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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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Incredible 3D Rendering of Pluto’s Icy Alps

It’s only been a day since we got our first glimpse of Pluto’s mountainous terrain from New Horizons but there’s already a 3D video, created by Mattias Malmer. Of course it’s not comprehensively accurate imagery of the region, since there was only that one perspective image to work from, but it gives a fascinating look at what the area might look like from multiple angles. Check it out above and let your Plutonian fantasies run wild (again!)

Are You Ready For Pluto?

Pluto and Charon as seen by New Horizons' LORRI camera on June 25, 2015

Pluto and Charon as seen by New Horizons’ LORRI camera on June 25, 2015 (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

New Horizons sure is! With just over two weeks to go before the first-ever (and I repeat: EVER!) visit to Pluto and its family of moons the excitement has really ramped up exponentially, especially considering the increasingly detailed views of Pluto and Charon that the spacecraft has been capturing on approach. No longer just a couple of bright pixels against a background of stars, the two worlds now show actual detail that can be easily discerned. In other words, things are getting REAL!

It’s only going to be getting better from here – and quickly. As Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern said, “There’s only one Pluto flyby planned in all of history, and it’s happening next month!”

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Watch the Exciting First Trailer for The Martian

The first trailer for The Martian is out, a new film by Ridley Scott based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Andy Weir. (If you haven’t read The Martian you really must check it out – it’s a fantastic “science-reality” adventure about one stranded astronaut’s struggle to survive on Mars and NASA’s attempt to get him back.) After watching this I’m even more excited about it – I think this could spark more space survival movies (à la Gravity) that don’t need to depend on over-imaginative science concepts or alien civilizations as story hooks – real survival on other planets will be dramatic enough!

The Martian will open in U.S. theaters on November 25 October 2!!! The studio switched its opening day to avoid competition with Disney’s Good Dinosaur and the second Hunger Games installment. I’ve got no problem with that! (Source) 

Via The Verge.

Here’s to 50 Years of American Spacewalks

Ed White on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

Ed White on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

Today we mark the 50th anniversary of American spacewalks, or EVAs (for extra-vehicular activity), the first of which was performed by NASA astronaut Edward H. White II in Earth orbit on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini IV mission.

While the United States had been beaten in the spacewalk race by the Soviet Union by almost three months (Aleksei Leonov performed the very first human spacewalk in March of the same year) it was nevertheless an enormous achievement for the country, NASA, and of course for Ed White too!

The video above shows footage of the historic EVA with a narration by White himself. (Sound begins about 30 seconds in.) Sadly, Ed White was killed two years later on Jan. 27, 1967 in the fire that claimed his life and those of fellow Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Roger Chaffee. But his legacy will live on each and every time an American astronaut suits up and opens a hatch to venture out into an alien environment, whether it’s in Earth orbit, on the Moon, on Mars, or somewhere we haven’t even thought of yet!

You can see scans of the original film photos from the Gemini IV mission here on ASU’s “March to the Moon” gallery, and check out NASA’s tribute to 50 years of spacewalks gallery here.

This is What it Would Look Like to Fight Flying Dragons on Titan

Obviously this is a totally-for-fun sci-fi video, but what a video! Created by Oscar-nominated Irish filmmaker Ruairi Robinson, it shows fleets of very industrial-looking fighter skiffs hunting giant flying eels through the skies of some very cloudy planet… the first thought that came to my mind was Titan! (Although Titan is more hazy than cloudy but that’s just getting nitpicky.) Check out the video above… if this ever becomes a feature-length film I know I’ll be buying a ticket for sure.

HT to my Facebook friend and fantasy artist Bob Eggleton.

Credit: Ruairi Robinson. Developed with the assistance of the Irish Film Board.

UPDATE 3/23: This proof-of-concept short may become a feature length movie, thanks to District 9 director Neill Blomkamp and X-Men: Days of Future Past producer Simon Kinberg… and also to all the people on the ‘net who have been raving about it! Read more on The Verge here.


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