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Peanut butter and jelly in Zero-G and a wayward black hole

NASA astronaut Don Pettit was making a peanut butter and honey sandwich the other day when he accidentally fumbled and dropped it. Here on...

NASA astronaut Don Pettit was making a peanut butter and honey sandwich the other day when he accidentally fumbled and dropped it. Here on Earth it would head straight to the floor, but in the world of Zero-G aboard the International Space Station (ISS), things turned out differently. It sped away and hit a panel jelly-side "out" and then continued until the inevitable happened. See Don's blog to see to read how science played into the story as the scene played out.

Some really bright passes of the space station this week will help you picture floating PB&J sandwiches with ease. The times below are for the Duluth, Minn. region. For times for you town, click over to Heavens Above or type in your zip code into Spaceweather's Satellite Flybys page . As always, the station will look like a brilliant moving "star" as bright as Jupiter and traveling steadily from west to east. You'll notice it has a yellow hue from the colorful orange solar panels that generate the station's power. On some nights, two passes are visible, because the ISS takes only about 90 minutes to orbit the Earth. If the sun is still up for the station after its first pass over a particular locale, we'll get to see it a second time.

* Tonight Feb. 18 starting at 6:15 p.m. The ISS will travel straight across the top of the sky and shine even brighter than Jupiter.

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* Sunday Feb. 19 at 6:55 p.m. across the northern sky

* Monday Feb. 20 at 5:58 p.m. in bright twilight. Glides just below the North Star about 6:01 p.m. Second pass lower in the north at 7:35 p.m.

* Tuesday Feb. 21 at  6:37 p.m. across the north

* Wednesday Feb. 22 at 7:17 p.m. Across the north and fading out as it enters Earth's shadow just before reaching the Big Dipper in the northeast

* Thursday Feb. 23 at 6:20 p.m. in the northern sky

* Friday Feb. 24 at 6:59 p.m. in the northern sky

Recently the Hubble Space Telescope was used to photograph an unusual star cluster-black hole combo in the galaxy called ESO 243-49. Called HLX-1 for Hyper-Luminous X-Ray source 1, the black hole weighs in at 20,000 suns. It's surrounded by a disk of hot gas that emits X-rays as the material gets sucked down the hole and a cluster of hot stars. Normally larger black holes are found in the centers of galaxies not in their hinterlands.

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To explain this oddity, astronomers believe HLX-1 and surrounding stars were cannibalized from the core of a smaller galaxy that happened to veer too close to ESO 243-29 sometime in the past. As the dwarf galaxy was ripped apart from gravitational tides, the bigger one grabbed a few goodies.

As for the future of the black hole, it could spiral into to join the supermassive black hole in the galaxy's center or continue to orbit normally around the center like the other stars in the galaxy. Time and further observation will tell. Read more HERE .

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