This week in Science Friday, planets in a nearby solar system are experiencing violent collisions while atoms at the LHC are not. The Phoenix Mars lander is still diggin’ away and takes a peek under a rock. New information is revealed about Saturn’s rings, and the newest and strangest dwarf planet is discovered. All this plus our gadget of the week: the Dodge EV.
Large Hadron Collider Failure Delays Tests Until 2009
The Large Hardon Collider just can’t seem to keep itself out of trouble days. Recently, a failure within the Large Hadron Collider facility caused around a hundred magnets to overheat. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a leak caused by a faulty electrical connection caused its 27-kilometer-long ring to be flooded with a ton of liquid helium. From the LHC press release:
A full investigation is underway, but it is already clear that the sector will have to be warmed up for repairs to take place. This implies a minimum of two months down time for LHC operation. For the same fault, not uncommon in a normally conducting machine, the repair time would be a matter of days.
It looks like the LHC won’t start accelerating and smashing particles until sometime next year, after its scheduled winter shutdown.
The LHC shuts down its engines until 2009
Two Planets Suffer Violent Collision
Two terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star some 300 light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision, nearly obliterating each other. “It’s as if Earth and Venus collided with each other,” say scientists. “Astronomers have never seen anything like this before. If any life was present on either planet, the massive collision would have wiped out everything in a matter of minutes — the ultimate extinction event.” This looks similar to our own moon-forming event when a Mars sized object collided with the Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. What’s startling astronomers is the fact that this more recent collision happened in a “fully mature planetary system,"
something they were not expecting to find.
Two planets violently collide in a nearby solar system
Phoenix Mars Lander Peeks Under A Rock
NASA’s newest member of the mars lander family is still running full force on the red planet, and scientists have been trying to find creative ways to use its robotic arm for things it wasn’t designed to do. Phoenix has spent the last several sols collecting chemical and atmospheric data, and now it has successfully moved a rock about the size and shape of a VHS tape in order to take a peek at what’s underneath. In its wake, the rock – informally named “Headless” – left a nice trench of fresh surface ice for Phoenix and her Earthbound scientists to study. To get the most up to date news, go straight to the source at Phoenix’s very own Twitter .
This image of Headless was taken at about 12:30 p.m., local solar time on Mars.
Cassini Watch: Saturn’s Rings May Be More Massive, Older, Than Previously Thought
The Cassini spacecraft currently in orbit around Saturn (and whose imaging team is lead by Star Trek‘s own science advisor Carolyn Porco) has recently taken measurements to indicate the Saturn’s famous rings may be much more massive and much older than scientists previously thought. Because the rings appear so clean and bright, it was argued that the rings of Saturn were much younger than Saturn, which is some 4.5 billion years old. These results support the possibility that Saturn’s rings formed billions of years ago, perhaps at the time when giant impacts excavated the great basins on the Moon. The findings also suggest that giant exoplanets may also commonly have rings.
Cassini is sparking new ideas about Saturn’s rings
Strange New Dwarf Planet Haumea
One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System was classified as a dwarf planet last week and given the name Haumea. This designation makes Haumea the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea’s smooth but oblong shape make it extremely unusual. Haumea’s orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Shown below, an artist visualizes Haumea as a nearly featureless ellipsoid. Quite possibly, however, Haumea has interesting craters and surface features that currently remain unknown. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was recently renamed by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, recently renamed Hi’iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess.
Haumea, the newest and strangest dwarf planet
Gadget of the Week: Dodge EV Sports Car. 100% Electric.
Chrysler has rolled out three prototypes of its own electric vehicles (EV) — a conventional-looking Jeep and minivan, and then its own Tesla copy, the Dodge EV which is 100% electric. One of these babies will be released in 2010, we’re hoping it’s the EV. The Dodge EV sports car looks curiously similar to the Tesla, for good reason because both bodies are built by Lotus. The Dodge EV will have similar specs, too, accelerating from 0-60 in under 5 seconds with a top speed of 120mph and a range of 150-200 miles. Let’s just hope Chrysler can get that price down way lower than the Tesla’s too-steep $109K. Check out this video to see it in action.
100% electric, and still so stylish
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- New optics technology to study alien worlds
- Site of potential lunar colony detailed in 3D
- Scientists may have found oldest rocks on Earth
- Japan actually planning a space elevator. . .no I’m not kidding