The most common answer to this question was a smaller 3D printer, so I created the tiniest 3D printer I could think of. Here’s the small subunit of the Thermus thermophilusribosome, created from PDB entry 4BTC. Have any more ideas?
Explanation: Despina is a tiny moon of Neptune. A mere 148 kilometers across, diminutive Despina was discovered in 1989, in images from the Voyager 2 spacecraft taken during its encounter with the solar system’s most distant gas giant planet. But looking through the Voyager 2 data 20 years later, amateur image processor and philosophy professor Ted Stryk discovered something no one had recognized before — images that show the shadow of Despina in transit across Neptune’s blue cloud tops. His composite view of Despina and its shadow is composed of four archival frames taken on August 24, 1989, separated by nine minutes. Despina itself has been artificially brightened to make it easier to see. In ancient Greek mythology, Despina is a daughter of Poseidon, the Roman god Neptune.
Our solar system is fantastically bizarre. There are worlds with features we never imagined. Storms larger than planets, moons with under-surface oceans, lakes of methane, worldlets that swap places…and that’s just at Saturn.
Images taken during the Cassini spacecraft’s orbital insertion on June 30 show definite compositional variation within the rings. This image shows, from left to right, the outer portion of the C ring and inner portion of the B ring. The B ring begins a little more than halfway across the image. The general pattern is from “dirty” particles indicated by red to cleaner ice particles shown in turquoise in the outer parts of the rings.
The Cassini spacecraft once again dons its special infrared glasses to peer through Titan’s haze and monitor its surface. Here, Cassini has recaptured the equatorial region dubbed “Senkyo.” The dark features are believed to be vast dunes of hydrocarbon particles that precipitated out of Titan’s atmosphere.
Move over exoplanets, exomoons may harbour life too
In the Star Wars universe, everyone’s favourite furry aliens, the Ewoks, famously lived on the “forest moon of Endor”. In scientific terms, the Ewok’s home world would be referred to as an exomoon, which is simply a moon that orbits an exoplanet – any planet that orbits a star other than our sun.
Although more than 1,000 exoplanets have been discovered since the first one was found in 1995, only a handful of those are thought to be habitable, at least by life as we know it. New research shows that exomoons, too, could provide habitable environments. Although we are yet to find exomoons, we have good reasons to believe that there should be many, even more than exoplanets.
In this, our 10th Christmas offering from across the hundreds of millions of miles that lie between us and Saturn, you will find some of the most splendid and fascinating sights this historic exploration of the ringed planet has uncovered: the hexagonally-shaped jet stream encircling the pole in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, the graceful shadows of its rings arcing across its south, the northern lakes and seas of liquid organics hidden under the hazy atmosphere of Titan, the brilliant ball of glittering ice that is the small active world of Enceladus, and more.
Spend a moment or two and revel in the marvels that our travels in this far-flung planetary system have brought. What wonders we have had for a decade to behold.
Best wishes to all of you, and stay warm, safe, and happy!
Saturn’s largest and second largest moons, Titan and Rhea, appear to be stacked on top of each other in this true-color scene from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The north polar hood can be seen on Titan (3,200 miles or 5,150 kilometers across) appearing as a detached layer at the top of the moon on the top right.