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New Evidence Points to a Giant Ninth Planet in Our Solar System

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In a paper published today in the Astronomical Journal, astronomers Michael E. Brown and Konstantin Batygin report that there is new evidence that suggests the presence of a giant icy planet at the edge of our solar system that is 10 times the mass of Earth. 

The new planet, dubbed "Planet Nine," hasn't been observed directly, but The Washington Post writes that Brown and Batygin have "inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system." The orbits of the small planets appear to be affected by the gravity of the larger Planet Nine, which is believed to have an "estimated mass would make it about two to four times the diameter of the Earth, distinguishing it as the fifth-largest planet after Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune," the paper notes. Scientists are currently searching for the new planet, but with an estimated distance 20 times farther than Neptune, it may not reflect enough sunlight to be seen by even the most powerful telescopes. 

Michael E. Brown, the "Pluto Killer" astronomer whose discovery of the dwarf planet Eris led to the reclassification of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, spoke with the Post about Planet Nine and the possibility that it could one day take the former ninth planet's place. Brown explains that scientists cannot yet say that Planet Nine was "discovered" because "discovery means it’s been seen. Someone has seen it, has seen it move, has seen the orbit. We think we know the orbit, but we don't know where on that orbit the planet is, and we haven't seen it yet. This paper we published is like handing everyone a treasure map."

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Space
The Fascinating Device Astronauts Use to Weigh Themselves in Space

Most every scale on Earth, from the kind bakers use to measure ingredients to those doctors use to weigh patients, depends on gravity to function. Weight, after all, is just the mass of an object times the acceleration of gravity that’s pushing it toward Earth. That means astronauts have to use unconventional tools when recording changes to their bodies in space, as SciShow explains in the video below.

While weight as we know it technically doesn’t exist in zero-gravity conditions, mass does. Living in space can have drastic effects on a person’s body, and measuring mass is one way to keep track of these changes.

In place of a scale, NASA astronauts use something called a Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) to “weigh” themselves. Once they mount the pogo stick-like contraption it moves them a meter using a built-in spring. Heavier passengers take longer to drag, while a SLAMMD with no passenger at all takes the least time to move. Using the amount of time it takes to cover a meter, the machine can calculate the mass of the person riding it.

Measuring weight isn’t the only everyday activity that’s complicated in space. Astronauts have been forced to develop clever ways to brush their teeth, clip their nails, and even sleep without gravity.

[h/t SciShow]

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Watch Astronauts Assemble Pizza in Space
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Most everyone enjoys a good pizza party: Even astronauts living aboard the International Space Station.

As this video from NASA shows, assembling pizza in zero gravity is not only possible, it also has delicious results. The inspiration for the pizza feast came from Paolo Nespoli, an Italian astronaut who was craving one of his home country’s national dishes while working on the ISS. NASA’s program manager for the space station, Kirk Shireman, sympathized with his colleague and ordered pizzas to be delivered to the station.

NASA took a little longer responding to the request than your typical corner pizzeria might. The pizzas were delivered via the Orbital ATK capsule, and once they arrived, the ingredients had to be assembled by hand. The components didn’t differ too much from regular pizzas on Earth: Flatbread, tomato sauce, and cheese served as the base, and pepperoni, pesto, olives, and anchovy paste made up the toppings. Before heating them up, the astronauts had some fun with their creations, twirling them around like "flying saucers of the edible kind,” according to astronaut Randy Bresnik.

In case the pizza party wasn’t already a success, it also coincided with movie night on the International Space Station.

[h/t KHQ Q6]

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