Interplanetary Parks Service
Imagine a future were hikers can pack up their provisions, zip up their space suits and set off for interplanetary adventures. Astronomy.com has put together a fun tour of our Solar System for the intrepid traveler who dreams of faraway canyons. They liken the project to an Interplanetary Parks Service tour. Readers can gaze at Serenity Chasma on Charon, Pluto’s moon. This 1,000 kilometer long canyon gouges across the surface of the Moon at a depth of nine kilometers (about 5.6 miles). Compare this to the Grand Canyon’s mile high cliffs.
On the way back home stop in at Olympus Mons on Mars, a cross between a ginormous mountain and a rolling hill. Larger than most European countries, Olympus Mons rises 20 km high or 2.5 times the height of Mount Everest. At this height but with shallow slopes, it’s an easy if long hike. Our own Moon is worth a pit stop. The Marius Hills would make for some fun low gravity jaunts. After a long day on the lunar surface, hikers can take refuge in a volcanic tube that wore a 300-foot deep hole in the ground, providing safe shelter. The next time you’re looking for a new mountain to climb, consider the options outside your own atmosphere.
Hubble has a Birthday
It’s been 29 years since the tumultuous launch of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. After the exaltation of launch came the crushing blow of a distorted mirror, followed by a patch delivered via the Space Shuttle. Since then, Hubble opened our eyes to ferociously majestic space phenomenon. It has changed the way humans view the vast and ever-growing universe, from nebulae to the deep space image that uncovered 5,500 galaxies in a pin-point in our sky.
In celebration of Hubble’s birthday, NASA released a mesmerizing photo of the Southern Crab Nebula (Hen 2-104). The nebula is the result of two stars in close proximity. One is a red giant and the other a white dwarf. As the red dwarf sheds its layers, it’s pulled into the gravity of the white dwarf, causing a disk of gas to form between the two stars. This disk forces gas to flow on either side of itself, creating the opposing funnels.
While Hubble provides these color composite images for us to feast on, it also collects information in the near-ultraviolet and near-infrared to shed light on the chemical composition of these celestial bodies. Thanks to the team behind Hubble, our understanding of the universe has broadened. If we are very lucky, by Hubble’s 31th birthday it will be joined in the sky by its successor, the much anticipated—for this nerd at least—James Webb Space Telescope. Though, it keeps getting delayed, making me a disgruntled onlooker. So, as I await the coming of the prodigal child I’ll comfort myself with the wealth of imagery Hubble has provided.