MV Blog

DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: astronomy (18)

Distant Moon

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
20 February 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Your Question: Is the Moon getting further away?

The short answer is yes, the Moon is getting further away - it is retreating from Earth by 3.8 cm per year.

Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background
Image: NASA, JPL
Source: NASA, JPL
 
The history of the Moon gives us clues about its future. Over 4.5 billion years ago, a planet-sized body collided with a young Earth. Although most of the impact was absorbed into the still-molten Earth, the collision threw debris into space. A large section of this debris solidified in orbit around Earth and formed our Moon. The Moon has been slowly getting further from Earth since then.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Image: NASA
Source: NASA
 
If we were to fast-forward from the impact event to about 1.2 billion years ago (over 3 billion years after the Moon formed), the Moon was still relatively close to Earth; much more so than it is today. As a result, the Moon’s gravitational effect on Earth was greater, and the tides were 20 per cent stronger than they are today. The Moon would have appeared much larger in the sky, although there was no life on earth equipped to see it.

Earth as seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 Mission Earth as seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 Mission
Image: NASA
Source: NASA
 
If we fast-forward again, this time 600 million years into the future, the moon will have less influence on Earth - ocean tides will be significantly weaker. From Earth the Moon will appear tiny by today’s standards and events like eclipses will no longer be visible.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Moon rocks land at Melbourne Museum

Dynamic Earth: How the Moon formed

Chat with an astronaut

Author
by Pennie Stoyles
Publish date
22 September 2011
Comments
Comments (0)

Today, students from Spotswood Primary School attended Scienceworks to participate in an online conference with NASA astronaut, Rex Walheim. Rex is in Australia as a guest of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) to launch their new exhibition Star Voyager, Exploring Space on Screen.

To coincide with the launch, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development organised an online conference using their Elluminate software. Rex was speaking to students in the ACMI theatre at Federation Square. Scienceworks' Program Coordinator, Bronwyn Quint organised for Spotswood PS students to participate in the session which was projected onto the big screen in the Auditorium. MV Astronomer, Dr Tanya Hill was also on hand to answer questions from the Spotswood students.

Bron & Tanya Bron Quint and Tanya Hill preparing for the online conference (fingers crossed that the technology works).
Image: Pennie Stoyles
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Dr Tanya Hill answering questions from Spotswood PS students Dr Tanya Hill answering questions from Spotswood PS students.
Image: Pennie Stoyles
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Over 100 other schools throughout the state also participated. Many questions were submitted throughout the 45-minute session and those that could not be answered by Rex during the presentation will be posted on the DEECD website.

Astronaut Rex Walheim Astronaut Rex Walheim answering student questions via online conference.
Image: Pennie Stoyles
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We've lent a number of objects to ACMI for the Star Voyager exhibition, including a space glove, a large number of magic lantern slides, a urine collection device and an altitude and azimuth instrument.

Altitude and Azimuth Instrument Altitude and Azimuth Instrument - Troughton & Simms, London, circa 1836 (ST 022216)
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Rex Walheim's Biography

Star Voyager, Exploring Space on Screen.

MV Blog: Lost in Space

Speed mentoring

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
14 July 2011
Comments
Comments (3)

Astronomy is all about looking outward; discovering and piecing together exactly what makes up our Universe. And let's face it, there's a really big Universe out there and in cosmic terms it can make us feel pretty insignificant.

But this July, that changed a little. During the annual scientific meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), held at the University of Adelaide, I organised a session that encouraged astronomers to turn their focus inwards.

  astronomers speed mentoring Astronomers spend time sharing their personal experiences and expertise.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Yes, something strange was going on in this lecture theatre - we called it "Speed Meet a Mentor". The idea was to shuffle through as many conversations as time allowed, so attendees were asked to just use the seats near each aisle for easy mobility.

As the organiser of the event, I was amazed that once people had taken a seat and were paired off, the conversations just started to flow. I had put together a list of conversation starters, which seemed to do the trick. There was no reason to fear that people wouldn't know where to begin - in the end, I didn't even need to explain how it was going to work!

"Speed Meet a Mentor" was an idea that came out of a highly successful workshop organised by the ASA's Women in Astronomy Chapter. The workshop was designed to highlight issues faced by women during their career. But in turn, it generated discussions and ideas that could benefit the whole astronomical community, like this one.

The event was very successful with around 70 people attending. Many of the mentors signed up early, while there was a flood of students at the last minute. The feedback was positive: it was fun and worthwhile. Many even said they would have liked it to have gone longer than the 45 minutes we had stolen from the day's lunch break.

I know the importance of mentoring and am passionate about providing opportunities for people to develop and further their careers by gaining insights from others. I hope that this little experiment may have sparked some new possibilities for learning from each other.

And I must say, many thanks to the Museum's own Dr Andi who has been running such events for many years and offered some much appreciated advice and expertise. It was fun to see my impromptu idea become a reality.

Bright light in the sky

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
1 July 2011
Comments
Comments (0)

As I collected my boys from after school care the other evening, my seven year old stopped in the middle of the playground and cried out “Mum, what’s that in the sky? It looks like a rocket!”

He had stumbled upon the International Space Station, and let me tell you, it really couldn’t be missed. It was shining more brightly than any star and of course, it was moving. We stopped to watch it for a minute or so, as it slowly made its way across the sky before becoming lost in cloud.

International Space Station Sunlight glinting off the International Space Station.
Source: NASA
 

The boys were thrilled, especially when I told them that people were living up on that shiny dot of light. Right now, it’s home to “Expedition Crew 28”, made up of six astronauts who will live on the station from May to September.

We wondered what kind of view they were getting of the Earth. Perhaps looking down on us and seeing the twinkling lights of Melbourne and the other capital cities.

ISS Expedition 28 Crew The Expedition 28 crew members (from left to right): Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergei Volkov and Commander Andrey Borisenko
Source: NASA
 

Maybe, like us, the astronauts were looking forward to dinner. The boys were chuffed to discover that even astronauts can eat Spaghetti Bolognese (a favourite in our household). Of course, up there you have to bolt your dinner plate down or have it float away.

If you haven’t seen the ISS, I really suggest you try. We might have lucked upon it, but there are great websites like Heavens Above that give the precise time and direction for your next chance to see it.

And while you stare up at that bright little light, travelling steadily across the night sky, I encourage you to imagine what it might be like to trade places, just for a moment,with a spacefaring astronaut.

A treat for early risers

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
16 June 2011
Comments
Comments (1)

A rare event happened this morning... when my one-year-old started calling out for Mummy just after 4am, the usual dread of having to face another cold and early start was gone, replaced by the thrill that my little guy was just the perfect astronomer!

This morning we were treated to a total lunar eclipse and it began with a beautiful starry, but certainly cold, morning sky. Just before 4.30am a small chunk was seen to be missing from the top right of the Moon. The first sign that the Earth's shadow had found its target.

Lunar Eclipse The Earth's shadow hit its target.
Image: Tanya Hill
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Lunar eclipses occur on those rare occasions when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in perfect alignment. They only ever happen at the time of Full Moon, when the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Most of the time the Earth's shadow misses the Moon, falling either above or below it, but this morning it was right on track.

By 5am, the Earth's shadow was covering more than half the Moon and a reddish glow was already beginning to appear. The stars was twinkling perfectly, with one of my favourite constellations, that of Scorpius, sitting directly to the left of the Moon, and the centre of the Milky Way right above it. Totality officially began at 5.23am and the Moon was certainly an eerie red colour.

Where does that red come from? Well the only way sunlight can now reach the Moon is by passing through the Earth's atmosphere. That light gets bent and scattered, so only the reddest light can make it through. Particles in our atmosphere, like the volcanic ash that's been annoying so many air travellers these last few days, added to the scattering effect, making the eclipse redder and darker than the last few that I remember.

For those who love statistics, totality was due to last 100 minutes, making it the longest lunar eclipse since 2000, which clocked in at 106 minutes. A rough rule of thumb is that totality generally takes around one hour, but a couple of times each decade we get a good one lasting 90 minutes or more. This was one of those.

Except for those pesky clouds that rolled in just after 6am, blocking the view for those who got up at their usual time. They were obviously in need of my own precious little alarm clock.

In the night sky this month

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
1 December 2010
Comments
Comments (0)

I missed the Leonid meteor shower in November so I was delighted to learn that there's another shower on its way in mid-December. Astronomer Tanya Hill explains more in our monthly Video Skynotes.

Twenty Geminid meteors an hour? Those are pretty good odds for spotting one!

If you prefer your Skynotes in written form, head to the Skynotes page on the Planetarium website.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

Categories