Category Archives: moons

Retrograde Orbits

(note: This animation has no audio track.) – The Open University

Although many moons in the Solar System follow prograde orbits, there are some notable exceptions. The gas giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have several small outer moons that follow retrograde orbits; this means that they orbit their planet in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation. In a retrograde orbit, a moon revolves in its orbit in the opposite direction from that in which the planet rotates about its axis.

Video by The Open University.

More information at https://www.futurelearn.com

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Solstice Illuminated: A Year of Sky

Explanation: Can you find which day is the winter solstice? Each panel shows one day. With 360 movie panels, the sky over (almost) an entire year is shown in time lapse format as recorded by a video camera on the roof of the Exploratorium museum in San FranciscoCalifornia. The camera recorded an image every 10 seconds from before sunrise to after sunset and from mid-2009 to mid-2010. A time stamp showing the local time of day is provided on the lower right. The videos are arranged chronologically, with July 28 shown on the upper left, and January 1 located about half way down. In the videos, darkness indicates night, blue depicts clear day, while gray portrays pervasive daytime cloud cover. Many videos show complex patterns of clouds moving across the camera’s wide field as that day progresses. The initial darkness in the middle depicts the delayed dawn and fewer daylight hours of winter. Although every day lasts 24 hours, nighttime lasts longest in the northern hemisphere in December and the surrounding winter months. Therefore, finding the panel with the longest night will locate the day of winter solstice — which happens to be today in the northern hemisphere. As the videos collectively end, sunset and then darkness descend first on the winter days just above the middle, and last on the mid-summer near the bottom.

Solstice Illuminated: A Year of Sky 
Video Credit & Copyright: Ken Murphy (MurphLab); Music: Ariel (Moby)


Charon and the Small Moons of Pluto

Image Credit: NASAJohns Hopkins U. APLSwRI

What do the moons of 
Pluto look like? Before a decade ago, only the largest moon Charon was known, but never imaged. As the robotic New Horizons spacecraft was prepared and launched, other moons were identified on Hubble images but remained only specks of light. Finally, this past summer, New Horizons swept right past Pluto, photographed Pluto and Charonin detail, and took the best images of StyxNixKerberos, and Hydra that it could. The featured image composite shows the results — each moon is seen to have a distinct shape, while underlying complexity is only hinted. Even though not satisfyingly resolved, these images are likely to be the best available to humanity for some time. This is because the moons are too small and distant for contemporary Earth-based telescopes to resolve, and no new missions to the Pluto system are planned.