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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

1. See Shadows on Jupiter

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Jupiter dominates the evening sky this month, rising at sunset and setting at dawn. On the nights of March 14 and 15, Jovian moons Io and Europa will cross the planet’s disk. When the planet is at opposition and the sun shines on Jupiter’s moons, we can see the moons’ shadows crossing the planet. There are actually 11 of these double shadow transits in March.

2. One Year of Dawn at Ceres

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft gently slid into orbit around Ceres just over one year ago, becoming the first spacecraft to reach a dwarf planet. Since then, the spacecraft has delivered a wealth of images and other data that open an exciting new window to this previously unexplored body in the asteroid belt.

3. The Latest from Saturn

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Days ago, on Mar. 11, 2016, Cassini’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) watched as the plume of gas and icy particles from the moon Enceladus passed in front of the central star in Orion’s Belt. Such observations, known as stellar occultations, provide information about the density and composition of the plume.

4. The Equinox is Upon Us

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March 20 is the vernal equinox–the start of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the start of fall in the southern hemisphere. During the two equinoxes each year, the line between day and night is vertical, so all over the planet, the length of the day and night are nearly equal. For the rest of the year, the Earth’s tilt angles the line between day and night, culminating with the solstices, in which the poles receive weeks of unending sunshine or darkness depending on the time of year.

5. Up Close with a Comet

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Before Rosetta crash lands into comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in September, 2016, it will continue taking pictures and detailed measurements of this mysterious comet to study the origin of comets and how they relate to the origin of the solar system.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.

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