Creative Learning Connection

Educational Resources from a Veteran Homeschool Mom

Category: Science Fun

The End of the Cassini Spacecraft

Next Post – Sept 25

First, a schedule change. I’ve been doing these posts weekly, each Friday since April. But now that my school year is about to start and my responsibilities are increasing, I’m going to change it to every other Monday, alternating it with the posts on my author’s website, www.CatherineJaime.com. So the next post on the www.CreativeLearningConnection.com blog should appear on Monday, September 25, and every two weeks after that.

Enjoying Astronomy

The Starburst Galaxy, Messier #94

I’ve mentioned here before (most recently during last week’s post) that I’m not an astronomer, not even a hobby astronomer (wonder if they call themselves that?). But I have been fascinated by astronomy for a long time.  I think I know enough about it to be dangerous! My sky knowledge is generally limited to being able to pick out three constellations – Orion and the Big and Small Dippers. I enjoy trying to watch meteor showers and eclipses (solar or lunar) when I get a chance. And I love looking at NASA photographs – especially of distant galaxies and other “Messier objects.” That may very well sum up the scientific portion of my astronomy knowledge. (Being a historian by nature, I do know a bit more about the history of astronomy, though it’s a topic I haven’t studied particularly recently, so no fair trying to test my knowledge there!)

The Heavens Declare His Glory

Pillars of Creation

As a creationist, I love the fact that the heavens show us the glory of God. So even though my academic knowledge of the subject is fairly low, my appreciation level is quite high. I have stood under the starry skies in various places throughout the world (something I try to do on every cruise ship I sail on), just to enjoy the magnificence of the view. I don’t have to be able to identify the flowers in a garden to appreciate their beauty and their Creator, and I don’t have to know a ton about what I’m seeing in the sky to appreciate its significance. In order to learn a little more about what I see, I often read the books and blog put out on the Classical Astronomy website. And I very much agree with his tagline – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shewth His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Change of Plans, Again!

So, all of that is my very long introduction into what will probably be a fairly short post. (Though I have thought that before and been totally incorrect!) I actually had another post started for today, but once again the importance of the date changed my mind. (Earlier this week I redid my September 11th post on my author’s website, in order to honor the memory of those who had died on that date sixteen years earlier.)

Cassini Spacecraft

The Launch of the Cassini Spacecraft

Today’s change was for a vastly different type of event – the end of the mission for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. While reading a local newspaper yesterday, I stumbled upon mention of this upcoming event and off I went to learn more.

Cassini’s journey to Saturn began with liftoff from Cape Canaveral in 1997. It ended today with an intentional descent into Saturn’s atmosphere. Cassini has been observing Saturn and its moons since it arrived in that area of our solar system in 2004.  It has been sending data and photographs back to NASA. And while at least most of the scientists at NASA interrupt that data as proof of evolution, creationists can agree to disagree with them. The more information NASA collects about our amazing galaxy, the more we see the hand of God!

The End of the Journey

Rings of Saturn from the Cassini Spacecraft

But whichever side of the creation/evolution you find yourself on, I can strongly encourage you to take a look at some of the wonderful images that can be found on www.NASA.gov. And with the end of the Cassini mission, they have put even more great resources on the site, including (but certainly not limited to):

A Plunge Towards Saturn

Overview of the Cassini Mission

As the Cassini spacecraft finished its twenty year journey of exploration, it was starting to run low on fuel. NASA scientists made the decision to turn the spacecraft towards Saturn so that it would end its days burning up in the atmosphere of Saturn, rather than risking a collision with one of Saturn’s moons. This morning the spacecraft did exactly that, plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere as had been planned.

If you have a few minutes, take a look at NASA’s website and enjoy the views!

Happy star-gazing!

Cathy

Psalm 8:1-9

Book Review: Eclipses Illustrated, Book 1, The Eclipse Experience

No, I’m not planning to turn this blog into a book review site, the last two posts notwithstanding. But this is another book I’ve been reading recently that can be enjoyed by anyone, but particularly homeschoolers.

And with the interest raised by the recent eclipse, now is a good time to enjoy it!

Starburst Galaxy Messier 94

Enjoying Astronomy

First, a disclaimer. I am not an astronomer by any stretch of the imagination. (In fact, when I taught astronomy, it was generally more under the guise of “The History of Astronomy.”) But astronomy fascinates me, as you might have guessed if you read my earlier post on Messier Objects.

Perseid Meteor Shower

Our view of the Perseid Meteor Shower didn’t look quite like this one (which is a 30 second timed delay anyway). But we could dream!

Not too long ago quite a few members of my family had been up too late playing card games and board games. When we were finishing up we realized that the Perseid Meteor Shower that we had been talking about earlier was about to start, so most of us moved out to the driveway and laid down to watch. We only got to glimpse a couple of meteors, before I gave up on the hard ground and headed to bed. But it was still fun to see the ones we did see.

99% v. Totality

And of course, there was the recent eclipse. I was not one of those who thought that being in an area of 99% coverage was going to be almost as good as being in totality. I have been subscribing to the “Classical Astronomy Update” newsletter for long enough to understand that the difference would be substantial.  And we live only 100 miles south of Nashville, so getting to an area of totality would not have been that difficult. (In fact, one of my sons and his wife did exactly that, and invited the rest of us to join them.) But it was a time of difficult choices – another son and his family (young children, too young to safely watch the eclipse) were visiting with us for just a short amount of time. They were departing the next day to head back overseas. So, I made the choice to stay home with them.

One of our views through our little box camera

We certainly didn’t have the same experience as though who experienced totality, but we did enjoy our  experience as much as possible – going outside every fifteen minutes or so to check on the progress. We were happy to have been given two pairs of solar viewing glasses at the last minute (yes, I was one of those people who waited till the last minute to think of glasses, even though I knew better!). We also enjoyed looking at the eclipse through our special box camera.

As the eclipse was peaking for us, my son and I sat outside and enjoyed the remarkable drop in temperatures that had occurred over the hour or so since the eclipse had first begun. Again, not the total experience, but we enjoyed what he had.

A view of the eclipse on the way to totality.

Maybe Next Time

I don’t regret missing the total eclipse, but I’m very glad that not only my son and daughter-in-law got to see it, but also one of my sisters. In fact, my sister, Cheryl Holle, is the one who took the wonderful  eclipse pictures that I’ve included in today’s post – including the one that I used for the title image. I’m glad that they were all able to have the experience. AND I’m already starting to look ahead to the 2024 eclipse. God willing, I will get to see that one from somewhere that is experiencing totality.

Another one of Cheryl’s photos during the total eclipse

The Book Review, Finally

So, what does all of this have to do with a book review? I’m getting there, honestly. The same astronomer who writes the Classical Astronomy Updates (which I strongly recommend for anyone who wants to know more about “astronomy from a Biblical perspective”), Jay Ryan, also has his first two books in his “Eclipses Illustrated” series out. I haven’t bought the second one yet, but for a mere $2.99, I couldn’t resist getting the first one right away. Mr. Ryan does a great job of explaining how both solar and lunar eclipses happen, and gives some great information on upcoming eclipses.

Several of my Favorite Features/Quotes in Book 1

  • The illustrations throughout the book are wonderfully easy to understand.
  • Apparently the word “eclipse” means “to leave or abandon” (Who knew?)
  • Quote: “There are no surprises with eclipse prediction.” As many of us watch as the meteorologists are trying (generally only somewhat successful at best) to predict the paths of the current hurricanes, it’s interesting to me that eclipses can be so well predicted – even well into the future.
  • Mr. Ryan mentions the sad fact that many people will grow old without ever seeing a lunar eclipse (and those are much more common that solar eclipses, so that is sad!)
  • Because the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon, but also about 400 times further away from us, we get to experience total eclipses here on earth.

For all of the creationists reading this who want to learn more about the recent eclipse and future eclipses, I can strongly recommend this book: Eclipses Illustrated, Book 1, The Eclipse Experience. (Non-creationists might still enjoy it for the dates and history, but then it’s “read at your own risk.”)

Happy learning!

Cathy

Messier Objects

Astronomy Fun

Once upon a time I taught a series of classes on Astronomy, or more accurately, the “History of Astronomy.” It was lots of fun, and as with so many of my classes, I learned at least as much as my students, probably more! (And, of course, as a writer, I put what I learned into several different learning packages on CurrClick and on Amazon.)

Painting of Charles Messier

Charles Messier, French Astronomer

Messier Catalog

Along the way to learning so much about astronomers and astronomy, I kept running across references to Messier Objects, or the not so occasional references to numbers from the Messier Catalog (currently M1 through M110).

So it was fun when we finally studied Charles Messier, the French astronomer and comet hunter, who started the whole cataloging system in the eighteenth century. Messier’s Catalog was designed to help himself and other comet hunters distinguish the comets they were searching for from the non-comet objects they were also encountering in the heavens.

NASA Photographs

And, now, courteous of NASA, we can all enjoy bright and colorful views of many of the objects from Messier’s Catalog (as well as other galaxies and nebulae that Messier didn’t catalog)!  NASA describes nebulae as “enormous clouds of dust and gas occupying the space between the stars.” Most of the pictures here were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope or the Spitzer Space Telescope. (You can see more of these great photos at their new website – images.nasa.gov/

Enjoy!

Cathy

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