Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Pluto Time


After traveling 3 billion miles I would have guessed Pluto would be almost dark. Turns out it’s not quite as dark as I thought.

From NASA (link is below):

Just how dim is the sunlight on Pluto, some three billion miles away? While sunlight is much weaker than it is here on Earth, it isn’t as dark as you might expect. In fact, for just a moment during dawn and dusk each day, the illumination on Earth matches that of high noon on Pluto.

We call this “Pluto Time”. If you go outside at this time on a clear day, the world around you will be as dim as the surface of Pluto.

It’s always Pluto Time somewhere, and NASA wants to see your view, using a new interactive widget that provides the approximate time, based on your location. The tool also allows you to set reminders for upcoming Pluto Times.

Go out and see what Pluto Time looks like! Take a photo during your Pluto Time – preferably with a local landmark – and share it on social media with #PlutoTime. We’ll highlight some of the most interesting shots from around the world and combine your photos into a mosaic image of Pluto and its moons to be unveiled in August.

Read more. . .

So I’ve just got to try this out and you can too. Just go here. I’ll post my It’s #PlutoTime picture when I get it. The sky is supposed to be clear which it isn’t at the moment.

Thanks NASA this will be fun.

Here’s how to do it.

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Supernova Animation

A nice animation of a Type 1a Supernova. The Type 1a isn’t a giant star exploding, rather it is a smaller white dwarf star pulling matter off a larger companion until the smaller star accumulates enough matter, around 1.44 solar masses, so the star can no longer support its weight with electron degeneracy pressure – that’s when things go bad.

A white dwarf star is what our Sun will become in the distant future. Since it does not have a binary companion it will not become a supernova, just a super-dense remnant.


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Kepler Sees Neptune’s Dance

Seventy days of Kepler spacecraft observations in the K2 mission provide for a look at Neptune’s dance with a couple of its moons.

Neptune appears on Day 15, the moon Triton shows up quite well. The YouTube description says some can see the moon Nereid at 24, I cannot.


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ESA, France’s space agency CNES and the German aerospace centre DLR inaugurated the Airbus A310 ZERO-G refitted for altered gravity by running 12 scientific experiments this week.

The French company Novespace has conducted “parabolic flights” for more than 25 years. By flying the parabolic patterns at around 50 degrees up and down a brief period of weightlessness is created at the top of the curve. As the plane comes “over the top” forces on everything in the plane (people included) cancels out and weightlessness is achieved for a brief period.

We’ve all see the videos, what I seldom thought about is what happens at the bottom of the curve. When the plane “bottoms out” and starts climbing the forces on everything in the plane is about 2G.

This particular plane is new being acquired in 2014 replacing an Airbus A300. You won’t find many seats in the passenger area, you will find padded walls so people do not get hurt during the weight/weightless cycles, sick maybe, but not hurt.

Image: ESA

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Kids Can You Draw?

The CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite or CHEOPS set to launch in 2017 will measure the bulk density of exo-planets from the size of super-Earths to around Neptune already known to be in orbit around stars. The mission will accomplish this by using ultra-high precision photometry.

ESA is holding a fun contest open to kids ages 8 to 14 and the winners (around 3,000) will get their entries engraved on metal plaques that will fly on Cheops. Very cool.

The video gives the details also available below (and on the video site):
Continue reading

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Zombie Stars


NuSTAR looked towards the center of the galaxy and the black hole at the galactic center and look what it found:

From NuSTAR:

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. The smaller circle shows the area where the NuSTAR image was taken — the very center of our galaxy, where a giant black hole resides. That region is enlarged to the right, in the larger circle, to show the NuSTAR data.

The NuSTAR picture is one of the most detailed ever taken of the center of our galaxy in high-energy X-rays. The X-ray light, normally invisible to our eyes, has been assigned the color magenta. The brightest point of light near the center of the X-ray picture is coming from a spinning dead star, known as a pulsar, which is near the giant black hole. While the pulsar’s X-ray emissions were known before, scientists were surprised to find more high-energy X-rays than predicted in the surrounding regions, seen here as the elliptical haze.

Astronomers aren’t sure what the sources of the extra X-rays are, but one possibility is a population of dead stars.

The background picture was captured in infrared light by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

The NuSTAR image has an X-ray energy range of 20 to 40 kiloelectron volts.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read the whole story and see higher resolution images at NuSTAR.

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Create Your Own Mosaic

From ESA:
The International Space Station has been invaded by alien… artwork! ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has been decorating the space station with mosaic artwork of aliens. Now Samantha is inviting you to show off your artistic skills by designing your very own space mosaic!

Contest page

This contest is open to kids age 12 and younger. Too bad in a way this would make for a good second contest for ages 12 and up too perhaps by age group. it will be fun to see the results.

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Space X Landing Attempt

The other day Space X launched the CRS-6 and then attempted to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket onto a barge floating in the ocean.

Space X has released the video of the “failed” landing. Thank you Space X! The attempt is amazing and I would not necessarily call this a failure, not a complete failure anyway, merely another step to success.


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