Kevin (erf_) wrote,

space porn

So, a lot has happened in astronomy since we were kids. Aside from Pathfinder and Deep Impact, much of this has been not widely reported by the press, due to more pressing terrestrial issues or confusion about the significance of these discoveries. A lot of it is fascinating, though--and comes with lots of pretty pictures:

  • Though we still haven't had a chance to photograph it up close, we finally know what color Pluto is. (It's brown.) The New Horizons probe, which launched in 2006 to little fanfare, should have some nice images of it in 2015.
  • Charon isn't Pluto's only moon. The Hubble found two more in 2005, Nix and Hydra.
  • It's weird how a lot of news articles never sufficiently explained this (focusing instead on the "omg Pluto isn't a planet anymore!" brouhaha), but one of the major reasons why Pluto is no longer classified as a planet is because the IAU got tired of the bickering over whether the then-recently discovered dwarf planet Eris, which is bigger than Pluto, is the "tenth planet." Someone said, "If Eris isn't a planet, Pluto isn't either!" and the IAU said, "You know, you're right," and created an official definition for "planet" that did not include either celestial body. That is why we now have eight planets instead of ten. Frankly, I'm disappointed that people were more freaked out over the reclassification of Pluto than the discovery of a new, bigger-than-Pluto celestial object in our solar system.
  • It's a good thing they did, because otherwise Ceres might have become the new fifth planet from the sun, and all that memorizing you did in fifth grade would have been for naught. All those drawings of the asteroid belt as a loose, roughly uniform ring of floating space rubble are now kind of inaccurate, though. With its planetlike shape and its roughly 600 mile diameter, it's not really what you'd recognize as an asteroid anyway. (And yes, we have pretty pictures of it from the Hubble.)
  • Makemake!
  • Soviet probe Venera 13 landed on Venus in 1982, taking some pretty color photos of the surface. (Yes, 1982 was before I was born, but this is news to me, at least, since my elementary school earth science textbooks were horribly outdated. Curse you, New Jersey public education system, and your egregious lack of funding!) Yay for commie science?
  • The ESA's Giotto probe snapped a very pretty close-up of the nucleus of Halley's Comet in 1986. It's bizarre that this image never became as popular as this one snapped from Earth, which was briefly the canonical comet for inspiration posters and other cheesy '80s things. That is, before we one-upped the Europeans with in 2005 with BOOM HEADSHOT.
  • This is what a candle flame on the International Space Station looks like.
  • We have less blurry photos of Mercury than the ones taken by Mariner 10. (Linked from Wikipedia because the original is enormous.)
  • The Spirit rover made this oddly amusing film of a dust devil on Mars.
  • Mealtime on the ISS! It looks like any random facebook photo of people eating, except people are floating.

You know, maybe I should have embedded all those images under a cut and captioned them, rather than linking to them. But I would rather go back to bed.
Tags: space
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