A dirty thunderstorm (also, Volcanic lightning) is a weather phenomenon that occurs when lightning is produced in a volcanic plume. A study in the journal Science indicated that electrical charges are generated when rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in a volcanic plume collide and produce static charges, just as ice particles collide in regular thunderstorms.
Carl Sagan guided the maiden voyage of Cosmos a generation ago. He was the most successful science communicator of the 20th century, but he was first and foremost a scientist. Carl contributed enormously to our knowledge of the planets. He correctly predicted the existence of methane lakes on Saturn’s giant moon Titan. He showed that the atmosphere of the early Earth must have contained powerful greenhouse gasses. He was the first to understand that seasonal changes on Mars were due to wind-blown dust. Carl was a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence. He played a leading role in every major spacecraft mission to explore the solar system during the first 40 years of the space age.
NASA plans a robotic mission to search for life on Europa | io9
It looks like it’s finally going to happen, an actual mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa — one of the the solar system’s best candidates for hosting alien life.
Yesterday, NASA announced an injection of $17.5 billion from the federal government (down by $1.2 billion from its 2010 peak). Of this, $15 million will be allocated for “pre-formulation” work on a mission to Europa, with plans to make detailed observations from orbit and possibly sample its interior oceans with a robotic probe. Mission details are sparse, but if all goes well, it could be launched by 2025 and arriving in the early 2030s.
This is incredibly exciting. Recent evidence points to a reasonable chance of habitability. Its massive subsurface ocean contains almost twice as much water as found on Earth. The water is kept in liquid state owing to the gravitational forces exerted by Jupiter and the moon’s turbulent global ocean currents. The good news is that a probe may not have to dig very deep to conduct its search for life; the moon’s massive plumes are ejecting water directly onto the surface.
Artistic microscope slides produced in the Victorian era (1840~1900) by arranging hundreds of tiny diatoms into intricate patterns. This was often accomplished by using a single hair to move the diatoms in a special chamber that prevented disturbance to the slide. The fabrication of these amazing objects must have required incredible patience, attention to detail, and a steady hand.