These days I feel confident saying there are two things I can rely on: 1) the Hubble Space Telescope will continue to reveal amazing things about the Universe around us, and 2) Pluto will continue to surprise us. This week we had both!
Hubble released a new data analysis of two of Pluto’s five moons, Nix and Hydra, that show them to be wobbling all over the place. It might be surprising, but Hubble can’t actually *see* Pluto and its moons in the same way that it sees the brilliant galaxies and nebulae you are used to hearing about. This is because Pluto doesn’t produce any light itself, but rather only reflects what little of the Sun’s light reaches it. As a small, dark, rocky object at a great distance, that’s not much.
However, using the change in the light Hubble receives from the Pluto system over time, astronomers can begin to constrain their best estimates for the size, shape, and motion of Pluto’s moons. The latest data shows that Nix and Hydra are likely oblong, shaped like potatoes, and they are not rotating about an axis of symmetry. So as they orbit around Pluto, the light they reflect appears to change erratically.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is closing in on Pluto as we speak with its closest approach scheduled for July 14, 2015. If all goes well, we’ll know just how chaotic this system really is before the summer is out.
Here’s some more geek from the week:
- This octopus is a pro at hauling its baggage across the ocean floor. [VIDEO]
- The symbiotic relationships between lichens and algae are like soap operas in the sea.
- Seven new frog species discovered in the cloud forests of Brazil.
- Mind-blowing balloon sculptures of animals and insects.
- Turns out getting bug guts off your windshield is actually rocket science.
- Sound waves might be the next big thing in cheese making. [AUDIO]
- The science of making the perfect french fry (or chips to you Brits). Turns out moving to Jupiter might be good.
- How one photographer spent twenty-years trying to make time stand still.
- Toilets in elevators could become a thing. At least in Japan.
- The National Park Service has created a map of the quietest places in the country. [VIDEO]
- The physics of how mountains can sometimes be larger on top. [VIDEO]
- Intense physical analysis of Thor’s Hammer. [WITH VIDEO]
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist