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Pluto and Beyond: After historic flyby, New Horizons probe treks deeper on hunt for moons

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After studying a space rock some 4 billion miles (6.4 billion km) from Earth, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft set off on a new hunt for moons in the solar system’s most distant edge, searching for clues on our solar family’s creation, scientists said on Thursday.

The piano-sized probe is traveling deep into the ring of celestial bodies known as the Kuiper Belt looking for small, icy moons that spun off the snowman-shaped Ultima Thule formation, a pair of icy space rocks that fused in orbit billions of years ago.

“If we’ve seen bodies one and two, the question is what about bodies three, four and five?” Mark Showalter, a New Horizons investigator, said during a news conference at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

New Horizons on New Year’s day came within 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of Ultima Thule, which represents a pristine time capsule dating to the birth of the solar system. The fly-by marked the farthest close encounter of an object within our solar system.

Since then, the probe has sent images revealing Ultima Thule to be a “contact binary” – two bodies that formed separately and then got stuck together. The formation, resembling a red-hued snowman – caused by irradiated ice – is just over 21 miles (34 km) long.

Scientists deduced that the conjoined bodies – one named Ultima and the other Thule – were once part of a cloud of smaller, rotating space rocks that eventually bound together into two larger bodies orbiting at a much slower speed.

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PLUTO AND BEYOND
“We’re looking for the objects that put the brakes on these objects,” Showalter said. Finding the moons, which would orbit Ultima Thule up to 500 miles (800 km) from its surface, would also reveal details about the space rock’s mass and density.

The spacecraft, now 3 million miles (5 million km) beyond Ultima Thule, will ping back more detailed images and data in the coming weeks, NASA said.

Since its launch in 2006, New Horizons has traveled 4 billion miles (6.4 billion km) to the solar system’s edge to study the dwarf planet Pluto, its five moons and hundreds of icy Kuiper Belt objects.

Scientists had not discovered Ultima Thule when the probe was launched, according to NASA, making the mission unique in that respect. In 2014, astronomers found the rocky formation using the Hubble Space Telescope and the following year selected it for New Horizon’s extended mission.

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While the mission marks the farthest inspection of an object in our solar system, NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2, a pair of deep-space probes launched in 1977, have reached greater distances on a mission to survey extrasolar bodies. Both probes are still operational.

Reporting by Joey Roulette from Orlando; editing by Bill Tarrant and James Dalgleish

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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He’ll ‘rot in prison’: At least one House Dem has bigger plans for Trump than impeachment

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An increasing number of Democrats have come out in favor of beginning an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's actions in recent days. But Rep. Fre?derica Wilson of Florida bucked that trend on Monday by coming out specifically against impeachment, warning it would have negative consequences.

However, she made clear she wasn't opposed to impeachment because she's a fan of Trump or thinks his conduct isn't condemnable. In a tweet featuring an antagonizing and absurd meme, Wilson explained that she feared Trump would benefit from an impeachment push:

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Jared Diamond believes America is ruining itself in 4 different ways

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Jared Diamond is not afraid of big ideas. He has tackled such subjects as evolutionary psychology, the reasons why the West rose to global dominance, the lessons to be learned from "traditional societies" and the relationship between environmental change and the decline of ancient civilizations. and why ancient societies fell into decline.

Diamond has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship as well as the National Medal of Science. His bestselling book "Guns, Germs and Steel" won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Trump supporters are furious that knitting website Ravelry took a stand on white supremacy

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When you think of the knitting community, you might envision an elderly woman, sitting on a rocking chair in front of a fire with a pair of large knitting needles. In truth, the knitting and crocheting demographic has changed drastically in the twenty-first century, becoming younger, hipper, and increasingly tied to DIY culture.

Ravelry is a website where both millennials and knitting grannies (among other demographics) meet to talk about knitting, crocheting, weaving, and other craft and fabric arts. But if you plan to crochet a MAGA hat or knit a Trump sweater, think twice about posting it on Ravelry. The forum-style website, which is often described as "Facebook for knitters," recently issued a statement that they would ban open support of Donald Trump on their site. The widely-publicized move suggests that even communities that aren’t seen as specifically political — like knitters — are becoming politicized, sometimes in toxic ways, in an epoch of extreme political polarization in the United States.

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 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH 

Trump endorses killing journalists, like Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Online ad networks are now targeting sites that cover acts of violence against dissidents, LGBTQ people and people of color.

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