Welcome back astronomy fans and space buffs. This semester the focus of this section will change just as the stars above change. Where last semester there was a large focus on constellations and deeper sky objects this semester we will turn our sights a little bit closer to home. Expect to see articles on planets, moons, rockets, the auroras, and maybe a little bit about black holes. So without further delay, get ready to turn your eyes to the stars above Mines.
Our planetary neighborhood is a gift. While we have looked out at the stars and found other systems with planets we have yet to find one that compares to our own. While it is certain that there are other planetary groups in this cosmos that mirror our own, for now this is all we have and possibly all we will ever have. For many years the planets have wrongly been pristine spheres where advanced civilizations have thrived in crystalline towers or they have been menacing threats filled with hostile forces that have been itching to pick a fight with Earth. Unfortunately the reality is not as exciting on an immediate level, there are no green men staring up at us from there telescopes on shaped mounds. What is up there is a puzzle of scientific data and possible way stations for further travel to the stars.
Sitting at a distance of a little over one third of the way between the Sun and the Earth is the smallest planet in the current solar menagerie. Mercury is generally very hard to see as it is so close to the sun but for one wishing to see it, the best times are generally right before sunrise and right after sunset depending on its position. Currently the planet is slightly visible right at sunrise before it gets too bright. Mercury is an interesting world since it has had most of its surface eliminated due to prior impacts, this has left the surface mostly metallic. To add to the inhospitableness of this planet, it is nearly tidally locked with the sun so that the days are long and extremely hot while the nights are entirely opposite. Were we to go to Mercury it would be for the intent of observing the sun at a much closer and stable range or possibly for the metals that may be present at the surface in great quantities.
May the stars shine brightly in your skies.
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