NASA plays along with each new Cosmos episode, posting photos, stories, and projects relevant to the episode. This week is an exploration of how scientific theory is used to predict events on the cosmic scale.
Venus transited the sun in 1882, then again 2012. Each time it was met with enthusiasm and curiosity, making headlines worldwide. Observations from 1882 helped determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun, 93 million miles more commonly known as an Astronomical Unit (AU).
The Kuiper Belt is a ring of icy bodies and dwarf planets just outside Neptune, at 30 to 55 AU. The Oort Cloud contains 0.1 to 2 trillion icy bodies between 5 and a hundred thousand AU from Sun. Disrupted objects fall in to the inner solar system as long-period comets. The most famous of these comets is Halley's Comet.
Photograph of Comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT), taken by the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona on May 7th, 2004.
More science was used in the development of rockets. While that isn't a shocking revelation, but I'll never pass up an excuse to look at pretty launch photos, and luckily NASA doesn't pass up an excuse to share them.
Finally, looking ahead, the next major event for our galaxy will be its collision with nearby Andromeda in 4 billion years. As an event that hasn't happened yet, NASA needed to rely on an illustration of what our night sky might look like after our sun gets tossed into a new part of the galaxy.
All images credit NASA.