December 17, 1903. On this date, two Ohio brothers – Wilbur and Orville Wright – made the first bonafide, manned, controlled, heavier-than-air flight. It was the first airplane, and it took off at 10:35 a.m. with Orville Wright on board as pilot. He flew their vehicle, called the Flyer, for 12 seconds over 120 feet (about 37 meters) of sandy ground just outside Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
In December, 2014, Venus out briefly after sunset; Mars up the early evening; Jupiter shines from mid-to-late-evening to dawn; Saturn in the southeast predawn; Mercury lost in the sun’s glare.
Tonight, we zoom in on a variable star – a star whose brightness changes – near the bright star Vega in the small but distinctive constellation Lyra the Harp.
ESA announced today (December 16) that it has officially declared an end to the eight-year mission of the Venus Express spacecraft. It lost full contact with Venus Express on November 28, and the spacecraft is expected to fall into Venus’ thick atmosphere and likely be destroyed in the coming weeks.
The mystery of whether Mars has or ever had life got a boost today (December 16, 2014) when NASA announced that its Curiosity rover – which landed on Mars in August, 2012 – has measured a tenfold spike in methane in the atmosphere around the rover.
Many believe Earth’s changing distance from the sun causes the change in the seasons. But that is not the case.
The 2015 Quadrantid meteor shower is likely to produce the most meteors before dawn January 4, although in the glare of the almost-full moon.
Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Photo by Chris Tinker.
Yes, we’re still talking about the predawn sky. Tomorrow we’ll shift into to evening sky. I can’t resist showing you these crescent moons in the east before dawn, during the part of each month when you’ll find them there. Tomorrow morning – December 17, 2014 – the bright star near the moon is Spica in the constellation Virgo.
Unlike mammals, birds have no external ears. The outer ears of mammals help the animal identify sounds coming from different elevations. Mammals’ ears absorb, reflect or diffract the sound waves because of their special structure. But birds are also able to perceive whether the source of a sound is above them, below them, or at the same level. How do they do it?