New Horizons Team Pieces Together the Best Images They Have of Pluto’s Far Side

New Horizon's July 2015 flyby of Pluto captured this iconic image of the heart-shaped region called Tombaugh Regio. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. For decades, not much detail was known about the erstwhile planet. We assumed it was a frozen, dormant world.

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New Geography Trivia Challenge From Space

The first image from NASA's new geography trivia contest.


You can now test your knowledge of the world’s geography in a new trivia game on Twitter sponsored by NASA and the astronauts on board the International Space Station. It is kind of like our own “Where In the Universe Challenge” but strictly of images from Earth, and in this contest, there are even actual prizes. Astronaut Scott Kelly started the game this week, which is Geography Awareness Week. His vantage point is perfect for hosting the game, as where else can you get a better view of the various geographical features on our planet than from the International Space Station?

First of all, you have to be on Twitter, and follow Kelly: @StationCDRKelly. He’ll post a link to an image he took, and the first person to correctly identify the place depicted in his photos will win an autographed copy of the picture.

“Expanding our geography knowledge is essential to our economic well-being, our relationships with other nations and the environment,” Kelly said. “It helps us make sense of our world and allows us to make connections between people and places. Space exploration is a global endeavor, and the International Space Station is the result of these connections.”

The new trivia game is a way to engage the public in the activities of the ISS, and the pictures that Kelly, and other astronauts take from the station aren’t all just fun and games. “From the cupola, which is much like a bay window in a house, we are able to take pictures for many scientific reasons, but also to share with the public what we are learning about the planet on which we live,” Kelly said.

See this link for a complete rules of the Geography Trivia from Space contest (pdf).

Kelly launched to the space station along with two Russian cosmonauts, Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka on Oct. 8. He is set to return to Earth March 16, 2011. The space station and its six crew members orbit the Earth more than a dozen times each day, traveling more than 320 km (200 miles) above Earth at 28,000 kph (17,500 mph).

For more info about the ISS, see this NASA webpage.

How Many Oceans are there in the World?

How many oceans are there in the world? This question may not be as easy to answer as you may think. First we need to see the origins of the word ocean. The Ancient Greeks gave us the word ocean and it described what was to them the outer sea that surrounded the known world. Even then the ancients later believed that there were only 7 seas, the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Adriatic, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The number of oceans in the world varies on how you look at it. From the scientific point of view there is only one major ocean called the World Ocean and if you include inland seas such as the Black Sea and Caspian Sea there are 3. The scientific method of counting oceans looks at saline bodies of water that have oceanic crust.

Another way to look at it is to divide the world ocean by the different continents and other major geographic regions it touches. Using this method there are 5 oceans. There is the Atlantic Ocean which separates the American Continents from Europe and Africa. Then there is the Pacific which separates Asia and the Americas. The Southern Ocean is tricky but is named as such because it encircles Antarctica touches Australia and the southern end of South America. The Indian Ocean is named after Indian subcontinent. The Arctic Ocean is named for its location north of all the continents and being the North Pole. Originally only the Southern Ocean was not officially recognized so this only demonstrates how the designation can easily change.

The way you count the oceans can vary depending on your profession or understanding of the Ocean. Either way you look at the large bodies of salt water are very important. They are a major source of food, regulate the Earth’s climate and are the major source water for all life.

So in the end it becomes not so important to know how many oceans there are but what the ocean is and how important it is to life on this planet.

If you enjoyed this article there are several other articles on Universe Today that you will like and find interesting. There is a great article on sea floor spreading and another interesting piece on ancient oceans.

You can also find some great resources on oceans online. You can learn more about oceans currents and how they affect climate. You can also learn about Ocean Biomes on University of Richmond website.

You should also check out Astronomy Cast. Episode 143 talks about astrobiology.

World Atlas