Science Fiction on Charon

Pluto’s moon Charon has received the first group of official names for its features, among them several with ties to science fiction. Clarke Montes has been named in honor of Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick Mons is named for the director of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Butler Mons honors Octavia E. Butler. Dorothy Crater is named for the protagonist of Baum’s Oz stories and Nemo Crater is named for the captain of Verne’s Nautilus. Stanislaw Lem’s Prix the Pilot is immortalized in Pirx Crater.
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Tiangong-1 Falls to Earth

Chinese prototype space station Tiangong-1 entered the atmosphere and burned up over the southern Pacific Ocean just after midnight GMT on April 2. Some pieces of the station may have survived reentry. Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011and hosted two crewed missions, each of which lasted two weeks. The space station was designed to have a two year lifespan.
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Obituary: Stephen Hawking

Physicist Stephen Hawking (b.1942) died on March 14. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He published the popular book A Brief History of Time and has played himself in episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Hawking has suffered from ALS and was confined to a wheelchair, using a computer to communicate and speak.

Send Your Name to the Sun

NASA will be including an electronic list of names on the Parker Solar Probe, which is designed to plunge into the Sun’s atmosphere on the closest pass to the Sun’s surface ever. They are inviting the public to submit their names to be included on the memory card. Names must be received by April 27, 2018.
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First Planets Discovered Outside Milky Way

Xinyu Dai and Eduardo Guerras from the University of Oklahoma have published a paper in the Astrophysical Journal letters claiming they have discovered evidence of planets outside the Milky Way, about 3.8 billion light years away. The team used microlensing techniques to make their discovery.
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Obituary: Thomas Bopp

Amateur astronomer Thomas J. Bopp (b.1949) died on January 6. Bopp was working as a manager at a construction materials factory when he discovered Comet Hale-Bopp (also discovered by Alan Hale), on July 22, 1995. Following the discovery, he left his job to become a full time speaker and educator on astronomy.

Nickname a World

The New Horizons team is looking for public input in coming up with a nickname for MU69, the next target for the spacecraft. After flyby, the nickname chosen will be replaced by a more permanent name depending on what is found. The New Horizons team is considering Año Nuevo; Camalor; Kibo, Mwenzi, and Shira; Mjölnir; Peanut, Almond, and Cashew; Pluck and Persistence, Sagittarius, or Z’ha’dum. Camalor is the name of a city in the writings of Robert L. Forward and Z’ha’dum is a planet from Babylon 5.

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Ring Around Haumea

Only days after confirming that Pluto does not have rings, NASA has announced that dwarf planet Haumea does have a particulate ring, making it the only dwarf planet known to have a ring. The same scientists who discovered Haumea’s rings previously discovered rings around the centaur asteroid Chariklo, which orbits between Saturn and Uranus. The formation of rings around small celestial bodies raises questions for astronomers about ring formation.
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Obituary: Yoji Kondo

Astronomer and author Yoji Kondo (b.1933) died on October 9. Kondo served as the president of various commissions for the International Astronomical Union and headed the astrophysics lab at the Johnson space center during the Apollo and Skylab missions. He published several astronomy books. In addition, Kondo wrote science fiction using the name Eric Kotani and edited Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein.

Hurricane Irma Kills Moon Tree

A sycamore tree planted from a seed which had been carried on the Apollo 14 mission and planted at Cape Canaveral on June 25, 1976 was killed during hurricane Irma on September 10,2017. The seed was part of an early experiment to discover it micro-gravity would have an impact on seeds when they were planted. The trees from seeds flown on the mission, from a variety of different species, were indistinguishable from trees grown from seeds which had not flown in micro-gravity.
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