Featured curator: Justin Ruckman
Kees Veenenbos uses NASA Mars Orbiter data and Terragen rendering software to create these very realistic-looking martian landscapes. His work has been used heavily by NASA, as well as featured in National Geographic and NOVA.
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Perihelion and Aphelion
The closest point to the Sun in a planet’s orbit is called perihelion. The furthest point is called aphelion. Notice how the planet moves fastest at perihelion and slowest at aphelion.
The time during the year that aphelion and perihelion (when we are closet to the sun) changes over a roughly 100,000 year cycle, known as the Milankovitch Cycle. Our orbit around the sun is not a circle, it is an ellipse with an eccentricity of about 0.0167. This orbit both changes shape and rotates around the sun much like a spirogram tracing out a flower-like shape.
It is summer in the northern hemisphere, a time when people often say things like, “We are closer to the sun than we are in winter.” This is not really true. Summer is a product of the angle at which Earth is tilted, right now Earth is tilted so that the northern regions lean toward the sun. In terms of orbit we are actually at the furthest point Earth gets from the sun.
This has interesting implications in terms of the global climate. This means that right now winters tend to be warm (the planet is closer to the sun) and summers cool (the planet further from the sun). In the big picture this places us in the midst of a global cool cycle, the type of situation that tends to lead to ice ages, like the one we are emerging from.
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A Wide-field view of the Pencil Nebula
NGC 2736, also known as the Pencil Nebula, is located in the constellation Vela about 815 light-years away and is part of the Vela Supernova Remnant. This image of the region of sky around the Pencil Nebula shows a spectacular celestial landscape featuring the blue filaments of the Vela supernova remnant, the red glow of clouds of hydrogen and countless stars. It is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2.
Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2
Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.