Marty Scott is the astronomy instructor at Walla Walla University, and also builds telescopes and works with computer simulations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nine years ago this week Pluto lost its status as a planet. The International Astronomical Union, the organization that names astronomical objects and defines terms, determined Pluto did not meet its new definition of a planet.
There is another Walla Walla valley — not here on Earth, but on the planet Mars.
Every year in mid-August, the Earth intersects the orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet. When Earth intersects the comet’s orbit, it enters a debris field created from the rocks and dust released by the comet as it melts when it passes near the sun.
Curiosity had a break from its normal workload for most of June because Mars was in solar conjunction. This means that Mars was almost exactly behind the sun as seen from Earth.
The Earth and Mars will be on opposite sides of the sun for most of the month of June, an alignment called Mars solar conjunction.
You can explore the solar system on a nice day in Walla Walla by taking the Planet Walk.
Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun, is the gem of the solar system because of its icy white ring system.
Curiosity is still working on discovering the story of Mars’ past. Hints to this story are hidden in the rocks of Mount Sharp, the Martian mountain that the rover is slowly climbing layer by layer.
Now is one of the best times this year to view the planet Jupiter — not because of the calendar, but because of the positions of Jupiter and the Earth in their orbits around the sun.
JPL, we have a problem.