Thanks to all the information pouring in from NASA’s New Horizons mission, Pluto is making a comeback. As New Horizons principle investigator Alan Stern says, “Pluto is the new Mars” – and that’s not just because of its rising popularity.
The nickname, which Stern credits fellow New Horizons team member Jeff Moore with bestowing, comes in part from several intriguing similarities the distant icy world shares with the famous red planet. Both boast an array of surface and atmospheric puzzles sure to keep scientists intrigued for some time.
“There are really so many ways Pluto reminds us of Mars,” says Stern. Read More
A new chemical process turns carbon dioxide into ethanol using commonly-found catalysts and electricity. In a sense, they’ve figured out a way to put the genie back in the bottle.
The alchemic process of converting greenhouse gases into usable energy is an appealing means of both addressing climate change and providing sustainable sources of energy. Converting carbon dioxide into energy and other useful products has been done before, but the process isn’t efficient or cheap enough to implement at a large scale. Researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, however, say that they have found a chemical reaction that produces hydrocarbons using just copper as a catalyst, and they say it’s quite efficient. Read More
This is what it’s like when stellar winds collide.
An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy has captured the sharpest, clearest image of the Eta Carinae star system. Here, some 7,500 light-years away, two massive stars orbit each other while producing stellar winds that reach velocities over 6 million miles per hour. In the space between the two stars in this binary system, the opposing winds violently collide.
Until now, astronomers couldn’t see what was happening at the point of impact, but the Max Planck team cleverly used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer to image Eta Carinae in unprecedented detail and obtain a first glimpse of this exceedingly turbulent corner of the universe. And by peering into the chaos, astronomers are learning more about the life cycle of massive stars. Read More
ExoMars is set to land on Mars on Wednesday, and if all goes according to plan, it will become the first probe not launched by NASA to successfully land on the Red Planet.
ExoMars is an astrobiology mission co-launched with European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). The goals of ExoMars are to look for signs of life on Mars, inspect the water and environment and study gases and their sources.
The mission is made up of two components: a Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and a Schiaparelli lander. Once they reach on Mars, the two will go their separate ways. TGO will investigate the atmosphere from orbit while Schiaparelli track wind speed, humidity, pressure, surface temperature, and will determine the transparency of the environment. Read More
The middle of October during a presidential election year is a really good time to remember not to take the world so seriously.
Case in point: The organizers of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards announced the finalists for the funniest animal photograph of 2016. The competition, in only its second year, is the antithesis of your traditional, staid wildlife photography contests. It’s a light-hearted competition that showcases the inner comedians in the animal kingdom, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Read More
Far, far past Pluto, the most distant object humanity has ever visited, there’s a tiny world fainter than any seen in that part of our solar system. Its dark orbit reaches a billion miles beyond the former ninth planet. But 2014 MU69, as it’s labeled by astronomers, is just a few dozen miles across — too scant to be spherical.
There’s nothing particularly special about it. Thousands of similarly mysterious and icy worlds lurk in these celestial suburbs. Yet it’s precisely its banality that makes this little prince of a planet so special — 2014 MU69 is made of the very stuff of creation.
And on Jan. 1, 2019, an army of astronomers will turn their gaze to this world for a few hours, as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft blazes by at some 8 miles per second. Read More
Peering into the bowels of earth is not for the faint of heart.
Werner Herzog has never been one to shy away from danger, however, and in his latest documentary, Into the Inferno, the prolific German filmmaker stands right on the precipice of a volcano to give us a glimpse into the boundary between Earth’s surface and the lake of fire that lives below. Read More
New research presented this week at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Pasadena, California adds to our understanding of Venus’ volcanic past, and possibly, present.
Using data from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter, scientists peered through the thick layer of clouds shrouding the plant to analyze the stratigraphy of lava flows discovered on Idunn Mons, a volcano in Venus’ southern hemisphere. With additional radar data from NASA’s Magellan mission, which visited Venus in the early 1990s, the researchers mapped the path the lava flows carved as they moved down the mountain. Read More
Japanese researchers announced Monday that they used stem cells to create viable mouse egg cells entirely in the lab.
Scientists from the University of Kyoto coaxed skin cells into egg cells, which they then fertilized and implanted into female mice to successfully breed a new generation of mice. The technique had a low success rate, but it’s the first time lab-grown egg cells have been used to produce healthy offspring. Read More
The Planet Earth series, originally produced 10 years ago by the BBC, is over 8 hours of the world’s badass natural wonders captured using state-of-art cinematography.
You can still Netflix-binge the original show, tears rolling down your cheek while beholding the all-consuming beauty of terra firma, its exotic inhabitants and the voice of legend Sir David Attenborough. It was the most expensive nature documentary ever commissioned by the BBC, and it took five years to make. Read More