NASA Podcasts

What’s Up for July?
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What’s Up for July

Hello and welcome. I’m Jane Houston Jones at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

2009 is International Year of Astronomy, and each month this year we’re showcasing a great celestial object. This month it’s our Milky Way galaxy.

Galileo aimed his telescope towards some of the fuzzy patches of our galaxy and discovered they were made of stars. Using Ptolemy’s second-century catalog of stars as a starting point he observed several well-known star clusters, like the Beehive Cluster and the Pleiades.

Ptolemy had identified the six brightest stars in the Pleiades, but Galileo saw 36 stars through his telescope.

He drew the stars using four different sizes to distinguish their different brightnesses, and he published his findings in 1610.

Through the next two centuries, astronomers used bigger and bigger telescopes to study and map the Milky Way galaxy.

They observed nebulae, clusters and even areas where no stars could be seen. Today, spacecraft and orbiting telescopes join ground-based observers to learn more about our galaxy.

ESA’s recently-launched Herschel mission will explore the earliest stages of star and galaxy birth in the universe and will help answer questions about how our own Sun and Milky Way galaxy came to be.

The Spitzer Space Telescope created the most detailed infrared picture of our galaxy ever made.

And Chandra’s images of the central region reveal white dwarf and neutron stars and black holes in a fog of hot gas.

From a dark sky you’ll see the Milky Way rising in the East and spanning the sky from north to south after 10 p.m. local time.

Back in our own solar system, look for Saturn near the western horizon. And look for Jupiter rising in the east about 10 o’clock as the Milky Way spans the sky.

You can learn all about NASA’s missions at

That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.

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