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Auroras on Mars
on Sat, 23 May 2015 10:21:04 EDT:
One day, when humans go to Mars, they might find that, occasionally, the Red Planet has green skies. NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has detected evidence of widespread auroras in Mars's northern hemisphere. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have a global magnetic field that envelops the entire planet. Instead, Mars has umbrella-shaped magnetic fields that sprout out of the ground like mushrooms, here and there, but mainly in the southern hemisphere. These umbrellas are remnants of an ancient global field that decayed billions of years ago.
Mars rover's laser-zapping instrument gets sharper vision
on Sat, 23 May 2015 10:17:23 EDT:
Tests on Mars have confirmed success of a repair to the autonomous focusing capability of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover.
Curiosity rover adjusts route up Martian mountain
on Sat, 23 May 2015 10:14:06 EDT:
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has just climbed a hill to approach an alternative site for investigating a geological boundary, after a comparable site proved hard to reach.
Most luminous galaxy in universe discovered
on Thu, 21 May 2015 13:35:36 EDT:
A remote galaxy shining brightly with infrared light equal to more than 300 trillion suns has been discovered using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The galaxy, which belongs to a new class of objects recently discovered by WISE -- nicknamed extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs -- is the most luminous galaxy found to date.
One-of-a-kind star discovered, nicknamed 'Nasty'
on Thu, 21 May 2015 13:35:17 EDT:
Astronomers have spent decades trying to determine the oddball behavior of an aging star nicknamed "Nasty 1" residing in our Milky Way galaxy. Looking at the star using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers had expected to see a bipolar outflow of twin lobes of gas from the star. The astronomers were surprised, however, to find a pancake-shaped disk of gas encircling the star. The vast disk is nearly 1,000 times the diameter of our solar system.
Galaxy’s snacking habits revealed
on Wed, 20 May 2015 19:38:35 EDT:
Astronomers have caught a greedy galaxy gobbling on its neighbors and leaving crumbs of evidence about its dietary past.
Supernova ignition surprises scientists
on Wed, 20 May 2015 13:36:00 EDT:
Scientists have captured the early death throes of supernovae for the first time and found that the universe's benchmark explosions are much more varied than expected.The scientists used the Kepler space telescope to photograph three type 1a supernovae in the earliest stages of ignition. They then tracked the explosions in detail to full brightness around three weeks later, and the subsequent decline over the next few months.
Supernova collides with its companion star
on Wed, 20 May 2015 13:35:57 EDT:
Type Ia supernovae, one of the most dazzling phenomena in the universe, are produced when small dense stars called white dwarfs explode with ferocious intensity. At their peak, these supernovae can outshine an entire galaxy. Although thousands of supernovae of this kind were found in the last decades, the process by which a white dwarf becomes one has been unclear.
Asteroid research benefits from Gaia satellite mission
on Wed, 20 May 2015 10:05:29 EDT:
Astronomical research on asteroids, i.e. minor planets, is also benefiting from the large-scale Gaia mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Even though the astrometry satellite's main purpose is to precisely measure nearly one billion stars in the Milky Way, it has tracked down a multitude of minor dwarf planets in our solar system.To determine its current position in space and thus ensure Gaia's extremely high measurement accuracy, images are taken every day of the regions of the sky where the very faint satellite is located.
Astronomy: The dreadful beauty of Medusa
on Wed, 20 May 2015 08:31:26 EDT:
Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured the most detailed image ever taken of the Medusa Nebula. As the star at the heart of this nebula made its transition into retirement, it shed its outer layers into space, forming a colorful cloud. The image foreshadows the final fate of the Sun, which will eventually also become an object of this kind.
Is there life out there? Distant moons may provide the answer
on Wed, 20 May 2015 08:26:18 EDT:
Researchers who have modeled planetary systems far beyond our own solar system have found that massive moons larger than Mars might be the best bet in the search for life beyond Earth.
Cubesat: Small-satellite technology to observe physical phenomena far from Earth
on Tue, 19 May 2015 18:22:39 EDT:
Although scientists are increasingly using pint-size satellites sometimes no larger than a loaf of bread to gather data from low-Earth orbit, they have yet to apply the less-expensive small-satellite technology to observe physical phenomena far from terra firma. Scientists are now advancing a CubeSat concept that would give scientists that capability.
How will astronauts keep in shape for extended periods?
on Tue, 19 May 2015 13:27:49 EDT:
Run far or run fast? That is one of the questions NASA is trying to answer with one of its latest studies -- and the answers may help keep us in shape on Earth, as well as in space. Even with regular exercise, astronauts who spend an extended period of time in space experience muscle weakening, bone loss, and decreased cardiovascular conditioning.
Maybe dark matter is not made up of heavy particles after all
on Fri, 15 May 2015 08:34:08 EDT:
Scientists have conducted a simulation that explains the collision between two clusters of galaxies. Clusters of galaxies are the biggest objects that exist in the universe. They are collections of hundreds of thousands of galaxies pulled together by gravity. Rare, extreme examples of clusters caught in the act of colliding seem to be challenging the accepted view that dark matter is made up of heavy particles.
Bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres
on Thu, 14 May 2015 15:07:43 EDT:
The mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are better resolved in a image recently taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The images were taken from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers).
Researchers hone technique for finding signs of life on the Red Planet
on Thu, 14 May 2015 13:29:13 EDT:
Astrobiologists want to improve the way unmanned Mars probes detect condensed aromatic carbon, thought to be a chemical signature of astrobiology.
Mapping lunar landscapes in panorama
on Thu, 14 May 2015 13:27:40 EDT:
A rugged camera technology successfully captured 360 degree panoramic views of the moon during China’s first lunar landing in 2013.
Hubble Catches a Stellar Exodus in Action
on Thu, 14 May 2015 13:26:17 EDT:
Astronomers have captured for the first time snapshots of fledgling white dwarf stars beginning their slow-paced, 40-million-year migration from the crowded center of an ancient star cluster to the less populated suburbs.
Comet Wild 2: A window into the birth of the solar system?
on Thu, 14 May 2015 09:58:25 EDT:
Scientists have investigated the oxygen isotope and mineral composition of the comet dust returned from Wild 2. The team discovered an unexpected combination of material that has deepened the mystery of Wild 2's past.
Left-handed cosmic magnetic field could explain missing antimatter
on Thu, 14 May 2015 08:56:55 EDT:
The discovery of a 'left-handed' magnetic field that pervades the universe could help explain a long standing mystery -- the absence of cosmic antimatter.
Cause of galactic death: Strangulation
on Wed, 13 May 2015 13:26:50 EDT:
Astronomers have partially solved an epic whodunit: what kills galaxies so that they can no longer produce new stars?
New class of 'dark' globular star clusters discovered around giant galaxy Centaurus A
on Wed, 13 May 2015 08:37:25 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered a new class of 'dark' globular star clusters around the giant galaxy Centaurus A. These mysterious objects look similar to normal clusters, but contain much more mass and may either harbor unexpected amounts of dark matter, or contain massive black holes -- neither of which was expected nor is understood.
Superflare stars with large starspots observed
on Wed, 13 May 2015 08:35:28 EDT:
A team of astronomers has conducted spectroscopic observations of Sun-like "superflare" stars first observed and cataloged by the Kepler Space Telescope. The investigations focused on the detailed properties of these stars and confirmed that Sun-like stars with large starspots can experience superflares.
Weather forecasts made for planets beyond our solar system
on Tue, 12 May 2015 14:08:54 EDT:
Using sensitive observations from the Kepler space telescope, astronomers have uncovered evidence of daily weather cycles on six extra-solar planets seen to exhibit different phases. Such phase variations occur as different portions of these planets reflect light from their stars, similar to the way our own moon cycles though different phases. Among the findings are indications of cloudy mornings on four of them and hot, clear afternoons on two others.
Europa's mystery dark material could be sea salt, NASA research reveals
on Tue, 12 May 2015 13:16:22 EDT:
NASA laboratory experiments suggest the dark material coating some geological features of Jupiter's moon Europa is likely sea salt from a subsurface ocean, discolored by exposure to radiation. The presence of sea salt on Europa's surface suggests the ocean is interacting with its rocky seafloor -- an important consideration in determining whether the icy moon could support life.
The weakest magnetic field in the solar system
on Tue, 12 May 2015 11:24:56 EDT:
Magnetic fields easily penetrate matter. Creating a space practically devoid of magnetic fields thus presents a great challenge. An international team of physicists has now developed a shielding that dampens low frequency magnetic fields more than a million-fold. Using this mechanism, they have created a space that boasts the weakest magnetic field of our solar system. The physicists now intend to carry out precision experiments there.
Astronomy: Delta Cephei has a hidden companion
on Tue, 12 May 2015 07:49:33 EDT:
To measure distances in the Universe, astronomers use Cepheids, a family of variable stars whose luminosity varies with time. Their role as distance calibrators has brought them attention from researchers for more than a century. While it was thought that nearly everything was known about the prototype of Cepheids, named Delta Cephei, a team of researchers have now discovered that this star is not alone, but that it has a hidden companion.
Watch invisible gravity waves rumble through the atmosphere
on Mon, 11 May 2015 13:19:39 EDT:
Just as waves ripple across a pond when a tossed stone disturbs the water's surface, gravity waves ripple toward space from disturbances in the lower atmosphere.
Scientists show 'breaking waves' perturb Earth's magnetic field
on Mon, 11 May 2015 12:53:16 EDT:
The underlying physical process that creates striking 'breaking wave' cloud patterns in our atmosphere also frequently opens the gates to high-energy solar wind plasma that perturbs Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, which protects us from cosmic radiation. The discovery was made by space physicists.
Space lab to elucidate how liquid cocktails mix
on Mon, 11 May 2015 11:23:30 EDT:
Zero-gravity experiments can tell us a great deal about the effects of temperature change on the concentrations of three different liquids that are mixed together. What does space experimentation have in common with liquid cocktails? Both help in understanding what happens when multiple fluids are mixed together and subjected to temperature change - a phenomenon ubiquitous in nature and industrial applications such as oil fluids contained in natural reservoirs.
Lopsided star explosion holds the key to other supernova mysteries
on Thu, 07 May 2015 14:53:13 EDT:
New observations of a recently exploded star are confirming supercomputer model predictions made at Caltech that the deaths of stellar giants are lopsided affairs in which debris and the stars' cores hurtle off in opposite directions.
Mercury's magnetic field is almost four billion years old
on Thu, 07 May 2015 14:52:00 EDT:
New data from MESSENGER, the spacecraft that orbited Mercury for four years before crashing into the planet a week ago, reveals Mercury's magnetic field is almost four billion years old.
Hubble finds giant halo around the Andromeda galaxy
on Thu, 07 May 2015 13:57:54 EDT:
Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the immense halo of gas enveloping the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest massive galactic neighbor, is about six times larger and 1,000 times more massive than previously measured. What does this mean for our own galaxy? Because we live inside the Milky Way, scientists cannot determine whether or not such an equally massive and extended halo exists around our galaxy. It's a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. If the Milky Way does possess a similarly huge halo, the two galaxies' halos may be nearly touching already and quiescently merging long before the two massive galaxies collide. Hubble observations indicate that the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy beginning about 4 billion years from now.
Proto super-star cluster discovered: A cosmic 'dinosaur egg' about to hatch
on Thu, 07 May 2015 11:43:18 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered what may be the first known example of a globular cluster about to be born: an incredibly massive, extremely dense, yet star-free cloud of molecular gas.
Geochemical process on Saturn's moon Enceladus linked to life's origin
on Thu, 07 May 2015 08:27:28 EDT:
New work has revealed the pH of water spewing from a geyser-like plume on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Their findings are an important step toward determining whether life could exist, or could have previously existed, on the sixth planet's sixth-largest moon.
Fresh evidence for how water reached Earth found in asteroid debris
on Thu, 07 May 2015 08:27:20 EDT:
New research strongly suggests that water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth. The quantity of water on Earth is not unique.
A hot start to the origin of life?
on Wed, 06 May 2015 09:52:48 EDT:
Researchers have shown for the first time that cosmic hot spots, such as those near stars, could be excellent environments for the creation of molecular precursors to DNA.
Improved detection of radio waves from space
on Wed, 06 May 2015 08:45:51 EDT:
Researchers have developed a very sensitive high frequency amplifier for radio telescopes used on Earth. The amplifier generates extremely little internal electromagnetic noise and will help measure our planet from space more precisely than ever before. The position of radio telescopes will be pinpointed with a precision to approximately one millimeter -- a tenfold improvement in accuracy. The measurement technique relies on radio telescopes picking up radio waves emitted by objects in space; the more accurately scientists can determine the positions of the radio telescopes, the more precisely they can measure various characteristics of the Earth.
Space debris from satellite explosion increases collision risk for space craft
on Wed, 06 May 2015 08:45:49 EDT:
Debris from the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F13 satellite, which recently exploded in orbit, could pose a threat to other spacecraft and missions according to new research. On 3 February 2015, the DMSP F13 satellite exploded in orbit producing over an estimated 100 pieces of space debris that were detected using radar. In assessing how debris created by the explosion might affect their spacecraft, the European Space Agency and other satellite operators concluded that it would pose little risk to their missions. However, scientists have now investigated the risks to a wide range of space missions, coming from smaller pieces of debris created by the explosion that cannot be detected using radar based on the ground. In the case of the explosion of DMSP-F13, they detected 100 new catalogued objects, which suggest that more than 50,000 small fragments larger than 1mm were created.
Traffic around Mars gets busy
on Tue, 05 May 2015 16:02:24 EDT:
NASA has beefed up a process of traffic monitoring, communication and maneuver planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not approach each other too closely. Last year's addition of two new spacecraft orbiting Mars brought the census of active Mars orbiters to five, the most ever.
Astrophysicists offer proof that famous image shows forming planets
on Tue, 05 May 2015 14:25:26 EDT:
A recent and famous image from deep space marks the first time we've seen a forming planetary system, according to a study by astrophysicists. The team found that circular gaps in a disk of dust and gas swirling around the young star HL Tau are in fact made by forming planets.
Astronomers unveil farthest galaxy, more than 13 billion years in the past
on Tue, 05 May 2015 14:25:24 EDT:
Astronomers have pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age. Age and distance are vitally connected in any discussion of the universe. The light we see from our Sun takes just eight minutes to reach us, while the light from distant galaxies we see via today's advanced telescopes travels for billions of years before it reaches us -- so we're seeing what those galaxies looked like billions of years ago.
Evidence of briny water on Mars
on Mon, 04 May 2015 12:05:07 EDT:
Data collected on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover indicate that water, in the form of brine, may exist under certain conditions on the planet's surface.
Space technology 'could reduce cost of renewable energy'
on Mon, 04 May 2015 08:26:04 EDT:
Space-based radar technology could be harnessed by the renewable energy sector to drive down costs, according to researchers.
Black holes gorging at excessive rates
on Sun, 03 May 2015 09:18:10 EDT:
A group of unusual giant black holes may be consuming excessive amounts of matter, according to a new study. This finding may help astronomers understand how the largest black holes were able to grow so rapidly in the early Universe.
Lava Lake Loki on Jupiter's moon Io, up close
on Fri, 01 May 2015 16:21:28 EDT:
Io, the innermost of the four moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610 and only slightly bigger than our own moon, is the most geologically active body in our solar system. Hundreds of volcanic areas dot its surface, which is mostly covered with sulfur and sulfur dioxide. The largest of these volcanic features, named Loki after the Norse god often associated with fire and chaos, is a volcanic depression called patera in which the denser lava crust solidifying on top of a lava lake episodically sinks in the lake, yielding a raise in the thermal emission that has been regularly observed from Earth. Loki, only 124 miles in diameter and at least 373 million miles from Earth, was, up until recently, too small to be looked at in detail from any ground-based optical/infrared telescope.
Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments
on Fri, 01 May 2015 15:16:08 EDT:
What happens to an astronaut's brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It's besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition, according to a radiation oncology study. Exposure to highly energetic charged particles -- much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights -- cause significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments.
NASA's New Horizons detects surface features, possible polar cap on Pluto
on Fri, 01 May 2015 11:43:08 EDT:
For the first time, images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft are revealing bright and dark regions on the surface of faraway Pluto -- the primary target of the New Horizons close flyby in mid-July.
NASA Completes MESSENGER Mission with Expected Impact on Mercury's Surface
on Fri, 01 May 2015 11:34:42 EDT:
A NASA planetary exploration mission came to a planned, but nonetheless dramatic, end April 30 when it slammed into Mercury's surface at about 8,750 mph and created a new crater on the planet's surface.
Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected
on Fri, 01 May 2015 11:15:23 EDT:
A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar. Further observations by astronomers using the GBT revealed that this pulsar has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star and is part of only a handful of double neutron star systems.
New exoplanet too big for its star challenges ideas about how planets form
on Fri, 01 May 2015 09:59:51 EDT:
The discovery of a strange exoplanet orbiting very close to a small cool star 500 light years away is challenging ideas about how planets form.
Twenty exoplanets are now available for naming proposals
on Fri, 01 May 2015 09:58:47 EDT:
The 20 most popular exoplanets have been made available for naming proposals from registered clubs and non-profit organizations.
Eagle Nebula: The Pillars of Creation revealed in 3-D
on Thu, 30 Apr 2015 08:28:10 EDT:
Astronomers have produced the first complete three-dimensional view of the famous Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, Messier 16. The new observations demonstrate how the different dusty pillars of this iconic object are distributed in space and reveal many new details. Intense radiation and stellar winds from the cluster's brilliant stars have sculpted the dusty Pillars of Creation over time and should fully evaporate them in about three million years.
New solar telescope unveils the complex dynamics of sunspots' dark cores
on Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:56:53 EDT:
Groundbreaking images of the Sun give a first-ever detailed view of the interior structure of umbrae -- the dark patches in the center of sunspots -- revealing dynamic magnetic fields responsible for the plumes of plasma that emerge as bright dots interrupting their darkness.
Multifractals suggest the existence of an unknown physical mechanism on the Sun
on Wed, 29 Apr 2015 11:32:04 EDT:
The famous sunspots on the surface of the Earth's star result from the dynamics of strong magnetic fields, and their numbers are an important indicator of the state of activity on the Sun. Researchers have been conducting multifractal analysis into the changes in the numbers of sunspots. The resulting graphs were surprisingly asymmetrical in shape, suggesting that sunspots may be involved in hitherto unknown physical processes.
Sun's blistering heat: Strong evidence for coronal heating theory
on Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:48:30 EDT:
The sun's surface is blisteringly hot at 10,340 degrees Fahrenheit -- but its atmosphere is another 300 times hotter. This has led to an enduring mystery for those who study the sun: What heats the atmosphere to such extreme temperatures? Normally when you move away from a hot source the environment gets cooler, but some mechanism is clearly at work in the solar atmosphere, the corona, to bring the temperatures up so high.
The fearsome foursome: Flying four identically equipped spacecraft in tight formation
on Tue, 28 Apr 2015 19:06:37 EDT:
It was unprecedented developing a mission that could fly four identically equipped spacecraft in a tight formation and take measurements 100 times faster than any previous space mission.
Robotically discovering Earth's nearest neighbors: 54 light-years away
on Tue, 28 Apr 2015 17:17:42 EDT:
Astronomers discovered a planetary system orbiting a nearby star that is only 54 light-years away. All three planets orbit their star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just five, 15, and 24 days.
New solar telescope peers deep into the sun to track the origins of space weather
on Tue, 28 Apr 2015 17:17:36 EDT:
Scientists have captured the first high-resolution images of the flaring magnetic structures known as solar flux ropes at their point of origin in the sun's chromosphere.
Unmasking the secrets of Mercury, in color
on Tue, 28 Apr 2015 16:51:20 EDT:
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the solar system's innermost planet. MESSENGER's highly successful orbital mission is about to come to an end, as the spacecraft runs out of propellant and the force of solar gravity causes it to impact the surface of Mercury near the end of April 2015.