Scientists have been debating for years whether ice volcanoes, also called cryovolcanoes, exist on ice-rich moons, and if they do, what their characteristics are. The working definition assumes some kind of subterranean geological activity warms the cold environment enough to melt part of the satellite’s interior and sends slushy ice or other materials through an opening in the surface.
New research on the Antikythera mechanism hints that we might be looking at its use and meaning from the wrong perspective. From Nature:
Now, however, scientists delving into the astronomical theories encoded in this quintessentially Greek device have concluded that they are not Greek at all, but Babylonian — an empire predating this era by centuries. This finding is forcing historians to rethink a crucial period in the development of astronomy. It may well be that geared devices such as the Antikythera mechanism did not model the Greeks’ geometric view of the cosmos after all. They inspired it.
These two methods clearly do not agree with one another, which means one of two things: either I’m terribly over-analyzing the content of the illustrations of a beloved children’s book, or the bunny’s bedroom is moving at extremely high velocity relative to the earth, so that relativistic time dilation makes the six-minute rise of the moon appear to take an hour and ten minutes. Calculating the necessary velocity is left as an exercise for the interested reader.
The ESO’s Very Large Telescope (I love that name, nicely to-the-point) shoots a sodium-exciting laser towards the center of the Milky Way to create an artificial “star” of light in the sky, helping calibrate its adaptive optics system. Sort of like white balancing your camera, but much, much cooler looking.
Saturn’s moon Enceladus transiting in front of its larger moon Rhea, as seen from a couple million miles away by the Cassini spacecraft, in photographs that span about one minute’s worth of time. That we can know to point cameras at this kind of event and get images this nice is a bit of a wonder to me.
NASA plans to send a hot-air-balloon type probe to Saturn’s moon, the only other known body in our solar system to have liquid “seas” on the surface. In order to keep the balloon from crashing into any rocky outcroppings, the team at the JPL has designed an oxygen-burning “rapid buoyancy modulation system” that’s pretty clever:
The lack of any free oxygen in the ice-moon’s air means that the patio gas oceans, clouds etc won’t normally catch fire. Thus NASA’s plan for Titanian hot-air ballooning would reverse the situation on Earth: Rather than burning a stream of patio-gas using oxygen in the air, the moon balloons will burn a stream of oxygen using methane from the surrounding clouds.
“Harriot regularly corresponded with friends who were also trying out telescopes. One wrote to him saying that the full moon ‘appears like a tarte that my cooke made me the last week’.”
— A note from the “Cosmos and Culture: how astronomy has shaped our world” exhibit at London’s Science Museum, describing this first-ever drawing through a telescope, created circa 1610 by English mathematician Thomas Harriot.
Note to Austinites: the excellent Harry Ransom Center at UT will soon be opening their exhibit “Other Worlds: Rare Astronomical Works”, featuring some beautiful drawings by the likes of Cassini, Kepler, and Brahe. Can’t wait.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Haynes (maker of popular do-it-yourself auto repair manuals) has published an “owner’s manual” for the various craft involved in the Apollo 11 mission. Includes information on the Saturn V rocket, the Command/Service module (the part that astronaut Michael Collins was stuck in while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin got to go play on the moon), and the Lunar module. If you want to get me something retroactively for my 10th birthday, I think this would be it. (Via El Reg)