Today is not the day to pick up a hitchhiker in Fremont

If you’re driving through Niles Canyon in Fremont today, don’t pick up a hitchhiker—unless you like talking to spectres. For today, February 26, is Niles Canyon Ghost Day, when a young woman will flag you down and ask to be driven to San Francisco. But by the time you arrive at the Dumbarton toll plaza, she will be gone.

Alas, the story is just a variant of the well-known “Vanishing Hitchhiker” myth. Too bad, for Niles Canyon is the perfect place for ghosts—steep canyon walls, hardly any development, two-lane highway, old railroad trestles—all of the classic features for a ghost story.

Comet Redux

Yesterday NASA’s Stardust mission flew by comet Tempel 1 and took detailed photographs. In July 2005, the same spacecraft (then named Deep Impact) watched as a special impactor successfully slammed into Tempel 1. Investigators have located the 2005 impact zone on the comet and can see a crater that wasn’t there before.

This is the not the only super-duper cool astronomy stuff that’s happening right now. In just 28 days, the Messenger probe will become the first spacecraft ever to go into orbit around the planet Mercury.

Should humans build robots? You bet. Where should we use them? Outer space!