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Posted on May 1st, 2018

Reaching Orbit – Short Attention Span

Last month I wrote a rather facetious article for those of us who can’t be bothered to read more than a few sentences at a time. Continuing this trend entertains me, so here we go again. Welcome to the short-short version of space in the news. And no – I’m not talking about the short-shorts my dad wore in the 70’s.

TESS is up and at ‘em, launched into space on April 18, 2018. A new generation of planet hunter; it will stalk its prey through 85 percent of the visible sky during its two year mission. Kepler had its eye on small, distant stars. TESS is staying in the galactic neighborhood of 30 to 300 light-years and targeting big mama jamas 30 to 100 times brighter then Kepler’s targets. Enough about TESS, she’s been getting all the attention lately and she’s just as fine as she can be.

What about Steve? People still be looking for Steve. He’s been hard to find and NASA is asking the public for help locating him. This is not an episode of America’s Most Wanted and I’m not wandering through some abandoned building in a trench coat. Steve is a recently discovered atmospheric phenomenon. First witnessed by a group of aurora chaser in Canada and named Steve after the mysterious wall in the animated movie Over the Hedge.

Steve is different from more common auroras. Instead of a curtain of green, Steve is mostly purple with a splash of green. In an effort to find out more about Steve, NASA started a citizen science project by the name of Aurorasaurus, asking for people to submit their photos and the location of Steve sightings. Through observation researchers have found that Steve has similar characteristics as auroras but differs in significant ways, showing up at lower latitudes, lasting a shorter time and is comprised of hot, fast moving particles. Pretty sweet and so mysterious.

TESS and Steve are the new kids on the block and they are getting a lot of attention. Let us not forget the veterans in our ranks. April ushered in Hubble’s 28th birthday. To celebrate, NASA released a Hubble image of the Lagoon Nebula and the massive star at its center. 4,000 light years away and 200,000 brighter than our own star. Happy Birthday to that magnificent son of a scientist!

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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