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An Asteroid Approaches Your Planet: Roll a d10

Animation of radar images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 acquired on Feb. 6-7, 2017. Credit: ASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR. Animation by J. Major.

Animation of radar images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 acquired on Feb. 6-7, 2017. Credit: ASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR. Animation by J. Major.

It sounds like a surprise challenge posed by the “Dungeon Master” in a game of Dungeons & Dragons but this is sort of what happened on a cosmic scale on Feb. 6, 2017, when the 200-meter (656-foot) -wide asteroid 2017 BQ6 passed by Earth. Using the radar imaging capabilities of the giant 70-meter antenna at NASA’s DSN facility in Goldstone, CA, scientists got a good look at the object as it passed—and it does seem to resemble a tumbling gaming die!

“The radar images show relatively sharp corners, flat regions, concavities, and small bright spots that may be boulders,” said Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who leads the agency’s asteroid radar research program. “Asteroid 2017 BQ6 reminds me of the dice used when playing Dungeons and Dragons. It is certainly more angular than most near-Earth asteroids imaged by radar.”

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Death in Space

Here’s a bit of fun for you: an animated short of ways one could meet one’s end on a space adventure, by professional animator and illustrator Tom Lucas.

Obviously this is more science-fiction than science fact, what with the hungry aliens and all, but you still wouldn’t want to smash yourself in the faceplate with a chunk of asteroid. (Not without some Duct Tape handy, that is.) The timing is great, and I’ll admit to actual LOLs at the end.

Find more of Tom’s work here, including the equally-spacy short “Botanical Nightmare!” (Perhaps Tom should be getting a NASA contract for outreach videos!)

HT to LaughingSquid.com 

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.

The Next Chapter of Philae’s Big Adventure is Here!

A great job by the Philae lander! (ESA/Rosetta)

A great job by the Philae lander! (ESA/Rosetta)

If you’ve been following the animated adventures of Rosetta and Philae from the European Space Agency you may have been wondering when the next episode of Philae’s big adventure would be coming. Well it’s here, and you can find out (again) what happened to the little lander on November 12, 2014 when it made its historic touchdown(s) on comet 67P/C-G.

Currently the exact location of Philae is still unknown, but mission scientists are working on finding out where it is and have hopes of hearing from the lander again as it warms up in coming months.

Watch the previous episode of “Landing on a Comet” here, and see the video above in other languages on ESA’s YouTube page here.

Video: ESA

What is a Neutron Star, Anyway?

Neutron stars are strange cosmic beasts. Stellar corpses that are several times the mass of our Sun but only about the width of Manhattan, they can contain a mountain’s worth of star-stuff within the space of a sugar cube, creating all sorts of weird physics that requires funny-sounding names like “quark-gluon plasma” to even try to describe what’s going on. The video above, created by Munich-based design studio Kurzgesagt (which means “in a nutshell” in German) illustrates how neutron stars form and what we think is happening on, around, and inside them.

See more In a Nutshell videos by Kurzgesagt on YouTube here, and find some interesting neutron star facts below:

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What Do Lunar Phases Look Like From the Other Side of the Moon?

We’ve all seen the Moon go through its phases over the course of a month’s time (give or take a day or two) as it travels in its orbit around the Earth, and you may have even seen the cool animation from the NASA Goddard Visualization Studio showing an entire year’s worth of lunar phases. But have you ever wondered what the Moon might look like from the other side as it goes around our planet? Thanks to a new visualization from NASA Goddard (using mapping data acquired by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) you can get a pretty good idea.
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