2015 is getting an extra second and that’s a bit of a problem for the internet | The Verge: “On June 30th at precisely 23:59:59, the world’s atomic clocks will pause for a single second. Or, to be more precise, they’ll change to the uncharted time of 23:59:60 — before ticking over to the more worldly hour of 00:00:00 on the morning of July 1st, 2015. This addition of a leap second, announced by the Paris Observatory this week, is being added to keep terrestrial clocks in step with the vagaries of astronomical time — in this case, the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. And it’s a bit of a headache for computer engineers.”
Going to have to watch the atomic clock online that day to see “23:59:60”. Weird.
“The tiny white speck you see is Beta Pictoris b, a planet some 63 light-years away from Earth (that’s 3.70345488 × 1014 miles for those calculating at home). It is being hailed as the ‘best ever’ direct photo of a planet outside of our solar system (the giant mass next to it is a star). It was snapped during a 60-second exposure with the Gemini Planet Imager, a camera 10 years in the making that should bring distant planets to light for the first time.”
“According to the laws of physics, a planet the shape of a donut, or toroid, could actually exist — but it’s extremely unlikely to ever form naturally. But what if an advanced alien civilization decided to build one? What properties would a toroid-Earth exhibit? And what would life be like?”
4 Mind-Blowing Things About Stars: “In 1995, scientists picked out a little section of the night sky that was unusually devoid of stars. To the naked eye, and even in a normal telescope, this region looked empty and black. And the section was tiny—it covered the same amount of sky that a tennis ball would cover if it were 100 meters above you (and the image on the right shows the size of the region in comparison to the size of the moon in the sky at night).
The scientists used the Hubble Telescope to take a 10-day long exposure of the empty region to find out what was out there deep in the blackness. They came back with this:
To be clear, nothing in this photo is a star. Each thing you see—even the faintest little dot—is an entire galaxy. There are over 10,000 in this image, each one containing around 100 billion stars. And again, this is all in a pinpoint little square of the night sky.
Scientists used the info from this photo to postulate that the observable universe contains over 100 billion galaxies, which puts the total stars in the observable universe at somewhere between 10^22 and 10^24, or around 100 sextillion stars.
To put that in perspective, people at the University of Hawaii spent an unreasonable amount of time calculating an estimate for the number of grains of sand in the world—7.5 quintillion or 7.5 x 10^18.
That means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are about 10,000 stars in the universe.
“In recent years, scientists began noticing something a little bit off about the structure of the universe. By analyzing the light from distant galaxies, they were able to tell the relative speed and direction in which these objects were moving. The strange thing is that, rather than flying apart like most things in the universe, some of these distant galactic clusters appear to be caught up in a sort of current, speeding at unimaginable velocities (about two million miles per hour) along a specific path. Scientists have coined this phenomenon ‘dark flow’ because, honestly, they really don’t know what’s causing it. “
Comet brightness predictions sometimes exceed their performance. Amateur astronomers of a certain age may remember the Comet Kohoutek hype of 1973 – not quite the ‘damp squib’ it has been portrayed, since it reached naked eye visibility! Even if C/2012 S1 takes on the same light curve as Kohoutek it is certain to be spectacular, quite possibly a once-in-a-civilisation’s-lifetime event.
I’ve seen hundreds of hours of documentaries on the moon program. I’ve read dozens of books, built the models, and collected the mission patches. I can tell you the difference between a PLSS, an MMU, and TLI.
But I’ve never seen such a wonderful documentary as the one that Top Gear’s James May and the BBC put on. If you have an hour I would highly recommend that you take the time to watch it. James May and the BBC crew have the technical abilities perfectly married to well polished storytelling chops. I dare you to watch it with dry eyes. You won’t be disappointed.
“”We were all praying to get to Neptune [in 1989]. But after that? Who thought we could be with this 33 years [after launch]?”
In all that time, only one instrument, on Voyager 1, has broken down. Nine others on the two craft have been powered down to save dwindling electrical power from their plutonium-powered generators.
But five experiments on each Voyager are still funded and seven are still delivering data. Problems do crop up, but fixes can still be made with radioed instructions that take 12 hours to reach the craft.”