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Researchers Find Evidence Of The Planet That Crashed Into Earth To Form The Moon

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MoonBack in the 1970s, scientists first hypothesized that the moon was formed when another planet, now called Theia, collided with a young Earth, roughly 4.5 billion years ago. The problem with that theory, though, is that computer models indicated that the moon would then have the same composition as the other planet, but the Earth and the moon are very similar in composition. In 2012, scientists found a way to reconcile that discrepancy — if the Earth was rotating much faster than it is now, then a big chunk of Earth’s mantle broke off during the collision, slowing the Earth’s rotation down and explaining why the Earth and the moon are so similar. But now, there’s another explanation — researchers have found material from Theia in a lunar rock found by Apollo astronauts, and it turns out Theia’s composition isn’t so different from Earth’s.

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Wi-Fi Comes To The Moon

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moon wifiFor some reason, there are few coffee shops around Boston that offer free Wi-Fi. Sadly, Dunkin Donuts is the only place one can rely on for free Wi-Fi (not to mention amazing people watching) around here. You’d think the Hub would be more connected than that, but that’s sadly not the case. In fact, even the moon has a one-up on Beantown — there’s now lunar Wi-Fi that’s as fast as the Wi-Fi I’m using right now. I guess the coffee shop is next.

Researchers from NASA and MIT have devised a way to beam Wi-Fi capabilities from a base in New Mexico. Even cooler than that, they use telescopes and lasers to do it. Four separate telescopes, each with a diameter of roughly six inches, transmit an uplink signal via coded infrared laser pulses to a satellite orbiting the moon. The signal bends in the atmosphere as it travels the nearly 240,000 miles to the moon, so using four telescopes ensures that the signals from each bend differently, which increases the chances that one of those laser beams will hit the receiver on the satellite. The receiver also has a satellite, which focuses the laser light into an optical fiber before amplifying that signal 30,000 times. Then, a photodetector converts the light into electrical pulses that are then converted into data bits. And presto, a wireless connection is established.

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Japanese Beverage Company To Advertise On The Moon

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PocariOne small step for man, one giant leap for advertising.

In October of 2015, Japanese company Otsuka will send a titanium can of their beverage Pocari Sweat to the moon. There’s a little more to it than simply dumping a can on the lunar surface, though. Perhaps to temper the bad taste this campaign may leave in many mouths, the company is creating a time capsule that looks like one of their cans. This canister contains messages from kids all over Asia, engraved onto small metal disks that fit inside the container. According to Otsuka, the package “contains the children’s dreams.” Their tiny, tiny dreams. They’re even calling it the Dream Capsule. Oh, and of course there’s also a powdered form of Pocari Sweat.

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Pluto May Have A Subsurface Ocean, Saturn May Be Forming A New Moon

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pluto oceanSome of you might have woken up on April 1 to find that Pluto had been reinstated as a planet. Of course, it wasn’t true — neither was the rumor that Richard Branson bought Pluto, thank the stars. But here’s some information about Pluto that appears to be totally legit: astronomers now think it has a subsurface ocean.

A new study proposes that, after a massive object smashed into Pluto, creating its moon Charon, the heat released by the collision warmed up a region in Pluto’s interior, creating an ocean that may still be there and may actually exist in liquid form. It seems crazy to think that a planet so far from the sun could have liquid water, but come on, it’s the Cosmos — strange and crazy are its bailiwick.

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Science And Discovery Channels Will Broadcast A Live Moon Landing

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google lunar xprizeThe way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the old saying. And apparently the quickest way to the minds of potential future space experts is to exploit American audiences’ appreciation for reality entertainment with space-related TV specials. Or make an app. Following in the tentative footsteps of the Mars One mission/competition series, Discovery Channel and Science Channel have teamed up for a miniseries chronicling the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. The plan is to follow the winning lunar lander into space to give a new generation of viewers the first live moon landing in over 40 years. The landers in the contest are all unmanned, of course, so this isn’t so much a giant leap for mankind as it will a linear, whirring roll for robots.

For a little background info, Google launched the Lunar XPRIZE as a way to jumpstart the privatized space race, which has become a more widespread (though not quite vertical) industry in recent years. $20 million goes to the first team that successfully lands a craft on the moon’s surface and travels 500 meters, all while sending pictures and video back to Earth in real time. The second place winner and other contestants split the remaining $10 million in prize money.

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Our Moon May Not Be Able To Have Its Own Mini-Moon, But A Meteorite Recently Exploded On The Lunar Surface

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moonsWhen you realize that planets like Saturn have 60 moons, and Jupiter has 63, you have to wonder whether moons can have their own moons. Saturn’s satelite Titan is larger than the planet Mercury, so it’s not hard to imagine another rock circling it. Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today, one of my favorite space publications, tackled this question, and has dashed my hopes of discovering an infinite series of moons. It turns out that a moon can’t have a moon—unless some specific stuff is going on, which we’ll talk about later. At least the reasons this can’t happen are interesting, and that makes everything okay.

Apparently, “moon” has no explicit definition. If you look it up, you’ll find references to Earth’s Moon, but no official definition about what moons are in general. I thought science had this stuff nailed down. Moons do have some consistent attributes, though: they’re whole, sold objects that orbit around a bigger body, probably a planet, probably orbiting a star. Whatever the moon orbits is orbiting something else, etc. Technically, the Moon does have a moon, or at least something distinct orbiting it: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling and photographing our Moon since 2009. But its lifespan is limited, and sheds light on why no moons in our Solar System can have their own satellites.