5 things to know about NASA’s Pluto flyby

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make the first close-encounter pass to Pluto Tuesday morning after nine years and three billion miles traveled. Here is what you need to know about the fastest spacecraft ever launched and what it is out to discover about the former planet:

This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. On Tuesday, July 14, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will come closest to Pluto. New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to the historic point. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via AP)
This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. On Tuesday, July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will come closest to Pluto. New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to the historic point. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via AP)

• In exploring Pluto, reclassified back in 2006 as a dwarf planet, scientists hope to explore “a whole new class of small planet.” Objects like Pluto that are part of the Kuiper Belt are thought to be some of the oldest bodies in the solar system.

• The seven unique instruments aboard New Horizons will take in massive amounts of data during the flyby — so much that it may take up to 16 months to send all the information back to Earth. Scientists will use the data to confirm whether or not Pluto has subterranean oceans; what the dark splotch named “the whale” identified in earlier images of the dwarf planet might be; and whether or not Pluto has any additional moons, among dozens of other things.

• Pluto has already turned out to be larger than previous estimates, according to measurements taken by New Horizons. Though still not large enough to classify as a planet, at 1,473 miles in diameter, Pluto is the largest known object in the solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit.

• Since control messages from Earth take up to 4.5 hours to reach New Horizons as it nears Pluto, the spacecraft will be largely on its own as it makes its long-awaited, close-encounter pass. With speeds up 36,450 miles per hour, the piano-sized probe is also the world’s fastest.

• The ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the farmer turned astronaut who originally discovered Pluto back in 1930, are aboard the spacecraft. VBSDC (Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter), an instrument named after the 11-year-old girl who named the planet, is also aboard.

New Horizons is on track to pass about 7,750 miles from Pluto at 7:49 am Eastern Daylight Time Tuesday. You can use NASA’s “Eyes on Pluto” app to follow along.

More reads about Pluto:

•  When we discovered Pluto, it changed how we saw the solar system

•  From the start, Pluto was a puzzle: Timeline

•  Hello, Pluto: The 9-year journey to a new horizon

• Interactive: Pluto revealed

• Physicist Tim Blais pays musical tribute to New Horizons, Pluto


#MyComicConAsAMovieScreenshot proved that everyone has Comic-Con FOMO

Crowds walk through the exhibit hall on the last day of Comic-Con held in San Diego Sunday, July 24, 2011. The annual comic book and popular arts convention attracts over 100,000 people every year.  (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Crowds walk through the exhibit hall on the last day of Comic-Con held in San Diego Sunday, July 24, 2011. The annual comic book and popular arts convention attracts over 100,000 people every year. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

As always, the three-day, star-studded, nerd-tastic event known as San Diego Comic-Con is here. And as always, everyone who couldn’t make it this year is suffering from a serious feeling of missing out (FOMO, as the kids say).

Between the panels, the autograph signings and the next-level character costuming, everyone wants in on the SDCC action. Including The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The Academy tweeted out a new hashtag on Friday, encouraging con-goers to submit a movie still that best described their convention experience.

Several resulting tweets humorously captured the joy of dressing up as a favorite comic or movie character, as well as the feeling of having to lug all your gear and shopping spoils through the convention center all day.


But an overwhelming majority of tweets revealed the sad side of Comic-Con – everyone who had to stay home and miss it. Their collective sorrow has been rounded up below:




There’s always next year…

What movie screenshot best sums up your Comic-Con experience? Tweet us @austin360 and let us know. Give our movie page a look if you need a little inspiration.

Check out the new ‘Doctor Who’ trailer

The trailer for the new season of the BBC’s “Doctor Who” just dropped, and it looks great (the series returns to BBC America on Sept. 19).

Star Peter Capaldi says, “Soaring through all of time and space, series nine sees the Doctor throw himself into life with a new hunger for adventure. The Cosmos is there for the taking, thrilling, epic and enticing, and his to play in. But he’s almost reckless in his abandon. It’s almost like he’s running from something, something that if it ever catches him will turn his life upside down.”

See if you can spot clues as to what the Doctor and Clara will be up to this season. The network promises that “the pair meet new and old monsters, and go on a journey that takes them to deadly alien planets, creepy underwater bases, Vikings villages, a global Zygon uprising, and leads them through hidden alien dens, to the very end of time itself.”

And while you’re at it, give us your best guesses as to the identity of the young girl played by Maisie Williams (Arya Stark on “Game of Thrones”) is at the end — the one who asks, “What took you so long old man?”

The Doctor’s daughter, maybe?

TV Pilot Watch 2015: ‘Grandfathered,’ Fox

John Stamos, left, and Josh Peck star in "Grandfathered." ERICA PARISE  /FOX
John Stamos, left, and Josh Peck star in “Grandfathered.” ERICA PARISE /FOX

Stars: John Stamos, Josh Peck, Paget Brewster

Genre: Comedy

Network: Fox

Premise: Stamos portrays Jimmy, a playboy restaurateur who learns he fathered a son named Gerald (Peck) during a decades-ago one-night stand with Sara (Paget Brewster). Not only that, but Gerald’s got a toddler daughter with a friend he’s crushing on, Vanessa (Christina Milian).

Pilot Watch: This is a lot to dump on Jimmy in one episode and, frankly, it’s a lot to dump on viewers, too. Jimmy takes too readily to his new role of grandpappy, perhaps to ingratiate himself to Sara, for whom he still carries a torch. Fairly generic scenes with the baby in Jimmy’s restaurant try too hard, and the chemistry between Stamos and Peck is lacking. The pilot is sweet, but it’s very generic and, unfortunately, not very funny. Still … PAGET BREWSTER, right?

I wanted: … the word “Grandfathered” to never be used as a verb. Still, it’s better than the show’s working title, “Grandpa.”

Check out this trailer and let us know what you think of “Grandfathered.”

TV Pilot Watch 2015: ‘The Grinder’ Fox

Fred Savage, left, and Rob Lowe star in "The Grinder," a sitcom premiering on Fox this fall. RAY MICKSHAW / FOX
Fred Savage, left, and Rob Lowe star in “The Grinder,” a sitcom premiering on Fox this fall. RAY MICKSHAW / FOX

Stars: Fred Savage, Rob Lowe

Genre: Comedy

Network: Fox

Premise: Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, a childish and spoiled actor famous for portraying a lawyer in a network drama called “The Grinder.” When his show ends, he returns to rural America to visit his brother, Stewart (Savage), an uptight and inexperienced actual lawyer, and weasels his way into his brother’s practice.

Pilot Watch: Lots of fun. Savage and Lowe clearly enjoy playing to their familiar (stereo)types — Savage gets frustrated at his brother’s antics and fails to understand why he’s the only one who does. Lowe, still calling himself “The Grinder,” charms everyone he meets (including a judge and jury he’s got no business arguing in front of). He firmly believes that spouting catch-phrases and dialogue from his show is enough to win a case.

William Devane is terrific as the boys’ father (also a lawyer), who inexplicably sides with Lowe’s character most of the time. The rest of the family, including Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Savage’s wife (she used to date The Grinder) and a couple of generic kids don’t add much to the pilot, but the battle for the children’s hearts and minds between Savage and Lowe could provide plenty of comic fodder. And it should continue to be fun watching Lowe’s and Savage’s characters learn from each other.

I wanted: More.

Check out this trailer and let us know what you think of “The Grinder.”

DeAndre Jordan’s free agency full of emojis, memes, hilarity

In what will go down as one of the most epic endings to a free agency period, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban found himself at the center of a highly watched social media storm.

Less than a week ago, DeAndre Jordan, a native of Houston who played for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, had verbally committed to joining the Mavericks.

But within a few days, it became apparent that Jordan was having second thoughts.

In an effort to keep DeAndre on their respective sides, players from both the Mavericks and Clippers tweeted out some not-so-subtle emojis to announce they were on the way to Jordan’s home in Houston.


The situation seemed to keep escalating, as the Clippers front were allowed to meet with Jordan and did not leave until the free agency moratorium ended and he could officially re-sign with the team. Cuban, who had tried to get in contact with Jordan throughout the day, was reportedly not allowed in to meet with him. Once inside, it was clear the Clippers camp was not leaving.

The whole thing might have played out in Houston, but Twitter definitely had the last laugh.


Once the clock struck midnight Eastern time, Jordan made it official and signed a massive four-year, $88 million contract with the Clippers. Twitter users reached out with a few options going forward, ending the most hilarious night of the NBA’s free agency.

What you need to know about today’s ‘Godzilla’-themed Google Doodle

A still of the Google Doodle honoring the Japanese special effects director Eiji Tsubuya.
A still of the Google Doodle honoring the Japanese special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya.

If you haven’t already seen today’s Google Doodle, let us fill you in – Tuesday marks director Eiji Tsuburaya’s 114th birthday, and Google has honored him in a big way.

Tsuburaya was co-creator and special effects director for “Godzilla,” as well as the mind behind “Ultraman.” By the end of his career, he had worked on approximately 250 movies.

A scene from 1954's "Godzilla" movie.
A scene from 1954’s “Godzilla” movie.

According to the Google Doodle archive (yes, it’s a thing), the artists behind the Doodle were able to visit Tsuburaya’s own effects studio to gather inspiration for the project. “We wanted to witness the studio’s production in person to be able to create an authentic film-making experience within our Doodle,” wrote artists Jennifer Hom and Mark Holmes.

The Doodle lets users complete a set of tasks in order to create the perfect monster movie, and an animated Tsuburaya is on hand to assist along the way. To try your hand at the Doodle yourself, click here.

Feeling nostalgic for an old-school “Godzilla” screening? Brush up on a few set secrets before you re-watch. Make it a double feature with the less-appreciated 2014 “Godzilla” remake. You can also see how the original green monster sizes up to the re-boot (and a few choice Austin landmarks) in the video below:

5 animal Photoshop fakes everyone fell for, including the infamous 11-foot Texas rattlesnake

SnakeA photo of what appeared to be an 11-foot rattlesnake killed in George West, Texas has been confirmed as fake, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Texas Parks and Wildlife state herpetologist Andy Gluesenkamp called the notion of an 11-foot rattler “hilarious,” telling the Express-News, “I’ve seen this photo about a dozen times, it’s an old photo.”

This isn’t the first time the internet has been fooled by a quick retouch job or special camera angle though. Below, just a sampling of other animal ‘shops that everyone seemed to fall for:

Photo credit: Jamie King
Photo credit: Jamie King

1. Shark Tank
This “Jaws”-esque photo was originally thought to be taken after a shark tank collapse at Kuwait’s Scientific Center. The Photoshop guru behind the image eventually admitted it was fake. The real photo was a shark-less shot from a May 2012 Union Station flood in Toronto.

Photo credit: Cordell Hauglie
Photo credit: Cordell Hauglie

2. Snowball the Monster Cat
This image started as a joke email claiming that the cat’s mother had been found abandoned near a nuclear lab in Canada, resulting in it’s mammoth proportions. The email spread so fast that the original sender later came forward, explaining that Snowball was his daughter’s cat, and he only intended the photo to be seen by a few friends.

worlds_biggest_dog3. Hercules, World’s Biggest Dog
This giant pet photo also got it’s start as part of an email, though this one seriously claimed that the dog was Hercules, an English Mastiff and the record holder for World’s Biggest Dog, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. However, it was later revealed that the dog in the photo was not the real Hercules, but a Neapolitan Mastiff doctored to look larger than its real size.

Photo credit: Tatiana Scalozub

4. Baby Polar Bear
This picture took Pinterest by storm, where many believed it was a photo of a baby polar bear. In fact, the image was actually taken from a seller on Etsy who sells patterns to make your own stuffed animal version of the bear.

As for animals that we wish were only a Photoshop job, check out this Texas-sized alligator or this gigantic centipede.

Breaking down Hillary Clinton’s victory playlist for USWNT

Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez
Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez

When you were celebrating USA’s triumph over Japan in the Women’s World Cup last night, was Hillary Clinton the DJ?

Team Hillary believed in Team USA even before Carli Lloyd‘s first-half hat trick, tweeting out her “Songs for champions” Spotify playlist hours before Sunday’s kickoff.

The playlist celebrates girl power with titles like Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” as well as a Janelle Monae version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Katy Perry’s Survivor-inspired hit “Roar.”

Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter,” Britney Spear’s “Stronger” and Destiny’s Child “Independent Women Pt. 1” also combined to make the fist-pumping playlist distinctively female.

But don’t worry — classic victory songs like “Eye of the Tiger” and “We Are the Champions” were included as well as Neil Diamond’s “America” (this is a presidential candidate’s Spotify after all).

Mashable’s coverage of the playlist cast Macklemore’s “Cant Hold Us” as the most left-field song, but seeing as this is the women’s team third win since 1991, we’re going to name the Talking Head’s “Once In A Lifetime” the most ill-fitting.

Clinton’s Spotify profile is one of her less prolific social media platforms (her Spotify account has barely over a 1,000 followers while her Twitter has almost 4 million), but people seemed to enjoy the sentiment. The two tweets linking to the playlist were retweeted nearly 400 times.

You can find the full playlist here:


The 13 best celebrity Independence Day photos

Taylor Swift (third from left) and friends jump for joy in this July 4th photo shared on the singer's Instagram account.
Taylor Swift (third from left) and friends jump for joy in this July 4th photo shared on the singer’s Instagram account.

Hollywood knows how to celebrate, and Independence Day is no exception. Stars from sea to shining sea partied it up in honor of America’s birthday, and many were happy to spread the cheer to social media.

Just in case you were too busy grilling hot dogs and watching fireworks to check your Instagram feed yesterday, we rounded up the best star-spangled celebrity ‘grams below:

Neil Patrick Harris posted this blurry but spirited picture of his kids, Harper and Gideon.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Neil Patrick Harris (@nph) on

The White House shared this sweet photo of the President and First Lady.

View this post on Instagram

Happy Fourth of July!

A post shared by The Obama White House (@obamawhitehouse) on

Reese Witherspoon posted this snap of her very patriotic dog.

Kerry Washington also dressed up her puppy for July 4th.

Kate Hudson woke her neighbors with this soulful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Taylor Swift provided photographic evidence that friend and English musician Ed Sheeran still wasn’t over the Revolutionary War…

Joe Jonas and a friend posed in a pair of patriotic PJ’s.

View this post on Instagram

Happy Fourth of July Kids

A post shared by J O E J O N A S (@joejonas) on

Singer and actress Vanessa Hudgens enjoyed her holiday at the beautiful Monument Valley.

Caitlyn Jenner paid homage to the land of the free with this photo.

Miley Cyrus posted this silly ‘shop in preparation for Independence Day.

Jimmy Fallon had one sweet treat in mind to celebrate July 4th.

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Happy 4th of July!! #bombpops #favorite

A post shared by Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) on

Actress Emma Roberts and her friends sported some spirited hair accessories for the occasion.

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Happy 4th 👽🇺🇸 @britelkin @kakeykake

A post shared by Emma Roberts (@emmaroberts) on

But the prize for most patriotism goes to Kim Kardashian-West in this red, white and blue get up.

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Happy 4th of July!!! 🇺🇸💥🎉

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

To see how Central Texas celebrated July 4th, check out our gallery.