Pluto’s Newly Discovered Moons Get Official Names

by Andrew Fazekas (July 2013)

Formally approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the governing body that officially names celestial objects,  P4,  which is 15 miles (20 kilometers) across, has been named Kerberos, after the three-headed dog of ancient Greek legend. P5, at 20 miles (30 kilometers) in diameter, will now be known as Styx, after the mythological river that leads to the realm of the dead.

The new cosmic recruits join the family Pluto’s three other moons–Charon, Nix and Hydra–all named for characters associated with the Underworld of Greek and Roman mythology…

(read more: National Geographic)

images: illustration - NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI); and photo - NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)

Astrophile:  Tour the Lava Lakes of Io
by Jacob Aron
Take a trip to Io, one of Jupiter’s many moons, and you will find pools of boiling hot lava nestled among the erupting peaks of raging volcanoes. Welcome to the Lake District from hell.
Now researchers have pored over snapshots taken by a passing space probe to make freshly detailed descriptions of three of Io’s infamous hotspots: Pillan, Wayland Patera and Loki Patera.
They found that each one has its own unique eruption style. The work not only helps flesh out our understanding of the dynamics of this malevolent moon, but could also offer a glimpse of what the early, highly volcanic Earth was like.
Io traces an oval-shaped orbit around the giant planet Jupiter, so it experiences varying gravitational forces that periodically squeeze the moon’s rocky interior. This generates so much heat that Io is the most geologically active object in the solar system…
(read more: New Scientist)
image: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Astrophile:  Tour the Lava Lakes of Io

by Jacob Aron

Take a trip to Io, one of Jupiter’s many moons, and you will find pools of boiling hot lava nestled among the erupting peaks of raging volcanoes. Welcome to the Lake District from hell.

Now researchers have pored over snapshots taken by a passing space probe to make freshly detailed descriptions of three of Io’s infamous hotspots: Pillan, Wayland Patera and Loki Patera.

They found that each one has its own unique eruption style. The work not only helps flesh out our understanding of the dynamics of this malevolent moon, but could also offer a glimpse of what the early, highly volcanic Earth was like.

Io traces an oval-shaped orbit around the giant planet Jupiter, so it experiences varying gravitational forces that periodically squeeze the moon’s rocky interior. This generates so much heat that Io is the most geologically active object in the solar system

(read more: New Scientist)

image: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Tiny New Moon Discovered Around Neptune, Only Last Year
The newly discovered moon is the 14th in Neptune’s orbit
by Miriam Kramer
The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a small, never-before-seen moon around Neptune, boosting the giant blue planet’s total satellite count to 14 satellites, new photos reveal.
The newfound Neptune moon — called S/2004 N 1 — was discovered July 1 during a fresh analysis of older Hubble Space Telescope images, scientists said. The newly discovered satellite is Neptune’s smallest known moon and is just 12 miles (19 km) wide.
Hubble telescope scientists announced the new Neptune moon’s discovery July 15, 2013). The small satellite wasn’t easy to find…
(read more: Scientific American)
image: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Tiny New Moon Discovered Around Neptune, Only Last Year

The newly discovered moon is the 14th in Neptune’s orbit

by Miriam Kramer

The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a small, never-before-seen moon around Neptune, boosting the giant blue planet’s total satellite count to 14 satellites, new photos reveal.

The newfound Neptune moon — called S/2004 N 1 — was discovered July 1 during a fresh analysis of older Hubble Space Telescope images, scientists said. The newly discovered satellite is Neptune’s smallest known moon and is just 12 miles (19 km) wide.

Hubble telescope scientists announced the new Neptune moon’s discovery July 15, 2013). The small satellite wasn’t easy to find…

(read more: Scientific American)

image: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Sound and light scattering off a rotating object puts new twist on classic phenomenon

Here’s how the Doppler effect works: When a noisy object is moving toward you, its sound waves bunch up, producing a higher frequency, or pitch. Conversely, as soon as the object is moving away from you, the sound waves stretch out, and the pitch lowers. The faster the object, the greater the pitch change.

The Doppler effect occurs for light as well as sound. For instance, astronomers routinely determine how fast stars and galaxies are moving away from us by measuring the extent to which their light is “stretched” into the lower frequency, red part of the spectrum. Redshifts like this were famously used in the 1920s to infer that most stars and galaxies are moving away from us and that the universe must be expanding…

An Alternative Route to Oxygen in Space?
Researchers have figured out a way to break a carbon dioxide molecule with high-energy UV light and get molecular oxygen. Their results identify an unexpected pathway to oxygen which is reminiscent of the “Great Oxidation Event” that turned Earth into a living planet, and could help us understand how Earth’s atmosphere — and other planetary atmospheres — formed.
read the paper: http://scim.ag/1pQndPG 
image: NASA/Reto Stöckli

An Alternative Route to Oxygen in Space?

Researchers have figured out a way to break a carbon dioxide molecule with high-energy UV light and get molecular oxygen. Their results identify an unexpected pathway to oxygen which is reminiscent of the “Great Oxidation Event” that turned Earth into a living planet, and could help us understand how Earth’s atmosphere — and other planetary atmospheres — formed.

read the paper: http://scim.ag/1pQndPG

image: NASA/Reto Stöckli

Big History examines our past, explains our present, and imagines our future. It’s a story about us. An idea that arose from a desire to go beyond specialized and self-contained fields of study to grasp history as a whole. This growing, multi-disciplinary approach is focused on high school students, yet designed for anyone seeking answers to the big questions about the history of our Universe.

The Big History Project is a joint effort between teachers, scholars, scientists, and their supporters to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to knowledge to lifelong learners around the world…

Interstellar chemical resembles building blocks of life
Newfound molecule has branched structure akin to amino acids’
by Beth Mole



A cold cloud of gas and dust near the center of the galaxy may create the molecular ingredients for life.
By searching the cloud called Sagittarius B2, researchers found the first branched organic chemical discovered in interstellar space: isopropyl cyanide. Its branched structure resembles that of many amino acids, fundamental components of life on Earth that link together to form proteins. The discovery, reported in the Sept. 26 Science, hints that compounds essential to life may arise in the mass of molecules between the stars before making their way to Earth and other planets.
(via: Science News)
photo: ESO/APEX, MSX/IPAC/NASA

Interstellar chemical resembles building blocks of life

Newfound molecule has branched structure akin to amino acids’

by Beth Mole

A cold cloud of gas and dust near the center of the galaxy may create the molecular ingredients for life.

By searching the cloud called Sagittarius B2, researchers found the first branched organic chemical discovered in interstellar space: isopropyl cyanide. Its branched structure resembles that of many amino acids, fundamental components of life on Earth that link together to form proteins. The discovery, reported in the Sept. 26 Science, hints that compounds essential to life may arise in the mass of molecules between the stars before making their way to Earth and other planets.

(via: Science News)

photo: ESO/APEX, MSX/IPAC/NASA

What Is the Universe? Real Physics Has Some Mind-Bending Answers
Science says the universe could be a hologram, a computer program, a black hole or a bubble—and there are ways to check.
by Victoria Jaggard

The questions are as big as the universe and (almost) as old as time: Where did I come from, and why am I here? That may sound like a query for a philosopher, but if you crave a more scientific response, try asking a cosmologist.
This branch of physics is hard at work trying to decode the nature of reality by matching mathematical theories with a bevy of evidence. Today most cosmologists think that the universe was created during the big bang about 13.8 billion years ago, and it is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. The cosmos is woven into a fabric we call space-time, which is embroidered with a cosmic web of brilliant galaxies and invisible dark matter.
It sounds a little strange, but piles of pictures, experimental data and models compiled over decades can back up this description. And as new information gets added to the picture, cosmologists are considering even wilder ways to describe the universe—including some outlandish proposals that are nevertheless rooted in solid science…
(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)
image: NASA, ESA, SAO, CXC, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

What Is the Universe? Real Physics Has Some Mind-Bending Answers

Science says the universe could be a hologram, a computer program, a black hole or a bubble—and there are ways to check.

by Victoria Jaggard

The questions are as big as the universe and (almost) as old as time: Where did I come from, and why am I here? That may sound like a query for a philosopher, but if you crave a more scientific response, try asking a cosmologist.

This branch of physics is hard at work trying to decode the nature of reality by matching mathematical theories with a bevy of evidence. Today most cosmologists think that the universe was created during the big bang about 13.8 billion years ago, and it is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. The cosmos is woven into a fabric we call space-time, which is embroidered with a cosmic web of brilliant galaxies and invisible dark matter.

It sounds a little strange, but piles of pictures, experimental data and models compiled over decades can back up this description. And as new information gets added to the picture, cosmologists are considering even wilder ways to describe the universe—including some outlandish proposals that are nevertheless rooted in solid science…

(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)

image: NASA, ESA, SAO, CXC, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

Strong Solar Flares This Weekend A Big Double Wammy

(AURORA BOREALIS MAY BE VISIBLE TONIGHT!!!)

by Laura Geggel

Two powerful solar storms arriving at Earth today have captured the public’s attention for their potential to spark amazing auroras, but scientists say there’s another reason to watch. The solar double whammy is actually somewhat rare.

The particles from the two flares could interact as they head toward Earth, and researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said they are monitoring the situation.

The sun unleashed a medium-sized flare on Monday (Sept. 8) followed by a second, larger flare, called an Earth-directed X-class flare, on Wednesday (Sept. 10). Both are from the same active sunspot region (Active Region 2158) and are directed at Earth, said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center, during a news conference yesterday (Sept. 11, 2014)…

(read more: Live Science)

images: Solar Dynamics Observatory - NASA and Accuweather

NASA Helps Unravel Mysteries of Venusian Atmosphere

by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Underscoring the vast differences between Earth and its neighbor Venus, new research shows a glimpse of giant holes in the electrically charged layer of the Venusian atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The observations point to a more complicated magnetic environment than previously thought – which in turn helps us better understand this neighboring, rocky planet.

Planet Venus, with its thick atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, its parched surface, and pressures so high that landers are crushed within a few hours, offers scientists a chance to study a planet very foreign to our own. These mysterious holes provide additional clues to understanding Venus’s atmosphere, how the planet interacts with the constant onslaught of solar wind from the sun, and perhaps even what’s lurking deep in its core…

(read more: NASA - Goddard)