Starts With a Bang! 15 May 2018, 14:01 UTC Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto was heralded as the ninth planet in our Solar System. Pluto was the first world ever discovered beyond Neptune, and for nearly half a century, was the only world known beyond our last gas giant. Generations of schoolchildren learned mnemonic devices about their very educated mother just serving them nine pickles, with Pluto, the very last, lonely one out there, becoming the favorite of so many. After 76 years, however, astronomers seemingly demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status, placing it alongside the large asteroid Ceres and other worlds out there in the Kuiper belt, reducing our Solar System’s planetary count to a mere eight. Last year, a team of scientists put forth a new definition of planetthat would bring Pluto back into the fold, and this definition has been endorsed by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon, authors of a new book on the New Horizons mission and “the planet” Pluto.
io9 Space 14 May 2018, 20:00 UTC It’s nice to think we’re part of something bigger. And we are, really—in a cosmic, evolutionary sense. A team of researchers from the United States and New Zealand took a look at how likely species were to go extinct and how likely new species were to appear during a 60-million-year period, long before humans evolved. Upon analyzing fossil data, it seemed to them as if astronomical cycles led to climactic effects that ultimately aligned with new species of plankton appearing and going extinct on Earth.
NASA Space Station Blog 14 May 2018, 17:52 UTC Veteran astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will embark on the 210th spacewalk Wednesday at the International Space Station to swap out thermal control gear. The experienced spacewalkers have a combined 10 spacewalks between them with Feustel having conducted seven and Arnold with a total of three.
Astrobiology Magazine 14 May 2018, 16:00 UTC A Multiverse - where our Universe is only one of many - might not be as inhospitable to life as previously thought, according to new research.
Scientific American 14 May 2018, 15:00 UTC Ever since 2012, when astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope first spied inconclusive hints of watery plumes emanating from the subsurface ocean of Jupiter’s large, icy moon Europa, space scientists have fiercely debated the claim. Previous estimates had suggested the moon’s crust might be tens if not hundreds of kilometers thick—too thick, that is, to allow direct exploration of its potentially life-friendly ocean anytime soon. A plume venting some of Europa’s ocean water into space where it could be sampled by an orbiting spacecraft would change the whole equation—it seemed, in short, too good to be true. Now, however, a new analysis of 21-year-old data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, has found strong independent evidence in favor of the plume.
Scientific American 14 May 2018, 12:00 UTC The Himalayas distort Earth's contour only about as much as a human hair would that of a billiard ball. Discerning such a minuscule bump on a planet orbiting a distant star might seem laughably impossible, but two astronomers have proposed a way to detect mountains and other surface features on exoplanets.
Astronomy Now 13 May 2018, 06:00 UTC A team of astronomers led by Dutch researchers at Leiden University have found a small, mysterious companion in a binary star system they were observing with the Very Large Telescope. They suspect it is a young planet, albeit a big one, with a possible dust disk of its own.
EarthSky Blog 12 May 2018, 10:00 UTC Asteroid 2010 WC9 will safely pass at about half’s the moon’s distance on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Estimates of its size range from 197 to 427 feet (60-130 meters), making the May 15 pass one of the closest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size. This asteroid was “lost” and then found again. The Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first detected it on November 30, 2010, and astronomers watched it until December 1, when it became too faint to see. They didn’t enough observations to track its orbit fully and so predict its return. On May 8, 2018 – almost eight years later – astronomers discovered an asteroid and gave it the temporary designation ZJ99C60. Then they realized it was asteroid 2010 WC9, returning.
NASA Space Station Blog 11 May 2018, 17:50 UTC The International Space Station will be orbiting a little higher this weekend to prepare for the departure of three Expedition 55 crew members and the arrival of a new Russian cargo craft. The docked Russian Progress 69 resupply ship will fire its engines Saturday at 6:07 p.m. EDT for two minutes and 52 seconds slightly boosting the orbital lab’s altitude.