If you keep an eye on the night sky you may have noticed two bright “stars” to the south just around midnight. (To be precise: Jupiter is dead south at 11:02 pm; Saturn is dead south at 11:37 pm. By midnight they’ve moved slightly to the west.)
If you’re the type to keep an eye on the night sky, you likely already know those “stars” are Saturn (on the left) and Jupiter (on the right). What you may not know — and certainly can’t see — is that almost right smack dab between them is the former planet Pluto. All three just happen to be lined up nicely right now.
The New Horizons spacecraft is also out there, well beyond Pluto.
There comes a time when words fail, and all you can do is stare in amazement. The Friday press conference from the New Horizons team had that effect on many of us. (I’m not the only one who wept with sheer joy.)
From behind the planet, the Sun illuminates Pluto’s 100 mi layer of haze.
They say pictures are worth thousands of words, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking (click on any image to go to the source)…
Hot off the press! Check out Pluto’s first close up:
Those mountains are up to 11,000 feet high! And the surface looks to be roughly 100 million years old — extremely young compared to the four-and-a-half billion year age of the solar system (and not a crater in sight!).
Pluto… like no one has ever seen it before!
(At least no one on Earth!)
Oh, my! I mentioned last time that the Minnesota Twins, after a surprisingly good month of May, cooled down big time in June. Fans held their breath wondering how far the team would fall from the height reached in May. Now, with June behind us and July well under way, we can start breathing normally again.
The Twins lost ground in June, but remained above the .500 mark (by five games!) by month’s end. But July seems to have brought an end to the ice-cold bats. The Twins are 8-4 in July as we begin the All-Star break.
But more importantly: It’s Pluto Day!
“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting, profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995
I ran across the above quote on a blog, and it really hit home on a point I’ve been pondering and struggling with recently. It has to do with that line about how “almost no one understands science and technology.” It has to do with how weary I am of living in that world.
But rather than rant about it, here are some other quotes I like from a truly great man and wonderful scientist.