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Lava World Baffles Astronomers: Planet Kepler-78b ‘Shouldn’t Exist’

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Kepler-78b is a planet that shouldn’t exist. This scorching lava world circles its star every eight and a half hours at a distance of less than one million miles — one of the tightest known orbits. According to current theories of planet formation, it couldn’t have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there.

Kepler-78b is a planet that shouldn’t exist. This scorching lava world, shown here in an artist’s conception, circles its star every eight and a half hours at a distance of less than one million miles. According to current theories of planet formation, it couldn’t have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there. (Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA))

“This planet is a complete mystery,” says astronomer David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). “We don’t know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it’s not going to last forever.”

“Kepler-78b is going to end up in the star very soon, astronomically speaking,” agrees CfA astronomer Dimitar Sasselov.

Not only is Kepler-78b a mystery world, it is the first known Earth-sized planet with an Earth-like density. Kepler-78b is about 20 percent larger than Earth, with a diameter of 9,200 miles, and weighs almost twice as much. As a result it has a density similar to Earth’s, which suggests an Earth-like composition of iron and rock.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030142915.htm

 

NASA-Funded Scientists Detect Water on Moon’s Surface that Hints at Water Below

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

This image of the moon was generated by data collected by NASA's Moon Mineralogy MapperThis image of the moon was generated by data collected by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission. It is a three-color composite of reflected near-infrared radiation from the sun, and illustrates the extent to which different materials are mapped across the side of the moon that faces Earth. Image credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGS
› Full image and caption

 

August 28, 2013

PASADENA – NASA-funded lunar research has yielded evidence of water locked in mineral grains on the surface of the moon from an unknown source deep beneath the surface. Using data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists remotely detected magmatic water, or water that originates from deep within the moon’s interior, on the surface of the moon.

The findings, published Aug. 25 in Nature Geoscience, represent the first detection of this form of water from lunar orbit. Earlier studies had shown the existence of magmatic water in lunar samples returned during NASA’s Apollo program.

M3 imaged the lunar impact crater Bullialdus, which lies near the lunar equator. Scientists were interested in studying this area because they could better quantify the amount of water inside the rocks due to the crater’s location and the type of rocks it held. The central peak of the crater is made up of a type of rock that forms deep within the lunar crust and mantle when magma is trapped underground.

 

Read more: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-262

Voyager 1 Has Left the Solar System


Voyager 1 appears to have at long last left our solar system and entered interstellar space, says a University of Maryland-led team of researchers

Voyager 1 appears to have at long last left our solar system and entered interstellar space, says a University of Maryland-led team of researchers. (Credit: NASA)

 

Carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record and still-operational scientific instruments — including the Low Energy Charged Particle detector designed, built and overseen, in part, by UMD’s Space Physics Group — NASA’s Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object. And now, these researchers say, it has begun the first exploration of our galaxy beyond the Sun’s influence.

“It’s a somewhat controversial view, but we think Voyager has finally left the Solar System, and is truly beginning its travels through the Milky Way,” says UMD research scientist Marc Swisdak, lead author of a new paper published online this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Swisdak and fellow plasma physicists James F. Drake, also of the University of Maryland, and Merav Opher of Boston University have constructed a model of the outer edge of the Solar System that fits recent observations, both expected and unexpected.

Read more:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815133726.htm

Billion-Pixel View From Curiosity at Rocknest, Mars

Pebbly Rocks Testify to Old Streambed On Mars


May 30, 2013 — Detailed analysis and review have borne out researchers’ initial interpretation of pebble-containing slabs that NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity investigated last year: They are part of an ancient streambed.

 

NASA’s Curiosity rover found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named “Hottah” after Hottah Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It may look like a broken sidewalk, but this geological feature on Mars is actually exposed bedrock made up of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. Scientists theorize that the bedrock was disrupted in the past, giving it the titled angle, most likely via impacts from meteorites. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The rocks are the first ever found on Mars that contain streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of the gravels embedded in these conglomerate rocks — from the size of sand particles to the size of golf balls — enabled researchers to calculate the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at this location.

“We completed more rigorous quantification of the outcrops to characterize the size distribution and roundness of the pebbles and sand that make up these conglomerates,” said Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz., lead author of a report about them in the journal Science this week. “We ended up with a calculation in the same range as our initial estimate last fall. At a minimum, the stream was flowing at a speed equivalent to a walking pace — a meter, or three feet, per second — and it was ankle-deep to hip-deep.”

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530150547.htm

Giant storms on Saturn: Nasa captures incredible view of ‘rose’ hurricane 20 times bigger than any on Earth


  • Hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth
  • Hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon

By MARK PRIGG

PUBLISHED: 17:40 GMT, 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 18:49 GMT, 29 April 2013

At first glance, it resembles a giant rose, surrounded by green foliage.

However, in fact this is a huge, violent storm of the surface of Saturn – and one that has been brewing for years

In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists say the hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth.

The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm The spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).
Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole.

Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph(150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.

‘We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth,’ said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

‘But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapor in Saturn’s hydrogen atmosphere.’

Scientists will be studying the hurricane to gain insight into hurricanes on Earth, which feed off warm ocean water.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2316699/The-breathtaking-rose-storms-Saturn-captured-Cassini.html#ixzz2S7oHC54E

Curiosity Chills Out In Safe Mode While NASA Analyzes Computer Glitch


Corrupted files may be the fault of cosmic radiation.
By Rebecca Boyle Posted 03.04.2013
 
A Rover In Full

A Rover In Full NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity paused its work over the weekend and is chilling in safe mode on Mars, while engineers on Earth try to resolve a computer glitch. The rover switched to a backup computer, but operations are on hiatus while NASA engineers work on the problem.

Last week, engineers noticed a glitch in the flash memory on one of the rover’s two computers. Curiosity had normal communications with Earth on Wednesday, Feb. 27, but like an annoying Facebook friend, it updated its status yet included no actual information. In the status update, engineers learned the rover did not go to sleep when planned, and when they started diagnosing the problem, they realized the main A-side computer had some corrupted files.

Read more: http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-03/today-mars-curiosity-chills-safe-mode-while-nasa-analyzes-computer-glitch