Happy holidays from Saturn and its moons, and from the astronomers who study them


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus, are the focus of a holiday image release from NASA's Cassini imaging team. Cassini Imaging Team leader Carolyn Porco writes:

We on the Cassini imaging team deliver to the world this holiday season ... what else! ... the gift of heavenly imagery starring the majestic globe of Saturn and its two most astounding moons, Titan and Enceladus. In this, our 10th Christmas offering from across the hundreds of millions of miles that lie between us and Saturn, you will find some of the most splendid and fascinating sights this historic exploration of the ringed planet has uncovered: the hexagonally-shaped jet stream encircling the pole in Saturn's northern hemisphere, the graceful shadows of its rings arcing across its south, the northern lakes and seas of liquid organics hidden under the hazy atmosphere of Titan, the brilliant ball of glittering ice that is the small active world of Enceladus, and more.

More about the image above:

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Panoramic image of Curiosity Rover under Mars's night sky

Jeffrey sez, "360Cities' intrepid member Andrew Bodrov, stitching master of interplanetary awesomeness, has constructed this composite image (i.e. 'fake view') of the Curiosity Rover at night under the Milky Way. You can even see Phobos, Mars' own moon in the night sky."

Mars Panorama - Curiosity rover: Martian night

China air pollution from space

Speaks for itself, doesn't it? NASA:

When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on December 7, 2013, thick haze stretched from Beijing to Shanghai, a distance of about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). For comparison, that is about the distance between Boston, Massachusetts, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The brightest areas are clouds or fog. Polluted air appears gray. While northeastern China often faces outbreaks of extreme smog, it is less common for pollution to spread so far south.

How we know what atmosphere is like on a planet outside our solar system

WASP-19b is an exoplanet whose atmosphere is probably super hot and super poisonous — filled with methane and hydrogen cyanide instead of water. This video explains how astronomers can even begin to guess at the composition of the atmospheres of far away worlds. (Bonus: A soothing elevator music soundtrack!)

Star-themed tees to raise money for astrophotography gear


Jason sez, "I am trying to raise money to buy better astrophotography gear, so I can take even better pictures, so I'm doing this by selling shirts I have designed."

The Main Sequence (Thanks, Jason!)

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Asteroid named after Randall "XKCD" Munroe

Holy. Smokes. Randall "XKCD" Munroe has had an asteroid named after him. Good old 4292 is big enough to wipe out life on Earth, but alas, its Mars/Jupiter orbit is boringly stable. Still, there's hope it will decay eventually, and create the splash Randy deserves!

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Enormous timescales made graspable by graphs

Wait But Why has a fantastic series of graphs that aim to help us wrap our heads around the enormous timescales on which forces like history, biology, geography and astronomy operate. By carefully building up graphs that show the relationship between longer and longer timescales, the series provides a moment's worth of emotional understanding of the otherwise incomprehensible.

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Excellent goals from an eight-year-old


This list of third-grade goals is presented by redditor Elbostonian as the work of his eight-year-old son. It's a rather ambitious document, but admirably so -- an excellent mix of stupid body tricks, theoretical astrophysics, identity development, culinary adventure, and mystery.

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See a star explode with your bare eyes

Now, to temper this awesome news with a bit of harsh reality: Nova Delphini is not a supernova and it's not going to be as bright an object as you're probably imagining. Discover's Corey Powell has instructions for how to spot it (it probably won't be super obvious, especially if you're in a city) and galleries of photos, just in case you can't see it yourself.

Astronomy snapshot from the Boing Boing Flickr Pool: Perseids at Mt. Rainier, WA

"Mt Rainier & Perseid meteors, 8-12-13," Jamie Frank, shared in the BB Flickr Pool. "Around midnight random meteors were beginning to fly overhead but the coolest was the dancing lights on the right of the ones to come."

The Perseids, a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, recently peaked. If you're lucky, you can still view some "shooting stars" in the night sky, as August comes to a close. Here are viewing tips.

A view of the stars — anytime, anywhere

Never Ending Night is a project aimed at making a live feed of the starry night sky available online 24 hours a day. It's art — imagine a world where everyone can see the same patch of sky from the same perspective — influenced and facilitated by science. And you can help fund it.

Jupiter layer cake


Cakecrumbs, creator of the amazing Earth Cake, has topped that marvel with a Jupiter layer cake whose layers reveal the theoretical makeup of the gas giant. Its multiple layers represent "a core comprised mostly of rock and ice... surrounded by a layer liquid metallic hydrogen, and the outer layer is composed of molecular hydrogen."

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UK astronomers team up to search for alien intelligence

Astronomers in the UK are planning to explore the skies for signs of alien life, using a network of telescopes that can detect signals from other planets. The plans would make Britain the world's second-largest center for alien-hunting in the world, after America. [The Guardian]

Atlantis returns to Kennedy: a review of the space shuttle's new permanent exhibit

Space educator Sawyer “@thenasaman” Rosenstein, 19, is a hardcore space fan. His enthusiasm for space flight was captured in a 2011 Boing Boing special feature, and shines weekly in his “Talking Space” podcast. He traveled to Florida for the opening of the new permanent exhibit of Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center, and shared photos with us. All images in this review are Sawyer’s. —Xeni Jardin.

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Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center: photos from opening night

Space educator Sawyer "@thenasaman" Rosenstein, 19, might also be described as a space fan. His enthusiasm for space flight was captured in this Boing Boing feature, and shines weekly in his "Talking Space" podcast. He traveled to Florida this weekend for the opening of the new permanent exhibit of Shuttle Atlantis at KSC, and shares these photos with us back home. All images in this post are Sawyer's so ask before you re-use them. —Xeni Jardin.


The Atlantis exhibit: 90,000 square feet, $100 million, and one precious piece of American space history. Give that to any organization and they'll come up with something pretty cool. Give it to Delaware North, the company that runs the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex, and you get one of the most impressive displays I've ever seen.

Atlantis is displayed with quotes from the people who worked on her. There are more than 60 interactive exhibits. The orbiter steals the show. These pictures do not do the experience justice, but I hope it'll give you, Boing Boing readers, a glimpse into what was done at Kennedy. And I hope it inspires you to go and see it yourself.

A view from underneath the model external tank and solid rocket boosters. They are impressive in size and visible for miles.

Space history is a beautiful thing.

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