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Voyager spacecraft might not have reached interstellar space
on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:41:42 EDT:
In 2012, the Voyager mission team announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft had passed into interstellar space, traveling further from Earth than any other humanmade object. But, in the nearly two years since that historic announcement, and despite subsequent observations backing it up, uncertainty about whether Voyager 1 really crossed the threshold continues.
New approach in search for extraterrestrial intelligence: Target alien polluters
on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:12:20 EDT:
Humanity is on the threshold of being able to detect signs of alien life on other worlds. By studying exoplanet atmospheres, we can look for gases like oxygen and methane that only coexist if replenished by life. But those gases come from simple life forms like microbes. What about advanced civilizations? Would they leave any detectable signs? They might, if they spew industrial pollution into the atmosphere.
Atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon
on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:10:30 EDT:
An astronomer has published the results of the comparison of his model of Titan's atmosphere with the latest data.
Astronomers pioneer a 'Google street view' of galaxies
on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:09:36 EDT:
A new instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving astronomers the first 'Google street view' of the cosmos -- incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. The optical-fiber bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time.
Lives and deaths of sibling stars
on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:09:24 EDT:
In a new image from ESO, young stars huddle together against clouds of glowing gas and lanes of dust. The star cluster, NGC 3293, would have been just a cloud of gas and dust itself about ten million years ago, but as stars began to form it became the bright group of stars we see here. Clusters like this are laboratories that allow astronomers to learn about how stars evolve.
Satellite galaxies put astronomers in a spin
on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:08:35 EDT:
Astronomers have studied 380 galaxies and shown that their small satellite galaxies almost always move in rotating discs. However, such satellite galaxy discs are not predicted by current models of the formation of structures in the Universe. This discovery could cause modelers serious headaches in the years ahead.
The heart of an astronaut, five years on
on Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:56:27 EDT:
The heart of an astronaut is a much-studied thing. Scientists have analyzed its blood flow, rhythms, atrophy and, through journal studies, even matters of the heart. But for the first time, researchers are looking at how oxidative stress and inflammation caused by the conditions of space flight affect those hearts for up to five years after astronauts fly on the International Space Station. Lessons learned may help improve cardiovascular health on Earth as well.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory celebrates 15th anniversary
on Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:48:50 EDT:
Fifteen years ago, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision.
NASA's Fermi finds a 'transformer' pulsar
on Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:04:52 EDT:
In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Hubble traces halo of a galaxy more accurately than ever before: An in-depth look at giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A
on Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:22:43 EDT:
Astronomers have probed the extreme outskirts of the stunning elliptical galaxy Centaurus A. The galaxy's halo of stars has been found to extend much further from the galaxy's center than expected and the stars within this halo seem to be surprisingly rich in heavy elements. This is the most remote portion of an elliptical galaxy ever to have been explored.
Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations
on Tue, 22 Jul 2014 09:14:25 EDT:
Vacuum fluctuations may be among the most counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics. Theorists have now proposed a way to amplify their force. The researchers believe that their proposed enhancement of the power of vacuum fluctuations can have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces and it may even be used for applications in quantum information processing and other emerging quantum technologies.
Massive neutrinos and new standard cosmological model: No concordance yet
on Tue, 22 Jul 2014 09:13:26 EDT:
Neutrinos, also known as ‘ghost particles’ because they barely interact with other particles or their surroundings, are massless particles according to the standard model of particle physics. However, there is a lot of evidence that their mass is in fact non-zero, but it remains unmeasured. In cosmology, neutrinos are suspected to make up a fraction —- small but important -— of the mysterious dark matter, which represents 90% of the mass of the galaxy. Modifying the standard cosmological model in order to include fairly massive neutrinos does not explain all the physical observations simultaneously.
Transiting exoplanet with longest known year: 704 Earth days
on Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:22:15 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered a transiting exoplanet with the longest known year. Kepler-421b circles its star once every 704 days. In comparison, Mars orbits our Sun once every 780 days. Most of the 1,800-plus exoplanets discovered to date are much closer to their stars and have much shorter orbital periods.
Mysterious dance of dwarf galaxies may force a cosmic rethink
on Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:04:18 EDT:
The discovery that many small galaxies throughout the universe do not 'swarm' around larger ones like bees do but 'dance' in orderly disc-shaped orbits is a challenge to our understanding of how the universe formed and evolved. The researchers believe the answer may be hidden in some currently unknown physical process that governs how gas flows in the universe, although, as yet, there is no obvious mechanism that can guide dwarf galaxies into narrow planes.
Oceans vital for possibility for alien life
on Sun, 20 Jul 2014 20:34:59 EDT:
Researchers have made an important step in the race to discover whether other planets could develop and sustain life. New research shows the vital role of oceans in moderating climate on Earth-like planets Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. But the presence of oceans is vital for optimal climate stability and habitability.
Astronauts to test free-flying 'housekeeper' robots
on Sun, 20 Jul 2014 11:16:13 EDT:
Inspired by science fiction, three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment, and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments.
It's go time for LUX-Zeplin dark matter experiment
on Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:15:14 EDT:
From the physics labs at Yale University to the bottom of a played-out gold mine in South Dakota, a new generation of dark matter experiments is ready to commence. The go-ahead has been given to the Large Underground Xenon-Zeplin, a key experiment in the hunt for dark matter, the invisible substance that may make up much of the universe.
Looking back at the Jupiter crash 20 years later
on Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:30:12 EDT:
Twenty years ago, human and robotic eyes observed the first recorded impact between cosmic bodies in the solar system, as fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into the atmosphere of Jupiter. Between July 16 and July 22, 1994, space- and Earth-based assets managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, joined an armada of other NASA and international telescopes, straining to get a glimpse of the historic event.
NASA rover's images show laser flash on Martian rock
on Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:22:58 EDT:
Flashes appear on a baseball-size Martian rock in a series of images taken Saturday, July 12 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover. The flashes occurred while the rover's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument fired multiple laser shots to investigate the rock's composition.
Rosetta spacecraft approaching twofold comet
on Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:20:59 EDT:
As the European Space Agency's spacecraft Rosetta is slowly approaching its destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet is again proving to be full of surprises. New images obtained by OSIRIS, the onboard scientific imaging system, confirm the body's peculiar shape hinted at in earlier pictures. Comet 67P is obviously different from other comets visited so far.
Lunar pits could shelter astronauts, reveal details of how 'man in the moon' formed
on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:04:54 EDT:
While the moon's surface is battered by millions of craters, it also has over 200 holes -- steep-walled pits that in some cases might lead to caves that future astronauts could explore and use for shelter, according to new observations.
Scientists experimentally re-create conditions deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter and many exo-planets
on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:20:11 EDT:
Using the largest laser in the world, scientists for the first time have experimentally re-created the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system.
Earth-like soils on Mars? Ancient fossilized soils potentially found deep inside impact crater suggest microbial life
on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:50:43 EDT:
Soil deep in a crater dating to some 3.7 billion years ago contains evidence that Mars was once much warmer and wetter, says a geologist based on images and data captured by the rover Curiosity.
Is the universe a bubble? Let's check: Making the multiverse hypothesis testable
on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:48:00 EDT:
Scientists are working to bring the multiverse hypothesis, which to some sounds like a fanciful tale, firmly into the realm of testable science. Never mind the Big Bang; in the beginning was the vacuum. The vacuum simmered with energy (variously called dark energy, vacuum energy, the inflation field, or the Higgs field). Like water in a pot, this high energy began to evaporate -- bubbles formed.
Sharpest map of Mars surface properties
on Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:13:33 EDT:
A heat-sensing camera has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet made of Martian surface properties. Surface properties tell geologists about the physical nature of a planet or moon's surface. Is a particular area coated with dust, and if so, how thick is it likely to be? Where are the outcrops of bedrock? How loose are the sediments that fill this crater or that valley? A map of surface properties lets scientists begin to answer questions such as these.
Asteroid Vesta to reshape theories of planet formation
on Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:16:32 EDT:
Researchers have a better understanding of the asteroid Vesta and its internal structure, thanks to numerical simulations and data from the space mission Dawn. Their findings question contemporary models of rocky planet formation, including that of Earth.
NOAA's GOES-R satellite Magnetometer ready for spacecraft integration
on Tue, 15 Jul 2014 21:43:11 EDT:
The Magnetometer instrument that will fly on NOAA's GOES-R satellite when it is launched in early 2016 has completed the development and testing phase and is ready to be integrated with the spacecraft.
NASA's Van Allen Probes show how to accelerate electrons
on Tue, 15 Jul 2014 21:43:09 EDT:
One of the great, unanswered questions for space weather scientists is just what creates two gigantic donuts of radiation surrounding Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts. Recent data from the Van Allen Probes -- two nearly identical spacecraft that launched in 2012 -- address this question.
Every full moon, Landsat looks to the moon
on Sun, 13 Jul 2014 15:59:40 EDT:
Every full moon, Landsat 8 turns its back on Earth. As the satellite's orbit takes it to the nighttime side of the planet, Landsat 8 pivots to point at the moon. It scans the distant lunar surface multiple times, then flips back around to continue its task of collecting land-cover information of the sunny side of Earth below.
Out of an hours-long explosion, a stand-in for the first stars
on Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:33:41 EDT:
Astronomers analyzing a long-lasting blast of high-energy light observed in 2013 report finding features strikingly similar to those expected from an explosion from the universe's earliest stars. If this interpretation is correct, the outburst validates ideas about a recently identified class of gamma-ray burst and serves as a stand-in for what future observatories may see as the last acts of the first stars.
Hi-ho! Astronomers discover seven dwarf galaxies with new telescope
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:36:14 EDT:
Meet the seven new dwarf galaxies. Astronomers, using a new type of telescope made by stitching together telephoto lenses, recently discovered seven celestial surprises while probing a nearby spiral galaxy. The previously unseen galaxies may yield important insights into dark matter and galaxy evolution, while possibly signaling the discovery of a new class of objects in space.
NASA spacecraft observes further evidence of dry ice gullies on Mars
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:30:26 EDT:
Repeated high-resolution observations made by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) indicate the gullies on Mars' surface are primarily formed by the seasonal freezing of carbon dioxide, not liquid water. The first reports of formative gullies on Mars in 2000 generated excitement and headlines because they suggested the presence of liquid water on the Red Planet, the eroding action of which forms gullies here on Earth. Mars has water vapor and plenty of frozen water, but the presence of liquid water on the neighboring planet, a necessity for all known life, has not been confirmed.
Orbital Sciences’ second mission to deliver delights to space station
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 16:35:25 EDT:
Satellites, Girl Scouts and good ole Charlie Brown highlight Orbital Sciences Corporation's second commercial resupply voyage to the International Space Station. The mission, Orbital-2, will both deliver new scientific investigations to the space station, as well as help build upon and expand prior studies. The launch of Orbital's Antares rocket is planned for July 12 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia. Antares is schedule to deliver the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station on July 15.
NASA’s newest near Earth network antenna is operational
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:53:26 EDT:
A ribbon-cutting ceremony near the base of the new NASA antenna within the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) marked the official beginning for the Near Earth Network (NEN) asset. Operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF), the facility is a prime polar location for NASA and part of its globally distributing ground-based network providing communication services for orbiting spacecraft.
Sun-like stars reveal their ages
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:10:24 EDT:
A new technique for measuring the age of a star using its spin -- gyrochronology -- is coming into its own. Today astronomers are presenting the gyrochronological ages of 22 sun-like stars. Before this, only two sun-like stars had measured spins and ages.
Radio-burst discovery deepens astrophysics mystery
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 11:15:27 EDT:
The discovery of a split-second burst of radio waves by scientists using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico provides important new evidence of mysterious pulses that appear to come from deep in outer space. Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists.
Hubble spots spiral bridge of young stars linking two ancient galaxies
on Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:14:02 EDT:
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed an unusual structure 100,000 light-years long, which resembles a corkscrew-shaped string of pearls and winds around the cores of two colliding galaxies. The unique structure of the star spiral may yield new insights into the formation of stellar superclusters that result from merging galaxies and gas dynamics in this rarely seen process.
New window into high-energy processes on the sun
on Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:22:44 EDT:
Understanding the sun from afar isn't easy. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- which orbits Mercury, and so is as close as 28 million miles from the sun versus Earth's 93 million miles -- is near enough to the sun to detect solar neutrons that are created in solar flares.
New technology illuminates colder objects in deep space: New material offers more stable infrared detection
on Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:02:58 EDT:
Too cool and faint, many objects in the universe are impossible to detect with visible light. Now scientists have refined a new technology that could make these colder objects more visible, paving the way for enhanced exploration of deep space. Scientists have engineered a new technology that can detect very long wavelength infrared light.
Cosmic grains of dust formed in supernova explosion
on Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:01:09 EDT:
There are billions of stars and planets in the universe. The planets are formed in dust clouds that swirled around a newly formed star. But where does the cosmic dust come from? New research shows that not only can grains of dust form in gigantic supernova explosions, they can also survive the subsequent shockwaves they are exposed to.
NameExoWorlds: A contest to name exoplanets and their host stars
on Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:54:17 EDT:
For the first time, in response to the public’s increased interest in being part of discoveries in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union is organizing a worldwide contest to give popular names to selected exoplanets along with their host stars. The proposed names will be submitted by astronomy clubs and non-profit organzsations interested in astronomy, and votes will be cast by the public from across the world through the web platform NameExoWorlds.
Carbon monoxide predicts 'red and dead' future of gas guzzler galaxy
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 17:32:33 EDT:
Astronomers have studied the carbon monoxide in a galaxy over 12 billion light years from Earth and discovered that it's running out of gas, quite literally, and headed for a 'red and dead' future. The galaxy, known as ALESS65, was observed by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in 2011 and is one of fewer than 20 known distant galaxies to contain carbon monoxide.
Friction from tides could help distant Earth-sized planets survive, and thrive
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:32:53 EDT:
As anybody who has started a campfire by rubbing sticks knows, friction generates heat. Now, computer modeling by NASA scientists shows that friction could be the key to survival for some distant Earth-sized planets traveling in dangerous orbits. The findings are consistent with observations that Earth-sized planets appear to be very common in other star systems. Although heat can be a destructive force for some planets, the right amount of friction, and therefore heat, can be helpful and perhaps create conditions for habitability.
NASA Mars Orbiter views rover crossing into new zone
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:43:49 EDT:
NASA Mars rover Curiosity has driven out of the ellipse, approximately 4 miles wide and 12 miles long (7 kilometers by 20 kilometers), that was mapped as safe terrain for its 2012 landing inside Gale Crater.
Planet Mercury a result of early hit-and-run collisions
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:39:04 EDT:
New simulations show that Mercury and other unusually metal-rich objects in the solar system may be relics left behind by hit-and-run collisions in the early solar system. The origin of planet Mercury has been a difficult question in planetary science because its composition is very different from that of the other terrestrial planets and the moon.
Astronomers bring the third dimension to a doomed star's outburst
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:19:42 EDT:
In the middle of the 19th century, the massive binary system Eta Carinae underwent an eruption that ejected at least 10 times the sun's mass and made it the second-brightest star in the sky. Now, a team of astronomers has used extensive new observations to create the first high-resolution 3-D model of the expanding cloud produced by this outburst.
Stretching forces shaped Jupiter moon's surface, laboratory model suggests
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:18:25 EDT:
Processes that shaped the ridges and troughs on the surface of Jupiter's icy moon Ganymede are likely similar to tectonic processes seen on Earth, according to a team of researchers. To arrive at this conclusion, the team subjected physical models made of clay to stretching forces that simulate tectonic action.
Sun sends more 'tsunami waves' to Voyager 1
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:55:36 EDT:
NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a new "tsunami wave" from the sun as it sails through interstellar space. Such waves are what led scientists to the conclusion, in the fall of 2013, that Voyager had indeed left our sun's bubble, entering a new frontier.
Something is amiss in the Universe: Cosmic accounting reveals missing light crisis
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:17:32 EDT:
Something is amiss in the Universe. There appears to be an enormous deficit of ultraviolet light in the cosmic budget. The vast reaches of empty space between galaxies are bridged by tendrils of hydrogen and helium, which can be used as a precise 'light meter.' In a recent study a team of scientists finds that the light from known populations of galaxies and quasars is not nearly enough to explain observations of intergalactic hydrogen. The difference is a stunning 400 percent.
A hotspot for powerful cosmic rays, most energetic particles in the universe
on Tue, 08 Jul 2014 09:29:10 EDT:
An observatory found a 'hotspot' beneath the Big Dipper emitting a disproportionate number of the highest-energy cosmic rays. The discovery moves physics another step toward identifying the mysterious sources of the most energetic particles in the universe.
Supermassive black hole blows molecular gas out of a galaxy at one million kilometers per hour
on Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:14:13 EDT:
New research has solved a long-standing mystery surrounding the evolution of galaxies, deepening our understanding of the future of the Milky Way. The supermassive black holes in the cores of some galaxies drive massive outflows of molecular hydrogen gas. As a result, most of the cold gas is expelled from the galaxies. Since cold gas is required to form new stars, this directly affects the galaxies' evolution.
University students developing robotic gardening technology
on Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:35:24 EDT:
For more than a half-century, NASA has made the stuff of science fiction into reality. Researchers are continuing that tradition by designing robots to work in a deep-space habitat, tending gardens and growing food for astronaut explorers. It sounds like a concept from Star Wars, but a team of graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder is now developing the innovative technology to make it possible.
From antibiotics to yeast: Latest student science heads for space
on Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:32:42 EDT:
Astronauts on future missions may nibble on lettuce and grow their own antibiotics, depending on the results of research that student scientists plan to conduct on the International Space Station. Mission 5 of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is scheduled to launch to the space station on July 11. A total of 1,344 proposals yielded 15 selected investigations for the flight. These investigations represent a diversity of subject matter from bacteria to tadpole shrimp and locations from Massachusetts to Arizona.
Small, but plentiful: How the faintest galaxies illuminated the early universe
on Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:24:50 EDT:
Astronomers investigating the behavior of the universe shortly after the Big Bang have made a surprising discovery: the properties of the early universe are determined by the smallest galaxies.
Athena Observatory helping solve mysteries of the universe
on Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:24:30 EDT:
The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected the Athena X-ray Observatory as its second 'Large-class' science mission in the 21st Century, which will help answer vital questions about the universe.
Comet Pan-STARRS marches across the sky
on Sun, 06 Jul 2014 17:18:18 EDT:
NASA's NEOWISE mission captured a series of pictures of comet C/2012 K1 -- also known as comet Pan-STARRS -- as it swept across our skies in May 2014. The comet is named after the astronomical survey project called the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System in Hawaii, which discovered the icy visitor in May 2012.
High Energy Stereoscopic System detects its first pulsar
on Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:46:35 EDT:
The High Energy Stereoscopic System telescope in Namibia has detected gamma rays of only 30 Giga electron volts (GeV) from the Vela pulsar. This is the first pulsar to be detected by HESS and the second - after Crab in 2011- to be spotted by ground-based gamma ray telescopes.
Forecasting the development of breakthrough technologies to enable novel space missions
on Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:46:23 EDT:
A new report, Technological Breakthroughs for Scientific Progress, has been published today by the European Science Foundation. The five Overwhelming Drivers identified in this exercise are to reduce mass, maintain stiffness; Build a spacecraft and missions that can last 50 years; Deploy a 30m+ telescope into space; Enable humans to stay in space for more than 2 years; Autonomous geophysical survey of planets.
Ultrasound for astronomers? A young star's age can be gleamed from nothing but sound waves
on Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:24:23 EDT:
Determining the age of stars has long been a challenge for astronomers. Astronomers now show that 'infant' stars can be distinguished from 'adolescent' stars by measuring the acoustic waves they emit.
Controversial clues of two 'Goldilocks planets' that might support life are proven false
on Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:23:44 EDT:
Mysteries about controversial signals from a star considered a prime target in the search for extraterrestrial life now have been solved. The research proves, for the first time, that some of the signals actually are from events inside the star itself, not from the two so-called 'Goldilocks planets,' which were suspected to be just-right for life and orbiting the star at a distance where liquid water potentially could exist. No planets there, just star burps.