Asteroids- Sometimes called planetoids, asteroids are objects in the Solar System that are smaller that a planet or a planet's moon. Asteroids are thought to be fragments of much larger bodies that broke apart early in the life of a Solar System.
It has been recently discovered that some of these fragments have nearly missed the earth. Since an Earth collision with an asteroid could wipe out life on our planet in a fasion similar to the extinction of the dinosaurs, a world-wide network of observatories is monitoring the skies for asteroids that come near the Earth. Such a fragment could be diverted from a head-on collision with the earth by attaching a rocket to it and nudging it harmlessly toward the Sun.
Birth of stars- Stars are born in diffuse nebulae made up of doubly ionized hydrogen gas which is the building blocks of stars. Star-bearing regions are some of the closest objects to us in the Milky Way. The Orion Nebula which is visible to the naked eye as the third "star" in Orion's scabbard is actually the Great Orion Nebula where many very young stars have been born.
Comets- A temporary visitor to the Solar System that falls towards our Sun from a cloud of comets at the edge of the solar system. Comets are thought to be "dirty snowballs". They can form a tail when their gases are warmed as they approach the sun.
Constellations- An association of stars appearing as a recognizable figure in the night sky. Star charts connect stars into patterns, but astronomers use coordinates similar to latitude and longitude to find their way in the night sky.
Galaxy- A giant aggregate of billions of stars, interstellar gas, and dust. The history of the observation of star systems outside our Milky Way galaxy dates back to the Persian astronomer Abd-al-rahman al-Sufi who mentions the Andromeda Galaxy as "a little cloud" 954 years after the birth of Christ. But it was not until 1924 that it could be proved beyond a doubt that this brightest of all galaxies the Andromeda, is in fact an island universe outside the Milky Way.
Galileo- Galileo is the first man recorded to have used a telescope to observe objects that are not on the earth. His discovery of the four primary moons of Jupiter are named the Galilean moons.
Magnitude- The brightness of stars is rated in orders of magnitude. A star with a magnitude rating of "1" falls in the brightest star category. A second magnitude star is half as bright.
Newton, Isaac- Renaissance scientist par excellance, Isaac Newton invented the first telescope to use mirrors, in addition to his renowned laws of gravity. These laws describe the celestial mechanics of a pre-Einstienian Universe commonly referred to as the "Newtonian Universe". It is the Laws of the Newtonian Universe that made manned space travel possible.
Newtonian telescope- Isaac Newton invented the reflecting telescope which consists of a primary mirror focusing a cone of light into a secondary mirror through which an image can be viewed at an eyepiece.
Planet- A non-stellar body which orbits a star and shines from the light it reflects from that star. The weather on planets in our own solar system is visible from Earth based telescopes like Windowpane Observatory. Planets have satellites or moons much like the Earth's moon. Planets are also visible from Earth-based telescopes. The first person to see the brightest moons of Jupiter was Galileo.
Short-focus telescope- A short-focus telescope is a telescope whose focal ratio is small. A small focal ratio causes a reflecting telescope to be physically shorter that a long focus telescope. A shorter focal ratio means that objects are bigger and brighter when observed.
Short-term event- Short-term astronomical events are transient phenomena occurring in the skies over a brief period of time.
Sonoran Desert- The Sonoran Desert extends up from northern Mexico into Southern California and Arizona. Known for its dry, clear climate, the Sonoran Desert is resplendent with observatories such as Palomar and Kitt Peak. Eighty miles southwest of Kitt Peak is Windowpane Observatory in Ajo, Arizona; gateway to Organ Pipe National Monument and part of a United Nations protected biosphere. This pristine desert is home to many unique species of plants and animals and is a mecca for wildlife biologists.
Star gravesights- When a star reaches the end of its life it collapses upon itself. This implosion results in an explosion. If the star novas a gas still visible in telescope marks the gravesight. If the star supernovas this explosion is visible across hundreds of millions of light years of space. A supernova may leave massive clouds of glowing gas visible from earth.
Visual Observatory- An observatory like Windowpane Observatory where astronomy is performed in the tradition Galileo and Isaac Newton. In a visual observatory, the human eye, not electronic instruments, is relied upon. Visual astronomy is relegated to the science of discovery where quick observation with the human eye can reveal the presence of new comets, stars exploding inside galaxies (supernovae) or new asteroids coming close to the earth.