Weekly Science Picks

That time of the week again, where we run down some of the more interesting science happenings on the internets.

ISON is dead, long live ISON!

Back at the start of this year, in mapping out what the new year would have in store for the science stories to come, comet ISON topped our list.

“October it will pass very near Mars and possibly be visible to rovers and orbiting spacecraft. The newly discovered comet could develop a spectacular tail, becoming as bright as the full Moon as it passes by our Sun. The comet is currently falling toward the Sun from between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. There is a chance it won’t survive this encounter. Whatever survives will then pass nearest the Earth in late 2013 December.”

And it hasn’t failed to disappoint. The past week has seen cyberspace erupt in speculation over the tiny comet that could.

Comet ISON: IT’S ALIVE! IT’S DEAD! For Now, Both…

“Or as Karl Battams, an astrophysicist with the Comet ISON Observing Campaign put it in a headline on one of his fabulous blog posts, maybe it is “Schrödinger’s Comet,” meaning it is alive and dead at the same time, at least for now? For an explanation of exactly what this means, make sure to keep reading to the end…

Whatever the answer may be, it will take more time to determine it. In the meantime, one thing is clear: After ISON failed to show up in images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, NASA itself was busy writing the comet’s death certificate: “The comet is believed to have broken up and evaporated,” the agency said.”

As it was also thanksgiving this week, space exploration and the notion of giving thanks merged in a short piece about Cassini.

Give Thanks for Cassini, One of the Greatest Space Missions Ever

“But over the last nine years, Cassini’s travels through the Saturnian system have produced both startling discoveries and overwhelmingly beautiful images. Now, as the seasons on Saturn shift and summer comes to the north, we know that Enceladus isn’t another placid, frozen moons. It’s one of the most exciting places in the solar system, and, along with sibling moon Titan, now sits atop the list of places to search for extraterrestrial lifeforms. In fact, most of what we’ve learned from Cassini about Saturn, its rings, and its moons is pretty different from what we expected, and that trend seems unlikely to fade. The spacecraft still has another three years of life left in it. Ideally, it would continue exploring Saturn and its alien moons until 2017, when it will run out of fuel and hurl itself into the giant planet, frantically sending data to Earth until the weight of Saturn’s atmosphere crushes it.”

And finally, once all the turkey has been consumed, comes that nauseating feeling.

The future is vomitous

“Chemotherapies can’t hide their poisonous natures from our upchuck system (that’s the technical term). Hormone-based drugs regularly leave us retching. Then there’s technology whose sole purpose is to make people regurgitate their lunch. Riot police use of emetics in crowd control strikes me as a really dirty trick, but it sure is effective. As I staggered off the lift and down the slope, whiteout conditions at the summit meant that none of the terrain below my skis threw up any visual contrast. Stealth moguls blended into the blowing snow and caught my skis at inconvenient angles.”

Until next time…

Image — source