In slightly belated news, Neptune’s 14th natural satellite – S/2004 N 1 – was discovered early last week by the Hubble telescope. The elusive body is just 12 miles in diameter, and completes a full orbit of the blue planet in 23 hours. S/2004 N 1’s exceptionally low brightness means that the moon evaded the gaze of Voyager 1 in 1989 [BBC].
>>above: the orbits of seven Neptunian moons in relation to that of S/2004 N 1. Image by NASA. Click to Enlarge.
In a bid to reduce the number of links in my bookmarks folder, here are some notable news items from the week of 19-26 July:
- Pale Blue Rover
In celebration of the famous Pale Blue Dot image, the MESSENGER and Cassini-Huygens probes snap photographs of Earth from the orbit of Mercury and Saturn, respectively. Curiosity reminds us that she too had her portrait taken from the orbit of another planet, appearing as just a small blue speck in an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter [NASA].
Curiosity is currently on a five mile expedition to the base of Mount Sharp, a journey expected to take nine months to a year, according to the rover’s team.
Staying on the Red Planet, US researchers believe that Mars may once have been a much frostier place. Kat Scanlon, of Brown University, postulates that rain or snow falling on the sides of mountains could be responsible for carving out particular patterns in Martian valleys, as melt-water rushed down the slopes [LA Times].
- A Hole in the Sun?
The European Space Agency detects a huge ‘hole’ in the Sun. The void, known as a coronal hole, is caused by fluctuations in the Sun’s magnetic field, as the star approaches solar maximum. These low-temperature regions are of particular interest to scientists, as they can have a dramatic effect on space weather, producing super-fast winds of solar particles [Space.com].
In related news, the brand new IRIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) observatory unveils the deepest reaches of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the “interface region”. The rare picture depicts a lively environment of magnetic structures and concentrations of solar material. IRIS had been operational for just 21 hours before it made the landmark discovery [NASA].
- Gorgeous Golf Balls
In slightly weirder news, photographer, James Friedman, discovers the otherworldly designs inside ordinary sports equipment. Exhibiting the kind of curiosity that forces man to mate with household appliances, James sliced his collection of golf balls in half, revealing a smorgasbord of colour, shapes, and textures. It’s hard not to see icy moons and violent suns among the images [James Friedman].
>>above: ‘Interior Design’. © James Friedman 2013
Moving on, Elon Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur, claims that he has plans for a new form of overland transport, potentially replacing air and rail travel in the future. Known as the Hyperloop, Musk’s design mates efficient travel with a Takeshi’s Castle challenge, combining “Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table.” The system will be officially unveiled in August [Space.com].
Finally, British astronaut, Tim Peake, opens his ISS toolbox to Flickr fans, revealing that, even in space, anything can be fixed with a hammer and duct tape [Tim Peake, via Gizmodo].