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  Saturn moon photos, CLASH, and rogue planetsNov 17, 2012 5:06 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:How about some nice recent-ish Cassini photos of Saturn and its moons?
 
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image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (source)
 
^ Saturn and three of its moons are pictured in this photo from last December. Enceladus (313 mi / 504 km diameter) is the one on the left, below the rings, Tethys (660 mi / 1,062 km diameter) is on the right, and tiny Pandora (50 mi / 81 km diameter) is...well, can you spot Pandora? It's just a little tiny speck right above the rings on the far left.
 
Image
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (source)
 
^ That's Saturn's third-largest moon, Dione (698 mi / 1123 km across), seen in front of the planet's largest Moon, the yellow cloud-shrouded Titan (3200 mi / 5150 km across).
 
Image
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (source)
 
^ This photo from June has Enceladus again! Maybe they like getting that one in photos because it's all icy and bright and shiny.
 
There's a similar photo of Saturn and its moon Mimas from about a week and a half ago over here.
 
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NASA's Hubble and Spitzer telescopes just zeroed in on what the galaxy-hunting project CLASH ("Cluster Lensing And Supernova Survey with Hubble") thinks is the most distant, and thus the earliest, galaxy yet seen: the extremely faint reddish blob known as MACS0647-JD is postulated to be a galaxy seen just 420 million years after the Big Bang, its light having traveled 13.3 billion years to reach us. What's particularly remarkable about the galaxy--not that much else can really be told about it, given that this is at the very extreme edge of our detection abilities--is its size: just 600 light years across! Theory says that a typical galaxy of that age should be 2000 light years across; for comparison, our Milky Way galaxy, thought to be a fairly typical modern galaxy, is 150,000 light years across, and we have orbiting dwarf galaxies that are themselves over 10 times as large as MACS0647-JD. One theory is that the old, tiny galaxy represents a "building block" that would go on to form much larger galaxies through galactic collisions and mergers.
 
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The ESO announced the discovery of a free-floating planet about 100 light years from Earth. Object "CFBDSIR2149" (oy!) is estimated to be about 4-7 times the mass of Jupiter, with "an effective temperature" of about 430 degrees C; it would also be relatively young: a mere 50 to 120 million years old. Those numbers derive from more definite measurements taken of a cluster of stars, the "AB Doradus Moving Group," with which the planet appears to be moving through the galaxy, and with which it probably shares its origin.
 
Free-floating planets have been spotted--or, rather, suggested--since the 1990s, when telescopic capabilities were refined sufficiently to start picking out their tell-tale signs in the flickers and wobbles of neighboring stars. CFBDSIR2149 is the closest yet, though, and also the easiest to examine directly, since it isn't too close to a bright star. While CFBDSIR2149 may fall into that fuzzy "brown dwarf" classification area between planets and stars--ie, objects that aren't *quite* massive enough to ignite into stars--it's getting clearer and clearer that our galaxy must be filled with many such free-floating bodies; the article cites one estimate that there are twice as many free-floating planet-things in our galaxy as there are visible stars.
 
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Today's page was originally a light brighter:
 
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But after uploading it and looking at it there for a while I finally realized it didn't have the shadowy dramatic impact I'd meant it to have. So I cracked open another ink bottle. :)
 
 
 
 
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