Cassini is beginning its Grand Finale in style. It passed within 600 miles of Saturn's moon Titan, and now it's entering into a death spiral as it gets closer and closer to crashing into the surface of Saturn in late September. The photography we'll get between now and then should be phenomenal!
An interesting theory recently published in the journal Science proposes that Earth may be the result of two colliding bodies that fused together early on. According to the theory, this impact created both the Earth and the Moon.
Astronomers have long suspected that the moon formed after a small, proto-planet, called Theia, crashed into Earth, knocking a chunk of rock into Earth’s orbit. New research by scientists at the University of California Los Angeles suggests that Theia didn’t merely sideswipe Earth, but instead fused with our planet, forming both modern Earth and the moon.
The new evidence comes from an analysis of oxygen isotopes from both volcanic rocks and lunar rocks that were brought to Earth as part of the Apollo missions. The astronomers found that the isotopes share a unique fingerprint, something that could only happen if matter from Theia and Earth thoroughly mixed together in a head-on collision.
Everything you know is a lie: Earth might actually be 2 planets smashed together | Grist
Today in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh took the first set of plates that led to the discover of Pluto. Based on its unusual orbit, astronomers were able to track its movement against the relatively static field of stars and determine that it was a part of our solar system.
The naked eye can hardly notice the difference between these images that were pivotal to such a major discovery. By 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope had been launched and was beaming images back to Earth. Here is the best image of Pluto as of 1994.
Nothing but a blob of pixels. And yet, this remained one of the best images we had of Pluto until 2015, when NASA's New Horizons finally made its closest approach to our most distant neighbor after more than nine years and three billion miles. That's when the now-famous image below was released to the world.
How far we've come. As New Horizons heads further out into space, I look forward to even newer and better discoveries that enlighten us the way this photo has.