NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has made the first visit to Pluto, speeding past at 14km per second. Earlier, the space agency released the most detailed picture yet as it hurtled towards the dwarf planet. The probe was set to grab more images and other data as it passed just 12,500km from the little world at 12:50 BST. The spacecraft is currently out of contact with Earth as it continues its observations. However, scientists already have colour data from the approach and said they might release another new picture of Pluto later today.
As we have mentioned before here at Jammy Toast we love a bit of space exploration and so things are starting to hot up around here as New Horizons nears Pluto. Launched from Earth in 2006, New Horizons is currently bearing down on Pluto and its moons at nearly 14km/sec. The probe is due to make its close approach to the dwarf on 14th July, gathering a welter of photographs and other data as it zooms past. NASA’s Pluto probe experienced a fault on Saturday that put it temporarily out of contact with the Earth, as it speeds towards a flyby next week. Principal investigator Alan Stern said that about 30 observations of the dwarf planet were missed as a consequence of the hiccup.
From time-to-time we feature a Picture of the Day which is usually of something special that someone has managed to capture on camera. This picture, however, was captured on a compact camera on the shores of Loch Ness at about 21:00 on Sunday and most go down as the Picture of a Lifetime. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency got calls from people in the Highlands, Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria thinking it was a distress flare. However, Mr Macdonald described his image as a “fluke”.
Back in the late 1960s, when I was a young tadpole, I spent hours glued to the telly watching the Apollo moon landings in School. Nothing has ever matched the excitement of those days but the last couple of days has come close for the bears here at Jammy Toast as we have been watching the robot probe Philae landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This reached a crescendo last night when, after a 16 hour wait, it came back online to reveal that following an awkward landing, Philae was stable and sending pictures. However, there are concerns about its battery life.
When you think of Christmas you tend to think of it as the time for friends and family. The time for sharing food and company and catching up on long lost friends. Seeing adverts on the telly for The Samaritans and people being lonely at Christmas is the saddest sight of all. The thought of someone spending Christmas day on their own is horrible. I suffer, if that is the word, from Anthropomorphism – that is giving human characteristics and qualities to objects. When I sell a car I feel sorry for that car and I am sorry to see it go and I always remember it fondly. So for me, even the thought of a man-made object being lonely can make me quite sad and the loneliest man-made object I can envision is Voyager 1.
We were all up good and early today at Jammy Toast to witness the end of the world – unfortunately, it never happened. We didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed as the ancient Mayan prophecy that the world would end today failed to materialise. However, elsewhere people gathered at ancient sites in Central America in anticipation of what we all believed would be the end of the world. The date – 21st December 2012 – is, so some believe, the end of the “long count” calendar of the Mayan civilisation. Others didn’t believe the prophecy after a new reading of the ancient calendar shows that it did not predict the apocalypse.
As many of you will know the world is going to end on 21st December this year, or at least it is according to some so called Mayan ‘experts’. Meanwhile, other scientists and ‘experts’ say it is just the end of one calendar and the start of another. You can all make your own mind up which one you believe, and if we are still here on the 22nd December the non-believers can have a good laugh at the believers. However, in Russia – home of our friend Aleksandr and Sergei – Doomsday hysteria has gripped many neighbourhoods. People are stocking up on food and fuel as panic buying grips many. Just what good food and fuel will do if the world ends is anyone’s guess.