NASA's Cassini Probe Travels Between Saturn and its Rings

Cassini is beginning its Grand Finale in style. It passed within 600 miles of Saturn's moon Titan, and now it's entering into a death spiral as it gets closer and closer to crashing into the surface of Saturn in late September. The photography we'll get between now and then should be phenomenal!

For updates on Cassini, be sure to follow @CassiniSaturn on Twitter. And for a Twitter bot that is sad about Cassini ending, follow @CassiniNooo. It's hilarious.

Cassini will perform another 21 dives through the same gap, beaming back more information about the planet and its beautiful rings, before plunging into Saturn itself to burn up in its atmosphere

πŸ”— NASA Really Is Trying to Grow Potatoes on Mars | WSJ

Mark Watney's vision of colonizing Mars may come to life some day.

Scientists who have traveled here to the Peruvian desert say they have the answer. Potatoes. Researchers at the Lima-based International Potato Center and scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are studying which type of potato could be best suited for extraterrestrial farming to support a human settlement on Mars. If everything goes as planned, the Martian colonies could be munching on french fries, chips and mashed potatoes one day.

NASA Really Is Trying to Grow Potatoes on Mars | WSJ

πŸ”— SpaceX Lands Drone Ship in the Ocean | Mashable

Science rules. That is all. Β 

Fifth time's the charm: SpaceX finally lands on its drone ship in the ocean | Mashable

πŸ”— What if Earth is Actually 2 Planets Smashed Together? | Grist

An interesting theory recently published in the journal Science proposes that Earth may be the result of two colliding bodies that fused together early on. According to the theory, this impact created both the Earth and the Moon.

Astronomers have long suspected that the moon formed after a small, proto-planet, called Theia, crashed into Earth, knocking a chunk of rock into Earth’s orbit. New research by scientists at the University of California Los Angeles suggests that Theia didn’t merely sideswipe Earth, but instead fused with our planet, forming both modern Earth and the moon.

The new evidence comes from an analysis of oxygen isotopes from both volcanic rocks and lunar rocks that were brought to Earth as part of the Apollo missions. The astronomers found that the isotopes share a unique fingerprint, something that could only happen if matter from Theia and Earth thoroughly mixed together in a head-on collision.

Everything you know is a lie: Earth might actually be 2 planets smashed together | Grist

86 Years of Pluto

Today in 1930,  Clyde Tombaugh took the first set of plates that led to the discover of Pluto. Based on its unusual orbit, astronomers were able to track its movement against the relatively static field of stars and determine that it was a part of our solar system. 

The naked eye can hardly notice the difference between these images that were pivotal to such a major discovery. By 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope had been launched and was beaming images back to Earth. Here is the best image of Pluto as of 1994.

Nothing but a blob of pixels. And yet, this remained one of the best images we had of Pluto until 2015, when NASA's New Horizons finally made its closest approach to our most distant neighbor after more than nine years and three billion miles. That's when the now-famous image below was released to the world.

How far we've come. As New Horizons heads further out into space, I look forward to even newer and better discoveries that enlighten us the way this photo has.