Mysterious ‘Floating Hills’ Of Pluto Revealed In New NASA Images

Pluto just keeps getting weirder.

NASA released new images last week of what the space agency described as “floating hills,” essentially massive icebergs drifting in a sea of frozen nitrogen.

These hills, which can be several miles across, are located in the middle of the Sputnik Planum, or the icy plains of the planet’s heart-shaped region:

The region is home to glaciers as well as clusters of these frozen hills, which NASA said could be fragments of water ice from the nearby uplands.

“Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean,” NASA said in a news release.

“When the hills enter the cellular terrain of central Sputnik Planum, they become subject to the convective motions of the nitrogen ice, and are pushed to the edges of the cells, where the hills cluster in groups reaching up to 12 miles (20 kilometers) across,” the space agency said.

One especially large cluster covering a distance of about 37 miles by 22 miles appear to be icy hills that were “beached” in shallow nitrogen. The area was nicknamed the Challenger Colles in honor of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986:

NASA said the photo was taken by the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera instrument aboard New Horizons from a distance of 9,950 miles on July 14, 2015, shortly before the spacecraft’s closest approach to the planet.

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10 Essential Accessories for the Drone Traveler

The latest in the Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series, in which Kike profiles interesting information, research and thoughts on using drones, UAVs and remotely piloted vehicles for journalism and photography.

As the sUAV industry keeps on growing, drones are becoming ubiquitous tools for photographers, journalists, travelers and explorers. The following is a list of essential items every drone pilot should have.

National Geographic Creative photographer Kike Calvo testing some gear in Madrid for his book So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones. Photo © Nano Calvo

1. Remote Control Wind Protection: Allows you to operate your remote control in cold and windy environments, making it possible to fly in difficult weather conditions. It will also help to avoid the rapid discharge of the battery.

2. Portable Solar Recharging Kit: You can directly charge your smartphone in about an hour. It comes with a USB Power Pack to charge AA and AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries. Full charge will allow you to recharge your phone 1-3 times per charge. It also works with iPads and other tablets.

SOLAR KIT

3. Personal GPS Tracker: Track your drone via web or smartphone app anywhere GSM 2G cellular reception exits. Highly accurate current location and one year of history. First year is free, and then a low fee is charge after the 12-month period included is over. Besides tracking your drone, you can add a luggage tracker to your list. It allows you to check to see what city your luggage is in and help find it in case it gets lost.
Personal tracker
4. Airflow Meter: Using an app for your smartphone, the environmental meter connects using Bluetooth. The ABM sensors allow you to accurately measure and record —> Read More

Sakurajima Volcano Shoots Out Lava, Ash And Lightning During Eruption

Adding lightning to a volcanic eruption will make it either more impressive or more terrifying, depending on how close you are when it happens.

On Friday, Japan’s Sakurajima erupted, with explosive blasts of lava accompanied by bursts of volcanic lightning:

It’s even more impressive/terrifying up close and in slow motion:

No one was injured during the eruption, but the Japan Meteorological Agency upgraded its alert from level 2 to level 3, warning people not to approach the volcano, which is roughly 32 miles from the Sendai nuclear power plant.

The previous alert level forbid people from approaching the crater.

Volcanic lightning is caused by friction when a large amount of ash bursts from a volcano and the particles rub together in the air, according to National Geographic. As a result, lightning is rare in eruptions that don’t release much ash.

Sakurajima sits in Kagoshima Bay, looming over Kagoshima City, whose 600,000 residents often endure plumes of ash during its regular activity. For them, Friday’s eruption was just another day living in the shadow of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

I’m not scared because I’m used to it,” resident Toru Sakamoto told the Japan Times.

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Researchers Find More Women Buried At Stonehenge Than Men

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of 14 women, believed to be of elite status, buried at the iconic prehistoric monument of Stonehenge.

The remarkable discovery was announced in the latest publication of British Archaeology, and the findings suggest a gender-equal society thousands of years ago.

“The archaeology now shows that as far as the burials go, women were as prominent there as men. This contrasts with the earlier burial mounds, where men seem to be more prominent,” archaeologist Mike Pitts, who edits the publication, told Discovery News.

Christie Willis, a fellow researcher at the British site, told Discovery News the remains were those of 14 females and nine males.

Macehead & bone pins found in the #Stonehenge Aubrey Holes – on loan from @salisburymuseum https://t.co/0kTxVX8Eh5 pic.twitter.com/2G3gADu30E

— Stonehenge (@EH_Stonehenge) February 3, 2016

The findings led the publication to declare that “Stonehenge was not just a man thing.”

“In almost every depiction of Stonehenge by artists and TV re-enactors we see lots of men, a man in charge, and few or no women,” Pitts said.

He believes that with the latest discovery, the view of Stonehenge may drastically change.

According to the publication, the Neolithic site is the country’s largest prehistoric cremation cemetery, and burials there were likely reserved for those of higher status.

Pitts said researchers used high-tech tools like CT scans to better piece together the cremated remains.

Researchers also found other items at the site, such as long, slender bones they believe were used as hairpins.

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