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planets

  1. Planets with Two Suns Could Have Black Vegetation

    The more you know: According to research presented at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, two-sunned (bisolar?) planets, should they be capable of supporting vegetation, would be likely to have black or grey plants instead of green greenery. While this may sound like a needless layer of sci-fi whimsy, the optical reasoning they present seems sound enough: "To maximize energy absorption for photosynthesis, especially when the suns have vastly different colors or if at least one of the suns is dim, plants—or, more correctly, their extraterrestrial analogs—may use one or more types of light-absorbing pigments that absorb across a broad range of wavelengths, which would tend to make the plant appear black or gray." So: More suns means wavelengths means more light-absorbing pigments, and with fewer wavelengths to be bounced back at our retinae as a result, a blacker coloration would result. Not exactly the sort of research one can easily lab-test, but a fun thought-experiment either way. (Science Mag via Slashdot. pic via Wallpaper DJ)

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  2. Imagine Jupiter Filling the Entire Sky [Video]

    After being inspired by the recent lunar eclipse, Brad Goodspeed wondered what the sky would look like if the planets in our universe were as close to Earth as the moon is and revolved around us. And it would probably amaze us while, at the same time, scaring the crap out of us. Imagine if he'd included all 63 of Jupiter's moons? Ouch. (Click through to watch in HD.) (BradBlogSpeed via Neatorama)

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  3. This Is the First Confirmed Photograph of an Alien Planet

    A picture that the Gemini Observatory took in 2008 has just been officially confirmed as the first direct photograph of a planet outside our solar system. While we have images of other alien planets -- a.k.a. "exoplanets" -- such images have been composed via indirect means of observation, such as gravitational fluctuations, rather than as true photographs. This particular planet is about eight times the mass of Jupiter, and orbits the star 1RSX J160929.1-210524, which is located about 500 light-years away. The unnamed planet is the little orange dot in the upper-left-hand quadrant of the photograph above.

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  4. NASA Drafts Our Prime Directive

    NASA has an Office of Planetary Protection. It's where the Officer of Planetary Protection works. And that may be the most awesome thing I've heard all week. Goodnight everybody! ...Just kidding. But there really is an Office of Planetary Protection at NASA, and its job is to keep us from irretrievably screwing up interaction between terrestrial life and extra-terrestrial life (or possible extra-terrestrial life). Boing Boing has an article up about the ever-changing job of creating the protocol that we use to avoid horrible science fiction disasters.

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  5. A Living Planet: Avalanches on Mars

    We usually think of the other planets in our solar system as relatively peaceful, unchanging. It's sort of a "tree falls in the forest" situation. If there's no life, how active can they really be? The storm on Jupiter is a swirling maelstrom, sure, but it's a swirling maelstrom that's been around for over two hundred years.

    And yet... spring is approaching the northern hemisphere of Mars, thawing the carbon dioxide ice that's built up along cliff faces. And when you get thawing ice on cliff faces, you also get...

    Avalanches.

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