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Bruce Betts
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Not Just Another Pretty Space: Random Space Facts and Easy Night Sky Info
Not Just Another Pretty Space: Random Space Facts and Easy Night Sky Info

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Announcement today of 7 Earth-sized planets around one "ultracool" dwarf dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. This is a very different system than ours because the star is a wee bit of a thing as stars go, cool and small, again, for a star. All 7 planets are much closer than Mercury is to the sun, all within 6% of the Earth Sun distance (see the European Southern Observatory diagrams I have included). Because the star is so much cooler than the sun, that still puts 3 of the newly discovered planets within the habitable zone of the star, where liquid water could potentially exist. However, being that close to the parent star could yield synchronously locked planets, planets that always face the same side towards the star creating a rather nasty temperature environment. Also, they would be closer to stellar storm outbursts. So they may or may not be a party for life, and it will probably take new telescopes and a long time before we learn much detail about these intriguing worlds.
You can learn more about the discovery and its implications here:
http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/2017/20170222-trappist-1-potentially-habitable-worlds.html
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2/22/17
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Class 3 of my Intro Planetary Science and Astronomy class: Telescopes, the Moon, Eclipses, Lunar Phases and Tides.
More info on the class: http://planetary.org/bettsclass

https://youtu.be/hCv0697DSGw

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Happy Valentine's Day! Here is a Random Space Fact video about the near Earth asteroid Eros, featuring the amazing Robert Picardo of Star Trek fame "gently" critiquing my acting.
https://youtu.be/efmn2_l3LOI

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Class 2 of my Intro Astronomy class: Mat Kaplan and I record What's Up for Planetary Radio, easy things to see in the night sky, and the electromagnetic spectrum (studying space with all wavelengths of light). More class info: http://planetary.org/bettsclass

https://youtu.be/v21gJ25aw3c

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Take a listen to A Martinez and I on KPCC's Take Two show talking about tonight's celestial events: penumbral lunar eclipse (subtle), green comet (requires binoculars or telescope), Snow Moon (it's the Moon, so it is easy to see), and easy to see Venus and Mars. It is always fun to have humorous banter with A while talking Space. This time I came out with titles like Hopes and Dreams Crusher, and Hype Corrector.
http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2017/02/10/54993/attention-star-gazers-here-s-how-to-best-view-toni/

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Remembering Apollo 1 astronauts White, Grissom, and Chaffee (l. to r.) who perished 50 years ago today during a launchpad test in a capsule fire. The plaque and small Fallen Astronaut statue were left on the Moon by Apollo 15 to commemorate the astronauts and cosmonauts who had died up until that point.
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1/27/17
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Tour of the Solar System: class 1 of my Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class. More class info at: http://planetary.org/bettsclass

https://youtu.be/YDchpN9f95Y

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My Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy free online class starts today at 15:00 PST. Watch live or archived. More info: http://planetary.org/bettsclass
It is an intro college level class through California State University Dominguez Hills, but you don't need to be enrolled to watch. It is light on math and heavy on pretty pictures and videos.
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We lost another hero today, Gene Cernan, naval aviator and last person to walk on the Moon. A good time to remember his last words while outside a spacecraft and on the Moon: “...I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come - but we believe not too long into the future - I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. "Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."”
Godspeed, Gene Cernan.

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NASA selected 2 new missions to asteroids today: Lucy, that will visit several Jupiter Trojan asteroids (asteroids in gravitationally stable areas 60 deg ahead of and behind Jupiter in its orbit), and Psyche that will visit the intriguing metal asteroid Psyche. NASA also chose to provide continued funding to NEOCam which would be a space telescope to hunt for near Earth asteroids. Learn more:
NASA release: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-selects-two-missions-to-explore-the-early-solar-system
More info on Lucy: planet.ly/C29wL
More info on Psyche: planet.ly/g98kA
More info on NEOCam: http://neocam.ipac.caltech.edu/
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