January 3, 2011 - Celestial Body Art

Celestial Body Art Aoelos, the ruler of winds in Greek mythology, lent his name to aoelian geology, the study of landforms shaped by wind. Sand dunes are good examples of aoelian geology, and sometimes the rolling dunes themselves are marked by smaller scale events like dust devils, those rapidly spinning vortices akin to mini-tornadoes. Dust devils are common both on Earth’s deserts and on Mars, which has an arid climate, loose sand, and high winds. In this image by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, spinning dust devils have stirred up light-colored surface sand and uncovered heavier, darker sand beneath, leaving tattoo-like trails. More than once, intense wind from random dust devils has blown off dust that had accumulated on the solar panels of Mars rovers, helping to extend their useful lives.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Weekly Calendar

January 3-9, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 3

Earth at perihelion
Quadrantid meteor shower

1962: NASA publicly announces and names Gemini program
2004: Mars rover Spirit lands

Moon phase Tuesday 4

New Moon 4:03 AM ET
Quadrantid meteor shower

1970: NASA cancels Apollo 20 mission; further production of Saturn V launch vehicles ceases

Moon phase Wednesday 5

1969: Venera 5 launched
1972: President Nixon announces approval to develop the Space Shuttle
2005: UB313 (Eris) discovered, ignites the Pluto-Planet debate

Moon phase Thursday 6


1998: Lunar Prospector launched

Moon phase Friday 7

Neptune 5° south of Moon

1610: Galileo discovers Callisto, Europa, & Io
1964: First power tool for space demonstrated
1968: Surveyor 7 launched

Moon phase Saturday 8

Venus at greatest elongation (47° W)

1587: Johann Fabricius born
1942: Stephen Hawking born
1973: Luna 21 & Lunokhod 2 launched
1987: Challenger debris buried

Moon phase Sunday 9

Mercury at greatest elongation (23° W)

1839: Thomas Henderson publishes distance to Alpha Centauri
1968: Surveyor 7 lands on Moon
1990: STS-32 Columbia launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.