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Here are the top ten articles for the Astronomy Site! These rankings are live and get reset at the beginning of each month, so check back often to see what your fellow visitors are most interested in!
1. New Year's Day to Candlemas – Quiz
Exploration, famous birthdays and ancient festivals in the time between January 1st and Candlemas at the start of February. Here's a little quiz for you that picks out some highlights in this period. How many do you recognize?
2. Canis Minor – the Lesser Dog
Canis Minor is one of Orion's hunting dogs. It trots along behind its master unperturbed by the unicorn (Monoceros), and leaving the hare (Lepus) to the greater dog (Canis Major) to chase. It's a small constellation with not much more to offer than one bright star, but it has a long history.
3. Cosmonauts - Birth of the Space Age
The starter's pistol for the space race was fired on October 4, 1957. It was in the form of a small highly-polished sphere that orbited the Earth every 98 minutes. This was the Soviet Union's Sputnik, Earth's first artificial satellite. It shook up the United States, and there was more to come.
4. Five Astronomy Non-events of 2017
The year 2017 was favored with dire predictions of destructive giant impacts, and the 15 days of darkness “forecast by NASA” was back again. Unusually, there was no sign of the “Mars will look as big as the full Moon” that's been a regular since 2003. But there's also a new non-event.
5. Ptolemy and the Butterfly – M7 and M6
The objects in the Messier catalog that are the farthest south are two star clusters. M6 is also called the Butterfly Cluster and M7 is also known Ptolemy's Cluster. They're splendid objects seen in their glory in the southern skies, but if you live in the far north you can't see them at all.
6. When Does the New Year Begin
Imagine midnight on December 31 – fireworks, friendship and celebration greet a new year. But only if you follow the Gregorian calendar. In the past, a year often didn't start on January 1, and for nearly two billion people it still doesn't. So when does a new year begin?
7. Groundhog Day
February second is Groundhog Day, a day that's a mystery to people outside North America. Even in the USA and Canada, it's more a bit of fun than a holiday. Yet however superficial it is now, it's the offshoot of traditions that began in Europe thousands of years ago.
8. Astronauts – in Memoriam
Traveling into space is an astronaut's dream. However it's a dangerous occupation, both in the realization and in the training. A number of astronauts, almost all American or Russian, have paid the ultimate price for their dreams. Where are their memorials?
9. Cosmic Valentines
Valentine's Day is no assurance that love is in the air. Hearts and flowers aren't guaranteed to come your way. You may or may not get one of the billion valentine cards that are sent each year. But heart shapes are everywhere and anyone can admire them. Here is a cosmic selection for everyone.
10. Cassini-Huygens – the Prime Mission
Saturn: magnificent rings, a planet-sized moon, and dozens of smaller moons. Three spacecraft had flown by before Cassini-Huygens was launched in 1997. But this mission wouldn't just fly by and snap some photos. It was going to get up close and personal.
Be sure to visit the Astronomy Archives for all the articles!
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