Daily Archives: August 2, 2011

“That’s No Moon…” Body Discovered Orbiting Pluto

Pluto system.

Image via Wikipedia

The New Horizons probe, which was launched at Pluto in 2006 (when Pluto was still a planet), is still hurtling toward the edge of the solar system at 50,000 m.p.h. Mission scientists have used the Hubble telescope to scout the area for any hazards that could destroy the probe.

On June 28, an image showed up on the Hubble gallery that surprised scientists. It was not a hazard, but a moon that nobody knew about.

The new moon – dubbed P4 until it gets a real name – joins Charon, Nix, and Hydra in orbiting Pluto. P4’s diameter is between eight and twenty-one miles, making it impossible to see from Earth.

New Horizons will scream by Pluto over the course of weeks. The probe’s closest approach will occur on July 14, 2015.

By then, P4 should have a new name. According to the International Astronomical Union, the moons of Pluto must have names from Greek underworld myths, as Pluto is another name for Hades. (Incidentally, the moons of Uranus are named from the works of Alexander Pope and William Shakespeare.)

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Gabby Giffords Returns to House to Vote on Debt Ceiling

President Barack Obama has signed the bill to raise the United States debt ceiling, averting potential economic disaster. It should come as no surprise that the debate was full of bitter partisanship and angry rhetoric, and that the process came down to the last minute.

That doesn’t mean the process of raising the debt ceiling did not have its moments of surprise.

On Monday evening, with two minutes to go on a vote in the House of Representatives, a smattering of applause began in a corner of the House chamber. It slowly dawned on each Congressman why the vote stopped and the clapping started: Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in January, appeared in the chamber to cast her vote.

For the moments it took Rep. Giffords to walk to her seat, the entire House joined in applause and the bitterly partisan atmosphere vanished (however briefly).

The vote board, which had been stuck near 200 for minutes, clicked suddenly to 216 affirmative votes needed to pass the bill.

The Capitol looks beautiful tonight,” Rep. Giffords tweeted, “and I am honored to be at work tonight.”

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Filed under Law, National, Politics

On This Day…

In 1923, the 29th president of the United States, Warren G. Harding, died in San Francisco. Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office as President of the United States.

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Filed under National, Notable Passings, On This Day