Mark Your Calendars: In A Year, We’ll Arrive At Pluto

Planetary scientist Alan Stern is counting down the days — just 365 of them now. He has spent the past 8 1/2 years waiting for the New Horizons spacecraft to make a close encounter with Pluto. Next year, on July 14, the spacecraft will reach its destination.

"Not only did we choose the date, by the way, we chose the hour and the minute. And we’re on track," says Stern, the principal investigator for NASA’s Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission."

Learn more at NPR.

Finally, Really, You’re Invited to Help Name Distant Planets

"The world known officially as PSR B1620-26 b orbits a binary star system about 12,000 light-years away. With an estimated age of 12.7 billion years, PSR B1620-26 b is considered one of the oldest planets in the universe, more than twice as old as our solar system. Astronomers found it in the 1990s because of the tug it exerts on its two stars, a pulsar and a white dwarf. 

As a name, PSR B1620-26 b doesn’t exactly have a ring to it, though. Some people instead call it Methuselah, after the oldest living person according to biblical accounts. 

Next year, you’ll be able to vote on that name, and maybe have it officially sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union, in a new project under the Zooniverse. This is a big change for the largest astronomy society in the world, and an exciting one for citizen science.”

Learn more from popsci.

Studying Exoplanets: What A Thousand Points of Light Might Reveal About Earth

"Since the century began, astronomers have been discovering new planets around other stars—exoplanets. This harvest of information has become a flood—NASA’s PlanetQuest site now lists more than 5000 exoplanets. Almost all of them are represented by “impurities” in a stream of starlight, no more than a single pixel in extent, registered by a telescope in outer space. Planetary scientist Nicolas Cowan explains in a new paper that we can learn a lot from those thousand points of light."

Learn more from Andrew Alden at KQED Science.

To Tumblr, Love Pixel Union