The exciting news from space keeps coming – this week researchers announced the discovery of an “Earth-like planet” called Kepler-452b. The new planet, discovered by researchers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope, orbits a sun-like star at about the same distance that Earth orbits the sun. NASA’s Jon Jenkins says that it’s the nearest thing to another Earth-sun twin system that scientists have found.
The Kepler team’s observations indicate that Kepler-452b may be rocky like Earth, and that it is about 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than Earth, and 60 percent larger in diameter. Its star, Kepler 452, is also older, bigger and brighter than our sun.
One especially interesting finding: geologists believe that, if the planet is rocky, its gravity would be about twice that of Earth’s. This might make it difficult for humans to explore, but be perfect for cats, for whom, as we know, gravity is optional.
Our Chief Cat Wrangler is busy sharing her art with the world. So, today, you are stuck with me and a joke that occured to me in the middle of the night. Yes, I wrtie jokes about latinized scientific names for Science Cats.
Among casual sky-watchers, Pluto is best known for having its status downgraded from planet to dwarf planet in 2006. That has changed over the past few weeks, as NASA’s New Horizons Probe prepares to fly within 8,000 miles of Pluto on Tuesday, July 14.
New Horizons is already sending back loads of fascinating images of Pluto and more are sure to come. You can get all the latest updates by following @NASANewHorizons on twitter.
For more background about the discovery of Pluto and what scientists know so far about the “contentious little planet,” I recommend Nadia Drake’s excellent “Pluto At Last” at National Geographic.
It may no longer be called a planet, but this week, Pluto is the star.
Cats and dogs may not be fans, but for most Americans, the defining feature of any 4th of July celebration is fireworks. Behind the spectacular explosions, of course, is science – physics and chemistry. Julia Greenberg gives a brief explanation of what’s inside fireworks at Wired (gunpowder, glitter and starch, basically), while Scientific American’s Science Buddies blog offers a kid-friendly tutorial on making sparklers in various colors. But keep in mind, fireworks can be dangerous! Drew Magary at Deadspin rounds up readers’ best fireworks horror stories for your horrified holiday lolz.
I promise I’ll get back to science soon, but the Supreme Cat of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a few decisions this week that benefit many hoomins. Cheers!