NASA's most daring and expensive Mars mission yet begins this Sunday with the touchdown of the smartest, most advanced interplanetary rover ever built. The touchdown NASA for the Curiosity rover is so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror" — the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph (20,920 kph) to a complete landing.
Scientists at the NASA mission center won't know for 14 minutes whether Curiosity lands safely as radio signals from Mars travel to Earth. If it succeeds, a video camera aboard the rover will have captured dramatic footage of the first landing on another planet.
Continue reading "Sunday's Touchdown of 'Curiosity' --"The 14-Minute Mars-to-Earth Radio Gap" " »
Over fifty years ago, a supernova was discovered in M83, a spiral galaxy about 15 million light years from Earth. Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the first detection of X-rays emitted by the debris from this explosion.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: First X-Rays from Supernova Beyond Milky Way Discovered" »
Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action.
“We think that this process will allow us to address several long standing questions in evolutionary and molecular biology,” said Betül Kacar, a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. “Among them, we want to know if an organism’s history limits its future and if evolution always leads to a single, defined point or whether evolution has multiple solutions to a given problem.”
Continue reading "Astrobiologists Resurrect a 500-Million-Year-Old Gene --New Insights into Evolution" »
The many bright, pinkish clouds in NGC 4700 are known as H II regions, where intense ultraviolet light from hot young stars is causing nearby hydrogen gas to glow. H II regions often come part-and-parcel with the vast molecular clouds that spawn fresh stars, thus giving rise to the locally-ionized gas. In 1610, French astronomer Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc peered through a telescope and found what turned out to be the first H II region on record: the Orion Nebula, located relatively close to our Solar System here in the Milky Way.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: The Vast Molecular Clouds of a Stunning 'Edge-On' Galaxy --'Engines of Life'" »
Neuroscientist Kenneth Hayworth, 41, recently of Harvard and a veteran of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, believes that he can live forever, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. "The human race is on a beeline to mind uploading: We will preserve a brain, slice it up, simulate it on a computer, and hook it up to a robot body." Hayworth wants his 100 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses to be encased in a block of transparent, amber-colored resin—before he dies of natural causes. Why? Because Hayworth believes that he can live forever.
Continue reading "The Weird Neuroscience of Immortality --Uploading the Human Mind" »
In 2011, NASA's Cassini spacecraft discovered the best evidence yet for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft's direct analysis of salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon.
"This finding is a crucial new piece of evidence showing that environmental conditions favorable to the emergence of life can be sustained on icy bodies orbiting gas giant planets," according to Nicolas Altobelli, the European Space Agency's project scientist for Cassini.
Continue reading "Will Alien Life be First Discovered on Saturn's Enceladus? (Weekend Feature)" »
Scientists at the Scientific Research Centre Bistra in Ptuj, Slovenia, have theorized that the
Newtonian idea of time as an absolute quantity that flows on its own, along with the idea that time is the fourth dimension of spacetime, are incorrect. They propose to replace these concepts of time with a view that corresponds more accurately to the physical world: time as a measure of the numerical order of change.
Continue reading ""The Universe is Timeless" --A Radical Theory of Spacetime (Weekend Feature)" »
In 2008, NASA scientists working with images from the Mars Phoenix mission were baffled by an unexpected difference between what they thought they would see and what Phoenix is showed them. Among the spectacular images Phoenix relayed was a color mosaic of the terrain looking out from the lander showing "polygons" of the northern plains.
Continue reading "Are Polygons of Mars Proof of Ancient Oceans? " »
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have discovered that planets orbiting the star Fomalhaut must be much smaller than originally thought.
The discovery was made possible by exceptionally sharp ALMA images of a disc, or ring, of dust orbiting Fomalhaut, which lies about 25 light-years from Earth. It helps resolve a controversy among earlier observers of the system. The ALMA images show that both the inner and outer edges of the thin, dusty disc have very sharp edges. That fact, combined with computer simulations, led the scientists to conclude that the dust particles in the disc are kept within the disc by the gravitational effect of two planets — one closer to the star than the disc and one more distant.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: 'Fomalhaut' --A Spectacular Star System" »
An international team of researchers from the USA and Europe including from the University of Bonn under the direction of Dr. Hugues Sana at the University of Amsterdam has discovered that the most massive stars in the universe don't spend their lives in space as singles as was previously thought. More than two-thirds orbit a partner star.
Continue reading "Massive Stars Found to Orbit a Partner --New Discovery" »