Seeing and Navigating the Sky

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Observing the Moon and the Sun
Episode 4 of Our Night Sky Series
Charting the motions and changes of the sun and moon may be humankind's oldest astronomical activity. Discover how both objects offer rich opportunities for study. Also learn the precautions to take when observing the sun, which is the only star that can be seen up close and in detail.
Super-Earths or Mini-Neptunes?
Learn how a sensitive new instrument led the way in finding planets smaller than the Jupiter-sized giants that dominated the earliest exoplanetary discoveries. Halfway in size between Earth and Neptune, these worlds have uncertain properties. For clues about their nature, consider how our solar system formed.
The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know
As recently as 1990, it seemed plausible that the solar system was a unique phenomenon in our galaxy. Thanks to advances in technology and clever new uses of existing data, now we know that planetary systems and possibly even a new Earth can be found throughout galaxies near and far.…
The Fall Sky
Episode 8 of Our Night Sky Series
Navigate your way around the autumn sky from the Northern Hemisphere, discovering how the classical myth of Andromeda ties together the stories of the nearby constellations of Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cepheus, Pegasus, and Cetus. The sights include the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large galaxy to our own.
Resonance—Surprises in the Intricate Dance
Resonance happens whenever a small periodic force produces a large effect on a periodic motion--for example, when you push a child on a swing. Learn how resonance due to gravitational interactions between three bodies can lead to amazing phenomena with planets, asteroids, and rings of planets.
Living with a Giant Star
In billions of years, the Sun will expand into a red giant, possibly engulfing Earth. Learn how planet-finding techniques give astronomers insight into the processes inside giant stars. Then study the planets around these behemoths for clues about Earth's ultimate fate.
How to Find an Exoplanet
Given the extreme faintness of a planet relative to the star it orbits, how can astronomers possibly find it? Learn about direct and indirect methods of detection. As an example of the indirect method, discover why a planet causes a star's position to change, providing a strategy for locating exoplanets…
Why Study Exoplanets?
Learn about the exciting mission of exoplanetary science--the study of planets orbiting stars beyond the Sun. Review the eight planets in our solar system, which provide a baseline for understanding the more than 1,000 worlds recently discovered in our region of the Milky Way galaxy.
Observing the Planets with a Telescope
Episode 5 of Our Night Sky Series
The rings of Saturn, the bands of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, the polar caps of Mars: these and other planetary features are visible through a small telescope. Learn when viewing opportunities arise for each of the planets and what sights await the dedicated observer.
The Strangest Force
Begin your exploration of gravity with Isaac Newton and the famous story of the apple. Why was it such a breakthrough to connect a falling apple with the faraway moon? Review the essential characteristics of gravity and learn why small asteroids and large planets have such different shapes.
Stellar Rotation and Planetary Revolution
Trace Professor Winn's own search for the subtle signs that tell whether a star has a tilted axis. Discover why this is an important clue in the mystery of misplaced giant planets. Also hear how he chanced into the field of exoplanetary science.
Hubble's Legacy and Beyond
Episode 12 of Experiencing Hubble
Finish the course by looking at the future of Hubble and the next generation of space telescopes. Focus in particular on the search for extrasolar planets, how they are found, and the role Hubble and other telescopes play in extending our knowledge of possibly earthlike worlds.