There has been much talk this past week about the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon. It made for a brilliant display in the spring sky. Venus and Jupiter are the brightest planets when viewed from Earth, and the timing was perfect as they accented a crescent moon this past weekend, specifically February 25th and 26th. Mercury was also visible low on the horizon at the time of conjunction. They will be closest - in conjunction - on March 15, only 3 degrees apart (six widths of the moon). Great photos and time lapse video have been gathered all week. For a great gallery of some of the best photos, check out universetoday.com.
As the heads of the worlds five largest space agencies meet this week in in Quebec City Canada, many industry leaders will be watching. A ctv.ca article earlier this week went as far as to suggest that Canada could play a key role in a new international space race, with the next sprint to the moon gearing up as an extra-terrestrial gold rush.
They will also address an idea gaining currency in business and scientific circles: that within human reach lies an unfathomable wealth of resources, some of them common on Earth and others so exotic that they could change the way we live.
As Canada has nearly one-quarter of the world's top mining companies, many hope that Canadian firms will be involved with any discussion of lunar exploration. Several countries, including China, have expressed a desire to start mining the moon's resources. The mining industry in Canada is now waiting for the Canadian Space Agency to make its intentions known, while the agency awaits direction from the Canadian federal government.
"When members of the international space community decide to go to the Moon or Mars, the CSA and Canada will be ready to contribute," the agency told The Canadian Press in an email last week. In co-operation with NASA and several Canadian firms, The CSA has already begun developing a number of prototype lunar rovers.
The testing of these prototypes on Earth, with special drills for excavating, has already begun and more tests are planned this summer in Hawaii. The next phase would involve building space-bound rovers -- but the CSA can't move forward without federal approval.
Photographic evidence from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) show signs of stretching and contracting of the lunar surface. These suprising findings demonstrate that the moon is not a as geologically static as once thought. The moon isn't just a solid chunk of rock orbiting around the Earth.
Tom Watters from the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Centre for Earth and Planetary Studies notes "The moon is actually expanding or stretching and being pulled apart in some small areas and by a little bit."
Parallel faults are caused by this stretching, forming valleys or "graben" visible to the LRO.
In indepth discussion of this lunar evolution can be found at NASA's LRO website.