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The Solar System May Have Two New Members

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EightTNOsIf you’re still crying about the demotion of Pluto, it’s probably time to focus on something else, namely, on the possibility that the dwarf planet isn’t the end of our solar system. Scientists have recently uncovered new evidence suggesting that the elusive “Planet X” might be real, and there might be two of them.

The idea of Planet X goes back more than 150 years. By then, astronomers knew about Uranus, but they also discovered that its orbit was wonky, which made them suspect Uranus was under the gravitational influence of another planet. In 1846, Neptune was discovered, but astronomers noted that Neptune’s orbit was also a bit odd. Hence, Pluto—except not really. As it turns out, Pluto is too small to have the kind of effect on Neptune astronomers noticed. So they figured there could be yet another planet, a bigger one, out past Neptune.

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Humans Have Landed Spacecraft On These Seven Celestial Bodies

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rosettaOn Wednesday, the European Space Agency’s Philae lander made history by being the first spacecraft to land on a comet. Comet 69P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is now the seventh celestial body humans have touched. What are the others? I’m glad you asked because we’re about to run through the list.

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This Upgraded Telescope Captures Never-Before-Seen Images Of Planets Being Born

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planet formationThanks to Voyager and Cassini, we’ve been able to detect Saturn’s F ring giving birth to moons. Sure, the moons don’t last very long before they disintegrate, but celestial births are still pretty exciting (and they don’t involve any expensive registries or showers). Recently, the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) radio telescope (which is actually a set of 66 individual telescopes), received ah high-resolution upgrade that allowed it to record images of planets being born around a young star.

Stars such as our sun are formed when gravity condenses gas and dust clouds into a core. Planets then form inside of those dense clouds, which makes them difficult to observe. However, ALMA, located in the Atacama desert in northern Chile, was able to use longer wavelengths thanks to the antennas recently spaced 15 kilometers apart, which allows for comparisons of signals. These upgrades were implemented in September, and since then, the telescope’s target has been HL Tau, the “infant” star (it’s less than a million years old, after all) in the Taurus constellation roughly 450 light years from Earth. According to research, the new images ALMA obtained are tantamount to me photographing a penny from 70 miles away.

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Beer Inspired By ‘The Planets’ Will Soon Be Released By Spacey Michigan Brewery

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celestial suds beerBooze! Booze! Booze! We’re used to alcohol artists creating interesting potables for fictional properties like Star Trek, and we’ve seen some other pretty nifty space-based alcohol in the past few years. But I think I’m most interested in the upcoming promotion from the Michigan-based Bell’s Brewery, which will be rolling out a line of varied beers inspired by the orchestral suite “The Planets,” from English composer Gustav Holst. Doing a keg stand for Jupiter just feels natural, doesn’t it?

Here’s how brewery founder Larry Bell is rolling the products out, and what we can expect from each beer. Starting in August, Bell’s will put out one beer every two months, ending in July 2015. You’ll be able to find the goods in both six-packs and on draft, but only if you live within the 20-state distribution zone that Bell’s works with. (That means almost the entire east coast, D.C. included, plus some northern states and Arizona and parts of Southern California.) And if you’re wondering why there isn’t an Earth beer, that’s because our own planet wasn’t included in the suite; besides, almost every beer on Earth is inspired by Earth.

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Massive Mega-Earth Baffles Scientists

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Kepler 10cI imagine that scientists spend a lot of time scratching their heads, stymied by some mystery or unexplained phenomenon. Of these scientists, I figure astronomers are particularly well acquainted with head scratching, as some deeply weird stuff goes on deep in the cosmos. In fact, astronomers just discovered one such unexplainable finding: a rocky planet twice as big as Earth and 17 times as large.

The Kepler 10 system contains two rocky planets, that we know of. One of them, Kepler-10c, has always been known to be bigger than Earth—2.3 times, to be precise. But astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) were only recently able to calculate the planet’s mass. The original data collected by the good ol’ Kepler telescope indicated the planet’s size, but not its weight or composition, so astronomers used additional data from the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS-North) instrument on the Canary Island’s Telescopio Nazionale Galileo. They were surprised by the result.

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Could A Planet Like Tatooine Really Exist?

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Part of the joy of science fiction is getting to experience, at least in a vicarious way, a variety of worlds, planets, and universes that don’t exist in reality. Submerging ourselves in such new realms is always good for a laugh, but in many cases, especially when the world resembles our own, most of us wonder just how possible they are. Odds are, if you’re of a particular generation, you’ve spent a fair amount of time pretending to have lightsaber battles on one of the many planets from Star Wars. You’re not the only one, far from it, and you’re not the to explore the question of just how feasible it is that a planet like, say Tatooine, with its multiple suns, actually exists out there in space.