The Newtown Massacre

by: the Common Constitutionalist

Tragedy struck in Newtown Connecticut Friday. Actually it wasn’t tragedy that struck, but a whacked out twenty year old young man.

It’s not to say that the situation is tragic, it is. As a parent, I can’t imagine what the parents and siblings of the little victims are going through. No parent should ever have to bury a child and certainly not like this.

I was in my office when I first heard the news. I didn’t feel sadness as much as anger. Inewtown-shooting recall feeling the same way when I heard of the movie theater shootings in Colorado, the Columbine massacre and even 9-11.

As the day progressed and the body count grew, we began to reflect on the unspeakable act. Toward the end of the day a few in my office and I discussed the situation.

The overall theme was of course sadness for the loss of life and the poor kids that will have to live with the memory.

The over-arching question was how could anyone do such a thing, why would they?

The easy and cowardly reactions of those like New York Mayor Bloomberg and countless others are both loathsome and all too typical. Blame the guns. Call for stricter gun controls. The president claimed now (the day of the shooting) was not the time for stricter action. (Update: The Columbine shootings occurred during the previous assault weapons ban. That did a lot of good).

With now a few days gone by, the president and virtually all left-leaning outlets are in fact out rightly calling for or intimating stricter gun control.

If we just take away the guns there will be no situations such as this and if we just took away all the hammers, no one would ever smash their thumbs and the world will be safe.

Normally, when someone commits murder I don’t care why he or she did it, just that they did. Let justice be served and hope they get what they deserve. However, as I told the folks in my office, there is a pattern forming and it needs to be examined.

Columbine, Colorado, Connecticut and others. What do these massacres have in common? shooterOver the past several years, relatively young men have perpetrated most if not all of these mass killings.

I contend these incidences are all a product of the “Chickification” of our society. A society that teaches children that self-esteem is more important than anything else. Little Johnny is taught that 2+2 = 5, if it makes him feel better. We don’t keep score at children’s sporting events any longer, or the outcome is always a tie. Win or lose, every child gets a trophy. The use of red ink to correct schoolwork is being done away due to it’s “negative” effect on poor little Johnny. More and more schools are doing away with the graduation valedictorian and salutatorian. You see, it makes the average children uncomfortable. We can’t have that.

Well, we’ve all heard the saying “life isn’t fair”. There are, in fact, winners and losers. If your team loses the game you don’t get a trophy and you must deal with it. If you’re not the smartest or most popular kid in school, deal with it. So you’re not the valedictorian; most are not. Deal with it.

For decades now children haven’t just been nurtured, they’ve been coddled. Parents, teachers and society in general attempt to insulate our kids from reality. We attempt to shield them from every conflict or negative encounter. They must not know disappointment, not at a young age.

Well then, what happens when our children bump up against it (disappointment) later in life? The answer is, they have no idea how to handle it.

A small problem to any well-adjusted person is escalated into a massive calamity, in their mind, because they’ve never been taught to deal with that inefficacy.

This is why, in my estimation, we’ve seen the senseless violence in recent years. That and the desire to be famous just to be famous; the Kardashian effect, as it were.

The government can enact all the idiotic, knee-jerk laws it wants. That won’t solve the problem. It will just disarm the good people.

But hey, that’s what Hitler and Stalin did and that worked out great!

Deep Space Fly-By

A Chinese spacecraft has carried out a deep space fly-by on an asteroid four and a half million miles away from the Earth.

The Chang’e-2 probe successfully conducted the mission to scan the surface of the asteroid Toutatis.

It happened on December 13 at 16.30om Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced today.

The Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away from the asteroid Toutatis, officials saidThe Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away  from the asteroid Toutatis, officials said

At 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, astronomers say it is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid  because it  makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.

In comparison, the asteroid that is thought to have destroyed the dinosaurs was approximately 10 km (6 miles) wide.

The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god.

China followed in the footsteps of the U.S.,  the European Union and Japan by using an spacecraft to examine an asteroid.

Chang’e-2 came as close as 2 miles from Toutatis and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement.

Sources with the administration told the Xinhua news agency that Chang’e-2 is continuing its deep space travel and will reach a distance of more than six million miles away from Earth in January next  year.

Chang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010,  from Xichang Satellite Launch Center and later orbited the moon in a more ambitious mission than its predecessor Chang’e-1.

Chang’e-2 left its lunar orbit for an  extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after  finishing its lunar objectives, which collected data for a complete lunar  map.

Here is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft passed within two miles of the asteroid ToutatisHere is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft  passed within two miles of the asteroid Toutatis
Chang'e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission controlChang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang  Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission control
China claims it was the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured itChina claims it was the first to closely observe the  asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured it

The probe departed from L2 this year and  began its mission to Toutatis.

Since its blast-off, Chang’e 2 has become the first to capture full coverage map of the moon with a resolution of seven meters.

full coverage map of the moon

China claims it was also the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit; and being the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis.

China early this year published a full coverage map of the moon, as well as several high-resolution images of the celestial body, captured by Chang’e-2. The resolution of the images is 17 times  greater than those taken by Chang’e-1.

‘The success of the extended missions also  embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,’  said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar probe program.

Chang’e-2’s extended missions, which were conducted millions of miles away from Earth, have tested China’s spacecraft tracking and control network, including two newly built measuring and control  stations in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and northeast  Heilongjiang province, according to the SASTIND.

However, China still belongs to the second  tier in lunar probe internationally, said Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for  China’s lunar orbiter project, adding that the U.S. and Russia are still leading  nations in this field.

Wu Weiren stressed the need for international cooperation in lunar probe mission, saying it is a shared responsibility of  world scientists to work together in lunar and deep space exploration for the  common good of the human race.

Attribution: Leon Watson, Daily Mail

A Population Crisis

The US Population Crisis Will Be Worse Than We Thought

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by: at Godfather Politics

There is a real population crisis. Too few people are being born.

Back in 2008, when demographers projected trends and predicted the make  future age breakdowns of the population in the United States in the near future,  they calculated a rather grim outlook.

But now  it seems that their expectations were too optimistic. Birthrates in 49 out  of 50 states have been flat-lined or declining. The only exception was North  Dakota (which, in raw numbers, is minute compared to the deficit in other  states).

birthrate“The recession has had a drastic impact on US  birth rates, and there are also fewer immigrants. Both these things have brought  down population projections substantially, according to the latest population  projection from the Census Bureau. This has far-reaching implications for  already unwieldy programs such as Social Security, where fewer and fewer workers  will be tasked with paying for a comfortable retirement for Baby Boomers.”

There are other causes as well.

“Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau,  a research outfit, notes that couples have been getting married ever later in  life; in 2011 the median age at first marriage was 28.7 and 26.5 for men and  women respectively, the highest on record. A rising share of women in their  early 40s are childless. In this respect America may bsocial-securitye following the experience  of Europe.”

It is amazing that we get admission like this from the government and even in  the mainstream news, and then it simply gets forgotten for a few years while we  hear massive amounts of propaganda about how bad it is that people all over the  world are having babies. This is especially insane since the United States, like  most other Western Nation-States, has taught citizens to depend on a pension  (Social Security) for retirement. How can that possibly work when the old  outnumber younger workers.

Worse, this sort of shift in customs is not easily reversible. Even if our  liberal culture would allow a policy that encouraged more children (which would  be a miracle by itself!), the evidence we have is that getting people to change  back to a previous generation’s form of behavior probably  won’t work. The government of Singapore got the idea it needed to Singapore birthratereduce  population, and started a program of propaganda, legal (perhaps even rewarded)  abortion, and financial and legal incentives to stop women from having as many  babies. They were so effective they realized they were destroying the country  and tried to reverse course with laws and incentives going the other way.

They didn’t work. As Jonathan Last wrote  in the Weekly Standard, “Despite all the incentives, all of the public  campaigns, all of the pleading, the average woman in Singapore can barely be  bothered to have a single child.”

As is true of its economy, the United States’ demographics look good compared  to Europe. But that is not worth feeling good about. We have depopulated  ourselves and we still won’t acknowledge how foolish we have been.

No Weed in School

So, is this where the United States is headed? With the relaxed stance of many in this country regarding the use of marijuana, I wouldn’t doubt it.

Amsterdam this week became the first city in the Netherlands to ban students from smoking marijuana at school.

The city’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan introduced the law after school chiefs complained about pupils turning up to classes high after rolling up outside the grounds.

Marijuana is widely available in Holland as, although it is technically illegal, police can’t prosecute people for possession of small amounts.

The Netherlands' relaxed drug policy means some youngsters are turning up to classes stoned, prompting a ban of its use near schoolsThe Netherlands’ relaxed drug policy means some youngsters are turning up to classes stoned, prompting a ban of its use near schools

But it has also had the unwanted side effect that Dutch children are frequently exposed to the drug in public areas.

City spokeswoman Iris Reshef says schools have always forbidden pot, but found it difficult to enforce the policy when students smoked on or near campus and challenged administrators to do anything about it.

‘It’s not really what you have in mind as an educator, that children would be turning up for class stoned, or drunk either for that matter,’ she said.

‘But it has been a problem for some schools.’

Tolerance: Amsterdam is known for its 'coffee shops', where marijuana can be purchased and smoked Amsterdam is known for its ‘coffee shops’, where marijuana can be purchased and smoked

After a change in national law, the city will now be able to declare as of January 1 ‘no toking zones’ – areas like schools and playgrounds where weed-smoking is forbidden by law.

The move is closely paired with a decision by the new government to ditch plans for a national ‘weed pass’ that would have blocked tourists from buying marijuana.

That was a measure years in the making, and greatly desired by southern cities such as Maastricht that have been flooded with dealers from Belgium and Germany who drive across the border to buy weed in bulk.

Marijuana has been tolerated in Holland for decades, attracting many tourists who travel there to enjoy the drugMarijuana has been tolerated in Holland for decades, attracting many tourists who travel there to enjoy the drug

But the weed pass was opposed by Amsterdam, where drug tourists are not generally seen as causing many problems.

Last month, Van der Laan proclaimed that coffee shops would stay open for tourists after all.

In a letter Wednesday, he noted that one in three tourists who come to Amsterdam try marijuana while they’re here, more than previously estimated.

Attribution: Sam Webb

Gummy Light

An artist has created a colorful chandelier constructed almost entirely out of 8,500 hand-cast acrylic gummy bears.

Kevin Champeny spent months creating ‘Candelier’ for home furnishings company Jellio and was behind the sweet-inspired furnishings in the bedroom of Carly Shay, the main character in Nickelodeon’s hit teen sitcom iCarly.

Mr Champeny creates large artworks that look like sculptures or mosaics, but a closer investigation reveals they are made of hundreds or thousands of tiny objects, often individually cast by the artist.

Light snack: A chandelier made from over 8500 gummiy bears has been created by artist Kevin ChampeneyLight snack: A chandelier made from over 8500 gummiy bears has been created by artist Kevin Champeney
Tasty art: His sculpture take months to complete and straddle the line between sculpture and mosaicTasty art: His sculpture take months to complete and straddle the line between sculpture and mosaic
Intricate: None of the gummy bears were painted and each batch had to be cast in the perfect colour
Intricate: None of the gummy bears were painted and each batch had to be cast in the perfect colour
None of the gummy bears were painted and each batch had to be cast in the right color

His artwork ‘Flag is an American flag made up of 44,450 urethane army men cast in red, white, and blue, while ‘What Remains’ is a five foot wide skull mosaic made up of more than 35,000 tiny flowers.army men flag

‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ is another candy-themed work and uses more than 15,000 acrylic pieces of candy and weighs 75lbs.

He starts by building silicone moulds of the original pieces, then casts them in color, meaning nothing is painted, each hue has to be mixed and cast using various resins.

The final objects numbering in the tens of thousands are then painstaking glued to a surface piece by piece, meaning that the entire process for each artwork spans several months to design, sculpt and cast.

Good enough to eat?: Those with a sweet tooth will be disappointed to learn the treats are cast in acrylicGood enough to eat?: Those with a sweet tooth will be disappointed to learn the treats are cast in acrylic
Art: Other works by Mr Champeny include a human skull made from tiny flowers and a rose created using various types of sweets
Other works by Mr Champeny include a human skull made from tiny flowers and a rose created using various types of sweets

Attribution: Sam Webb

Eye Catching

When you think of an eyeball, you probably think of a smooth marble-like sphere.

But these remarkable pictures seem less like a part of human anatomy and more like pitted cratered landscapes.

They show the complex and intricate textures hidden within the iris that give our eyes our unique and enchanting character.

Eye catching: This incredible picture shows a close up of a human eye, revealing in remarkable detail the structures of the irisThis incredible picture shows a close up of a human eye, revealing in remarkable detail the structures of the iris
The windows to the soul: But seen so close they seem less like human anatomy and almost like the landscape of an alien worldBut seen so close they seem less like human anatomy and almost like the landscape of an alien world
Fibrous: The pictures show the front pigmented fibrovascular tissue known as a stromaThe pictures show the front pigmented fibrovascular tissue known as a stroma
Unique: The macro ocular portraits were taken by Armenian physics teacher Suren Manvelyan, 36, using his friends, colleagues and pupils as modelsThe macro ocular portraits were taken by Armenian physics teacher Suren Manvelyan, 36, using his friends,  colleagues and pupils as models
Enchanting: We often think of our eyes as smooth spheres, but Mr Manvelyan's photos show they are anything but We often think of our eyes as smooth spheres, but Mr Manvelyan’s photos show they are anything but
Hues: The term iris is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow, due to the many colours they can have The term iris is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow, due to the many colors they can have

Thin circular structures, our irises are responsible not only for giving our eyes their color, but also controlling the diameter of the pupils to determine how much light reaches the retina.

The macro ocular portraits were taken by Armenian physics teacher Suren Manvelyan, 36, using his friends, colleagues and pupils as models.

‘It is quite natural when you shoot macro shots of insects and plants, but to try to make a picture of the eye? I did not expect these results,’ he said.

‘I was not aware they are of such complicated appearance. Everyday we see hundreds of eyes but do not even suspect they have such beautiful structure, like surfaces of unknown planets.’

Spectrum: In humans irises have been known to be green, blue, brown, and in rarer cases, hazel, grey, violet, or even pinkIn humans irises have been known to be green, blue, brown, and in rarer cases, hazel, grey, violet, or even pink
The iris is divided into two major regions: The pupillary zone is the inner region whose edge forms the boundary of the pupil. The ciliary zone is the rest of the iris that extends to its origin at the ciliary bodyThe iris is divided into two major regions: The pupillary zone is the inner region whose edge forms the boundary of the pupil. The ciliary zone is the rest of the iris that extends to its origin at the ciliary body
Secrets: Mr Manvelyan, who started experimenting with photography when he was 16 and is now a leading photographer for Yerevan Magazine, is reluctant to share his techniques Mr Manvelyan, who started experimenting with photography when he was 16 and is now a leading photographer for Yerevan Magazine, is reluctant to share his techniques
Aglow: The light from his flash nevertheless betrayed by the red glow in the skin of the subject of this portraitThe light from his flash nevertheless betrayed by the red glow in the skin of the subject of this portrait

Said to be the windows of the soul, the eyes gain much of their character from the unique structure of each person’s iris.

The term is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow, due to the many colors they can have. In humans irises have been known to be green, blue, brown, and in rarer cases, hazel, grey, violet, or even pink.

Mr Manvelyan’s pictures show the front pigmented fibrovascular tissue known as a stroma. Beneath that lies pigmented epithelial cells, with the whole structure connected to muscles which control the size of the aperture of the pupil.

The iris is divided into two major regions. The pupillary zone is the inner region whose edge forms the boundary of the pupil. The ciliary zone is the rest of the iris that extends to its origin at the ciliary body.

Mysterious: The extreme close up of this picture makes the shot one of the most alien looking in the setThe extreme close up of this picture makes the shot one of the most alien looking in the set
Green eyes: The color of green eyes does not result simply from the pigmentation of the irisThe color of green eyes does not result simply from the pigmentation of the iris. Rather, its appearance is caused by  the combination of an amber or light brown pigmentation of the stroma,  given by a low or moderate concentration of melanin, with the blue tone  imparted by the Rayleigh scattering of the reflected light

The work is literally eye-catching, but Mr Manvelyan, who started experimenting with photography when he was 16 and is now a leading photographer for Yerevan Magazine, is reluctant to share his technique.

‘The process of taking these pictures is my secret,’ he says.

Attribution: Damien Gayle

Joke of the Day

Dad buys a LIE DETECTOR ROBOT which slaps people when they lie.

He decides to test it at dinner.”Son, where were you today?”

bugs robotThe son says “at school dad.” Robot slaps the son! “OK, I watched a DVD at my friends house!” “What DVD?” “Toy story.”

Robot slaps the son again! “OK, it was a %&%*o”Dad yells “What! When I was your age I didn’t know what %&%* was!”

Robot then slaps the dad!

Mom laughs “HAHAHA! He’s certainly YOUR son.” Robot then slaps the mom….

Morgan and Muskets

Piers Morgan Says Second Amendment Only Meant for Muskets

by:

Piers Morgan has a great English accent, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t know much about the United States Constitution. Morgan is editorial director of First News, a national newspaper for children, and the host of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. As with most of these show hosts, they aren’t very informed when it comes to history and logic.

Morgan got into a debate over gun control after Bob Costas went on his anti-gun rant following Jovan Belcher’s murder of his girlfriend and his later suicide.

Trying to add credibility to his anti-gun position, Morgan made reference to the Unitedsecond amendment States Constitution. Here’s what he said:

“The Second Amendment was devised with muskets in mind, not high-powered handguns and assault rifles. Fact.”

See if you can find this claim in the Second Amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Even without this embedded constitutional right, we have the right to bear arms. Rights don’t come from the State. This point is not often made. The Constitution doesn’t say that we have a right to work or own property. The Second Amendment was included in the Constitution to ensure the already existing right to “keep and bear arms.” Morgan should study some of his own British history before he spouts off in America.

twitter“The right to have arms in English history is believed to have been regarded as a long-established natural right in English law, auxiliary to the natural and legally defensible rights to life. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court remarked that at the time of the passing of the English Bill of Rights there was “‘clearly an individual right, having nothing whatsoever to do with service in the militia’ and that it was a right not to be disarmed by the crown and was not the granting of a new right to have arms.”

The Second Amendment doesn’t say what type of “arms” is included in the right to bear them. There’s a reason for this. Our founders knew that the definition of “arms” can change over time. What were “arms” in the 18th century differed from what would have been defined as “arms” in the 13th century. The Constitution was designed to be a document for the ages, not just for the late 18th century.

Following Morgan’s logic, the freedoms of speech and press found in the First Amendment should be limited to a town crier, horses and footmen to carry communiques, quill pens, and actual printing presses. This would mean setting type by hand, rolling ink ever theAmerican Muskets type, and pressing the paper on the raised letters, one sheet at a time. Since we don” press” paper over type today, therefore, to follow Morgan’s logic, we can’t appeal to the First Amendment’s right to “freedom of the press.”

If the Second Amendment was only for muskets, then it was also only for parchment and literal printing presses. Our founders knew better. Ideals transcend technology and innovation. Ideals are for the ages.

The six books I wrote in the 1980s were typeset electronically. Even so, the galley sheets still had to be pasted on boards so plates could be made. No one in the 18th century, or even in the last decade of the 20th century, could have conceived of printing exclusively with digits by way of a Portable Document Format PDF.

Printing has made more technical advancements since the First Amendment was drafted than have “arms.” A founding father from the 18th century could easily recognize a modern-day handgun and rifle, but would be stymied by a laptop computer with software that is used to typeset a book with no hard type that could be turned into an electronic file that in the end could print a million copies of a book in days.

Think We Have Bad Weather?

Bizarre weather is not restricted to Earth. Hurricane Sandy was a speck of dust compared to some of the cataclysms currently taking place around the solar system. Jupiter, for example, is going through a tumultuous time right now. The gas giant has suffered more meteor impacts in the past four years than has ever been observed, and large cloud formations are spontaneously changing color or disappearing as quickly as they form.

But Jupiter is not the only planet in our solar system that experiences bizarre weather. Icy methane rainstorms, planet-wide sand storms, and lead-melting temperatures afflict other planets and their moons. Check out the weather forecast around the solar system, then go enjoy the weather outside—whatever it may be, it’s bound to be better than any of the following.

A 300-Year-Old Hurricane Three Times the Size of Earth

This famous megastorm, dubbed the Great Red Spot, is at least400 years old and dates back to the time when Galileo first aimed his telescope at Jupiter and its moons in the early 1600s—so for all we know, the storm could be much older than that. Scientists believe the storm might owe its red color to sulfur in the atmosphere, but they remain uncertain about what precisely gives it its crimson hue.

bizarre_jupiter-great-red-spot_JPG_CROP_article920-large

In the past couple of years, a new sibling storm has erupted. The Little Red Spot, or Red Spot Jr., formed from the merger of three smaller white-colored storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.

bizarre_littleredspot2_hst_f_JPG_CROP_article920-large

The Little Red Spot, at center in the picture above, has kept growing since it was discovered in 2006 and is now about the size of Earth—and with wind speeds of 400 mph, it is now spinning as fast as its larger predecessor.

Dry Ice Snow

mars_dryice_JPG_CROP_article920-large

We’ve known for a while there’s water ice on Mars, both on the northern polar ice cap and away from it, but in September, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected carbon-dioxide snow clouds and snowfall. It’s the first evidence of this kind of snow anywhere in our solar system. This photograph from July 2011 (toward the end of the Martian summer) shows what happens when warm weather causes a section of the vast carbon-dioxide ice cap to sublimate directly into gas, leaving behind oddly-shaped, seemingly gold-lined pits around the Red Planet’s south pole.

Sulfuric-Acid Rain

venus_magellan_1280_1024_JPG_CROP_article920-large_magellan_1280_1024

Venus is like Earth on (sulfuric) acid. Its atmosphere is made of dense carbon-dioxide clouds and this extremely corrosive substance, which can explode when water is added. The acid precipitates from clouds, but due to the extreme temperatures, it evaporates before reaching the ground, making for some very short-lived acid rain.

Greenhouse Effect From Hell

venus_clouds_mariner10_lrg_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Similar to Earth only in size and shape, Venus was taken over by a runaway greenhouse effect millions of years ago and turned into a hellish nightmare hot enough to melt lead. The planet has scorching temperatures of 860 degrees Fahrenheit or more year-round and a crushing atmosphere with more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s. It’s no wonder probes that landed on the second planet from the Sun have survived only a few hours before being destroyed.

Supersonic Methane Winds

Clouds of frozen methane whirl across Neptune, our solar system’s windiest world, at more than 1,200 mph—similar to the top speed of a U.S. Navy fighter jet. Meanwhile, Earth’s most powerful winds hit a puny 250 mph. Some cloud formations, such as a swift-moving one called “scooter,” circle the planet every 16 hours. Neptune’s top wind layer blows in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation, which could mean there’s a slushy interior of thick layers of warmer water clouds beneath the methane.

neptune_1_large_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Featured above is the Great Dark Spot, which was believed to be similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot—a fast cyclonic storm like a hurricane or typhoon. But the Hubble Space Telescope disproved that when it showed the spot disappearing and reappearing somewhere else in the planet. Scientists then speculated that the megastorm might be a hole in the methane clouds, like our very own, now-shrinking hole in the ozone layer.

Erratic, Gigantic Dust Storms

mars-sand-storm_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Because of a dry, rocky, desert-like surface, dust storms are very common on Mars. They can engulf the entire planet, raise the atmospheric temperature by up to 30 degrees Celsius, and last for weeks. The storm pictured above, though huge, lasted less than 24 hours. It spread along the north seasonal polar cap edge in late northern winter in a region called Utopia Planitia.

Tornadoes and Dust Devils

mars_dust_devil_JPG_CROP_article920-large

A dust devil about half a mile high swirls over a sandy Martian surface on a late spring afternoon. Winds on Mars are powered by solar-heat convection currents, as they are on other planets, including Earth. During spring, when Mars is the farthest from the sun, the planet gets less sunlight, but even then dust devils relentlessly scour the surface and move around freshly deposited dust. This dust devil, 30 yards wide, was whirling around the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars.

Methane Rainstorms

titan_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, looks a lot like Earth in its cloud cover and terrain. Except this moon’s clouds are made of methane. Titan has a methane cycle that is similar to the Earth’s water cycle. Since methane has a much lower melting point than water (a frosty minus 295.6 F), it fills lakes on the surface of this frigid moon, saturates clouds in the atmosphere, and falls again as rain. This thick atmosphere, in which organic molecules float around freely, could potentially be ripe for life—or brimming with it already.

Nitrogen Ice Clouds

Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is the coldest place in our solar system. It has an average temperature of minus 315 F. This image, taken by Voyager 2 in August 1989, shows the large, pinkish south polar cap, which may consist of a slowly evaporating layer of nitrogen ice. The nitrogen then forms clouds a few kilometers above the surface.

Triton1_full_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Triton has a weird, backward orbit and has been inching closer to Neptune each year. When the two finally collide, in about 10 million to 100 million years, the moon will be shredded into rings perhaps as beautiful as those of Saturn.

Hydrogen Storms

This storm, eight times the surface area of Earth, has been raging since December 2010 on Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took this photo during a turbulent spring in northern Saturn. At its most intense, the storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second.

saturn_JPG_CROP_article920-large

“Cassini shows us that Saturn is bipolar,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. “Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently.”

Attribution: