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The Hot Moon Epidemic Spreads to the Suburbs

A planetary symptom we might call “Enceladus fever” is apparently an epidemic.  Now, we’ve found that it infects some of the Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) beyond the orbit of Neptune.  More and more small bodies are being found with internal heat that has broken out onto the surface.  This is a big surprise.  Small bodies […]

Saturn Still Serving Surprises

The Cassini Spacecraft, three-fourths of the way into its 4-year prime mission, is not running out of new things to see.  Some of the latest discoveries are both awesome and strange. A Hex on the Pole:  As if the south pole of Saturn, with its earth-sized hurricane (picture) were not dramatic enough, the north pole […]

Lunar Dust Is Deadly

A significant fraction of lunar dust could pose deadly risks to future astronauts stationed on the moon, a BBC News report says.  About 1-3% of moon dust particles are too small to be coughed up or removed by the cilia lining the respiratory tract.  These would lodge in the lungs and become inflamed.  As in […]

Did Mars Have a Global Flood?

There’s enough ice under Mars’ southern polar cap to flood the entire planet under 36 feet of water, reports Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  The MARSIS radar instrument on the ESA-NASA Mars Express determined that the ice cap is more than 2 miles thick in places.  According to the report on National Geographic News, traces of possible […]

The Enceladus Problem Heats Up

How can a small icy moon produce hot-water geysers?  That is the Enceladus problem: for a small moon assumed to be 4.5 billion years old to be forcefully gushing out water from its south pole was a great surprise when the Cassini spacecraft first detected the geysers in 2005 (11/28/2005).  Ever since, scientists have been […]

Sun as a Star: How Does It Compare?

Not too many years ago, our sun was described as a common, ordinary star.  More recently, the Type G2 Dwarf Main-Sequence class, of which Ol Sol is a member, is believed to comprise only 5% of all stars.  An important paper in Astrophysical Journal is now revealing that the sun is special within its class: […]

Dynamic Solar System Illuminated in Stunning New Images

Images both striking and beautiful continue to arrive on Earth from remote corners of the solar system.  Arriving as streams of binary digits with energies mere quadrillionths of a watt, received by giant radio dishes then amplified and processed, the results are nothing short of amazing.  Here’s a glimpse of what turned up this week: […]

Theories of the Moon: Looney Tunes?

The TV science channels tell it like a matter of fact: our Moon originated from the coalescing debris of a glancing impact with Earth from a Mars-sized object, sometime long ago.  They even have computer animations to show how it all happened.  How reliable is this theory, though?  This month’s Planetary Report from The Planetary […]

Enceladus Spray-Paints Its Neighbors’ Yards

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is not only Yellowstone unto itself.  Its shares the National Park experience with its neighbors.  The geyser spray coats nearby moons white like snow.  Space.com and National Geographic are calling this a case of “cosmic graffiti.”  How did scientists catch the tagger?     The original paper in Science describes how on […]

The Space Race: Just Staying Alive

“Ad astra!” the sci-fi slogan announces with eternal optimism: “To the stars!”  Medical doctors and astrobiologists are not sure you would want to stay there long, though.  Some recent findings give a dismal picture of the prospects for life – human or bacterial – at least in our solar system, if that can be assumed […]

Moon Origins Not Set in Stone

The leading theory for the origin of the moon has been for some time now that a massive object hit the Earth, and the debris formed the moon.  New Scientist reported one astronomer who doesn’t buy it.  “The collision has to be implausibly gentle,” said Peter Noerdlinger to the American Astronomical Society.  “You practically need […]

Dreams of Planetary Oceans Dry Up

Astrobiologists like oceans.  The vision of life evolving on Earth in a primordial soup drives the quest to find liquid on other worlds.  It doesn’t have to be liquid water: just liquid that stimulates the imagination with visions of exotic life.  Two solar system bodies once considered prime candidates for ocean front property, though, have […]

Mars Life With Bleached Hair

Mars has hydrogen peroxide.  Bombardier beetles use peroxide.  So maybe the Viking landers in 1976 didn’t find life, because they didn’t look for peroxide-based life.  That’s the essence of the reasoning in an Associated Press story circulating on the net (see Breitbart.com).     Reporter Seth Borenstein earns Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for […]

Crisis in Comet Formation Theories

Results from the Stardust mission last week (12/15/2006) are causing quite a stir.  Detailed analysis of comet dust particles from Comet Wild 2, published in Science Dec 15, reveal the wrong stuff.  Scientists found olivine, pyroxene and osbornite – minerals said to form at high temperatures – instead of the cold volatiles expected for an […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Comets as Life’s Lego Jumper Cables

Results of the Stardust mission made the cover of Science this week.1  The Jet Propulsion Laboratory put out a press release that condensed the abstruse papers into a simplistic story built around the L word life.  Publicist David Agle wrote for the Lego generation: Just as kits of little plastic bricks can be used to […]
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