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10 things we didn’t know last week

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1. It’s possible to fry chips on Jupiter.

Find out more (The Times)

2. In China, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are known as Curly Fu and Peanut.

Find out more

3. Dates are distributed in the same way across 1986 and 2014, meaning that anyone finding a 27-year-old calendar knocking around can re-use it.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

4. Dogs align themselves along a north-south axis when they defecate.

Find out more (The Times)

5. Lesbians are four times as likely as straight women to drive a Subaru.

Find out more (Slate)

6. Consumption of cigars in the UK has fallen by 80% over the past 20 years.

Find out more (Financial Times)

7. Architects practising in Texas have to be fingerprinted.

Find out more (The Guardian)

8. Finding a heap of broken china on your doorstep on New Year’s day in Denmark is a sign of popularity.

Find out more (The Independent)

9. Some nurses in the UK wear fat suits as part of their training for dealing with morbidly obese patients.

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10. It is possible to balance 53 spoons on a standing human body.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

Ice blades threaten Europa landing

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Jagged blades of ice may cover the equatorial area of Europa

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is a prime target for future space missions as it harbours a buried ocean that could have the right conditions for life.

But attempts to land may face a major hazard: jagged “blades” of ice up to 10m long.

A major US conference has heard the moon may have ideal conditions for icy spikes called “penitentes” to form.

Scientists would like to send a lander down to sample surface regions where water wells up through the icy crust.

These areas could allow a robotic probe to sample a proxy for ocean water that lies several kilometres deep.

Details of the penitentes theory were announced as scientists outlined another proposal to explore the jovian moon with robotic spacecraft.

On Earth, these features (so named because of their resemblance to the pointed caps worn by “penitents” in Easter processions around the Spanish-speaking world) form in high altitude regions such as the Andes.

Here, the air is both cold and dry, allowing ice to sublimate (turn from a solid into vapour without passing through a liquid phase).

Penitentes begin to form when irregularities in the surface of the snow are enhanced by the Sun’s energy. These furrows then act as a trap for solar radiation, and, as they deepen, the tall peaks are left behind.

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Io & the Gas Giant

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“How big is Jupiter’s moon Io? The most volcanic body in the Solar System, Io (usually pronounced “EYE-oh”) is 3,600 kilometers in diameter, about the size of planet Earth’s single large natural satellite. Gliding past Jupiter at the turn of the millennium, the Cassini spacecraft captured this awe inspiring view of active Io with the largest gas giant as a backdrop, offering a stunning demonstration of the ruling planet’s relative size.
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Click image for larger size.
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Although in the above picture Io appears to be located just in front of the swirling Jovian clouds, Io hurtles around its orbit once every 42 hours at a distance of 420,000 kilometers or so from the center of Jupiter. That puts Io nearly 350,000 kilometers above Jupiter’s cloud tops, roughly equivalent to the distance between Earth and Moon. The Cassini spacecraft itself was about 10 million kilometers from Jupiter when recording the image data.”
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