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Here’s Your Chance to Name a Crater on Mercury!

Artist’s rendering of MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury. (NASA/JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY/CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON)

Artist’s rendering of MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury.
(NASA/JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY/CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON)

On March 18, 2011, MESSENGER became the first human-made spacecraft to enter orbit around Mercury. Now almost four years, eight billion miles, and over 260,000 images later, MESSENGER is nearing the end of its operational life.

To commemorate the many achievements of the mission, scientists from NASA and the MESSENGER teams at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution for Science are giving people around the world the opportunity to name five craters on Mercury — names which, once selected, will become official through the IAU!

Read the rest of this article here.

John Lennon Memorialized with a Crater on Mercury

Mercury's Lennon crater as seen from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution

Mercury’s Lennon crater as seen from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft in January 2013.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution

33 years after his death, John Lennon’s name has been officially given to a crater on Mercury. Imagine that.

The 95 km (59 mile) wide Lennon crater is one of ten newly named craters on the planet, joining 114 other craters named since NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft’s first Mercury flyby in January 2008.

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Vote to Name Pluto’s Moons!

"Would ya give these guys a name already?"

“Would ya give these guys names already?”

I’ve written about this a couple of times before and put up polls here on Lights in the Dark, but now it’s actually semi-official: you can vote on the names for Pluto’s newest moons!

(Looks like they may have taken some of our earlier suggestions too!)

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Here’s Something Else to Vote On: Names for Pluto’s Newest Moons!

Hubble image of the newly-expanded Pluto family (NASA, ESA and M. Showalter/SETI)

Since we’re all in the democratic mood here today in the U.S., how about another chance to put your vote in on something: names for Pluto’s newest moons!

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Why Did Pluto Lose Its Planet Status?


My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine…… um… Nine…………. Just Served Us Nachos?

Artist’s vision of Pluto’s surface. Image: NASA

Like it or not, everyone’s favorite far-flung world Pluto is no longer considered a full-fledged planet, at least not in the International Astronomical Union’s book. It’s now a dwarf planet, sharing its status with other icy worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune (as well as an overgrown asteroid called Ceres.) But why was Pluto demoted in the first place? What prompted the astronomy community to scrutinize Pluto’s credentials and make a decision that upset millions of people worldwide (not to mention more than a few grade-school classes)?

Universe Today shares an informative article regarding this, along with a video created by Christian Ready (above). Read the article here.

Personally, I’m ok with it either way. Regardless of what we call it Pluto is still a fascinating world deserving of our investigation. And if anything, it’s gotten it even more attention over the past several years than it ever got since its discovery! Not bad for a chilly little planet – er, dwarf planet –  over 5 billion km away.

For more on the IAU’s controversial 2006 decision, click here.

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