In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

rhamphotheca:

Scientists Find Evidence for Tectonic Plates on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This indicates the first sign of this type of surface-shifting geological activity on a world other than Earth.

Researchers have clear visual evidence of Europa’s icy crust expanding. However, they could not find areas where the old crust was destroyed to make room for the new. While examining Europa images taken by NASA’s Galileo orbiter in the early 2000s, planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn, of the University of Idaho, Moscow, and Louise Prockter, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, discovered some unusual geological boundaries.

"We have been puzzled for years as to how all this new terrain could be formed, but we couldn’t figure out how it was accommodated," said Prockter. "We finally think we’ve found the answer."

Plate tectonics is the scientific theory that Earth’s outer layer is made up of plates or blocks that move, which accounts for why mountain and volcanoes form and earthquakes happen…

(read more: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Image: Noah Kroese, I.NK

easytorememberr:

"In its travels through the Milky Way, our sun is accompanied not only by its planets, but also by a trillion distant comets"

easytorememberr:

"In its travels through the Milky Way, our sun is accompanied not only by its planets, but also by a trillion distant comets"

thenewenlightenmentage:

Herschel observatory’s population of trans-Neptunian objects
ESA’s Herschel space observatory has observed 132 of the known 1400 cold worlds that inhabit a region of the Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune, some 4.5–7.5 billion km from the Sun.
These ‘trans-Neptunian objects’, or TNOs, include worlds such as Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake, and make up a vast population of such objects thought to occupy these far-flung reaches of the Solar System.
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thenewenlightenmentage:

Herschel observatory’s population of trans-Neptunian objects

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has observed 132 of the known 1400 cold worlds that inhabit a region of the Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune, some 4.5–7.5 billion km from the Sun.

These ‘trans-Neptunian objects’, or TNOs, include worlds such as Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake, and make up a vast population of such objects thought to occupy these far-flung reaches of the Solar System.

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Mythbusting Moons - Myth busting Moons sorts out the facts from the fiction when it comes to myths about moons.

check out the whole series on moons

Collision Course? A Comet Heads for Mars

Slim chance of an impact, high chance of a close fly-by and a great show for our Martian instruments.

I kind of want to see it hit. The data would be abundant, copious even. Although, I’m guessing that would have some serious implications for manned missions to mars in the near future.

What Would It Look Like If Saturn Approached the Earth?

We Earthlings are about eight times closer to the Sun than we are to Saturn at our closest point. Even though Saturn’s diameter is about nine times larger than ours, we need powerful telescopes to see anything more than a tiny dot of light. This is kind of a shame, given how many of us are so enamored with Saturn’s trademark rings.

Image that Saturn decided to break out of its orbit and pay Earth a visit. Also image that its intense gravitational pull wouldn’t completely gobble us up. What would Saturn look like if it came as close as Mars?

Nick at Yeti Dynamics has created a video using data from Voyager and Cassini that helps us answer this very question. From the distance of Mars, Saturn would be brighter than the full moon. Although it would appear quite a bit smaller in the night sky, Saturn reflects nearly four times more light than the moon. Even without a telescope, you would still be able to detect Saturn’s rings at this distance and could possibly even see Titan, its largest moon.

If Saturn kept traveling and became even closer to our planet, it would light up the dark side of the moon and even be close enough that Earth’s penumbral and umbral shadows would be visible on Saturn. If Saturn were to pass through over us (ignoring the planet-ending gravity that would come along with it) we could see the back of the planet that is not lit up from the Sun, giving a very different appearance to the rings.

Of course, Saturn is very comfortable in its orbit and it absolutely will not be swinging into our neck of the solar system. The video is very, very cool and you will want to go full screen on this one.


IFLS

thenewenlightenmentage:

Icy Crust of Europa—Does it Reveal the Existence of a Huge Ocean Below?
The European Space Agency (ESA) also plans to launch the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission (JUICE) in 2022. When the spacecraft arrives at its destination, the icy moons of Jupiter, in 2030, it will fly over Europa two times to measure the thickness of its mysterious crust and explore its habitability. Scientists suspect that inside Europa, one of the icy moons of Jupiter, reservoirs of liquid water exists, the essential element for life on Earth. This theory emerged from information obtained on the Voyager and Galileo missions, which also registered fractures and `chaotic´ terrains associated to reddish materials, which contrast with the glacial white of the dominant water ice of the surface.
Water, salts and gases dissolved in the huge ocean that scientists believe could exist below Europa´s icy crust can rise to the surface generating the enigmatic geological formations associated to red-tinged materials that can be seen on this Jupiter’s satellite. This is confirmed by the experiment carried out in the laboratory with water, carbon dioxide and magnesium sulfate by researchers at Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, Spain).
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thenewenlightenmentage:

Icy Crust of Europa—Does it Reveal the Existence of a Huge Ocean Below?

The European Space Agency (ESA) also plans to launch the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission (JUICE) in 2022. When the spacecraft arrives at its destination, the icy moons of Jupiter, in 2030, it will fly over Europa two times to measure the thickness of its mysterious crust and explore its habitability. Scientists suspect that inside Europa, one of the icy moons of Jupiter, reservoirs of liquid water exists, the essential element for life on Earth. This theory emerged from information obtained on the Voyager and Galileo missions, which also registered fractures and `chaotic´ terrains associated to reddish materials, which contrast with the glacial white of the dominant water ice of the surface.

Water, salts and gases dissolved in the huge ocean that scientists believe could exist below Europa´s icy crust can rise to the surface generating the enigmatic geological formations associated to red-tinged materials that can be seen on this Jupiter’s satellite. This is confirmed by the experiment carried out in the laboratory with water, carbon dioxide and magnesium sulfate by researchers at Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, Spain).

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jtotheizzoe:

If the moon were only 1 pixel on your screen, how big would the rest of the solar system be?
Just click this link, I beg you, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Absolutely amazing. Fantastic work by designer Josh Worth.
For a a different look at the problem of cosmic distance, check out my video “How Big is the Solar System?”:

And for lots more fun ways to look at the scale of the universe maybe watch this one called (naturally) "The Scale of the Universe":

jtotheizzoe:

If the moon were only 1 pixel on your screen, how big would the rest of the solar system be?

Just click this link, I beg you, and prepare to have your mind blown.

Absolutely amazing. Fantastic work by designer Josh Worth.

For a a different look at the problem of cosmic distance, check out my video “How Big is the Solar System?”:

And for lots more fun ways to look at the scale of the universe maybe watch this one called (naturally) "The Scale of the Universe":

Sun Revolves Around Earth According to 1 in 4 Americans

According to The National Science Foundation, one in four Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth. The results were released from a 2012 survey whereby 2,000 people were asked various science questions. After analysis of the survey was completed, researchers concluded that 26 percent of Americans don’t know the basic rules of our solar system. Scientists describe the statistics as “frightening” and believe it emphasizes the importance of increasing funding in science programs in American schools.

These weren’t the only surprising findings, as the survey also found that 48 percent of those questioned believed that humans evolved from an earlier species of animals, relating to the evolution vs. creationism debate. Creationism and criticisms of evolution are still taught in some schools in America. It was noted that almost all public schools in America taught creationism until the late 19th century, and it is still hotly debated today on whether it should still be taught in classrooms. Another question in the survey was whether antibiotics kill viruses; 51 percent answered that no they do not. While this questions may not have to do with the knowledge of the earth revolving around the sun, it does means that half of the sample do not know the difference between viruses and bacteria or rather they simply do not know about one of the most common prescription medications used today. When questioned about how the universe began, 39 percent believed that the universe began from a massive explosion. The other 60 percent do not believe this, and while the survey did not divulge into what other answers they may have for how the universe came to be, it was estimated by a Gallop Poll that 46 percent of Americans believe in creationism. The survey also noted that less than 65 percent of Americans were aware that it is the father’s gene that determines the sex of the child – again, this is a basic biological fact that many would think most of the population should know…

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

thebrainscoop:

This is StarStuff. 
The cloudy, nebulousness of this vial are nanodiamonds, carbon molecules only a thousand atoms strong, bonded together. During the formation of our solar system a cloud of dust ballooned from the collapse of a massive molecular cloud and was circling around what would be our new, baby sun. These carbon atoms were trapped within larger molecules and compounds and became inclusions, embedded within meteorites which would become evidence of the earliest solids that condensed from the cooling of protoplanetary disks.
The Field Museum has part of the oldest known meteorite - the Allende meteorite - from which these carbon nanodiamonds were extracted through chemical processes developed by Philipp Heck, our Curator of Meteoritics. We know how old the solar system is by dating these inclusions from the Allende meteorite, giving us an estimate that our solar system is 4.567 billion years old. The carbon atoms I’m holding in the above photo are, in a sense, our greatest ancestor, and ultimately became the building blocks for all life on our planet. 
TL;DR I’m holding our greatest ancestor in the palm of my hand.

thebrainscoop:

This is StarStuff. 

The cloudy, nebulousness of this vial are nanodiamonds, carbon molecules only a thousand atoms strong, bonded together. During the formation of our solar system a cloud of dust ballooned from the collapse of a massive molecular cloud and was circling around what would be our new, baby sun. These carbon atoms were trapped within larger molecules and compounds and became inclusions, embedded within meteorites which would become evidence of the earliest solids that condensed from the cooling of protoplanetary disks.

The Field Museum has part of the oldest known meteorite - the Allende meteorite - from which these carbon nanodiamonds were extracted through chemical processes developed by Philipp Heck, our Curator of Meteoritics. We know how old the solar system is by dating these inclusions from the Allende meteorite, giving us an estimate that our solar system is 4.567 billion years old. The carbon atoms I’m holding in the above photo are, in a sense, our greatest ancestor, and ultimately became the building blocks for all life on our planet. 

TL;DR I’m holding our greatest ancestor in the palm of my hand.

wildcat2030:

Alpha Centauri B may have “superhabitable” worlds
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Since Earth is the only known inhabited planet and we happen to live here, it’s only natural to regard it as the ideal place for life to exist, and to assume that another life-bearing planet would be fairly similar. However, that is not the opinion of scientists René Heller and John Armstrong who contend that there might be a planet even more suitable for life than Earth 4.3 light years away orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B. The nice thing about having a hypothetical “superhabitable” planet revolving around Alpha Centauri B, which is part of a triple star system, is that it makes it a lot easier to indulge in a bit of a thought experiment based on the arguments put forward by Heller, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, McMaster University, Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, and Armstrong, of the Department of Physics, Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Imagine we’re in a spaceship approaching the planet in question. The first thing we’d notice is that its sun isn’t a familiar yellow. Instead, it’s orange. That’s because where our Sun is a yellow G2 star, Alpha Centauri B is a K-type dwarf star, hence the orange tinge. (via Alpha Centauri B may have “superhabitable” worlds)

skeptv:

The Moon Battered by Impacts

Where did the moon come from? What is it made of? And what events created the distinctive pattern of light and dark on its surface? To find out, we have sent satellites out to crash onto its surface, astronauts to comb its craters and hillsides and collect rocks, and high-tech spacecraft to map its nooks and crannies.

A half-century of study has brought us closer to the answers. Many scientists now believe that the moon was born in a monumental collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body early in the history of the solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

From the remains of the impact, a giant ball of magma coalesced in Earth orbit. Gravity sculpted this hot mass into a sphere. In time, its surface cooled, forming a hard crust with magma just underneath.

Around 4.3 billion years ago, a giant impact battered the moon’s south pole, sending debris as far as the opposite side of the moon. The impact formed the Aitken basin. At roughly 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep, it is one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System.

Its formation marked the beginning of a period of large-scale changes to the moon’s surface. Over several hundred million years, the lunar terrain was rocked by a succession of heavy impacts. Some formed large basins that would eventually fill in to become the dark colored patches of the moon known as maria.

These impacts punched enormous holes in the relatively thin lunar crust. Because the moon had not yet fully cooled on the inside, lava began to seep out through cracks opened up by the impacts.

Lava spread throughout the craters, gradually filling them in and cooling. Because of the high iron content of this lava, the mare regions reflect less light and therefore appear darker than the surrounding highlands. Around one billion years ago, volcanic activity ended on the near side of the moon as the last of the large impacts made their mark on the surface. The impacts did not cease, although they were much smaller than the ones that formed the largest basins.

Some of the largest and best-known impacts from this period formed the Tycho, Copernicus, and Aristarchus craters. They feature distinctive “rays” that stretch out from the crater sites, formed by material blasted out at the moment of impact.

Finally, after billions of years of relative quiet, we arrive at the moon we see today. Though its surface continues to be affected by impacts, the bombardment has slowed dramatically.

The features we now see on the Moon’s surface are a permanent record of its early history. Within them, too, we are finding clues to the evolution of Earth itself.

via Space Rip.


thenewenlightenmentage:

"The Unexplored Planet" —NASA’s Fastest Spaceship on Approach to Pluto
One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.
“There is a real possibility that New Horizons will discover new moons and rings as well,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. Already, Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Numerical simulations show that meteoroids striking those satellites could send debris into orbit, forming a ring system that waxes and wanes over time in response to changes in bombardment. “We’re flying into the unknown,” says Stern, “and there is no telling what we might find. The encounter begins next January,” adds Stern. “We’re less than a year away.”
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thenewenlightenmentage:

"The Unexplored Planet" —NASA’s Fastest Spaceship on Approach to Pluto

One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.

“There is a real possibility that New Horizons will discover new moons and rings as well,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. Already, Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Numerical simulations show that meteoroids striking those satellites could send debris into orbit, forming a ring system that waxes and wanes over time in response to changes in bombardment. “We’re flying into the unknown,” says Stern, “and there is no telling what we might find. The encounter begins next January,” adds Stern. “We’re less than a year away.”

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