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This Beautiful Webcomic Shows Why Our “Mathematical Skies” Have Not Lost Their Wonder

Our newfound knowledge of "what's out there" has not reduced its fascination (Image © Boulet)

Our newfound knowledge of “what’s out there” has not reduced its fascination (Image © Boulet)

People of past civilizations had their own ideas of what the stars in the night sky are… distant campfires, lights shining through holes in a vast blanket covering the Earth, deceased ancestors, countless and constantly-traveling gods… whether or not they really believed these stories or if they were just tales to inspire poets and provide entertainment on dark nights is hard to tell. But one thing is for certain: we now know what those points of light really are, thanks to the past several centuries of hard work by astronomers, scientists, and engineers, and although that may make ancient tales about the stars obsolete it certainly doesn’t reduce the inherent wonder and beauty of the night sky – if anything, it has increased it many times over.

Recently French cartoonist Boulet illustrated his own lifelong fascination with space in a webcomic published on his Bouletcorp.com site. In a Dante-esque fashion he takes the figure of French singer Georges Brassens on a trip across the solar system, showing him why science and rational thought have not chased away fascination and beauty along with “the old gods”, as he sang in a 1964 song (which I was not familiar with.) “Eureka” was not a death sentence for wonder!

It’s a really beautiful comic, with brilliant timing and subtle animations to highlight keep points along the way. Don’t scroll too fast.

You can view the full scrollable webcomic here in English and/et ici in en Français.

HT to Laurie C. for the link.

Cassini Bids Farewell to Dione with Some Fantastic Final Views

Mosaic of Saturn's 700-mile-wide moon Dione made from nine images acquired on Aug. 17, 2015. Saturn itself covers the entire background. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Mosaic of Saturn’s 700-mile-wide moon Dione made from nine images acquired during its “D-5” flyby on Aug. 17, 2015. Saturn itself covers the entire background. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

NASA’s venerable Cassini spacecraft may still have another two years left in its exploration of the Saturn system but on Monday, August 17, it had its final intimate visit with Dione, one of Saturn’s largest natural satellites at nearly 700 miles (1,126 km) across. On that day Cassini passed within 300 miles (480 km) of Dione at 2:33 p.m. EDT (18:33 UTC), not its closest flyby ever but certainly near enough to get some truly spectacular views of the icy moon’s ancient and cratered surface.

Check out some of Cassini’s last close-up images of Dione below:

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Behold the Hidden Colors of Pluto

Enhanced-color view of Pluto (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Enhanced-color view of Pluto (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This newly-released picture of Pluto isn’t quite what our eyes would perceive… but then our eyes aren’t high-tech scientific imaging sensors like the ones aboard New Horizons! An enhanced-color image made from data acquired by the spacecraft’s LORRI and Ralph cameras on July 13, 2015, this view of Pluto shows the many variations in surface compositions across the planet’s visible area. What the compositions are specifically and how they got to be in the places they’re in are questions still being worked on by scientists, so for now we can all just have fun speculating and enjoy the view!

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Another Mountain Range Discovered on Pluto

LORRI camera images of Pluto from July 13 (left) and July 14 (right) – the enlarged area shows a second mountain range on the border of Tombaugh Regio. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. Edit by Jason Major).

LORRI camera images of Pluto from July 13 (left) and July 14 (right) – the enlarged area shows a second mountain range on the border of Tombaugh Regio. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. Edit by Jason Major).

A new image from New Horizons has emerged, showing a new, smaller mountain range on the southwestern border of Pluto’s “heart” region. The image was captured during the July 14 flyby, during which time the spacecraft passed less than 8,000 miles from the planet’s surface.

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Here’s What We Learned About Pluto Today

Pluto's Norgay Montes, 3500-meter-high ice mountains south of the Tombaugh Regio

Pluto’s Norgay Montes, 3500-meter-high ice mountains south of the Tombaugh Regio “heart” feature.

Three days after New Horizons‘ flight through the Pluto system and the data is coming in fast and furious (albeit quite highly compressed!), giving scientists a virtual “toy box” of new findings to make about these distant worlds’ exotic nature. On Wednesday we got our first looks at Pluto’s 11,000-foot-high mountains, now informally named Norgay Montes (making them the first extraterrestrial features to be named after a Nepali) and on Thursday we saw the surface of Charon, where a mountain seems to have been sunk into a cavity of some sort. Today during another press conference from Johns Hopkins University NASA HQ in Washington, DC more of Pluto’s surface was revealed, along with some preliminary findings about its surprisingly-extensive atmosphere. These are some of the highlights…

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Pluto’s Ice Mountains Revealed in Stunning Detail

Enormous ice mountains discovered on Pluto

Enormous ice mountains discovered on Pluto. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

At 3 p.m. EDT today, July 15 2015, from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the New Horizons team revealed to the world the first high-resolution image acquired of the surface of Pluto. This was obtained during the historic July 14 flyby with New Horizons’ “Ralph” camera, and it’s our very first close-up view of this distant world’s fascinating, beautiful, and surprisingly crater-free surface! Of course more will be coming as the days, weeks, and months pass, and many further studies will be done to determine the nature of all of the features revealed, but for now – enjoy.

This is truly an amazing time in space exploration!

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