To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's moonwalk, Google Earth now lets you explore the moon (as well as Mars).  Here is the annotated Sea of Tranquility:
Ice Volcano

Ice Volcano

Jul 22 2009 | 0 comment(s)

Check out this amazing picture of an ice volcano eruption on Saturn's moon Enceladus from the Cassini probe (description here).

Is Enceladus the "lost" planet from the Ice Pirates?  Did Cassini figure out the only route to approach it that would not get the probe lost in time?
Scientists in Hangzhou joined residents and tourists across China and India in observing the longest total solar eclipse in a century - and probably the most-viewed one ever.  The moon's shadow traced a path across the world's two most populous countries for five minutes and 36 seconds, a treat for scientists and spectators alike. 

"We saw it! The clouds kept getting thinner, and we even had a pretty good-sized hole in the clouds for the five minutes of totality," reported Expedition Leader Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams and chair of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Solar Eclipses, at an observatory near Hangzhou, China as part of the Williams College Eclipse Expedition. 
Apollomania is sweeping the nation! 

Well, not quite mania, perhaps just Apollostalgia.  That's defined as showing an interest in the Apollo program history, while lacking the will to actually recommit to exploring space. 

As we look at the 40th anniversary of humankind's first setting foot on a celestial body other than the Earth, I will state clearly that Apollo 12 was the peak of the Apollo program.

Now, it's true Apollo 11 is when humans first set foot on the moon.  It's Apollo 11's anniversary, it's getting the lion's share of the attention right now. 

But I maintain Apollo 12, launched a scant 4 months later, was the most important moon landing in all of history.  Let's review:
Yesterday I wrote how Anthony Wesley, who hails from Canberra, Australia, grabbed this shot of a new dark spot near the south pole of Jupiter.

It's left to bigger minds (and bigger telescopes) than mine to sort out what caused it but while the blogosphere has been buzzing, JPL has been observing.
My personal favorite Apollo 11 memorial*: Buzz Aldrin's iconic boot print done in Lego's by Mikael via The Brick Brothers.
by Mikael

40 years ago,  July 20, 1969,  Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon, making the U.S. last to start but first to finish in the 'space race' with the Soviet Union.   Armstrong's now famous words, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," inspired a generation of scientists.

The new R&D enterprise it fostered, built to support America's geopolitical ambitions and based largely on federally-funded contracts and specifications rather than the private funding that had been the primary source of basic research before World War II, has had a remarkable effect on science and how advancements are made.
A team of astrophysicists has developed a new explanation for the early composition of our solar system - radioactive nuclei found in the earliest meteorites, dating back billions of years, could have been delivered by a nearby dying giant star of six times the mass of the sun. 

If their hypothesis holds water, it could change our current ideas on the origin of the solar system.
Was there an impact on Jupiter or is that new dark spot just a  temporary anomaly?

Anthony Wesley, who hails from Canberra, Australia, grabbed this shot of a new dark spot near the south pole of Jupiter.   The great thing about astronomy is it's one of the last areas in science where 'amateurs' can still do great things before Big Science gets to it.
The Eagle Nebula is a dazzling stellar nursery located 7000 light-years away near the constellation of Serpens - the Snake.  In the Eagle Nebula, a region of gas and dust where young stars are currently being formed, a cluster of massive, hot stars named NGC 6611 has just been born.

The powerful light and strong winds from these massive new arrivals are shaping light-year long pillars, seen in the image partly silhouetted against the bright background of the nebula. The nebula itself has a shape vaguely reminiscent of an eagle, with the central pillars being the "talons".