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Astronomy

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Fri, September 25 2015

Supermoon Eclipse!

You may have heard about the “supermoon eclipse” that will happen this Sunday, September 27. Sounds pretty exciting! But what does it mean? Let’s start with the “supermoon” part. The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle; it’s an ellipse, which means that the distance between the Moon and the Earth changes over the course of a month. When the Moon is in the part of its orbit that brings it closest to Earth, the perigee, it appears larger in our sky.

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Micromoon vs Supermoon
Mon, April 14 2014

Blood Moon

If you live in North America or western South America, you have a treat in store for you tonight or early tomorrow morning: a total lunar eclipse! If you live elsewhere in the world, or if it’s cloudy in your location – as it probably will be tonight at our location in Washington, DC – you can still see the eclipse online.  Several websites will host live streams.  Some of their locations will be clouded out, so we recommend that you search for “lunar eclipse live stream” and browse the results.  You can also participate in a live web chat during the eclipse with NASA astronomers.

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Lunar Eclipse Diagram
Thu, December 26 2013

Archeoastronomy of the Longest Night

As our northern hemisphere days begin to lengthen, I like to think about the many ways people have marked the Winter Solstice throughout human history. Like Summer Solstice (the longest day), the equinoxes, and motions of the planets and Moon through the sky, Winter Solstice has long been observed, recorded, and used to construct special buildings. Some of these buildings were erected so long ago that no written record of their use is available today, but they clearly point at cultures that valued the knowledge of precisely when the longest night of the year occurs. Two ancient cultures in the northern hemisphere whose monuments I’ve visited come to mind: Celtic and Anasazi.

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Tue, July 16 2013

Introducing the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory

On June 24, we announced that the National Air and Space Museum will receive a $6 million gift from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation to support the Public Observatory’s...

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Mon, March 11 2013

An Artistic Search for Pluto

How do you illustrate a non-fiction book for kids based on the former ninth planet? Some people still have some pretty strong feelings about Pluto’s demotion: protest signs, student protest speeches, public demonstrations. Cries of unfairness could be heard when news of poor Pluto’s removal from the planetary ranks occurred. It is the intention of this new children’s book to set the story straight or at least attempt to share “Pluto’s side of the story." I‘ve worked in the children’s book market as a freelance illustrator for several years in addition to my full-time job with the Museum’s Early Childhood program. My latest book assignment from Abrams Books for Young Readers, Pluto's Secret: an icy World's Tale of Discovery,  connected my job as an artist and an educator.  

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Book cover: Pluto's Secret
Tue, February 26 2013

Vulcan? But that’s not logical…

The news that “Vulcan” topped the poll results taken by the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California as a possible name for one of the two tiny moons newly discovered to be orbiting Pluto has gotten quite a bit of press this week. In 2012, Mark Showalter of SETI, working with scientists on the New Horizons mission sending a probe to Pluto, found a tiny fifth moon orbiting the icy world.

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Fri, February 15 2013

When Worlds Collide

A particularly bright fireball was observed earlier today over a wide area in Russia. Of even greater significance was the very strong sonic boom associated with the passage of the meteor through Earth’s atmosphere.

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Tunguska
Tue, January 15 2013

Reflections on "Explore the Universe" 2001-2012

One of the jokes I inherited from my student years is the final exam question "Describe the Universe" which was followed by "and give two examples."

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Magellanic Clouds
Mon, January 7 2013

Minor Planet 4262 DeVorkin

David DeVorkin is a curator in the Space History Department of...

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Fri, November 2 2012

Going Three Billion Miles at the Public Observatory

At our evening observing sessions at the Public Observatory, we’ve shared views of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon, and other astronomical objects with thousands of visitors. But Neptune, the most distant planet in the Solar...

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