Tons of space news - a planet denser than lead, no sex in space, a tiny asteroid to hit the Earth, Mercury...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

There are a ton of interesting stories that have just popped up in the last few days, so I'll list them here.

First, another discovery from the space-based planet finder Corot. I was just wondering about Corot a few days ago because it hasn't been turning up as many discoveries as I had thought it would. Yesterday though it discovered a planet (or brown dwarf) the size of Jupiter that is denser than lead:

The object, COROT-exo-3b, fits into the category of a failed star known as a brown dwarf, but the team that made the discovery has not ruled out the possibility that it is a planet. Brown dwarfs are failed stars. They burn lithium but are not massive enough to generate the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen and helium that powers real stars. Planets do none of that.

"It has puzzled us; we're not sure where to draw the boundary between planets and brown dwarfs," said Hans Deeg, an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) in the Canary Islands, Spain.

The object has a mass 20 times greater than that of Jupiter, but is roughly the same size. It falls outside the range of planets and stars discovered to date, with the largest planets having 12-Jupiter-mass and the smallest stars 70-Jupiter-mass.

If astronomers confirm the object as a planet, it would weigh in as the most massive and densest planet found so far. A full study will be detailed in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Next, Virgin Galactic has declined $1 million to shoot a sex film in space. That was the right thing to do of course (no sense in starting off your company with a reputation for that) but it shows how much serious money there is for, er, space tourism. reported on its site this week that Virgin Galactic declined the offer to film sex scenes while participants were floating in zero gravity.

Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn told the Web site that the offer from an unidentified party "was $1 million, up front, for a sex-in-space movie. That was money we had to refuse, I'm afraid."

Third, there's a tiny asteroid about 3 metres in diameter that was discovered just on Sunday and is going to hit the Earth. It's small enough that it'll disintegrate in the atmosphere but apparently it still has the force of 1/10th of the atomic bomb used in WWII and will still make a huge fireball. Or already did. I think it might have already burned up a few hours ago. Its trajectory is over Europe and then Sudan.

And finally, MESSENGER has completed its second flyby of Mercury. Awesome.


Unknown said...

The company's name is still "Virgin Galactic". After she changes the name in the future due to new experiences, she'll change her opinion about sex.

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