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Cassini watches mysterious feature evolve in hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan
on Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:32:51 EDT:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan. It has now been observed twice by Cassini's radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions.
Simulations reveal an unusual death for ancient stars
on Mon, 29 Sep 2014 09:05:59 EDT:
Certain primordial stars -- between 55,000 and 56,000 times the mass of our sun, or solar masses -- may have died unusually. In death, these objects -- among the universe's first generation of stars -- would have exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no remnant black hole behind.
New molecule found in space connotes life origins
on Fri, 26 Sep 2014 21:36:34 EDT:
Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.
'Milky Way explorer' tours the solar system
on Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:04:14 EDT:
Imagine seeing the Sun, planets, and a myriad other objects in our Solar System as you have never seen them before -- in invisible radio light! The National Radio Astronomy Observatory released a new Solar System installment of its Milky Way Explorer.
NASA rover drill pulls first taste from Mars mountain
on Fri, 26 Sep 2014 10:15:52 EDT:
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has collected its first taste of the layered mountain whose scientific allure drew the mission to choose this part of Mars as a landing site.
Turning the Moon into a cosmic ray detector
on Fri, 26 Sep 2014 08:58:24 EDT:
Scientists are to turn the Moon into a giant particle detector to help understand the origin of Ultra-High-Energy (UHE) cosmic rays -- the most energetic particles in the Universe. The origin of UHE cosmic rays is one of the great mysteries in astrophysics. Nobody knows where these extremely rare cosmic rays come from or how they get their enormous energies. Physicists detect them on Earth at a rate of less than one particle per square kilometer per century.
Earth's water is older than the sun: Likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space
on Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:12:26 EDT:
Water was crucial to the rise of life on Earth and is also important to evaluating the possibility of life on other planets. Identifying the original source of Earth's water is key to understanding how life-fostering environments come into being and how likely they are to be found elsewhere. New work found that much of our solar system's water likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space.
A galaxy of deception: Hubble snaps what looks like a young galaxy in the local Universe
on Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:21:44 EDT:
Astronomers usually have to peer very far into the distance to see back in time, and view the Universe as it was when it was young. This new image of galaxy DDO 68, otherwise known as UGC 5340, was thought to offer an exception. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighborhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?
Most metal-poor star hints at universe's first supernovae
on Wed, 24 Sep 2014 13:50:22 EDT:
In a new study, researchers point out that the elemental abundance of the most iron-poor star can be explained by elements ejected from supernova explosions of the universe's first stars. This reveals that massive stars, which are several tens of times more immense than the Sun, were present among the first stars.
Clear skies on exo-Neptune: Smallest exoplanet ever found to have water vapor
on Wed, 24 Sep 2014 13:50:20 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a planet outside our Solar System. The planet, known as HAT-P-11b, is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest exoplanet ever on which water vapor has been detected.
Wavefront optics emerging as new tool for measuring and correcting vision
on Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:29:59 EDT:
A technique developed by astronomers seeking a clear view of distant objects in space is being intensively studied as a new approach to measuring and correcting visual abnormalities.
Most stars are born in clusters, some leave 'home'
on Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:26:42 EDT:
New modeling studies demonstrate that most of the stars we see were formed when unstable clusters of newly formed protostars broke up. These protostars are born out of rotating clouds of dust and gas, which act as nurseries for star formation. Rare clusters of multiple protostars remain stable and mature into multi-star systems. The unstable ones will eject stars until they achieve stability and end up as single or binary stars.
India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully inserted into orbit around Red Planet
on Wed, 24 Sep 2014 10:25:20 EDT:
India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully entered into an orbit around the planet Mars this morning (Sept. 24, 2014) by firing its 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) along with eight smaller liquid engines. In the coming weeks, the spacecraft will be thoroughly tested in Mars orbit and the systematic observation of the planet using the spacecraft's five scientific instruments is expected to begin.
'Univofutah': Asteroid named for University of Utah
on Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:11:55 EDT:
What’s rocky, about a mile wide, orbits between Mars and Jupiter and poses no threat to Earth? An asteroid named “Univofutah” after the University of Utah. Discovered on Sept. 8, 2008, by a longtime Utah astronomy educator, the asteroid also known as 391795 (2008 RV77) this month was renamed Univofutah by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Fourth Dragon for commercial resupply services arrives at International Space Station
on Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:44:21 EDT:
The Dragon commercial cargo craft has completed a two day trip to the International Space Station after launching early Sunday morning. NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst were at the controls of the robotics workstation in the Cupola when the Canadarm2 grappled Dragon at 6:52 a.m. EDT Tuesday.
Solar explosions 'inside' a computer: Understanding solar flares to improve predictions
on Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:22:31 EDT:
Strong solar flares can bring down communications and power grids on Earth. By demonstrating how these gigantic eruptions are caused, physicists are laying the foundations for future predictions. The shorter the interval between two explosions in the solar atmosphere, the more likely it is that the second flare will be stronger than the first one.
The origin of Uranus and Neptune elucidated
on Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:15:38 EDT:
Astronomers have just proposed a solution to the problematic chemical composition of Uranus and Neptune, thus providing clues for understanding their formation. The researchers focused on the positioning of these two outermost planets of the Solar System, and propose a new model explaining how and where they formed.
Infant solar system shows signs of windy weather
on Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:29:12 EDT:
Astronomers have observed what may be the first-ever signs of windy weather around a T Tauri star, an infant analog of our own Sun. This may help explain why some T Tauri stars have disks that glow weirdly in infrared light while others shine in a more expected fashion.
Finding hints of gravitational waves in the stars
on Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:12:50 EDT:
Scientists have shown how gravitational waves -- invisible ripples in the fabric of space and time that propagate through the universe -- might be 'seen' by looking at the stars. The new model proposes that a star that oscillates at the same frequency as a gravitational wave will absorb energy from that wave and brighten, an overlooked prediction of Einstein's 1916 theory of general relativity. The study contradicts previous assumptions about the behavior of gravitational waves.
NASA's Newest Mars Mission Spacecraft Enters Orbit around Red Planet
on Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:11:11 EDT:
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars' orbit at 7:24 p.m. PDT (10:24 p.m. EDT) Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.
SpaceX Dragon spacecraft lifts off with scientific cargo for International Space Station
on Sun, 21 Sep 2014 11:11:11 EDT:
An eruption of fire and smoke sent a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft skyward laden with 5,000 pounds of scientific equipment and supplies destined for use by the crew of the International Space Station.
Breezy science, plant studies and more head to space station on SpaceX-4
on Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:11:11 EDT:
Imagine a dragon flying through the heavens on mighty, outstretched wings. The majestic beast knows the currents of winds and how to harness their power as it soars above the clouds. SpaceX's real Dragon -- the company's spacecraft that transports supplies and science to the International Space Station (ISS) -- will deliver, and later return, new technology, biology and biotechnology and Earth and space science research to the orbiting outpost.
An anomaly in satellites' flybys confounds scientists
on Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:05:26 EDT:
When space probes, such as Rosetta and Cassini, fly over certain planets and moons, in order to gain momentum and travel long distances, their speed changes slightly for an unknown reason. A researcher has now analyzed whether or not a hypothetical gravitomagnetic field could have an influence. However, other factors such as solar radiation, tides, or even relativistic effects or dark matter could be behind this mystery.
Shrink-wrapping spacesuits: Spacesuits of the future may resemble a streamlined second skin
on Fri, 19 Sep 2014 09:48:33 EDT:
For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, musclelike coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft's power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.
Latest measurements from the AMS experiment unveil new territories in the flux of cosmic rays
on Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:38:57 EDT:
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer collaboration has just presented its latest results. These are based on the analysis of 41 billion particles detected with the space-based AMS detector aboard the International Space Station. The results provide new insights into the nature of the mysterious excess of positrons observed in the flux of cosmic rays.
Monster galaxies gain weight by eating smaller neighbors
on Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:38:47 EDT:
Massive galaxies in the universe have stopped making their own stars and are instead snacking on nearby galaxies. Astronomers looked at more than 22,000 galaxies and found that while smaller galaxies are very efficient at creating stars from gas, the most massive galaxies are much less efficient at star formation, producing hardly any new stars themselves, and instead grow by 'eating' other galaxies.
Miranda: An icy moon deformed by tidal heating
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:22:22 EDT:
Miranda, a small, icy moon of Uranus, is one of the most visually striking and enigmatic bodies in the solar system. Despite its relatively small size, Miranda appears to have experienced an episode of intense resurfacing that resulted in the formation of at least three remarkable and unique surface features -- polygonal-shaped regions called coronae.
CASIS research set for launch aboard SpaceX mission to space station
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:05:41 EDT:
This fall marks another commercial cargo flight to the International Space Station. In September, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to blast off to the orbital laboratory carrying supplies and investigations as part of the company's fourth contracted mission to the complex.
NASA Ames to launch science experiments to space station on SpaceX rocket
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:28:45 EDT:
NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will launch four life science experiments to the International Space Station aboard NASA's next commercial cargo resupply flight of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The research missions include a microbiology study of yeast, a fruit fly study designed and built by students, a plant biology investigation and the maiden voyage of NASA's new rodent research system.
Everything in moderation: Micro-8 to study regulating pathogens in space
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:26:02 EDT:
Candida albicans, an opportunistic yeast pathogen and model organism for research, is common and usually doesn't damage our healthy personal ecosystem. However, when our immune system is stressed on Earth or in space, such as during long-duration space travel, C. albicans can grow out of control and potentially cause infections. Scientists want to address controlling these outbreaks with the next round of cellular growth experiments on the International Space Station -- Micro-8.
Dawn spacecraft operating normally after safe mode triggered
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:24:12 EDT:
The Dawn spacecraft has resumed normal ion thrusting after the thrusting unexpectedly stopped and the spacecraft entered safe mode on September 11. That anomaly occurred shortly before a planned communication with NASA's Deep Space Network that morning. The spacecraft was not performing any special activities at the time.
NASA Mars spacecraft ready for Sept. 21 orbit insertion
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:22:34 EDT:
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).
Pulse of a dead star powers intense gamma rays
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:08:48 EDT:
NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is helping to untangle the mystery of what powers high-energy gamma rays emanating from supernova. The observatory's high-energy X-ray eyes were able to peer into a particular site of powerful gamma rays and confirm the source: A spinning, dead star called a pulsar.
NASA's wind-watching ISS-RapidScat ready for launch
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:04:05 EDT:
The fourth SpaceX cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, carrying the ISS-RapidScat scatterometer instrument designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is scheduled to launch Saturday, Sept. 20, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The one-day adjustment in the launch date was made to accommodate preparations of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and was coordinated with the station's partners and managers.
Comet landing mission: 'J' marks the spot for Rosetta's lander
on Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:00:49 EDT:
The European Space Agency's Rosetta's lander, Philae, will target Site J, an intriguing region on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk to the lander compared to the other candidate sites. The 220-pound (100-kilogram) lander is scheduled to reach the surface on November 11, where it will perform in-depth measurements to characterize the nucleus. Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.
NASA releases IRIS footage of X-class flare
on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:32:41 EDT:
On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare -- an example of one of the strongest solar flares -- on the sun.
Space: The final frontier ... open to the public
on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:32:39 EDT:
Historically, spaceflight has been reserved for the very healthy. Astronauts are selected for their ability to meet the highest physical standards to prepare them for any unknown challenges. However, with the advent of commercial spaceflight, average people can now fly. The aerospace medicine community has had little information about what medical conditions should be considered particularly risky in the spaceflight environment, as most medical conditions have never been studied for risk in space -- until now.
Smallest known galaxy with a supermassive black hole
on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:16:25 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered that an ultracompact dwarf galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole – the smallest galaxy known to contain such a massive light-sucking object. The finding suggests huge black holes may be more common than previously believed.
NASA chooses American companies to transport U.S. astronauts to International Space Station
on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:46:48 EDT:
U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts NASA announced Tuesday. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation's sole reliance on Russia in 2017.
Violent origins of disc galaxies: Why Milky Way-like galaxies are so common in the universe
on Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:31:14 EDT:
For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe.
219 million stars: Astronomers release most detailed catalog ever made of the visible Milky Way
on Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:48:19 EDT:
A new catalog of the visible part of the northern part of our home Galaxy, the Milky Way, includes no fewer than 219 million stars. From dark sky sites on Earth, the Milky Way appears as a glowing band stretching across the sky. To astronomers, it is the disk of our own galaxy, a system stretching across 100,000 light-years, seen edge-on from our vantage point orbiting the Sun. The disk contains the majority of the stars in the galaxy, including the Sun, and the densest concentrations of dust and gas.
Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars
on Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:37:46 EDT:
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding are of a 'cell-like' structure, which investigators now know once held water.
Clues to how giant elliptical galaxies move
on Fri, 12 Sep 2014 08:53:14 EDT:
New clues to how giant elliptical galaxies move have been discovered by an international team of astronomers. Elliptical galaxies have long been considered as essentially being made up of old stars that move randomly within them, like a swarm of bees. This has been challenged in many instances in the past ten-twenty years, but giant elliptical galaxies are still considered as a nearly round and non-rotating group of old stars by astronomers.
NASA identifying candidate asteroids for redirect mission
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:53:09 EDT:
NASA is on the hunt to add potential candidate target asteroids for the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The robotic mission will identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon. In the 2020s, astronauts will explore the asteroid and return to Earth with samples. This will test and advance new technologies and spaceflight experience needed to take humans to Mars in the 2030s.
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover arrives at Martian mountain
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:30:05 EDT:
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet's Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission's long-term prime destination.
First map of Rosetta's comet
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:27:41 EDT:
Scientists have found that the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko -- the target of study for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission -- can be divided into several regions, each characterized by different classes of features. High-resolution images of the comet reveal a unique, multifaceted world.
Unraveling mysteries of the Venusian atmosphere
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:07:54 EDT:
Underscoring the vast differences between Earth and its neighbor Venus, new research shows a glimpse of giant holes in the electrically charged layer of the Venusian atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The observations point to a more complicated magnetic environment than previously thought -- which in turn helps us better understand this neighboring, rocky planet.
Alien life search: Spotting atmospheric chemistry of alien worlds devoid of life
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:07:35 EDT:
Astronomers searching the atmospheres of alien worlds for gases that might be produced by life can't rely on the detection of just one type, such as oxygen, ozone, or methane, because in some cases these gases can be produced non-biologically, according to extensive simulations. Researchers have carefully simulated the atmospheric chemistry of alien worlds devoid of life thousands of times over a period of more than four years, varying the atmospheric compositions and star types.
Astrophysicists to probe how early universe made chemical elements
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:39:41 EDT:
In the beginning, all was hydrogen -- and helium, plus a bit of lithium. Three elements in all. Today's universe, however, has nearly a hundred naturally occurring elements, with thousands of variants (isotopes), and more likely to come. Figuring out how the universe got from its starting batch of three elements to the menagerie found today is the focus of a new research project.
'Hot Jupiters' provoke their own host suns to wobble
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:54:48 EDT:
Blame the 'hot Jupiters.' These large, gaseous exoplanets can make their suns wobble when they wend their way through their own solar systems to snuggle up against their suns, according to new research.
Lurking bright blue star caught: The last piece of a supernova puzzle
on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 09:47:13 EDT:
Astronomers have found evidence of a hot binary companion star to a yellow supergiant star, which had become a bright supernova. Its existence had been predicted by the team. This finding provides the last link in a chain of observations that have so far supported the team's theoretical picture for this supernova.
Astronomers pinpoint 'Venus Zone' around stars
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:41:45 EDT:
Astronomers have defined the 'Venus Zone,' the area around a star in which a planet is likely to exhibit the unlivable conditions found on the planet Venus. The research will aid Kepler astronomers searching for exoplanets, helping them determine which are likely to be similar to Earth and which are more likely to resemble Venus.
Mysterious quasar sequence explained
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:25:20 EDT:
Quasars are supermassive black holes that live at the center of distant massive galaxies. They shine as the most luminous beacons in the sky by rapidly accelerating matter into their gravitationally inescapable centers. New work solves a quasar mystery that astronomers have been puzzling over for decades. It shows that most observed quasar phenomena can be unified with two simple quantities: how efficiently the hole is being fed, and the viewing orientation of the astronomer.
New observing capabilities for ALMA
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:24:20 EDT:
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has reached a major milestone by extending its vision fully into the realm of the submillimeter, the wavelengths of cosmic light that hold intriguing information about the cold, dark, and distant Universe.
Where to grab space debris: Algorithm analyzes the rotation of objects in space
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:06:43 EDT:
Objects in space tend to spin -- and spin in a way that's totally different from the way they spin on earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any number of actual or potential space missions, from cleaning up debris in the geosynchronous orbit favored by communications satellites to landing a demolition crew on a comet.
Bright clumps in Saturn ring now mysteriously scarce
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:20:40 EDT:
Compared to the age of the solar system -- about four-and-a-half billion years -- a couple of decades are next to nothing. Some planetary locales change little over many millions of years, so for scientists who study the planets, any object that evolves on such a short interval makes for a tempting target for study. And so it is with the ever-changing rings of Saturn.
Geomagnetic storm mystery solved: How magnetic energy turns into particle energy
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:38:34 EDT:
Magnetic reconnection can trigger geomagnetic storms that disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and black out power grids. But how reconnection, in which the magnetic field lines in plasma snap apart and violently reconnect, transforms magnetic energy into explosive particle energy remains a major unsolved problem in plasma astrophysics.
This star cluster is not what it seems: Messier 54 shows lithium problem also applies outside our galaxy
on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:33:25 EDT:
A new image from the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile shows a vast collection of stars, the globular cluster Messier 54. This cluster looks very similar to many others but it has a secret. Messier 54 doesn’t belong to the Milky Way, but is part of a small satellite galaxy, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. This unusual parentage has now allowed astronomers to use the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to test whether there are also unexpectedly low levels of the element lithium in stars outside the Milky Way.
Companion star hidden for 21 years in a supernova's glare
on Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:07:54 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered a companion star to a rare class of supernova, known as a Type IIb. The discovery confirms a long-held theory that the supernova, dubbed SN 1993J, occurred inside what is called a binary system, where two interacting stars caused a cosmic explosion.
First evidence for water ice clouds found outside our solar system
on Tue, 09 Sep 2014 11:07:54 EDT:
A team of scientists has discovered the first evidence of water ice clouds on an object outside of our own Solar System. Water ice clouds exist on our own gas giant planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune -- but have not been seen outside of the planets orbiting our Sun until now.