krswan writes: From the NASA press release: "At 9:10 p.m. EDT, engineers in the MESSENGER Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., received the anticipated radiometric signals confirming nominal burn shutdown and successful insertion of the MESSENGER probe into orbit around the planet Mercury."
If you don't know much about this little spacecraft, check out its website. Designed with a completely passive cooling system, it will stay at 600C on the sun side, but room temperature behind the sunshade. During its 6 year journey it used its solar panels as sails, using the solar wind instead of thrusters to adjust its trajectory. Over then next year it will build a high-rez map of Mercury, and maybe determine if there is really ice hiding in polar craters on Mercury.
krswan writes: I'll bet many readers had their interest in astronomy fanned by Jack Horkheimer through his long running "Star Hustler" (later changed to "Star Gazer") program on PBS. His joy and enthusiasm for basic naked-eye astronomy was contagious, and more than once got me in big trouble as a kid for sneaking outside when his show ended at 12:05am trying to find whatever he was presenting that week. Nice story at Sky and Telescope, including the epitaph he already wrote for himself...
"Keep Looking Up was my life's admonition, I can do little else in my present position."
krswan writes: Ok, the moons themselves are much older, but on January 7, 1610 Galileo first observed "4 fixed stars" surrounding Jupiter. Continuous observations of their changing positions led Galileo to postulate they were really moons orbiting Jupiter, which became further evidence against Aristotelian Cosmology, which led to problems with the Roman Catholic Church, etc... Jupiter will be low in the southwest (in the Northern Hemisphere) after sunset this evening — nothing else around it is as bright, so you can't miss it. Celebrate by pointing binoculars or a telescope at Jupiter and checking out her moons for yourself.
krswan writes: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been testing its cameras, and what better targets than the Apollo sites? Its one meter resolution camera took a great shot of the Apollo 11 site with a low sun casting a huge shadow. More information and images at Sky and Telescope and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera website.
Coming soon... updates to all of the "Apollo Landings Took Place on Hollywood Soundstages" websites about how these images were obviously faked!