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December 22, 2014

New Milky Way Neighbor Discovered --"May Be a Huge Number of Dwarf Galaxies Out There"



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The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in, is part of a cluster of more than 50 galaxies that make up the ‘Local Group’, a collection that includes the famous Andromeda galaxy and many other far smaller objects. Now a Russian-American team have added to the canon, finding a tiny and isolated dwarf galaxy almost 7 million light years away.

Continue reading "New Milky Way Neighbor Discovered --"May Be a Huge Number of Dwarf Galaxies Out There"" »

Alien Minds --"We Will Encounter Superintelligence Much Older than the Human Species"



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World renowned experts from physicist Sir Martin Rees of Cambridge University to astrobiologist Paul Davis of Arizona State have asked that if we were to encounter alien technology far superior to our own, would we even realize what it was. A technology a million or more years in advance of ours would appear miraculous.

Continue reading "Alien Minds --"We Will Encounter Superintelligence Much Older than the Human Species"" »

Russian Scientists Probe Water Cycle in Mars' Atmosphere --"Could Support Existence of Biological Activity"




Conditions on Mars -- low temperatures and low atmospheric pressure -- do not allow water to exist in liquid form in open reservoirs as it would on Earth. However, on Mars, there is a powerful layer of permafrost, with large reserves of frozen water concentrated at the polar caps. There is water vapour in the atmosphere, although at very low levels compared to the quantities experienced hereon Earth. If the entire volume of water in the atmosphere was to be spread evenly over the surface of the planet, the thickness of the water layer would not exceed 10-20 microns, while on Earth such a layer would be thousands of times thicker.

Continue reading "Russian Scientists Probe Water Cycle in Mars' Atmosphere --"Could Support Existence of Biological Activity"" »

December 21, 2014

“There have been 10,000 Generations Before Us --Ours Could be the First to Discover Extraterrestrial Life” --NASA (2014 Most Viewed)





In 1960, the astronomer Francis Drake pointed a radio telescope located in Green Bank, West Virginia, toward two Sun-like stars 11 light years away. His hope: to pick up a signal that would prove intelligent life might be out there. Fifty years have gone by since Drake’s pioneering SETI experiment, and we’ve yet to hear from the aliens.mmBut thanks to a host of discoveries, the idea that life might exist beyond Earth now seems more plausible than ever. For one, we’ve learned that life can thrive in the most extreme environments here on Earth — from deep-sea methane seep and Antarctic sea ice to acidic rivers and our driest deserts.

Continue reading "“There have been 10,000 Generations Before Us --Ours Could be the First to Discover Extraterrestrial Life” --NASA (2014 Most Viewed)" »

December 20, 2014

Glow from Orphan Stars--"Generate More Light than all the Galaxies in Observable Universe" (Weekend Feature)



Using an experiment carried into space on a NASA suborbital rocket, astronomers at Caltech and their colleagues have detected a diffuse cosmic glow that appears to represent more light than that produced by known galaxies in the universe. Initially some researchers proposed that this light came from the very first galaxies to form and ignite stars after the Big Bang. CalTech researchers say that the best explanation is that the cosmic light originates from stars that were stripped away from their parent galaxies and flung out into space as those galaxies collided and merged with other galaxies.

The discovery suggests that many such previously undetected stars permeate what had been thought to be dark spaces between galaxies, forming an interconnected sea of stars. "Measuring such large fluctuations surprised us, but we carried out many tests to show the results are reliable," says CalTech Fellow Michael Zemcov, who led the study.

Although they cannot be seen individually, "the total light produced by these stray stars is about equal to the background light we get from counting up individual galaxies," says Bock, also a senior research scientist at JPL. Bock is the principal investigator of the rocket project, called the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, which originated at Caltech and flew on four rocket flights from 2009 through 2013.

In earlier studies, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which sees the universe at longer wavelengths, had observed a splotchy pattern of infrared light called the cosmic infrared background. The splotches are much bigger than individual galaxies. "We are measuring structures that are grand on a cosmic scale," says Zemcov, "and these sizes are associated with galaxies bunching together on a large-scale pattern."

CIBER was designed to help settle the debate. "CIBER was born as a conversation with Asantha Cooray, a theoretical cosmologist at UC Irvine and at the time a postdoc at Caltech with [former professor] Marc Kamionkowski," Bock explains. "Asantha developed an idea for studying galaxies by measuring their large-scale structure. Galaxies form in dark-matter halos, which are over-dense regions initially seeded in the early universe by inflation. Furthermore, galaxies not only start out in these halos, they tend to cluster together as well. Asantha had the brilliant idea to measure this large-scale structure directly from maps. Experimentally, it is much easier for us to make a map by taking a wide-field picture with a small camera, than going through and measuring faint galaxies one by one with a large telescope."

Cooray originally developed this approach for the longer infrared wavelengths observed by the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory. "With its 3.5-meter diameter mirror, Herschel is too small to count up all the galaxies that make the infrared background light, so he instead obtained this information from the spatial structure in the map," Bock says.

"Meanwhile, I had been working on near-infrared rocket experiments, and was interested in new ways to use this unique idea to study the extragalactic background," he says. The extragalactic infrared background represents all of the infrared light from all of the sources in the universe, "and there were some hints we didn't know where it was all coming from."

In other words, if you calculate the light produced by individual galaxies, you would find they made less than the background light. "One could try and measure the total sky brightness directly," Bock says, "but the problem is that the foreground 'Zodiacal light,' due to dust in the solar system reflecting light from the sun, is so bright that it is hard to subtract with enough accuracy to measure the extragalactic background. So we put these two ideas together, applying Asantha's mapping approach to new wavelengths, and decided that the best way to get at the extragalactic background was to measure spatial fluctuations on angular scales around a degree. That led to CIBER."

The CIBER experiment consists of three instruments, including two spectrometers to determine the brightness of Zodiacal light and measure the cosmic infrared background directly. The measurements in the recent publication are made with two wide-field cameras to search for fluctuations in two wavelengths of near infrared light. Earth's upper atmosphere glows brightly at the CIBER wavelengths. But the measurements can be done in space—avoiding that glow—in just the short amount of time that a suborbital rocket flies above the atmosphere, before descending again back toward the planet.

CIBER flew four missions in all; the paper includes results from the second and third of CIBER's flights, launched in 2010 and 2012 from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and recovered afterward by parachute. In the flights, the researchers observed the same part of the sky at a different time of year, and swapped the detector arrays as a crosscheck against data artifacts created by the sensors. "This series of flights was quite helpful in developing complete confidence in the results," says Zemcov. "For the final flight, we decided to get more time above the atmosphere and went with a non-recovered flight into the Atlantic Ocean on a four-stage rocket." (The data from the fourth flight will be discussed in a future paper.)

Based on data from these two launches, the researchers found fluctuations, but they had to go through a careful process to identify and remove local sources, such as the instrument, as well as emissions from the solar system, stars, scattered starlight in the Milky Way, and known galaxies. What is left behind is a splotchy pattern representing fluctuations in the remaining infrared background light. Comparing data from multiple rocket launches, they saw the identical signal. That signal also is observed by comparing CIBER and Spitzer images of the same region of sky. Finally, the team measured the color of the fluctuations by comparing the CIBER results to Spitzer measurements at longer wavelengths. The result is a spectrum with a very blue color, brightest in the CIBER bands.

"CIBER tells us a couple key facts," Zemcov explains. "The fluctuations seem to be too bright to be coming from the first galaxies. You have to burn a large quantity of hydrogen into helium to get that much light, then you have to hide the evidence, because we don't see enough heavy elements made by stellar nucleosynthesis"—the process, occurring within stars, by which heavier elements are created from the fusion of lighter ones—"which means these elements would have to disappear into black holes."

"The color is also too blue," he says. "First galaxies should appear redder due to their light being absorbed by hydrogen, and we do not see any evidence for such an absorption feature."

In short, Zemcov says, "although we designed our experiment to search for emission from first stars and galaxies, that explanation doesn't fit our data very well. The best interpretation is that we are seeing light from stars outside of galaxies but in the same dark matter halos. The stars have been stripped from their parent galaxies by gravitational interactions—which we know happens from images of interacting galaxies—and flung out to large distances."

The model, Bock admits, "isn't perfect. In fact, the color still isn't quite blue enough to match the data. But even so, the brightness of the fluctuations implies this signal is important in a cosmological sense, as we are tracing a large amount of cosmic light production."

Future experiments could test whether stray stars are indeed the source of the infrared cosmic glow, the researchers say. If the stars were tossed out from their parent galaxies, they should still be located in the same vicinity. The CIBER team is working on better measurements using more infrared colors to learn how the stripping of stars happened over cosmic history.

The NASA artist's image at the top of the page shows a view of a number of galaxies sitting in huge halos of stars. The stars are too distant to be seen individually and instead are seen as a diffuse glow, colored yellow in this illustration. The CIBER rocket experiment detected this diffuse infrared background glow in the sky equals the total amount of infrared light coming from known galaxies.

The Daily Galaxy via Kathy Svitil/Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA: "Alien Lifeforms May be More Complex Than Anticipated" (Weekend Most Popular)



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“We should be mindful that, however they may be encoded, lifeforms are likely to have differentiated on other worlds," says Frank Rosenzweig, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Montana. "Therefore, we should be alert to the signatures left by these more complex forms of life.”

Continue reading "NASA: "Alien Lifeforms May be More Complex Than Anticipated" (Weekend Most Popular)" »

December 19, 2014

Enormous Jewel-Like Galaxy Cluster Found --"From an Early Epoch"





Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have made the first determination of the mass and other properties of a very young, distant galaxy cluster. The Chandra study shows that the galaxy cluster, seen at the comparatively young age of about 800 million years, is the most massive known cluster with that age or younger. As the largest gravitationally- bound structures known, galaxy clusters can act as crucial gauges for how the Universe itself has evolved over time.

Continue reading "Enormous Jewel-Like Galaxy Cluster Found --"From an Early Epoch"" »

NASA's Venus "Cloud" Mission --"Did It Once have Ancient Oceans?"




The conditions on Venus are hard to describe. Many planetary scientists say "Start by imagining Hell and work up from there." It's an environment where words like "over 500 degrees Celsius" get thrown around, and it's flat-out crushed every probe we've sent into it. Even worse, there's almost no water.

Continue reading "NASA's Venus "Cloud" Mission --"Did It Once have Ancient Oceans?"" »

Mars' Mount Sharp Mystery -- Evidence of a Lake Tens of Millions of Years Old?





"We are making headway in solving the mystery of Mount Sharp," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology. "Where there's now a mountain, there may have once been a series of lakes."

Continue reading "Mars' Mount Sharp Mystery -- Evidence of a Lake Tens of Millions of Years Old?" »

December 18, 2014

NASA's Kepler Mission 2.0 Spies a New Super-Earth





"Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries. Even better, the planet it found is ripe for follow-up studies," says Andrew Vanderburg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). 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."

Continue reading "NASA's Kepler Mission 2.0 Spies a New Super-Earth" »

Milky Way Star Cluster Discoveries Confound Astronomers





A decade ago, astronomers actually thought that the stars within any cluster should all be about the same age, but that idea fell out of favor when clear evidence of the presence of stars of different ages within a single cluster was discovered, at least for the oldest and most populous clusters in our Milky Way.

Continue reading "Milky Way Star Cluster Discoveries Confound Astronomers" »

December 17, 2014

An Alien Water World --"Could It be Habitable?" Asks MIT Team



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Nearly 2,000 planets beyond our solar system have been identified to date. Whether any of these exoplanets are hospitable to life depends on a number of criteria. Among these, scientists have thought, is a planet's obliquity the angle of its axis relative to its orbit around a star.The more extreme the tilt, the less habitable a planet may be or so the thinking has gone.

Continue reading "An Alien Water World --"Could It be Habitable?" Asks MIT Team" »

"Search for Earth's Deep Life" --Ancient, Hydrogen-Rich Waters Discovered Deep Underground



A team of scientists has mapped the location of hydrogen-rich waters found trapped kilometres beneath Earth's surface in rock fractures in Precambrian rocks make up over 70% of the surface of the Earth's crust in Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia.

Continue reading ""Search for Earth's Deep Life" --Ancient, Hydrogen-Rich Waters Discovered Deep Underground" »

Origin of Earth's Oceans --"From Plate Tectonics or Icy Comets?"





The relationship between Earth's plate tectonics and surface water is one of the great mysteries in the geosciences. But a new study supports researchers’ growing suspicion that mantle convection somehow regulates the amount of water in the oceans. It also vastly expands the timeline for Earth’s water cycle.

Continue reading "Origin of Earth's Oceans --"From Plate Tectonics or Icy Comets?"" »

Confirmed! NASA Makes First Detection of Organic Matter at Mars' Gale Crater (VIDEO)





"We think life began on Earth around 3.8 billion years ago, and our result shows that places on Mars had the same conditions at that time – liquid water, a warm environment, and organic matter," said Caroline Freissinet of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "So if life emerged on Earth in these conditions, why not on Mars as well?"

Continue reading "Confirmed! NASA Makes First Detection of Organic Matter at Mars' Gale Crater (VIDEO)" »

"Did Life Originate Deep Inside Earth?" --Deep Carbon Observatory Scientists



Volcanic eruption on the Fimmvruhls mountain pass, with Aurora Borealis display in the sky behind


The carbon in the atmosphere, ocean, surface life, and other shallow, near surface reservoirs accounts for only about 10% of Earth’s carbon. Where is the other 90%? What is it doing? Does it matter? The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), an ambitious 10-year (2009-2019) program of exploration and experimentation, pursues the mysterious 90% while building a new scientific field with a network of scientists from more than 40 countries. Recent results from DCO researchers are filling in the global carbon puzzle with findings that extend our understanding of the origins and limits of life on Earth, what erupts from volcanoes and leaks from sea floors, and what descends back into Earth’s great depths.

Continue reading " "Did Life Originate Deep Inside Earth?" --Deep Carbon Observatory Scientists" »

December 16, 2014

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Finds Ancient Methane Spike --"Biological or Non-Biological?"





NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory's drill. "This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."

Continue reading " NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Finds Ancient Methane Spike --"Biological or Non-Biological?"" »

The Higgs Boson --"A Clue to Why There's More Matter than Antimatter in the Universe?"





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. In the time following the Big Bang, when the budding universe cooled enough for matter to form, most matter-antimatter particle pairs that popped into existence annihilated each other. Yet something tipped the balance in favor of matter, or we – and stars, planets, galaxies, life – would not be here.

Continue reading "The Higgs Boson --"A Clue to Why There's More Matter than Antimatter in the Universe?"" »

December 15, 2014

Our Voyage Through the Local Interstellar Cloud -- "Different from the Chemical Make-up Our Solar System"



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Our solar system has been voyaging through the very low density Local Interstellar Cloud, a region about 30 light-years across that's as sparse as a handful of air stretched over a column that is hundreds of light years long, or about one atom per three cubic centimeters of space. Earth and our Sun has been traveling through the Cloud for somewhere between 40,000 and 150,000 years and will probably not emerge for another 20,000 years. A mere blip in our 250 million-year orbit through the Milky Way.

Continue reading "Our Voyage Through the Local Interstellar Cloud -- "Different from the Chemical Make-up Our Solar System"" »

"Extreme Exoplanets" --Yield Clues to Search for Earthlike Habitats





Astronomers could soon be able to find rocky planets stretched out by the gravity of the stars they orbit, according to a group of researchers in the United States. The team describes how to detect these exotic worlds in a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Continue reading ""Extreme Exoplanets" --Yield Clues to Search for Earthlike Habitats" »

The 'Daily Galaxy' Twitter Followers Soar Above 325,000!





Join the 326,000 Daily Galaxy fans around the world who follow us via their Twitter page. Our followers include many of the planet's leading astronomers and scientists, astronauts, space observatories, news organizations, universities and governmental space organizations such as NASA, JPL, ESO, SETI, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Royal Astronomy Society members. Follow us daily at

December 14, 2014

"The Messier 67 Mystery" --Is Our Solar System an Orphan from a Distant Star Cluster?





Astronomers over the decades have been searching for star clusters that could have shared our original region of the galaxy that come close to matching the composition and age of our Sun. The prime suspect so far One is a collective known as Messier 67, some 2,700 light-years distant that contains more than a hundred stars that bear a striking resemblance to the Sun. This cluster lies about 2500 light-years away in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab) and contains about 500 stars. Many of the cluster stars are fainter than those normally targeted for exoplanet searches and trying to detect the weak signal from possible planets pushed HARPS to the limit.

Continue reading ""The Messier 67 Mystery" --Is Our Solar System an Orphan from a Distant Star Cluster?" »

“There's Something We Just don't Understand About the Internal Structure of the Universe"





“We’re all looking and somewhere, maybe even now, there’s a little bit of data that will cause someone to have an ‘Ah ha!’ moment,” said Harry Nelson, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and science lead for the LUX upgrade, called LUX-ZEPLIN. “This idea that there’s something out there that we can’t sense yet is one of those things that sends chills down my spine.”

Continue reading "“There's Something We Just don't Understand About the Internal Structure of the Universe" " »

December 13, 2014

Clustering of Matter 400,000 Years After Big Bang --"Yields New Measurement of the Universe"





For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity. A research team from Imperial College London and the University of Barcelona has used data from astronomical surveys to measure a standard distance that is central to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.

Continue reading "Clustering of Matter 400,000 Years After Big Bang --"Yields New Measurement of the Universe"" »

The First Signal from Dark Matter? --"Could Usher in a New Era in Astronomy"





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. The signal comes from a very rare event in the Universe: a photon emitted due to the destruction of a hypothetical particle, possibly a "sterile neutrino". If the discovery is confirmed, it will open up new avenues of research in particle physics. "It could usher in a new era in astronomy," says Oleg Ruchayskiy at Leiden University . "Confirmation of this discovery may lead to construction of new telescopes specially designed for studying the signals from dark matter particles. We will know where to look in order to trace dark structures in space and will be able to reconstruct how the Universe has formed."

Continue reading "The First Signal from Dark Matter? --"Could Usher in a New Era in Astronomy"" »

December 12, 2014

Pluto-Sized Objects Found Orbiting a Young Sun-Like Star





Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) 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.

Continue reading "Pluto-Sized Objects Found Orbiting a Young Sun-Like Star" »

December 11, 2014

Image of the Day: Merger of Two Colossal Stars





Two colossal stars have been discovered that seem to eclipse each other on a daily basis, as they orbit through space. In a paper published in the journal of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Spanish researchers from the Centre of Astrobiology in the University of Alicante, report that two stars in the MY Cam system are in such close proximity that they will end up morphing into a single epically-sized star. The paper observed that the "mergers of high-mass binaries have been proposed as an effective mechanism to form very massive stars". Back in 2012, the New Scientist reported on the discovery of a quartet of mega stars -- each 300 times bigger than the sun -- in the Tarantula Nebula (below).

Continue reading "Image of the Day: Merger of Two Colossal Stars " »

Changing Face of Saturn's Enceladus --The Most Habitable Spot Beyond Earth in the Solar System?



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Almost immediately after NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft made their brief visits to Saturn in the early 1980s, scientists were hungry for more. The Voyagers had offered them only a brief glimpse of a family of new worlds -- Saturn's icy moons -- and the researchers were eager to spend more time among those bodies. The successor to the Voyagers at Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, has spent the past 10 years collecting images and other data as it has toured the Ringed Planet and its family of satellites. New color maps, produced from this trove of data, show that Cassini has essentially fulfilled one of its many mission objectives: producing global maps of Saturn's six major icy moons.

Enceladus displays a variety of colorful features. Some of the gas and dust being vented into space from large fractures near the moon's south pole returns to the surface and paints Enceladus with a fresh coating. The yellow and magenta tones in Cassini's color map are thought to be due to differences in the thickness of these deposits. Many of the most recently formed fractures on Enceladus, those near the south pole in particular, have a stronger ultraviolet signature, which appears bluish in these maps. Their color may be due to large-grained ice exposed on the surface, not unlike blue ice seen in some places in Earth's Arctic.

Enceladus is emerging as one the most habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System. "It has liquid water, organic carbon, nitrogen [in the form of ammonia], and an energy source," said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Besides Earth, he says, "there is no other environment in the Solar System where we can make all those claims."

The possibility of liquid water, a tidal energy source and the observation of organic (carbon-rich) chemicals in the plumes of Enceladus make the satellite a site of strong astrobiological interest.




NASA's Carolyn Porco described Cassini’s findings of elevated temperatures in the moon’s polar region, as well as an enormous plume of icy particles shooting tens of thousands of kilometers into space as "the mother lode of all discoveries." Analysis of the icy trail, which includes water vapor and trace amounts of organic materials such as methane, carbon dioxide, and propane, suggests it is fueled by geysers erupting from a pocket of salt water within the moon.  Porco is the leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini mission, a veteran imaging scientist of the Voyager mission to the outer solar system in the 1980s, and an imaging scientist on the New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

The findings, noted Porco, point to the possibility of “an environment where life itself might be stirring. Should we ever discover that a second genesis had occurred in our solar system, independently outside the Earth,” she added, “then I think at that point the spell is broken. The existence theorem has been proven, and we could safely infer from it that life was not a bug but a feature of the universe in which we live, that it’s commonplace and has occurred a staggering number of times.”

The new map was produced by Paul Schenk, a participating scientist with the Cassini imaging team based at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/, NASA/ESA Cassini Mission and Saturn/JPL and

December 10, 2014

"The Mystery of Origin of Earth's Water Deepens" --The Rosetta Comet Mission





Results from the Rosetta mission, which made history by landing on comet 67P in November, an unprecedented, close-up look at a comet is helping scientists to answer the fundamental question of whether a bombardment of these primitive bodies brought water to Earth billions of years ago. The wealth of scientific data the touchdown gathered, shows the water on the icy mass is unlike that on our planet, that there was far more heavy water on Comet 67P than on Earth, dealing a serious blow to the theory that most water on Earth came from comets.

Continue reading ""The Mystery of Origin of Earth's Water Deepens" --The Rosetta Comet Mission" »

Image of the Day: NASA's "Flying Saucer" for Future Mars Missions



NASA's "flying saucer" (aka Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, or LDSD for short) successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped design could reach the altitudes and airspeeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

Continue reading "Image of the Day: NASA's "Flying Saucer" for Future Mars Missions" »















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