Pluto at Night

The night side of Pluto spans this shadowy scene, a stunning spacebased view with the Sun 4.9 billion kilometers (almost 4.5 light-hours) behind the dim and distant world. It was captured by far flung New Horizons in July of 2015. The spacecraft was at a range of some 21,000 kilometers from Pluto, about 19 minutes after its closest approach. A denizen of the Kuiper Belt in dramatic silhouette, the image also reveals Pluto’s tenuous, surprisingly complex layers of hazy atmosphere. The crescent twilight landscape near the top of the frame includes southern areas of nitrogen ice plains now formally known Read more »

All Female Spacewalk Repairs Space Station

The failed unit was beyond the reach of the robotic Canadarm2. Therefore, this repair of the International Space Station would require humans. The humans on duty were NASA’s Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. This was the fourth spacewalk for Meir, the first for Koch, and the first all-female spacewalk in human history. The first woman to walk in space was Svetlana Savitskaya in 1984. Koch (red stripe) and Weir are pictured hard at work on the P6 Truss, with solar panels and the darkness of space in the background. Working over seven hours, the newly installed Battery Charge / Discharge Read more »

Interstellar Interloper 2I Borisov

After the 2017 detecton of 1I/’Oumuamua, comet 2I/Borisov has become the second recognized interstellar interloper. Like ‚Oumuamua, Borisov’s measured hyperbolic trajectory and speed as it falls toward the Sun confirm that its origin is from beyond our Solar System. But while detailed observations indicate ‚Oumuamua is a rocky body with differences from known Solar System objects, Borisov is definitely a far wandering comet. Taken on October 12, 2019 this Hubble Space Telescope image of Borisov reveals a familiar looking comet-like activity and concentration of dust around around its nucleus. Not resolved in the image, some estimates suggest the nucleus could Read more »

Moons of Saturn

On July 29, 2011 the Cassini spacecraft’s narrow-angle camera took this snapshot and captured 5 of Saturn’s moons, from just above the ringplane. Left to right are small moons Janus and Pandora respectively 179 and 81 kilometers across, shiny 504 kilometer diameter Enceladus, and Mimas, 396 kilometers across, seen just next to Rhea. Cut off by the right edge of the frame, Rhea is Saturn’s second largest moon at 1,528 kilometers across. So how many moons does Saturn have? Twenty new found outer satellites bring its total to 82 known moons, and since Jupiter’s moon total stands at 79, Saturn Read more »