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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Great photo; bad smell.

Two interesting events from deep space:

The landing site for Philae, the Rosetta cometary probe's lander, has been chosen; and Philae will attempt its touchdown on Nov 12.

In celebration, Rosetta took an impressive selfie, which also shows gas venting from the comet:


ESA scientists also announced that they've analyzed those gases boiling off the comet, and learned it was a mix that includes ammonia, methane, formaldehyde, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide, sulphur dioxide and carbon disulphide.

This was described in New Scientist as a combination of "rotten eggs, cat urine and bitter almond."

Or, as the ESA succinctly states: "If you could smell the comet, you would probably wish that you hadn't."

It's amusing, but also scientifically interesting because this discovery strengthens the theory that the Earth was seeded from space during its earliest years not only with water (about half of the water you drink every day was originally in comets) but also with the organic compounds that set the stage for the later development for life --- and us.

About the selfie: http://www.gizmag.com/rosetta-philae-update-selfie-landing-site-confirmation/34430/
More pix: http://www.gizmag.com/rosetta-philae-update-selfie-landing-site-confirmation/34430/pictures

About the gas analysis: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/rosettas-comet-smells-really-really-bad-1-180953149/ and
http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/2014/10/23/the-perfume-of-67pc-g/