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Following America’s failed attempt to murder the Moon last year, scientists have decided that more reconnaissance will be needed if we are ever going to be able to conquer our ancient lunar nemesis. We must know our enemy as we know ourselves if we are to be victorious

That’s where you come in!

As a loyal and decent Earthling, you can now gather valuable information about the moon by observing it in great detail and recording your notes at Moon Zoo. Only by searching every crater and noting every boulder can we find the moon’s secret weak point. And only by striking at this Achilles Heel can we finally end the threat that the moon poses to the health and prosperity of all life on Earth. And now, you can work alongside Earth’s greatest scientists to finally make this noble dream a beautiful reality.

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Guys, scientists are like for serious this close to discovering the origin of cosmic rays, which are from space and almost certainly murdering you right now in ways you cannot imagine in your most vivid nightmares.

This is good news for Lou Dobbs! Since he wants to be a Senator  and thus longer despises Mexicans – have you not heard? – he will now have something new and even scarier than Mexicans to advocate building a retarded, useless-ass fence against.

To defend America.

Ever since two men took their first steps onto the surface of the moon and one sat in the lunar module, seething and plotting his revenge, one question about the moon has plagued mankind.

Where the fuck are all the moon people?

I mean, we go to all this trouble, spend untold billions of dollars, fly up to the goddamned moon and everything and there’s what? A bunch of rocks and dust and shit but no moon people. What the shit is that all about?

This week, news broke of what appears to be an intact lava tube on the surface of the moon. There’s a chance, albeit a slim one, that this hole, which appears to be about 65 meters deep, could be an entrance to a linked network of tunnels brnaching out beneath the surface of the moon.

Which is, of course, exactly where you would live if you were moon people.

In more terrestrial lava tube news –  live on top of a SUPERVOLCANO! Maybe. Which seems like it should be fun – after all, how can you not enjoy saying SUPERVOLCANO! But as with all volcanoes, one must be realistic about the dangers it poses. After all, it’s all fun and games until your plucky grandmothers legs melt off.

Lots of really awesome images from the depths of space this week, starting with images from the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope.

Granted a new lease on life courtesy of it’s recent retrofit, the venerable observatory showed everyone that it’s still got what it takes. Check out images of stars being born inside the Carina Nebula and a close up of the super dense Omega Centauri star cluster at HubbleSite.

The relative new kid on the block, NASA’s Swift satellite, is no slouch either though. This week it sent back a truly spectacular mosaic image of the Andromeda galaxy, giving us the most complete view so far of our nearest neighbor, galactically speaking.

Not to be cut out of the act, Esa’s Planck observatory has started strutting it’s stuff this week as well, sending back thermal images of the oldest light in the universe which are important to our understanding of the cosmos, if a little yawn inducing aesthetically.

I See You!

I See You!

Now sure, the far off NGC 1097 galaxy looks, to the untrained observer, like the eye of some angry God, glaring down upon us disapprovingly.

But it’s not. It’s something even cooler.

What looks to be the pupil in this image, captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, is actually an enormous black hole that weighs in at more than 100 million times the mass of our sun.

The bright white glow it produces stems from the fact that it is surrounded by a star nursery, where new stars are being formed at an astonishing rate.

Also notable in this fantastic image is the large blue dot to the left of center, nestled between the two leftmost spiral arms. This object is NGC 1097’s smaller companion galaxy, which may be “poking through” the larger galaxy, as researcher George Helou puts it, or might just be nicely placed to say cheese at the moment. What it is not, is a cataract on the eye of an all powerful deity.

So just sit back, appreciate how beautiful and strange the universe really is, and remember – although God almost certainly disapproves of a great many of your lifestyle choices, he is not staring at you from 50 million light years away. Probably.

Sleep tight!

The Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory has taken some of the clearest images to date of Betelgeuse, the red supergiant that makes up the shoulder of Orion in the night sky.

The images are pretty awesome, revealing that the star, which is 1,000 times larger and 100,000 times brighter than our own Sun, is also ejecting a plume of gas the size of our solar system. This super fast weight loss technique is helpful in explaining how a star as young as Betelgeuse, at only a few million years old, seems ready to go supernova so soon that an existing human civilization could still see it.

So, say the next ten years or so. In the meantime, the rest of will have to settle for pictures like the one above, which were obtained using the VTL’s ‘lucky imaging’ capabilities. Rather than taking one long still shot from the Earth, which for purposes of cosmic photography is like using a drunk guy on one leg as your tripod, lucky imaging takes lots of images very quickly, and then blends the clearest ones together to create an image that’s sharper than the sum of it’s parts.

It’s always nice to see an amateur science enthusiast lay claim to their fifteen minutes of fame. There’s just something heartwarming about knowing that even with the world of science becoming more and more advanced and more and more specialized, there’s still room for someone with a little bit of equipment, a healthy curiosity about the world around them and a liberal dose of free time on their hands to discover something worthwhile.

With that in mind, we welcome Frank Melillo of Holtsville, New York to the limelight. Melillo is the dilettante stargazer who called the attention of astronomers around the world to a huge bright mark now visible in the clouds surrounding the planet Venus.

Data from the ESA’s Venus Express probe suggests that the spot appeared several day before it was spotted from Earth, And that it has been expanding since. This sort of mark in the less than stable cloud cover surrounding Venus isn’t necessarily unusual, but the scale of it is.

Some researchers speculate the marks are created by volcanic eruptions on the surface of the planet, as opposed to the dark mark that has recently been made on Jupiter by a comet collision. But to affect the atmosphere like it has, this most recent bright spot would have had to be one doozy of an eruption.

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