Kirk, Spock and Sulu Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before — Charon!

This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Click for a pdf. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Click for a large pdf file. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A big smile. That was my reaction to seeing the names of Uhura, Spock, Kirk and Sulu on the latest map of Pluto’s jumbo moon Charon. The monikers are still only informal, but new maps of Charon and Pluto submitted to the IAU for approval feature some of our favorite real life and sci-fi characters. Come on — Vader Crater? How cool is that?(…)
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© Bob King for Universe Today, 2015. |
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Eerie New Asteroid Video Reveals Giant ‘Space Peanut’

With the help of a pair of giant radio telescopes, scientists have captured eerie new video of an asteroid as it whizzed by Earth last month.

Known formally as 1999 JD6, the space rock is being called a “space peanut” because of its elongated shape and twin lobes.

What explains the lobes?

One possibility is that a couple of “big chunks” came together at some point, asteroid expert Dr. Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope program, told The Huffington Post in an email. Another possibility, she said, is that the asteroid–which is about 1.2 miles across at its widest point–is what’s left over after a larger asteroid survived some kind of impact.

In any case, the peanut shape isn’t particularly unusual.

“Radar imaging has shown that about 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 600 feet [about 180 meters], including 1999 JD6, have this sort of lobed, peanut shape,” Dr. Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. and leader of the space agency’s asteroid radar research program, said in a written statement.

(Story continues below image.)

Radar images of asteroid 1999 JD6 as seen on July 25, 2015.

Known technically as a “contact binary” asteroid, 1999 JD6 made its closest approach to Earth at 12:55 a.m. EDT on July 25, when it passed by our planet at a distance of about 3.5 million miles. That’s about 19 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

The video is made up of images captured over an eight-hour period. NASA created it via a technique known as bistatic observation: the 70-meter Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif. beamed a radar signal at 1999 JD6, and the reflected signal was received by the Green Bank Telescope —> Read More

Walking For Lions Project ‘Lights Up’ Big Cat Protection

Marnus Roodbol, Founder of Walking For Lions and locals in Botswana

While the world mourns and avenges the death of Zimbabwe’s beloved Cecil the lion, one man is on the ground in Botswana protecting lions from the angry guns of local farmers and ranchers.

Marnus Roodbol is the founder of Walking for Lions (WFL), an organization that works with locals in Botswana to literally light up their land when a lion or lions trespass and attack livestock. His passion and drive for this is as steadfast and strong as the lions themselves. He is one man with boots on the ground, using his own vehicle, taking his own supplies, and a handful of motion-detecting outdoor lights with sirens paid for with donations. If he’s fortunate, he may have one helper with him. Marnus makes the long drive from his home in South Africa to farms and ranches in Botswana to protect the iconic animal under fire from too many threats.

Marnus Roodbol, Founder of Walking For Lions and locals in Botswana

Walking for Lions is a non-profit organization created to assist wild lions in areas where they need it most. Its objective is to conduct a lion census in various national parks in southern Africa, to estimate the number of lions needing assistance to survive, help local communities that struggle with human/wildlife conflict and be a part of creating a global awareness of these issues. Funds are allocated according to priorities identified by WFL.

In an interview conducted via Facebook Messenger, Marnus relays what it is like when he is on the move for WFL’s “Lights Up Botswana”.

Lights Up Botswana

NG: Will you please explain how the Lights Up program works?

MR: We physically go to each farmer and then start the process of interviews regarding predation on their cattle and so forth. Once enough evidence is shown, then we will install lights and constantly —> Read More

Can’t Find That Perfect Gift? Here’s What Scientists Advise

Yikes! Another birthday or wedding is coming up fast, and once again you’re wracking your brain to come up with a gift that matches the recipient’s tastes.

But guess what: a surprising new study suggests that that may be the wrong way to pick a gift — and that giving a gift that reflects the your own interests may make the recipient feel emotionally closer to you.

“We were somewhat surprised by our findings,” Dr. Lauren Human, assistant professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal and a co-author of the study, told The Huffington Post in an email. “The intuition that when we select a gift for someone, we should be thinking about what they like (rather than what we like), is very strong and we shared that initially. However, we had a hunch that things might not be that straightforward, as people often mispredict what will be the most beneficial for themselves and others.”

For the study, Human and her colleague Dr. Lara Aknin, assistant professor of social psychology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., conducted six experiments involving about 1,500 men and women.

In one experiment, participants were told to pick a Mother’s Day card. Some were asked to pick a card that “reveals your true self,” others to pick one that “reveals your knowledge of the recipient.” Then all the participants completed questionnaires aimed at revealing their emotions.

What did the researchers find? Participants who gave a card that reflected their own interests indicated that they felt closer to their moms immediately after selecting the card than did the participants who gave a card that reflected their mother’s interests.

In another experiment, participants were asked to purchase an iTunes song as a gift for a friend, family member, or romantic partner that either reflected their true self —> Read More

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