10 Things: Calling All Pluto Lovers

June 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Charon’s discovery—the dwarf planet Pluto’s largest and first known moon. While the definition of a planet is the subject of vigorous scientific debate, this dwarf planet is a fascinating world to explore. Get to know Pluto’s beautiful, fascinating companion this week.

1. A Happy Accident

Astronomers James Christy and Robert Harrington weren’t even looking for satellites of Pluto when they discovered Charon in June 1978 at the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station in Arizona – only about six miles from where Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory. Instead, they were trying to refine Pluto’s orbit around the Sun when sharp-eyed Christy noticed images of Pluto were strangely elongated; a blob seemed to move around Pluto. 

The direction of elongation cycled back and forth over 6.39 days―the same as Pluto’s rotation period. Searching through their archives of Pluto images taken years before, Christy then found more cases where Pluto appeared elongated. Additional images confirmed he had discovered the first known moon of Pluto.

2. Forever and Always

Christy proposed the name Charon after the mythological ferryman who carried souls across the river Acheron, one of the five mythical rivers that surrounded Pluto’s underworld. But Christy also chose it for a more personal reason: The first four letters matched the name of his wife, Charlene. (Cue the collective sigh.)

3. Big Little Moon

Charon—the largest of Pluto’s five moons and approximately the size of Texas—is almost half the size of Pluto itself. The little moon is so big that Pluto and Charon are sometimes referred to as a double dwarf planet system. The distance between them is 12,200 miles (19,640 kilometers).

4. A Colorful and Violent History

Many scientists on the New Horizons mission expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world; instead, they found a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more. High-resolution images of the Pluto-facing hemisphere of Charon, taken by New Horizons as the spacecraft sped through the Pluto system on July 14 and transmitted to Earth on Sept. 21, reveal details of a belt of fractures and canyons just north of the moon’s equator.

5. Grander Canyon

This great canyon system stretches more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across the entire face of Charon and likely around onto Charon’s far side. Four times as long as the Grand Canyon, and twice as deep in places, these faults and canyons indicate a titanic geological upheaval in Charon’s past.

6. Officially Official

In April 2018, the International Astronomical Union—the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features—approved a dozen names for Charon’s features proposed by our New Horizons mission team. Many of the names focus on the literature and mythology of exploration.

7. Flying Over Charon

This flyover video of Charon was created thanks to images from our New Horizons spacecraft. The “flight” starts with the informally named Mordor (dark) region near Charon’s north pole. Then the camera moves south to a vast chasm, descending to just 40 miles (60 kilometers) above the surface to fly through the canyon system.

8. Strikingly Different Worlds

This composite of enhanced color images of Pluto (lower right) and Charon (upper left), was taken by New Horizons as it passed through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. This image highlights the striking differences between Pluto and Charon. The color and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon’s polar red terrain and Pluto’s equatorial red terrain.

9. Quality Facetime

Charon neither rises nor sets, but hovers over the same spot on Pluto’s surface, and the same side of Charon always faces Pluto―a phenomenon called mutual tidal locking.

10. Shine On, Charon

Bathed in “Plutoshine,” this image from New Horizons shows the night side of Charon against a star field lit by faint, reflected light from Pluto itself on July 15, 2015.

Read the full version of this week’s ‘10 Things to Know’ article on the web HERE.

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Our solar system is a jewel box filled with a glittering variety of beautiful worlds–and not all of them are planets. This week, we present our solar system’s most marvelous moons.

1. Weird Weather: Titan

Saturn’s hazy moon Titan is larger than Mercury, but its size is not the only way it’s like a planet. Titan has a thick atmosphere, complete with its own “water cycle” – except that it’s way too cold on Titan for liquid water. Instead, rains of liquid hydrocarbons like ethane and methane fall onto icy mountains, run into rivers, and gather into great seas. Our Cassini spacecraft mapped the methane seas with radar, and its cameras even caught a glimpse of sunlight reflecting off the seas’ surface. Learn more about Titan: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/titan/

2. Icy Giant: Ganymede

Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the largest in the solar system. It’s bigger than Mercury and Pluto, and three-quarters the size of Mars. It’s also the only moon known to have its own magnetic field. Details: solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/ganymede/indepth

3. Retrograde Rebel: Triton

Triton is Neptune’s largest moon, and the only one in the solar system to orbit in the opposite direction of its planet’s rotation, a retrograde orbit. It may have been captured from the Kuiper Belt, where Pluto orbits. Despite the frigid temperatures there, Triton has cryovolcanic activity – frozen nitrogen sometimes sublimates directly to gas and erupts from geysers on the surface. More on Triton: solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/triton/indepth

4. Cold Faithful: Enceladus

The most famous geysers in our solar system (outside of those on Earth) belong to Saturn’s moon Enceladus. It’s a small, icy body, but Cassini revealed this world to be one of the solar system’s most scientifically interesting destinations. Geyser-like jets spew water vapor and ice particles from an underground ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus. With its global ocean, unique chemistry and internal heat, Enceladus has become a promising lead in our search for worlds where life could exist. Get the details: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/enceladus/

5. Volcano World: Io

Jupiter’s moon Io is subjected to tremendous gravitational forces that cause its surface to bulge up and down by as much as 330 feet (100 m). The result? Io is the most volcanically active body in the Solar System, with hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains dozens of miles high. More on Io’s volcanoes: solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/io/indepth

6. Yin and Yang Moon: Iapetus

When Giovanni Cassini discovered Iapetus in 1671, he observed that one side of this moon of Saturn was bright and the other dark. He noted that he could only see Iapetus on the west side of Saturn, and correctly concluded that Iapetus had one side much darker than the other side. Why? Three centuries later, the Cassini spacecraft solved the puzzle. Dark, reddish dust in Iapetus’s orbital path is swept up and lands on the leading face of the moon. The dark areas absorb energy and become warmer, while uncontaminated areas remain cooler. Learn more: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/2892/cassini-10-years-at-saturn-top-10-discoveries/#nine

7. A Double World: Charon and Pluto

At half the size of Pluto, Charon is the largest of Pluto’s moons and the largest known satellite relative to its parent body. The moon is so big compared to Pluto that Pluto and Charon are sometimes referred to as a double planet system. Charon’s orbit around Pluto takes 6.4 Earth days, and one Pluto rotation (a Pluto day) takes 6.4 Earth days. So from Pluto’s point of view Charon neither rises nor sets, but hovers over the same spot on Pluto’s surface, and the same side of Charon always faces Pluto. Get the details: www.nasa.gov/feature/pluto-and-charon-new-horizons-dynamic-duo

8. “Death Star” Moon: Mimas

Saturn’s moon Mimas has one feature that draws more attention than any other: the crater Herschel, which formed in an impact that nearly shattered the little world. Herschel gives Mimas a distinctive look that prompts an oft-repeated joke. But, yes, it’s a moon. More: olarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/mimas

9. Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Just Phobos

In mythology, Mars is a the god of war, so it’s fitting that its two small moons are called Phobos, “fear,” and Deimos, “terror.” Our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this look at Phobos, which is roughly 17 miles (27 km) wide. In recent years, NASA scientists have come to think that Phobos will be torn apart by its host planet’s gravity. Details: www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/phobos-is-falling-apart

Learn more about Phobos: solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/phobos/indepth

10. The Moon We Know Best

Although decades have passed since astronauts last set foot on its surface, Earth’s moon is far from abandoned. Several robotic missions have continued the exploration. For example, this stunning view of the moon’s famous Tycho crater was captured by our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which continues to map the surface in fine detail today. More: www.lroc.asu.edu/posts/902

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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fictionandmusic  asked:

wow your writing in the gods and monsters series is amazing! i've always loved greek myths and you bring them to life and add a different twist that makes it better than anything i've ever read about mythology!! if you have time, could you do a continuation of the Hades and Kore story? Kore/Persephone is one of my fav goddesses and i can't wait to see where you take her story!

(continuation of: x, x)

The first time Kore throws herself into the River Styx, she is reckless and stubborn and feels like she has so little left to lose, only an overbearing mother she yearns to escape.

The first time Kore throws herself into the River Styx, she fights and swims and survives. She is picked up on the shore and carried to safety in Hades’s arms.

The second time Kore throws herself into the River Styx, she is reckless and stubborn and feels like she has everything to lose. She lets the water take her, and she drowns.

The second time Kore throws herself into the River Styx, it kills her.

~

Kore wakes up after falling unconscious while being carried by the King of the Underworld. Her skin is fully healed, no longer blistering and burning. She’s naked under the soft blankets, but she was naked when she dove into the river, so she’s not too worried about it.

“I didn’t know you were a goddess,” someone says, and she turns her head to see a little girl sitting by her bedside with black skin and grey eyes and hair. She’s glaring at her, “I wouldn’t have tried to kill you if I’d known. You shouldn’t touch my water – it’s not good for you. It will kill you. It does not care what you are.”

“It did not kill Achilles,” Kore says, pushing herself up so the blanket falls to her waist.

The young Lady Styx huffs and gets to her feet, pushing open the long wardrobe on the other side of the room. “It did, actually. What my river takes, it keeps.” Kore raises an eyebrow. Styx doesn’t explain further, only places a dark blue gown on the bed. “Hecate put some of her old things in here for you. She’s taller and thinner than you are. But you are a goddess. You can make it work.”

“I can,” Kore agrees, amused. She pushes herself out of bed, and her hair falls into her face.

Her hair has been a dark brown her whole life.

She strides over to the wardrobe and pulls it open, starring at herself in the mirror.

Her hair has turned pure, snowy white. The hair on her head of course, but the rest of it too. Her eyebrows, the light hair on her arms and legs, going down her navel, the hair between her legs – all of it white.

“You’re lucky nothing worse happened,” Styx scolds. “My river usually does much worse than that.”

Kore touches one of her new, pale eyebrows. “That is an excellent point, Lady Styx.”

With some clever magic, Kore pulls on the now perfectly fitting gown. Hecate doesn’t tend to bother with them, only dresses up if there’s some sort of celebration that requires her attendance – something that hasn’t happened in a long time, ever since she irritated Zeus and Poseidon to the point that they called for her head on a spike. The gown is old, even by their standards, but its beautifully crafted, stars plucked from the heavens and sewn into the bodice, waves from the seven seas curling around the long skirt. “This is very valuable,” she says, “Is Hecate sure she would like me to have it?”

Styx shrugs, “She said it was a young woman’s dress, and however she may look, she’s not a young woman any more. It’s my favorite dress of hers – I was quite cross that she gave it to you, but I did almost kill you. So I suppose that’s fair enough.”

“Ah,” Kore says, not quite sure how to respond to that. “I see.”

Styx grins at her and grabs her hand. The child goddess’s skin is freezing to the touch, but Kore doesn’t flinch back out of fear of being rude. “Come with me now. Hades wants to see you.”

The girl leads her through the twisting hallways to a polished wooden door. It’s not the throne room, where Kore thought that the girl would take her. She’s seen the grand inner chambers of Poseidon and Zeus’s homes before, of the lesser gods even, and Kore braces herself for something just as grandiose and intimidating.

Styx opens the door and pushes her inside before vanishing.

Kore blinks and looks around.

The room is smaller than she expected. It’s lined with shelves packed with scrolls, and mounted on the opposite wall is large map that’s constantly shifting and changing, and it take her almost a full minute of looking at it to realize it’s a map of the underworld.

“You’re looking better.”

Kore’s eyes snap down, and it’s only then that she notices the figure of Hades, King of the Underworld, hunched over his desk. His hair pulled in messy low ponytail, and there are dark bags under his eyes. He’s in a simple black chiffon, one no more presumptuous than any mortal noble would wear. He’s the most unassuming, unremarkable thing in already unassuming, unremarkable room.

Suddenly, she feels over-dressed.

“Thank you,” she says, not knowing what else to say. She feels – awkward, almost, in front of him, which isn’t something she’s ever felt with anyone. She wants to climb into his lap and rest her head against his shoulder. She wants to force him into some proper clothes for a king. She wants to put him to bed and make him sleep until he loses those bruises under his eyes.

She’s never wanted to do any of those things for anyone before. She doesn’t even know him.

Although – she knows he came for her. That he found an intruder into his realm and picked her up and soothed her, carried her to safety and washed her of the corrosive water of the Styx. He placed her in his palace and did not touch her as so many other men would have touched her.

So perhaps she does know him. At least a little.

He rests his chin on his hand while he looks at her. “Hermes came with a message from your mother, demanding your return.” She doesn’t even have the time to panic before he continues, “I denied her. If she wishes to speak to me in person, I told her she is welcome to step into my realm herself.”

“She won’t do that,” Kore says, “She fears your realm. She fears how her power means nothing in your domain.”

Kore had never known her mother to fear anything – except the land of the dead. She’d grown up thinking Hades must be a hulking, formidable figure to pull fear from her mother’s breast, but that’s clearly not the case.

He smiles, and it’s the first hint of sharpness she’s seen from him. “I know. There will be consequences, of course. But those are my concern. You are a guest of my realm, Goddess of Spring. Walk where you please, and do as you please. No one will stop you.”

He’s already looking back down at his papers, eyebrows drawing together as he scratches out a series of numbers and rewrites them. It’s a clear dismissal, but Kore can’t bring herself to move.

She’s never met this man before. Yet he stands against her mother, yet he welcomes her to his realm, yet he permits unrestricted access to his home, yet he grants her every freedom he’s able.

“Thank you,” she says again. He gives an absent nod, already reaching for another scroll.

She leaves as quietly as she came.

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