Bill Nye launches experimental satellite that runs on solar power, sails around space
Wikipedia / LightSail2

Sometimes the most advanced forms of technology are also the simplest. The LightSail 2, a satellite conceived by Bill Nye's non-profit Planetary Society, has proven that a satellite can orbit the Earth fueled completely by the sun. The concept, dreamed up 400 years ago by Johannes Kepler, has finally become a reality.

The LightSail 2 doesn't run on solar panels but instead solar sailing – an entirely different concept. It's kind of like a sailboat, but instead of using wind to make it move, it's powered by photon particles from the sun that bounce off of a sail made from a large reflective surface. The photon particles give it a "tiny push no stronger than the weight of a paperclip," Nye told CNN.


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Photons (aka light particles) have no mass, however they do provide momentum and can be used to push the satellite through space. "It's counter-intuitive, it's surprising, and to me it's very romantic to be sailing on sunbeams," Nye said.

The LightSail 2 was completely crowdfunded. Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, which raised over $1.2 million for the project. All in all, the project cost $7 million, which took 10 years to collect. 50,000 supporters from 109 countries contributed, getting the most valuable return on investment of them all.

"The type of return on investment these people get is just knowledge," Planetary Society COO Jennifer Vaughn told CNN. "It's capability. That's the kind of returns these people are looking for."

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As of now, Nye said there are no plans to do a third light sail. However, the success of the LightSail 2 could mean the technology gets incorporated into larger projects, such as those that extend beyond the orbit of the Earth. Nye wants to see the LightSail 2 complete exploratory missions such as those that monitor the sun and provide warning of solar flare-ups.

"Solar sailing is in its infancy, but it may become a game-changer," Nye said in an interview with Digital Trends. "We'll soon be able to send our solar sail spacecraft to all sorts of destinations in our solar system, and perhaps to another star system one day."

The LightSail 2 will orbit the Earth for a year and you can track its progress via a new dashboard here.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

A young boy tried to grab the Pope's skull cap

A boy of about 10-years-old with a mental disability stole the show at Pope Francis' weekly general audience on Wednesday at the Vatican auditorium. In front of an audience of thousands the boy walked past security and onto the stage while priests delivered prayers and introductory speeches.

The boy, later identified as Paolo, Jr., greeted the pope by shaking his hand and when it was clear that he had no intention of leaving, the pontiff asked Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, the head of protocol, to let the boy borrow his chair.

The boy's activity on the stage was clearly a breach of Vatican protocol but Pope Francis didn't seem to be bothered one bit. He looked at the child with a sense of joy and wasn't even disturbed when he repeatedly motioned that he wanted to remove his skull cap.

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