candidate planets, with nearly 2,000 of them having been confirmed, and their masses and densities measured.

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Play and learn

Simple and fun learning activities to share with children.

The Space Place Experiment Center—Students can conduct real life science experiments and learn how the world works.

Make a Pinwheel Galaxy pinwheel—Make a pinwheel that looks just like M101, the pinwheel galaxy.

Make a Fan with Earth’s Layers—To remember that Earth is much more than just the surface we see every day, make this Earth layer fan.

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