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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table

The night sky of Mitzpe Ramon from Four Trees

By Oliver Sacks, from the New York Times:
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/opinion/my-periodic-table.html?_r=0

"A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky “powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words); such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death.
I told my friends Kate and Allen, “I would like to see such a sky again when I am dying.”
“We’ll wheel you outside,” they said.
I have been comforted, since I wrote in February about having metastatic cancer, by the hundreds of letters I have received, the expressions of love and appreciation, and the sense that (despite everything) I may have lived a good and useful life. I remain very glad and grateful for all this — yet none of it hits me as did that night sky full of stars."


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We Finally Know the Size of Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft is finally close enough to Pluto for its size to be accurately determined: 1,473 miles or 2,370 km in diameter. It is the largest object in the Kuiper Belt, the region of our solar system beyond the planet Neptune. Will this be enough to promote it back to planet from dwarf-planet status? Only time will tell, as it requires a vote of the International Astronomical Union, which demoted the diminutive planet to dwarf-planet status in 2006. Stay tuned and watch for updates from the New Horizons Mission as the satellite flies past Pluto in its closest approach today, July 14, 2005.

Pluto (right) and its largest moon Charon as New Horizons satellite approaches the system. 



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