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This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Click for a pdf. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Click for a large pdf file. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A big smile. That was my reaction to seeing the names of Uhura, Spock, Kirk and Sulu on the latest map of Pluto’s jumbo moon Charon. The monikers are still only informal, but new maps of Charon and Pluto submitted to the IAU for approval feature some of our favorite real life and sci-fi characters. Come on — Vader Crater? How cool is that? [click to continue…]

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The Resplendent Inflexibility of the Rainbow

A colorful piece of rainbow begs the question - why Roy G. Biv? Credit: Bob King

A colorful section of rainbow begs the question – why Roy G. Biv? Credit: Bob King

Children often ask simple questions that make you wonder if you really understand your subject.  An young acquaintance of mine named Collin wondered why the colors of the rainbow were always in the same order — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Why don’t they get mixed up?  [click to continue…]

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The Planet Saturn

This portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings was created from images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic

This portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings was created from images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic

The farthest planet from the Sun that be observed with the naked eye, the existence of Saturn has been known for thousands of years. And much like all celestial bodies that can be observed with the aid of instruments – i.e. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the Moon – it has played an important role in the mythology and astrological systems of many cultures.

Saturn is one of the four gas giants in our Solar System, also known as the Jovian planets, and the sixth planet from the Sun. It’s ring system, which is it famous for, is also the most observable – consisting of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs.

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We've never seen a comet as close as this. Taken shortly before touchdown by the Philae lander on November 12, 2014, you're looking across a scene just 32 feet from side to side (9.7-meters) or about the size of a living room. Part of the lander is visible at upper right. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

We’ve never seen a comet as close as this. Taken shortly before touchdown by the Philae lander on November 12, 2014, you’re looking across a scene just 32 feet from side to side (9.7-meters) or about the size of a living room. Part of the lander is visible at upper right. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

With just 12 days before Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reaches perihelion, we get a look at recent images and results released by the European Space Agency from the Philae lander along with spectacular 3D photos from Rosetta’s high resolution camera.  [click to continue…]

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Curiosity conducts test drill at “Buckskin” rock target at bright toned “Lion” outcrop on the lower region of Mount Sharp on Mars, seen at right.   Gale Crater eroded rim seen in the distant background at left, in this composite multisol mosaic of navcam raw images taken to Sol 1059, July 30, 2015.  Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity extends robotic arm and conducts test drill at “Buckskin” rock target at bright toned “Lion” outcrop on the lower region of Mount Sharp on Mars, seen at right. Gale Crater eroded rim seen in the distant background at left, in this composite multisol mosaic of navcam raw images taken to Sol 1059, July 30, 2015. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

On the eve of the 3rd anniversary since her nail biting touchdown inside Gale Crater, NASA’s car sized Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover has discovered a new type of Martian rock that’s surprisingly rich in silica – and unlike any other targets found before.

Excited by this new science finding on Mars, Curiosity’s handlers are now gearing the robot up for her next full drill campaign today, July 31 (Sol 1060) into a rock target called [click to continue…]

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Could We Make Artificial Gravity?

GuideToSpace201

Click on the photo above to go to our Patreon Page to view the video!

It’s a staple of scifi, and a requirement if we’re going to travel long-term in space. Will we ever develop artificial gravity?
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Enhanced-color image from Cassini showing red streaks on Tethys (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Enhanced-color image from Cassini showing red streaks on Saturn’s moon Tethys (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Resembling what the skin on my arms looks like after giving my cat a bath, the surface of Saturn’s moon Tethys is seen above in an extended-color composite from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft showing strange long red streaks. They stretch for long distances across the moon’s surface following the rugged terrain, continuing unbroken over hills and down into craters… and their cause isn’t yet known.

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Eris’ Moon of Dysnomia

Artists concept of the view from Eris with Dysnomia  in the background, looking back towards the distant sun. Credit: Robert Hurt (IPAC)

Artists concept of the view from Eris with Dysnomia in the background, looking back towards the distant sun. Credit: Robert Hurt (IPAC)

Ask a person what Dysnomia refers to, and they might venture that it’s a medical condition. In truth, they would be correct. But in addition to being a condition that affects the memory (where people have a hard time remembering words and names), it is also the only known moon of the distant dwarf planet Eris.

In fact, the same team that discovered Eris a decade ago – a discovery that threw our entire notion of what constitutes a planet into question – also discovered a moon circling it shortly thereafter. As the only satellite that circles one of the most distant objects in our Solar System, much of what we know about this ball of ice is still subject to debate.

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Ceres Resembles Saturn’s Icy Moons

Topographic elevation map of Ceres showing some newly-named craters. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Topographic elevation map of Ceres showing newly-named craters. The highest regions are in red, the lowest in blue. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Ceres’ topography is revealed in full (but false) color in a new map created from elevation data gathered by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, now nearly five months in orbit around the dwarf planet orbiting the Sun within the main asteroid belt.

With craters 3.7 miles (6 km) deep and mountains rising about the same distance from its surface, Ceres bears a resemblance to some of Saturn’s frozen moons.

“The craters we find on Ceres, in terms of their depth and diameter, are very similar to what we see on Dione and Tethys, two icy satellites of Saturn that are about the same size and density as Ceres,” said Paul Schenk,  Dawn science team member and a geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, TX. “The features are pretty consistent with an ice-rich crust.”

Check out a rotation video of Ceres’ topography below:

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Faces of the Solar System

Move over, Pluto... Disney already has dibs on Mercury as seen in this MESSENGER photo. Image credit:  NASA/JHAPL/Carnegie institution of Washington

Move over, Pluto… Disney already has dibs on Mercury as seen in this MESSENGER photo. Image credit: NASA/JHAPL/Carnegie institution of Washington

“Look, it has a tiny face on it!”

This sentiment was echoed ‘round the web recently, as an image of Pluto’s tiny moon Nix was released by the NASA New Horizons team. Sure, we’ve all been there. Lay back in a field on a lazy July summer’s day, and soon, you’ll see faces of all sorts in the puffy stratocumulus clouds holding the promise of afternoon showers. [click to continue…]

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