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Signs of Europa plumes remain elusive in search of Cassini data
on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:47:55 EST:
A fresh look at data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa's tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby. The new research provides a snapshot of Europa's state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.
NASA's Kepler reborn, makes first exoplanet find of new mission
on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:44:20 EST:
NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission -- K2. The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.
Dust devil and the details: Spinning up a storm on Mars
on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:44:54 EST:
Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, researchers show. “To start a dust devil on Mars you need convection, a strong updraft,” said Bryce Williams, an atmospheric science graduate student at UAH. “We looked at the ratio between convection and surface turbulence to find the sweet spot where there is enough updraft to overcome the low level wind and turbulence. And on Mars, where we think the process that creates a vortex is more easily disrupted by frictional dissipation – turbulence and wind at the surface – you need twice as much convective updraft as you do on Earth.”
Origin of long-standing space mystery revealed: Origin of the 'theta aurora'
on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:09:08 EST:
Scientists have solved a long-standing space mystery -- the origin of the 'theta aurora'. Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the Sun's effect on Earth. They are seen as colorful displays in the night sky, known as the Northern or Southern Lights. They are caused by the solar wind, a stream of plasma -- electrically charged atomic particles -- carrying its own magnetic field, interacting with the earth's magnetic field. Normally, the main region for this impressive display is the 'auroral oval', which lies at around 65-70 degrees north or south of the equator, encircling the polar caps. However, auroras can occur at even higher latitudes. One type is known as a 'theta aurora' because seen from above it looks like the Greek letter theta -- an oval with a line crossing through the center.
Kepler proves it can still find planets
on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:08:48 EST:
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the report of the Kepler spacecraft's death was greatly exaggerated. Despite a malfunction that ended its primary mission in May 2013, Kepler is still alive and working. The evidence comes from the discovery of a new super-Earth using data collected during Kepler's 'second life.'
Satellite sees holiday lights brighten cities
on Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:40:33 EST:
Even from space, holidays shine bright. With a new look at daily data scientists have identified how patterns in nighttime light intensity change during major holiday seasons -- Christmas and New Year's in the United States and the holy month of Ramadan in the Middle East.
Surprising theorists, stars within middle-aged clusters are of similar age
on Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:40:27 EST:
An examination of middle-aged star clusters reveals an unexpectedly narrow age range among their stars, suggesting that large groups of stars evolve differently than previously understood.
'Perfect storm' quenching star formation around a supermassive black hole
on Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:10:31 EST:
Astronomers have discovered that modest black holes can shut down star formation by producing turbulence. High-energy jets powered by supermassive black holes can blast away a galaxy's star-forming fuel, resulting in so-called "red and dead" galaxies: those brimming with ancient red stars yet containing little or no hydrogen gas to create new ones.
The hot blue stars of messier 47
on Wed, 17 Dec 2014 07:43:25 EST:
Messier 47 is located approximately 1600 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Puppis (the poop deck of the mythological ship Argo). It was first noticed some time before 1654 by Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna and was later independently discovered by Charles Messier himself, who apparently had no knowledge of Hodierna's earlier observation. Although it is bright and easy to see, Messier 47 is one of the least densely populated open clusters. Only around 50 stars are visible in a region about 12 light-years across, compared to other similar objects which can contain thousands of stars.
MESSENGER data suggest recurring meteor shower on Mercury
on Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:37:02 EST:
The closest planet to the sun appears to get hit by a periodic meteor shower, possibly associated with a comet that produces multiple events annually on Earth. The clues pointing to Mercury's shower were discovered in the very thin halo of gases that make up the planet's exosphere, which is under study by NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft.
NASA Goddard instrument makes first detection of organic matter on Mars
on Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:41:37 EST:
Scientists have made the first definitive detection of organic molecules at Mars. The surface of Mars is currently inhospitable to life as we know it, but there is evidence that the Red Planet once had a climate that could have supported life billions of years ago.
Exact solution to model Big Bang and quark gluon plasma
on Tue, 16 Dec 2014 12:38:17 EST:
Scientists have published an exact solution that applies to a wide array of physics contexts and will help researchers to better model galactic structure, supernova explosions and high-energy particle collisions, such as those studied at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.
Is the Higgs Boson a piece of the matter-antimatter puzzle?
on Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:04:39 EST:
Several experiments, including the BaBar experiment have helped explain some – but not all – of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Now theorists have laid out a possible method for determining if the Higgs Boson is involved. Why there's more matter than antimatter is one of the biggest questions confounding particle physicists and cosmologists, and it cuts to the heart of our own existence.
NASA Voyager: 'Tsunami wave' still flies through interstellar space
on Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:42:28 EST:
The Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three shock waves. The most recent shock wave, first observed in February 2014, still appears to be going on. One wave, previously reported, helped researchers determine that Voyager 1 had entered interstellar space.
NASA's MAVEN Mars orbiter mission identifies links in chain leading to atmospheric loss
on Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:08:51 EST:
Early discoveries by NASA's newest Mars orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet's atmosphere to space over time. The findings are among the first returns from NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which entered its science phase on Nov. 16. The observations reveal a new process by which the solar wind can penetrate deep into a planetary atmosphere. They include the first comprehensive measurements of the composition of Mars' upper atmosphere and electrically charged ionosphere. The results also offer an unprecedented view of ions as they gain the energy that will lead to their to escape from the atmosphere.
Stretched-out solid exoplanets
on Mon, 15 Dec 2014 08:44:17 EST:
Astronomers could soon be able to find rocky planets stretched out by the gravity of the stars they orbit. Since the first discovery in 1993, more than 1800 planets have been found in orbit around stars other than our Sun. These ‘exoplanets’ are incredibly diverse, with some gaseous like Jupiter and some mostly rocky like the Earth. The worlds also orbit their stars at very different distances, from less than a million km to nearly 100 billion km away.
Is an understanding of dark matter around the corner? Experimentalists unsure
on Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:16:02 EST:
Scientists working on the three newest dark matter experiments are hopeful that we’ll soon understand a quarter of the universe -- but they’re making no promises.
Real data rather than theory used to measure the cosmos
on Fri, 12 Dec 2014 08:49:50 EST:
For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity.
Nuclear fragments could help uncover the origins of life-supporting planets
on Thu, 11 Dec 2014 21:00:08 EST:
New research describes how recreating isotopes that occur when a star explodes, can help physicists understand where life-supporting elements may be found in space.
Swarms of Pluto-size objects kick up dust around adolescent Sun-like star
on Thu, 11 Dec 2014 16:25:49 EST:
Astronomers may have detected the dusty hallmarks of an entire family of Pluto-size objects swarming around an adolescent version of our own Sun. By making detailed observations of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the star known as HD 107146, the astronomers detected an unexpected increase in the concentration of millimeter-size dust grains in the disk's outer reaches. This surprising increase, which begins remarkably far -- about 13 billion kilometers -- from the host star, may be the result of Pluto-size planetesimals stirring up the region, causing smaller objects to collide and blast themselves apart.
Interstellar mystery solved by supercomputer simulations
on Thu, 11 Dec 2014 11:56:58 EST:
An interstellar mystery of why stars form has been solved thanks to the most realistic supercomputer simulations of galaxies yet made. Theoretical astrophysicists found that stellar activity -- like supernova explosions or even just starlight -- plays a big part in the formation of other stars and the growth of galaxies.
Scientists develop solar observatory for use on suborbital manned space missions
on Thu, 11 Dec 2014 11:55:28 EST:
Scientists are preparing to unveil a new, miniature portable solar observatory for use onboard a commercial, manned suborbital spacecraft.
Researchers detect possible signal from dark matter
on Thu, 11 Dec 2014 11:55:20 EST:
Scientists have picked up an atypical photon emission in X-rays coming from space, and say it could be evidence for the existence of a particle of dark matter. If confirmed, it could open up new perspectives in cosmology.
Water vapor on Rosetta's target comet significantly different from that found on Earth
on Wed, 10 Dec 2014 20:47:16 EST:
ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has found the water vapor from its target comet to be significantly different to that found on Earth. The discovery fuels the debate on the origin of our planet's oceans. One of the leading hypotheses on Earth's formation is that it was so hot when it formed 4.6 billion years ago that any original water content should have boiled off. But, today, two thirds of the surface is covered in water, so where did it come from? In this scenario, it should have been delivered after our planet had cooled down, most likely from collisions with comets and asteroids.
Physicists explain puzzling particle collisions
on Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:13:54 EST:
An anomaly spotted at the Large Hadron Collider has prompted scientists to reconsider a mathematical description of the underlying physics. By considering two forces that are distinct in everyday life but unified under extreme conditions, they have simplified one description of the interactions of elementary particles. Their new version makes specific predictions about events that future experiments should observe and could help to reveal 'new physics,' particles or processes that have yet to be discovered.
NASA-funded FOXSI to observe X-rays from Sun
on Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:23:49 EST:
NASA regularly watches the Sun in numerous wavelengths because different wavelengths provide information about different temperatures and processes in space. Looking at all the wavelengths together helps to provide a complete picture of what's occurring on the sun over 92 million miles away -- but no one has been able to focus on high energy X-rays from the Sun until recently.
Astronomers identify gas spirals as a nursery of twin stars through ALMA
on Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:16:52 EST:
Astronomers have found spiral arms of molecular gas and dust around the "baby twin" stars, binary protostars. Gas motions to supply materials to the twin were also identified. These observational results unveil, for the first time, the mechanism of the birth and growth of binary stars, which are ubiquitous throughout the universe.
Saturn's largest moon is a windy place: Titan dune puzzle solved
on Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:44:06 EST:
Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is a peculiar place. Unlike any other moon, it has a dense atmosphere. It has rivers and lakes made up of components of natural gas, such as ethane and methane. It also has windswept dunes that are hundreds of yards high, more than a mile wide and hundreds of miles long -- despite data suggesting the body to have only light breezes. Winds on Titan must blow faster than previously thought to move sand. The discovery may explain how the dunes were formed.
Warm gas pours 'cold water' on galaxy's star-making
on Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:43:03 EST:
Some like it hot, but for creating new stars, a cool cosmic environment is ideal. As a new study suggests, a surge of warm gas into a nearby galaxy -- left over from the devouring of a separate galaxy -- has extinguished star formation by agitating the available chilled gas.
NASA's Curiosity rover finds clues to how water helped shape Martian landscape
on Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:29:03 EST:
Observations by NASA's Curiosity Rover indicate Mars' Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. This interpretation of Curiosity's finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.
Complex mineralogy on the Red Planet: First X-ray diffraction measurements on Mars
on Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:54:36 EST:
In 2012 the Mars Science Laboratory landed in the fascinating Gale crater. The Gale crater is of such great interest because of the 5.5 km high mountain of layered materials in the middle. This material tells an intricate story of the history of Mars, perhaps spanning much of the existence of this mysterious planet. CheMin is one of ten instruments on or inside Curiosity, all designed to provide detailed information on the rocks, soils and atmosphere. CheMin is actually a miniaturized X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence (XRD/XRF) instrument.
Powering space craft of the future
on Mon, 08 Dec 2014 09:31:56 EST:
Engineers are working on powering future ‘giant leaps’ for mankind.
Physicist presents new observational solar weather model
on Mon, 08 Dec 2014 07:41:49 EST:
Scientists now have an observational framework to help predict solar weather. Being able to predict such events is important because a powerful direct hit by a coronal mass ejection (CME) is like a huge space hurricane that can deform Earth's magnetic field and fry the circuits of orbiting satellites, spacecraft and delicate terrestrial electronics.
Successful launch of NASA's Orion spacecraft heralds first step on journey to Mars
on Fri, 05 Dec 2014 14:23:27 EST:
NASA marked a critical step on the journey to Mars with its Orion spacecraft during a roaring liftoff into the dawn sky over eastern Florida on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket.
Dawn snaps its best-yet image of dwarf planet Ceres
on Fri, 05 Dec 2014 09:52:44 EST:
The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, in a new image taken 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the dwarf planet. This is Dawn's best image yet of Ceres as the spacecraft makes its way toward this unexplored world.
Astronomers observe two stars so close to each other that they will end up merging into a supermassive star
on Fri, 05 Dec 2014 09:37:54 EST:
A study of "MY Camelopardalis" binary system shows that the most massive stars are made up by merging with other smaller stars, as predicted by theoretical models.
Stardust not likely to block planet portraits
on Fri, 05 Dec 2014 07:35:33 EST:
Planet hunters received some good news recently. A new study concluded that, on average, sun-like stars aren't all that dusty. Less dust means better odds of snapping clear pictures of the stars' planets in the future.
Finding infant Earths and potential life just got easier
on Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:31:36 EST:
Among the billions and billions of stars in the sky, where should astronomers look for infant Earths where life might develop? New research shows where -- and when -- infant Earths are most likely to be found.
New revelations on dark matter and relic neutrinos
on Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:13:56 EST:
Satellite have been studying relic radiation (the most ancient light in the Universe). This light has been measured precisely across the entire sky for the first time, in both intensity and polarization, thereby producing the oldest image of the Universe. This primordial light lets us "see" some of the most elusive particles in the Universe: dark matter and relic neutrinos. Between 2009 and 2013, the Planck satellite observed relic radiation, sometimes called cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. Today, with a full analysis of the data, the quality of the map is now such that the imprints left by dark matter and relic neutrinos are clearly visible.
Astronomers observe galactic 'blow out'
on Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:11:09 EST:
For the first time, an international team of astronomers has revealed the dramatic ‘blow out’ phase of galactic evolution. The astronomers have discovered dense gas being blasted out of a compact galaxy (called SDSS J0905+57) at speeds of up to two million miles per hour. The gas is being driven to distances of tens of thousands of light years by the intense pressure exerted on it by the radiation of stars that are forming rapidly at the galaxy's center. This is having a major impact on the evolution of the galaxy.
Green light for European Extremely Large Telescope construction
on Thu, 04 Dec 2014 07:41:46 EST:
ESO’s main governing body, the Council gave the green light for the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope in two phases. Spending of around one billion euros has been authorized for the first phase, which will cover the construction costs of a fully working telescope with a suite of powerful instruments and first light targeted in ten years time. It will enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the fields of exoplanets, the stellar composition of nearby galaxies and the deep Universe. The largest ESO contract ever, for the telescope dome and main structure, will be placed within the next year.
Pulsars with black holes could hold the 'Holy Grail' of gravity
on Thu, 04 Dec 2014 07:41:41 EST:
The intermittent light emitted by pulsars, the most precise timekeepers in the universe, allows scientists to verify Einstein’s theory of relativity, especially when these objects are paired up with another neutron star or white dwarf that interferes with their gravity. However, this theory could be analysed much more effectively if a pulsar with a black hole were found, except in two particular cases, according to researchers. Pulsars are very dense neutron stars that are the size of a city (their radius approaches ten kilometers), which, like lighthouses for the universe, emit gamma radiation beams or X-rays when they rotate up to hundreds of times per second. These characteristics make them ideal for testing the validity of the theory of general relativity, published by Einstein between 1915 and 1916.
'Mirage Earth' exoplanets may have burned away chances for life
on Wed, 03 Dec 2014 12:48:02 EST:
Planets orbiting close to low-mass stars — easily the most common stars in the universe — are prime targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. But new research led by an astronomy graduate student indicates some such planets may have long since lost their chance at hosting life because of intense heat during their formative years.
Space travel is a bit safer than expected
on Wed, 03 Dec 2014 11:11:28 EST:
Analysis of data from the MATROSHKA experiment, the first comprehensive measurements of long-term exposure of astronauts to cosmic radiation, has now been completed. This experiment, carried out on board and outside of the International Space Station, showed that the cosmos may be less hostile to space travelers than expected.
Astronomers detect atomic hydrogen emission in galaxies at record breaking distances
on Wed, 03 Dec 2014 08:38:56 EST:
Using the world's largest radio telescope, astronomers have detected the faint signal emitted by atomic hydrogen gas in galaxies three billion light years from Earth, breaking the previous record distance by 500 million light years.
Losing air: Barrage of small impacts likely erased much of the Earth’s primordial atmosphere
on Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:23:59 EST:
Researchers believe a blitz of small space rocks, or planetesimals, may have bombarded Earth around the time the moon was formed, kicking up clouds of gas with enough force to permanently eject small portions of the atmosphere into space.
Strange galaxy perplexes astronomers: Prominent 'jets' of subatomic particles
on Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:23:57 EST:
With the help of citizen scientists, astronomers have found an important new example of a very rare type of galaxy that may provide valuable insight on galaxy evolution in the early Universe.
Traces of Martian biological activity could be locked inside a meteorite
on Tue, 02 Dec 2014 12:01:08 EST:
Did Mars ever have life? Does it still? A meteorite from Mars has reignited the old debate. New research shows that Martian life is more probable than previously thought.
NASA's CATS eyes clouds, smoke and dust from the space station
on Mon, 01 Dec 2014 19:14:49 EST:
To investigate the layers and composition of clouds and tiny airborne particles like dust, smoke and other atmospheric aerosols, , scientists have developed an instrument called the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS.
Ground-based detection of super-Earth transit paves way to remote sensing of exoplanets
on Mon, 01 Dec 2014 10:03:29 EST:
Astronomers have measured the passing of a super-Earth in front of a bright, nearby Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope for the first time. The transit of the exoplanet 55 Cancri e is the shallowest detected from the ground yet. Since detecting a transit is the first step in analyzing a planet's atmosphere, this success bodes well for characterizing the many small planets that upcoming space missions are expected to discover in the next few years.
Herschel observes Andromeda's past and future stars
on Mon, 01 Dec 2014 09:04:32 EST:
Recently, the infrared Herschel Space Observatory, has taken a series of beautiful high-resolution infrared images of Andromeda. It is the first time we can see M31, at these wavelengths, at such a high resolution. The quality and sensitivity of the Herschel data is so good scientists were able to study the properties of individual regions in Andromeda as small as about 400 light years.
DNA survives critical entry into Earth's atmosphere
on Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:41:50 EST:
The genetic material DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere -- and still pass on genetic information. Scientists obtained these astonishing results during an experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket mission.
Invisible shield found thousands of miles above Earth blocks 'killer electrons'
on Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:38:29 EST:
An invisible shield has been discovered some 7,200 miles above Earth that blocks so-called 'killer electrons,' which whip around the planet at near-light speed and have been known to threaten astronauts, fry satellites and degrade space systems during intense solar storms.
'Eye of Sauron' provides new way of measuring distances to galaxies
on Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:27:02 EST:
Scientists have developed a new way of measuring precise distances to galaxies tens of millions of light years away, using the W. M. Keck Observatory near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The method is similar to what land surveyors use on Earth, by measuring the physical and angular, or ‘apparent’, size of a standard ruler in the galaxy, to calibrate the distance from this information.
Cognitive test battery developed to assess impact of long duration spaceflights on astronauts' brain function
on Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:39:26 EST:
A cognitive test battery, known as Cognition, has been developed for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to measure the impact of typical spaceflight stressors (like microgravity, radiation, confinement and isolation, exposure to elevated levels of CO2, and sleep loss) on cognitive performance. This computer-based test has already been tested by astronauts on Earth. It will be performed for the first time in a pilot study on the International Space Station (ISS) on November 28.
A colorful gathering of middle-aged stars
on Wed, 26 Nov 2014 07:50:54 EST:
The MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has captured a richly colorful view of the bright star cluster NGC 3532. Some of the stars still shine with a hot bluish color, but many of the more massive ones have become red giants and glow with a rich orange hue.
Converting human-generated waste into fuel in space
on Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:46:22 EST:
Who would've known human waste could be used to propel spacecraft from the moon back to Earth? Researchers responded to the call from NASA and came up with a process to convert waste to methane and propel spacecraft to Earth.
Espresso in space: You knew it was only a matter of time before espresso made its way to the International Space Station, right?
on Tue, 25 Nov 2014 07:46:50 EST:
Espresso-loving astronauts, rejoice! You may soon be able to enjoy your beloved beverage in space, thanks to a new cup designed specifically to defy the low-gravity environments encountered aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Asteroid impacts on Earth make structurally bizarre diamonds
on Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:56:07 EST:
Scientists have settled a longstanding controversy over a purported rare form of diamond called lonsdaleite -- a type of diamond formed by impact shock, but which lacks the three-dimensional regularity of ordinary diamond.
Gas cloud in the galactic center is part of a larger gas streamer
on Mon, 24 Nov 2014 08:09:28 EST:
Astronomers have presented new observations of the gas cloud G2 in the galactic center originally discovered in 2011. These data are in remarkably good agreement with an on-going tidal disruption. As a complete surprise came the discovery that the orbit of G2 matches that of another gas cloud detected a decade ago, suggesting that G2 might actually be part of a much more extensive gas streamer. This would also match some of the proposed scenarios that try to explain the presence of G2. One such model is that G2 is originating from the wind from a massive star.