AstroFest had been convened in London annually since 1992, but in its 30th year a global pandemic was raging. Undaunted, the Astronomy Now folk took European AstroFest into cyberspace as Worldwide AstroFest. Several events were planned, the first on February 18th for “Destination Mars”.
Pluto is smaller than our Moon, but it's the biggest known dwarf planet. On the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt, the Sun is so far away it would look like a bright star from there. And Pluto can get so cold that its atmosphere freezes and falls to the ground.
Where do comets come from? The Oort Cloud is home to a trillion comets at the edge of the Solar System, nearly half way to the next star. Sometimes they get kicked out and sometimes they come to visit the inner Solar System.
The Solar System's large moons tend towards the weird and wonderful, and Triton is no exception. It has ice volcanoes, a strange “cantaloupe terrain”, and crazy seasons. It's the only large moon to orbit in the wrong direction, so it didn't form near Neptune. But where did it come from?
How does the composition of a star affect the temperature? In 1925 a young woman solved this puzzle in her doctoral thesis. Her analysis was a great breakthrough in astrophysics. Otto Struve described it as “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”
The Herschel Space Observatory is the largest telescope ever sent into space. It was an infrared telescope named in honor of William Herschel who discovered infrared radiation, and his sister Caroline who worked with him. What's infrared? Who launched the telescope? What did we learn from it?
Through the vision and dedication of Edward Pickering, Harvard College had one of the world's top observatories. Pickering had a secret weapon: a team of women computers. One of them was Mina Fleming who began her employment as a housekeeper and ended it as an astronomer of international repute.
While World War I was tearing Europe apart in 1915, a German physicist presented a theory that would shake up the way we see the Universe. The physicist was Albert Einstein, his face still unknown to the world, his name not yet a synonym for genius. How did a solar eclipse in 1919 change all that?
Johannes Kepler gave the first accurate description of the Solar System. As he did his work, he struggled with poverty, insecurity and bereavement in troubled times. Religion and warfare were tearing Europe apart, but Kepler never gave up his quest to understand the cosmos.