From the “Smashing Stuff Into Stuff” Department…

To prove that my abandonment of my math major doesn’t disqualify me as a nerd, I will very likely be awake at 7:30 tomorrow morning, seated expectantly in front of my computer, waiting for the LCROSS probe to impact the Moon’s south pole. I giggled fairly hard when Deep Impact smashed into the comet Tempel 1 a few years ago, and I’m embarrassingly giddy this time to be able to watch the event live.

Aside from the fact that it’s awesome, NASA are punching a hole on the lunar surface in order to study its composition, to find out how much water/hydroxyl is actaully down there. To steal a joke from Drew Carey: If they find some, you know what that means: another four-dollar bottle of imported water! But I digress.

The impact is to be broadcast live on NASA TV, and is scheduled to occur around 7:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time. Not for the first time, I curse the fact that I was born in the Southeast, because thanks to the Earth’s damnable rotation, I’m not going to be able to observe the impact directly. But I will be watching, and it will be awesome. Be there or be round. (See, I’m funny!)

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Pictures of Other Planets

While injecting my daily dose of Internet news, I learned something incredible: we now have what looks like direct photographic evidence of planets orbiting other stars! I found it pretty hard to believe, but there it is, in black and white (or rather, purple and white).

One of the planets was found orbiting the star Fomalhaut, around 25 light-years from Earth.

Photo courtesy of Discovermagazine.com’s Bad Astronomy Blog.

This is a true “Holy shit!” moment. So far, the only planets we’ve found by direct imaging have either been too large to be properly classified as planets, or they haven’t been orbiting actual stars. In short, this is monumental.

It gets better. Much better. The Keck/Gemini observatory gives us this image of the star HR 8799.

Your eyes do not decieve. What you are looking at is two (TWO!!!) planets orbiting HR 8799. Apparently, they saw a third one, too, but I’m too busy picking my jaw up off the floor to go hunting for images.

I am actually too shocked and giddy to write anything useful. Sometimes, the universe sees fit to remind me why I became a science nerd in the first place.

You can read more about both planetary systems here and get the juicy details about the one orbiting HR 8799 here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wipe the drool off my face. And pick my jaw up off the floor.

(NOTE: This seems to me like a pretty good reason to either maintain or replace Hubble. That, and the mystery object it found a couple of months ago)