NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars and produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, said University of Colorado Boulder Professor Bruce Jakosky, the mission’s principal investigator. The hydrogen and oxygen coronas of Mars are the tenuous outer fringe of the planet’s upper atmosphere, where the edge of the atmosphere meets space. In this region, atoms that were once a part of carbon dioxide or water molecules near the surface can escape to space, according to MAVEN scientists.
Continue reading "NASA's 1st MAVEN Findings Solve Mystery of Mars' Lost Atmosphere --"Only Tenuously Bound by the Planet’s Weak Gravity"" »
Based on projections of Kepler Mission exo-planet data, thousands of Earth-like, habitable planets should exist in other solar systems. With our ability to detect far-away planets getting better by the year, we’re on the verge of being able to tell which of these “exoplanets” harbor liquid water – a necessity for life as we know it, and one of the main features that astronomers look for when hunting Earth-like planets.
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Is matter falling into the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way or being ejected from it? No one knows for sure, but a UC Santa Barbara astrophysicist is searching for an answer. Carl Gwinn, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Physics, and colleagues have analyzed images collected by the Russian spacecraft RadioAstron that was launched into orbit from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in July 2011 with several missions, one of which was to investigate the scattering of pulsars — the cores of dead stars — by interstellar gas. What the team found led them to examine additional observations of Sagittarius A-Star (A*), the source that marks the Milky Way’s central black hole. Sagittarius A* is visible at radio, infrared and X-ray wavelengths.
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NASA Shares What MAVEN Spacecraft Has Seen in its First Few Weeks at Mars at a news teleconference at today 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 14, to announce early science results from its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission mspacecraft that entered orbit around Mars on Sept. 21 completing an interplanetary journey of 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers). MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history.
Continue reading "LISTEN LIVE TODAY --NASA Briefing on 1st Results from MAVEN Spacecraft Search for Clues to Mars Dramatic Climate Change" »
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago. Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old, scattered across the moon’s dark volcanic plains and are characterized by a mixture of smooth, rounded, shallow mounds next to patches of rough, blocky terrain. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old.
Continue reading "NASA: "Moon's Volcanoes Were Active During Earth's Cretaceous Period --The Age of Dinosaurs"" »
What is Pluto’s atmosphere like? We’ve known so little for so long about Pluto’s atmosphere – other than it’s low-pressure, made mostly of molecular nitrogen (with a little methane and carbon monoxide mixed in) and may be quite extended – it’s nice to realize that we’ll know a whole lot more after New Horizons visits in summer 2015.
Continue reading "New Horizons En Route to Decipher Pluto's Mystery Atmosphere" »
Scientists examining volcanic deposits on the surface of the planet using NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft found evidence of explosive activity as recently as a billion years ago. Previous studies of the cratering of other lava flows placed most volcanic activity at more than 3.5 billion years in the past.
Continue reading "Recent Violent Volcanic Eruptions Found on Mercury --Clues to Geology of Exoplanets?" »
In 2010, scientists discovered that simple peptides can organize into bi-layer membranes. The finding suggests a “missing link” between the pre-biotic Earth’s chemical inventory and the organizational scaffolding essential to life. Many groups studying the origins of life have focused on RNA, which is believed to have pre-dated living cells. But RNA is a much more complicated molecule than a peptide. The 2010 studies showed that, if you just add water, simple peptides access both the physical properties and the long-range molecular order that is critical to the origins of chemical evolution.
Continue reading "The "Missing Link" Between Prebiotic and Organic Life --Has It Been Found? (Weekend Feature)" »
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this dramatic image of Saturn's geometric jet stream in July 2013 from about 605,000 miles (973,000 kilometers) away from the planet. The image — which NASA released this week provides a close up look at a vast storm system within the hexagonal weather pattern at the north pole of Saturn.
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NASA hosted a briefing yesterday, Oct. 9, to outline the space and Earth-based assets that will have extraordinary opportunities to image and study Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will miss Mars by only about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers). That is less than half the distance between Earth and its moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth. The comet's nucleus will come closest to Mars at about 11:27 a.m. PDT (2:27 p.m. EDT) on Sunday, Oct. 19, hurtling at about 126,000 mph (56 kilometers per second), relative to Mars.
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