Number 296 (Story #3), November 20, 1996 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
WHAT'S HAPPENING ON OTHER WORLDS? On Mars an Oklahoma-sized duststorm swirls about near the northern pole, while at Neptune storms and a northern-hemisphere dark spot discovered only last year were tracked by the first movie ever made of the entire Neptune rotation period (Hubble Space Telescope press releases). Saturn's inner ring is dripping water onto the planet below (New Scientist, 26 October). The Galileo spacecraft has updated knowledge of Jupiter and its moons, a miniature solar system all by itself. New reports suggest that the Great Red Spot (essentially a 20,000-km-wide storm rotating at a speed of 110 m/sec) is probably a shallow structure; the volcanic moon Io may be the source of at least some of the interplanetary dust coming from the Jovian environment; many plate-shaped structures on Europa's surface may, like Arctic ice floes on Earth, be fractured ice riding on top of a slushy ocean; the ancient ridges on Ganymede appear now (with the help of Galileo's much better resolving power: 74 m/pixel versus Voyager's 1.1 km/pixel) to be flanked by many more finer ridges, implying a thinner crust and a hotter interior than previously thought (Science, 18 October). Further out yet, a new extrasolar planet has been detected near the star 16 Cygni B; the orbit is the most eccentric of any planet yet known. It comes as close as 0.6 and as far as 2.8 astronomical units from the star (Science News, 26 October).