Underice Lakes and Interstellar Rockets

Cool stuff from waaaay down under.

“It’s minus 40 (Celsius) outside,” [Alexei] Turkeyev said. “But whatever, we’re working. We’re feeling good. There’s only 5 meters left until we get to the lake so it’ll all be very soon.”Scientists suspect the lake’s depths will reveal new life forms, show how the planet was before the ice age and how life evolved. It could offer a glimpse at what conditions for life exist in the similar extremes of Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa.

“It’s like exploring an alien planet where no one has been before. We don’t know what we’ll find,” said Valery Lukin of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in St Petersburg, which oversees the expedition

[full story]

Looks like it’s going to be a few more months (untel next Antarctic summer) before we get to see what aliens they find down there, but hopefully they’ll be the nice kind.

Heading out to the vastness of interstellar space, we see something really cool that hasn’t been seen before…

Zeta Ophiuchi Rocketing Through Space

Zeta Ophiuchi Rocketing Through Space

A massive star flung away from its former companion is plowing through space dust. The result is a brilliant bow shock, seen here as a yellow arc in a new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

The star, named Zeta Ophiuchi, is huge, with a mass of about 20 times that of our sun. In this image, in which infrared light has been translated into visible colors we see with our eyes, the star appears as the blue dot inside the bow shock.

Zeta Ophiuchi once orbited around an even heftier star. But when that star exploded in a supernova, Zeta Ophiuchi shot away like a bullet. It’s traveling at a whopping 54,000 miles per hour (or 24 kilometers per second), and heading toward the upper left area of the picture.

As the star tears through space, its powerful winds push gas and dust out of its way and into what is called a bow shock. The material in the bow shock is so compressed that it glows with infrared light that WISE can see. The effect is similar to what happens when a boat speeds through water, pushing a wave in front of it.

[full tax-payer funded story here]

I’m just always stand in fairly wild-eyed amazement immensity, complexity, and curious sameness that shows up everywhere in this little universe of ours.