Thursday, July 06, 2006

Astronomical Bits

Pluto's two new moons have been named Nix and Hydra. The student-built dust-collection experiment on the New Horizons spacecraft headed for Pluto has been named Venetia to honor Venetia Burney Phair, who was 11 years old in 1930 when she proposed the name "Pluto" for the just-discovered ninth planet. Mrs. Phair is now 87, and feels honored to have a scientific instrument carrying her name on its way to Pluto. is watching an enormous sunspot making its way across the face of the sun. And this is the best news: the Hubble Space Telescope main camera came back online on June 30, after two weeks of downtime. Since NASA plans no further support missions to Hubble, it's scary when it breaks down. It will be a great loss to science and to wonderment when we stop getting images from Hubble. For an example, look at the gorgeous picture of the Eagle Nebula that illustrates the Sky and Telescope story.

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