Science Caturday: Celestial Kittehs


This week, astronomers made two exciting discoveries: the first is a ring system surrounding an asteroid named Chariklo, which orbits in a region between Saturn and Uranus.  This surprising finding makes Chariklo’s the fifth known ring system in our solar system , joining Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Saturn, and the first known to have formed around an asteroid.


The second major find is a distant, icy dwarf planet in the far reaches of the solar system, 7.5 billion miles from the sun. The object, officially known as 2012 VP113, measures about 280 miles across.  It’s extremely cold with a temperature of around minus 430 degrees Fahrenheit and is reported by astronomers to be faint and pink, making it hard to detect.

Our thanks to Kibbles kitteh and Mr. Boots for playing the roles of Chariklo and VP113 so graciously.

The Travel of Tomorrow

Art by Steve Thomas

At ScienceOnline 2014, Eva and I encountered the folks from The Intergalactic Travel Bureau. They create a unique science education experience where folks get to plan their own getaway to the other planets in the Solar System – as well as some of the larger moons and dwarf planets.

I planned a trip (price tag >$3 billion) to the moons of Jupiter and sent postcards back to my kids.

They are looking to take The Intergalactic Travel Bureau on tour and need your help. Consider donating to their Kickstarter campaign. Do not be dissuaded by the fact that they have already met their goal. More donations just means they can expand the scope of the tour – and donating means you get to vote on where they show up.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

How is astronomy like biology? Every time we build better tools for observation (eg, space telescopes & next-generation sequencers), we learn about the incredible variety of things that we are missing and get to wildly speculate about what it all means (we also get to regularly confuse “wild speculation” for actual “knowledge”).

“Exoplanet Neighborhood” by Randall Munroe at xkcd (CC BY-NC 2.5)

Stargazing to Randy Described Eternity [repost]

Marie-Claire is very busy educating the youth of Canada. Too busy to even listen to music, which is about her favorite thing to do, after educating the youth of Canada. She was not too busy to make it to ScienceOnline 2013. Because the Song of the Week concept traces its roots back to ScienceOnline 2012, we thought it would be fitting to take you back to that very first post – doodly-doo, doodly-doo, doodly-doo

Emerging out the door of the pub on winter night, you bow your head and tighten your shoulders to keep the chill at bay. A few lilting steps might catch a dusting of snow. It takes a minute or so before the stars on the horizon catch your eye. It’s a crisp clear night. Swinging your head quickly upwards the stars take your breath away. The Milky Way is massive and scrawled across the sky.

KFPR 1865AM Button

No song captures that feeling as well as Built to Spill’s Randy Described Eternity from their 1997 classic Perfect from Now On. A minute of slow, slightly off kilter guitar opens suddenly into full, expansive sheets of sound. The song kind of hits you in the chest. The lyrics themselves attempt to describe the longest time imaginable, but the feeling is actually one of infinite space. The guitar melodies are complex, layered and looped, creating an impression of boundlessness. In the repeated line “stop making that sound,” the sparse story even includes the requisite “shut up” for your friend who has failed to notice the sky and is chattering on about something irrelevant. After a night at the pub when the stars catch your eye and you look breathlessly up in wonder, this is the song that should be playing.

Linkonomicon XI

via Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing

via Nicole Gugliucci

via Ed Yong

I told you so


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