What Astronomy Really Is

What Astronomy Really Is

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What Astronomy Really Is

What is astronomy? Astronomy consist of a lot of things that make up our solar system such as: the nine planets, asteroids, meteorites, the moon and the sun. Astronomy is also a fascinating hobby that can be followed by anyone. You do not need to be, as some people seem to imagine, ‘mathematically-minded’ , in order to start, or even to become a very experienced observer. Yet astronomy is one of the few hobbies where not only can you gain great enjoyment, but if you feel want to can very easily make observations of great scientific value.

I know that astronomy is getting more popular by the day since the comet came and all those people got killed. But that really did not have anything to do with astronomy, so I am not going to get into that. To me astronomy is really cool. If you have a telescope and it is a clear night you can see different constellations such as: Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Hercules, Pegasus, Perseus there are many more that is so cool. But it is even cooler to look up and see them in the sky. To do all of that you first have to be in the correct place. What you can do first is look for the north star, when you find that then you are all set. If you cannot find it just simply face north and look for the brightest star in that direction. If you still cannot find it buy a compass then hopefully you will find it. If you still cannot find it ask somebody, I made no grantee that you would find it these ways. That is really all I know about astronomy, but after this paper I bet you I will know a whole lot more.


The Sun is a huge, bright sphere that is mostly made up of gas that is about 5 billion years old. The Sun is the closest to the Earth, it is 145 million km distant (this distance is called an Astronomical Unit). The next closest star is 300,000 times further away. There are probably millions of similar stars in the Milky Way galaxy (and even more galaxies in the Universe), but the Sun is the most important to us because it supports life on Earth.

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The Sun’s power causes the seasons, the climate, the currents in the ocean, Th. circulation of the air, and the weather in the atmosphere.
The Sun is some 333,400 times more massive than Earth (mass=1.99x10 kg),and contains 99.86% of the mass of the entire solar system. It is held together by gravitational attraction, producing immense pressure and temperature at its core(more than a billion times that of the atmosphere on Earth, and a density about 160 times that of water).
At the core the temperature is 16 million degrees K, which is sufficient to sustain the fusion reactions. Wow, is that hot or what? I think its hot myself. Because the sun is gaseous, it rotates faster at the equator than at the poles. The sun’s surface known as the photospheres just the visible 500 km-thick layer from which most of the Sun’s radiation and light finally escapes, and is the place where sunspots are found. Above the photosphere lies the chromosphere that may be seen briefly during total solar eclipse as a reddish rim, caused by hot hydrogen atoms, around the Sun. Temperature steadily increases with altitude up to 50,000 K, while density drops to 100,000 timeless than in the photosphere. Above the chromosphere lies the corora (“crown�), extending outward from the Sun in the form of the “solar wind� to the edge of the solar system. The corora is extremely hot-millions of degrees K. The process that heats the corona is very mysterious and poorly understood, since laws of thermodynamics state that heat energy flows from a hotter to a cooler place. Mysterious phenomena, such as this, are studied by researchers in NASA’S Space Physics Division.


Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. Mercury rotates on its axis once every 58.9 days and circles the Sun once every 87.9 days. As a result Mercury rotates exactly three times around its axis for every two orbits around the Sun. If you wanted to stay up for a solar day on Mercury, you would be awake for two Mercurian years. Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, its surface temperature has the greatest temperature range of any planet or satellite in the solar system. The surface temperature reaches a maximum of 427 degrees Celsius on the side closest to the Sun, and - 183Con the night side. Mercury’s atmosphere is tenuous and like a vacuum. The atmosphere is composed of sodium and potassium, which is probably derived from the surface. While Mercury does have an atmosphere, it does not have satellites.

Physically, Mercury is smaller than any other planet except Pluto, measuring about one-third the size of Earth. However, Mercury’s density is about the same size as Earth; therefore, scientists assume that the planet has an enormous iron core that composes some 75% of Mercury’s diameter. The core is surrounded by a rocky mantle and crust only about 600 km thick. Aside from Earth, Mercury superficially resembles that of the Moon, there are significant geological differences. Like the Moon, it has heavily crated upland regions and large areas of smooth plains that surround and fill impact basins. It also has a surface covering of porous, fine-grained soil like the lunar surface. Unlike the Moon, Mercury’s heavily crated uplands contain large regions of gently rolling, smooth plains-the major type of terrain on the planet. Mercury Los has experienced unique geological history which has resulted in a global system of fractures caused by shrinkage of the planet.

If Earth had a twin, it would be Venus. The two planets are similar in size, mass, composition, and distance from the Sun. Other than that they are completely different. Venus has no oceans, and its scorching surface temperature is about 900 degrees F which could melt lead. Venus is covered with persistent global shroud of sulfuric acid clouds in an atmosphere composed mostly of carbon dioxide. Oddly, Venus rotates in a direction opposite the Earth, which means that if you were standing on Venus, you would see the Sun rising in the west and setting in the east. Venus’ sluggish rotation makes one Venus day last as long as 243 Earth days.

Venus has been visited by more spacecraft, both U.S. and Russian, than any other planet. Venus’ surface has been shaped by volcanoes, plate tectonics, impact craters, and water and wind erosion. In 1989, NASA launched a new radar imaging spacecraft named Magellan. Magellan began its radar mapping on September 15, 1990. Magellan is unveiling on Venus a tortured surface shaped by a history of geological violence, tectonic deformation, volcanism, and impact crating. At least 85 percent of Venus is covered by volcanic rock-mostly lava flows that form the planet’s vast plains.

From data returned by Magellan, scientists will create and study maps of Venus for years to come. With Venus’ face unveiled, we now have a better understanding of Earth’s fraternal twin, and store of information that will help us understand the evolution of our own planet.


Earth, our planet, is the only planet in the solar system known to harbor life. All the things we need to survive are provided under a thin layer of atmosphere that separates us from the uninhabitable void of space. Air, water, land, and humans themselves combine forces to create a constantly changing world that we are striving to understand.

Some facts are well known. For instance, Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the fifth largest in the solar system. Earth’s diameter is just a few hundred kilometers larger than that of Venus. Our planet rotates on its axis at a surface speed of approximately 0.5 km/sec at mid-latitudes, while orbiting the Sun at a speed about 30 km/sec. We experience these motions as the daily routine of sunrise and sunset and the slower change of the seasons. The four seasons are a result of Earth’s axis of rotation being tilted more that 23 degrees.

Oceans at least 4 km deep covers nearly 70% of Earth’s surface. Water exists in the liquid phase only within a narrow temperature span. The presence and distribution of water vapor in the atmosphere is responsible for much of the Earth’s weather. On the surface, we are enveloped by an ocean of air that consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other constituents. Earth’s atmosphere shields us from nearly all harmful radiation coming from the Sun, and protects us from meteors as well-most of which burn up before they hit they Earth. The upper atmosphere contributes to Earth’s weather and climate and protects us from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

As you observe Earth’s finite boundaries, consider the many unanswered questions and discoveries yet to be made on our own, home planet.

Mars-the Red Planet, the Bringer of war has fancied to be the source of hostile invaders of Earth, the home of a dying civilization, and a rough-and-tumble mining colony of the further. Mars has shown itself to be most Earth-like of all the planets; it has polar ice caps that grew and receded with the change of seasons, and markings that looked, though 19th century telescopes, to be similar to human-made water canals on Earth, which fueled speculations that Mars was inhabited.

For millions of years, the Martian surface has been barren of water, and not subjected to the erosions and crustal plate movement that continually resurface Earth. Mars is too cool and its atmosphere is too thin to allow liquid water to exist. There is no evidence of civilizations, and it is unlikely that there are any extant life forms, but there may be fossils of lifeforms from a time when the climate was warmer and there is liquid water.

Mars is a small rocky planet that developed relatively close to the Sun that has been subject to some of the same planetary processes associated with the formation of the other “terrestrial� planets (mercury, Venus, and Earth), including: volcanism, impact events, and atmospheric effects.

Periodically great dust storms occur that engulf the entire planet. The effects of these storms are dramatic, including dunes, wind streaks, and wind carved features. Mars has some remarkable geological characteristics including: the largest volcanic mountain, Olympus Moons, in the solar system; volcanoes in the northern Tharsis region that are so huge they deformed the planet’s spherically; and a gigantic equatorial rift valley, the Vallis Marineris. This canyon system could easily fit the Grand Canyon inside it and stretches the distance equivalent from New York to Los Angeles.

Jupiter reigns supreme among the nine planets, containing two-thirds of the planetary mass of the solar system. In composition it resembles a small star. Its interior pressure may reach 100 million times the surface pressure on Earth. Jupiter’s magnetic field is immense, even in proportion to the size of the planet, stretching millions of miles into the solar system. Electrical activity in Jupiter is so strong that it pours billions of watts into Earth’s own magnetic field everyday.
Jupiter is endowed with 16 moons, a ring system, and an immense, complex atmosphere. Its atmosphere bristles with lightning and swirls with huge storm systems, including the Great Red Spot, a storm that has persisted for at least 100-and perhaps as long as 300-years. Some scientist theorize that beneath the atmosphere there is no solid mass at the center of Jupiter, but that the planet’s unique temperature and pressure conditions sustain a core whose density is more like liquid or slush.

The Voyagers’ 1979 encounters with Jupiter provided us with startling, beautiful imagery, revealing thousands of features never before seen. Swirling multicolored turbulence surrounded the Great Red Spot. Rising plumes and spinning eddies formed and dissipated, suggesting a strong source of heat bubbling up from within the planet.

The Voyager flybys witnessed a total of nine spectacular volcanic eruptions, the first time any such geologic activity had been seen outside of the Earth. The Voyagers also revealed a thin ring around Jupiter. Composed of three bands, the ring is optically dark, suggesting it is made up of impact debris. PG. 7
On October 18, 1989, NASA launched the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter. Galileo will investigate the chemical composition and physical state of Jupiter’s atmosphere; will characterize the morphology, physical state, and dynamic properties of the Jovian satellites; and will analyze the structure and physical dynamics of the Jovian magnetosphere. The data obtained from Galileo will undoubtedly revolutionize our understanding of the complexities of Jupiter and the Jovian system.

Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun, is one of the five planets visible from Earth without a telescope. Since the 17th century, when Saturn’s dazzling, complex ring system was first observed by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, the planet has stood as a symbol of the majesty, mystery, and order of the physical universe. Over the past 20 years, we have discovered that Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune also have rings; however, Saturn’s ring system is most extensive and brilliant. Although the origin of the rings is unknown, scientists hope to uncover clues by studding the planet’s history.

Alternate jet streams of east-west and west-east circulation can be traced in the motions of the cloud tops; the speed of these jets streams reach as much as 1,000 miles per hour, and are responsible for the banded appearance of the clouds. The atmosphere consists mostly and helium. The planet’s atmosphere also features storms structures similar to Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot.
Today we know Saturn to have 7 major ring divisions and 18 moons. The rings may be the remnants of moons destroyed by tidal interaction with Saturn’s gravity. They may include remnants of comets that passed too close to Saturn and were likewise
destroyed. Of the 18 known moons, Titan-the largest-has held the attention of scientists most. A bit larger than Mercury, Titan is shrouded by a thick nitrogen atmosphere that might be similar to what Earth was like long ago

In 1781, English astronomer Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, at first mistaking it for a comet. After observing Uranus’ path among the stars, astronomers determined that Uranus’ orbit extends 19 times father from the Sun than Earth’s orbit. Although the diameter of the planet is four times greater than that of Earth, at this distance it appears in the sky as a faint disk spanning one-thousandth of a degree, making it barely visible to the unaided eye only on clear, dark nights.

Early astronomers observed that the orbits of the four then-known Uranian moons were tipped 98 degrees relative to the planet’s orbit around the Sun. These satellites, as well as Miranda (a Uranian moon discovered in 1948), and 10 small inner moons discovered by Voyager 2 in 1986 (bringing the total number of Uranian moons to 15), all lie in Uranus’ equatorial plane.

Tipped Uranus behaves as a giants top as it spins on an axis almost in the plane of the orbit. This motion leads to extreme seasonal variations in what sunlight is available. Over the period of 1 Uranian year (84 Earth years), the polar regions of the planet got through four seasons, as on Earth, which perpetual sunlight in the summer, and total darkness in the winter. Periods of alternating day and night are interspersed in the spring and fall.

Today, we know that the dimly lit Uranian system consists of a planet surrounded by a flat system of rings and satellites. Bits of debris are concentrated into thin rings that orbit the planet between 1.4 and 2.0 Uranian radii, with the tiny moon Cordelia orbiting inside the brightest, outermost ring. Nine other small moons, with diameters ranging from 13 to 15 percent the size of our Moon, revolve around the planet at distances from 4 to 15 radii, or one-third to one-and-a-half times the distance between Earth and our Moon.

Because no mission are currently being planned to return to Uranus, future information will need to be gained using ground-based or Earth-orbiting facilities.

Astronomers discovered Neptune as a result of their efforts to understand the orbit of Uranus. When Voyager 2 flew within 5,00 km of Neptune on August 25,1989, the planet was the most distant member of the solar system from the Sun. (In 1999 Pluto will once again become the most distant planet.) Neptune orbits the Sun every 165 years, and is the smallest of the solar system gas giants. Searches for “ring arcs,� or partial rings actual are complete, but the thickness of the rings vary so that they cannot be fully viewed from Earth.
Even though Neptune receives only three percent as much sunlight as Jupiter does, it is a dynamic planet and surprisingly showed several large, dark spots reminiscent of Jupiter’s hurricane-like storms. The largest spot, dubbed the Great Dark Spot, is about the size Earth and is similar to the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. At low northern latitudes, Voyager 2 captured images of cloud streaks casting their shadows on cloud decks below. The strongest winds on any planet were measured on Neptune. Most of the winds there below westward, opposite to rotation of the planet. Near the Great Dark Spot, winds blow up to 2,000 km/hr.

Neptune is now known to have eight satellites, six of which were found by Voyager 2. The new satellites are small and remain close to Neptune’s equatorial plane.

Pluto is unique among the planets. Its the smallest, the coldest, and the farthest from the Sun. Its orbit is the most elliptical and tilted, and it is the only planet that has a moon so close to its own size. Because of its great distance, Pluto remains the only planet that has never been visited by a spacecraft.

Pluto was not discovered until 1930, when American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh first captured it on photographs. We know Pluto’s diameter is much smaller than was believed at its discovery. In fact, Pluto is only about 2,400 kilometers across, which means that Pluto is smaller than our moon! Pluto’s surface. which is slightly reddish, is made up of exotic snows, including methane, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. Evidence indicates that Pluto’s interior consists primary of rock and water ice. Atmospheric pressure on Pluto is just one millionth that on Earth.

Pluto grows much colder during the part of each orbit when it is far from the Sun. As a result, Pluto’s atmosphere is thought to persist only for the part of each orbit when Pluto is closer to the Sun, as it is now. In 1978, American astronomers James Christy and Robert Harrington discovered that Pluto has a satellite (moon), which they named Charon. Charon, which is almost half the size of Pluto, orbits the planet every 6.4 days, at an altitude of about 18,300 kilometers.

Because Pluto is so small and far away, it is impossible for any telescope on Earth to directly see these features. By getting above Earth’s blurring atmosphere, the Hubble Space Telescope is capable of mapping Pluto.


The Moon is usually the first object that people examine when they become interested in astronomy. It to be the obvious choice. It is large (about 30’ in diameter), bright, and easily found. Its brightness means that it is possible that you could look at it in the daylight. The motion of the Moon is extremely complex and the calculation of the exact times of Moonrise and Moonset is very complicated. On average the Moon rises and sets each day about 50 minutes later than the day before, but the amount varies very greatly.

A complete cycle of the familiar lunar phases from one New Moon to the next takes approximately 29.5 days, or one lunation. The Moon’s age is reckoned from the time of the New Moon, when it is, of course, closet to the Sun, or may even pass in front of its disk in a solar eclipse.
The Moon always turns the same face toward the Earth, and at first this may seem to be unvarying. Closer attention over a period of a few lunation’s shows that alternations in the visibility of the features do take place. These are the result of the effects known as liberation, which makes the Moon rock slowly backwards and forwards before your very own eyes. Isn’t that the coolest thing you have ever heard of. The Moon’s shape is very unusual. It is slightly egg-shaped, with the small end of the “egg� pointing toward the Earth. This position causes the Moon to keep the same face toward Earth at all times. That is just so weird because it does not look like an egg to me. Well that is it for my essay. Now what I learned.

Wasn’t that just a swell paper? You do not have to answer that because I know you liked it. Well anyway I learned that Venus and Earth are some sort of twins. I learned that Neptune has a dark spot sort of like Jupiter’s red one. I learned that Saturn has 18 moons. I learned that Jupiter had one ring, I didn’t think it had any. I also learned that it takes hard work and discipline (which of course I have), to write a 10 page paper (in my case 15 pages). And I know it takes even more nerve to read about 150 of them. In addition to learning how hard this was I also learned a lot of things from my astronomer friends that I interviewed. You will find the interviews at the end of this essay.


I think it is so exciting learning about the different planets. I hope that you feel the same way. It just amazes me how God could make such cool stuff. Well I got to go finish looking at the stars. I guess I’ll see you next lifetime.
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