Small World Spotted Far Beyond Pluto
by Ken Crosswell
Astronomers have detected a small world (inset) more than twice as remote as Pluto, lying 12 billion kilometers, or 83 AU, from the sun. (One AU, or astronomical unit, is the mean sun-Earth distance.)
As scientists report online today in Nature, the new object is the first ever found whose orbit (red curve) resembles that of Sedna (orange curve), a far-off body that never gets close to Neptune’s path (outermost magenta circle). Both Sedna and the new world, designated 2012 VP113, therefore differ from Pluto and other members of the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt (turquoise dots), which lie just past Neptune’s orbit.
The object journeys 80 to 452 AU from the sun, never approaching Neptune (30 AU) or Pluto (39.5 AU). The new world is roughly 450 kilometers across, just one-fifth Pluto’s diameter…
(read more: Science News/AAAS)
images: Scott S. Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science
Ancient Mars lake could have supported life, Curiosity rover finds
If the lake supported life, scientists think that it was likely similar to extremophiles found on Earth that thrive in caves and hydrothermal vents.
Saturn’s hexagon is a persisting six sided cloud pattern around the north pole of the planet. It is created by a band of upper-atmospheric winds, and the sides of it are about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long, which is longer than the Earth’s diameter. There’s a hurricane swirling within the hexagon.
(Images by the Cassini spacecraft)
Astronomers have spotted a never-before-seen phenomenon in our solar system’s asteroid belt: a space rock with six tails, spewing dust from its nucleus.
Scientists using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at the summit of Maui’s Haleakala volcano in Hawaii first detected the six-tailed asteroid in August. They dubbed it P/2013 P5 and noted that it looked fuzzier than typical asteroids, which usually appear as tiny points of light. More detailed observations with the powerful Hubble Space Telescope in September revealed a clearer picture of asteroid, showing it had six comet-like tails.
NASA is calling on the space-obsessed to pull out some popcorn and watch the show on Thursday as the ‘comet of the century’ hurtles toward the sun.
The comet, called ISON, has been on stargazers’ radar since late last year when it was seen hurtling towards the sun and showing every sign of passing very close to the centre of the solar system.
If the stars align, the large comet rocketing towards the sun will be putting on a show to delight more than just the world’s astronomers. (NASA)
Saturn’s Moons Dance
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
A quintet of Saturn’s moons dance elegantly above the planet’s famed rings in this photo taken by the Cassini spacecraft and released November 4.In orbit around the ringed planet since 2004, Cassini has offered unparalleled views of Saturn’s rings and moons, including this picture shot from slightly above the plane of the rings.
On the right, the closest moon is Rhea, which is Saturn’s second-largest satellite, and in the center is Enceladus, shining brightly with frost vented from its south pole geysers.
(via: National Geo)