The history of planet Earth is a fascinating story, involving catastrophic collisions with other small planets and a plethora of asteroid impacts. Recent findings show that our large moon was essential for the origin and evolution of life. Without the stabilizing effect of the moon the tilt or the planet's axis and our seasons would fluctuate wildly, devastating all life.
The prevailing theory about the formation of the moon is called the giant impact hypothesis: the theory goes that a Mars-sized object, known as Theia, crashed in to the young Earth. What was left was Earth, and its moon.
Continue reading "Was Earth Once Orbited by Several Moons? And, Were They a Key to Life?" »
A superwind, such as the one in stunning spiral galaxy NGC 3079 originates in the center of the galaxy, either from activity generated by a central supermassive black hole, or by a burst of supernova activity. Superwinds are thought to play a key role in the evolution of galaxies by regulating the formation of new stars, and by dispersing heavy elements to the outer parts of the galaxy and beyond. These latest Chandra data indicate that astronomers may be seriously underestimating the mass lost in superwinds and therefore their influence within and around the host galaxy.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: Hyperwinds of the Universe" »
Asteroid 2010 TK7 is circled in green, in this single frame taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The majority of the other dots are stars or galaxies far beyond our solar system. Astronomers discovered this object -- the first known Earth Trojan asteroid -- after sifting through asteroid candidates identified by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.
Continue reading "Found! Earth's Long-Sought Trojan Companion" »
NASA's new Mars rover has instruments to detect organics, but won't be able to determine if any derived from life. The goal of the mission is to understand if the environment could have supported life on Mars -- and preserved it. NASA hopes to find answers in Gale Crater, a 96-mile wide impact basin that features a three-mile-high pileup of rock rising from the the crater floor. Analysis of data taken by orbiting Mars probes shows the base of the mountain has two different types of minerals that hold the chemical fingerprints of water. The crater, named after Australian astronomer Walter Frederick Gale, is be;ieved to contain geologic records from a diverse number of environments over huge spans of time, perhaps hundreds or millions of years.
Continue reading "Upcoming Mars "Curiosity" Mission: Could It Find Fossil Life?" »
Until now, Saturn's atmosphere was known to contain traces of gaseous water in its deeper layers. An enigma has been the presence of water in its upper atmosphere. ESA's Herschel space observatory has shown that water expelled from the moon Enceladus forms a giant donut-shaped torus of water vapour around Saturn.
Continue reading "Mystery Solved: Water in Saturn's Atmosphere from Enceladus' Geysers" »
"Zombie" stars that explode like bombs as they die, only to revive by sucking matter out of other stars. According Andy Howell, an astrophysicist at UC Santa Barbara, this isn't the plot for the latest scifi blockbuster,iInstead, it's something that happens every day in the universe. This special category of stars, known as Type Ia supernovae, help to probe the mystery of dark energy, which scientists believe is related to the expansion of the universe.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: White-Dwarf Thermonuclear "Zoombies" --Come Back to Life as the Most Violent Explosions in the Universe" »
NASA scientists believe they may have found the final resting place of Lunar Orbiter 2 which achieve lasting fame when it sent back a stunning oblique image of the Copernicus crater in 1967 (above), dubbed "the picture of the century" by news media at the time, before crashlanding on the far side of the Moon.
Continue reading "Found! Lost 1967 Space Probe that Crashed on Far Side of the Moon" »
"I don't think the human race will survive the next 1,000 years unless we spread into space."
The Obama Administration new mission for NASA puts the focus on developing new space technologies, exploring the solar system with robots, and pushing humans closer to living offworld. All of which will be funded a budget increase to NASA of $6 billion over five years.
Under the new strategy, we'd see a revamped NASA program focused on scientific innovation, rather than recreating old experiments. Specifically, as NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said: "We will invent and demonstrate large-scale, new and novel approaches to spaceflight such as in-orbit fuel depots and rendezvous and docking technologies, and closed-loop life support systems so that our future robotic and human exploration missions are both highly capable and more affordable . . . as well as providing $3 billion over five years for robotic exploration precursor missions that will pave the way for later human exploration of the moon, Mars and nearby asteroids."
Continue reading "Is Colonizing Mars an Imperative? USA's New Space Strategy Points to "Yes"" »
The NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured this image of NGC 7049, a mysterious looking galaxy on the border between spiral and elliptical galaxies. NGC 7049 is found in the constellation of Indus, and is the brightest of a cluster of galaxies, a so-called Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG). Typical BCGs are some of the oldest and most massive galaxies. They provide excellent opportunities for astronomers to study the elusive globular clusters lurking within.
Continue reading "Hubble Zooms in on the Oldest and Most Massive Galaxies in the Universe" »