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Posts Tagged ‘planet’

Never-Before-Seen Stage of Planet Birth Revealed


by Nola Taylor Redd, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 02 January 2013 Time: 01:00 PM ET
 ALMA observations of planet-forming bridge

Observations made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope of the disc of gas and cosmic dust around the young star HD 142527, showing vast streams of gas flowing across the gap in the disc. These are the first direct observations of these streams.
CREDIT: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Casassus et al.

 
  Astronomers studying a newborn star have caught a detailed glimpse of planets forming around it, revealing a never-before seen stage of planetary evolution.

Large gas giant planets appear to be clearing a gap in the disk of material surrounding the star, and using gravity to channel material across the gap to the interior, helping the star to grow. Theoretical simulations have predicted such bridges between outer and inner portions of disks surrounding stars, but none have been directly observed until now.

Read more: http://www.space.com/19100-alien-planet-birth-alma-telescope.html

Curiosity Rover’s Secret Historic Breakthrough? Speculation Centers on Organic Molecules

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Much of the internet is buzzing over upcoming “big news” from NASA’s Curiosity rover, but the space agency’s scientists are keeping quiet about the details.

The report comes by way of the rover’s principal investigator, geologist John Grotzinger of Caltech, who said that Curiosity has uncovered exciting new results from a sample of Martian soil recently scooped up and placed in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.

“This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” Grotzinger told NPR in an segment published Nov. 20. Curiosity’s SAM instrument contains a vast array of tools that can vaporize soil and rocks to analyze them and measure the abundances of certain light elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen – chemicals typically associated with life.

The mystery will be revealed shortly, though. Grotzinger told Wired through e-mail that NASA would hold a press conference about the results during the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco from Dec. 3 to 7. Because it’s so potentially earth-shaking, Grotzinger said the team remains cautious and is checking and double-checking their results. But while NASA is refusing to discuss the findings with anyone outside the team, especially reporters, other scientists are free to speculate.

Read more:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/11/curiosity-historic-news-organics/

 

Gravitational lens magnifies earliest galaxy yet seen

November 17, 2012 Leave a comment

by  – Nov 17 2012, 8:45pm GTBST

Small galaxy was producing stars only 425 million years after the Big Bang.

 

The contours of the gravitational lens (colored lines) along with the three images of the distant background galaxy (JD1-3).

The Universe’s first galaxies played a key role in shaping the environment in which we now find ourselves. They fostered the formation of the first stars, which died in spectacular explosions that enabled a new generation of smaller stars, orbited by rockier planets. And the galaxies themselves merged and grew, forming the large galaxies and clusters that populate the Universe today. But, despite their critical role in shaping the Universe, we’ve never actually been able to see one of them.

Slowly, that’s changing. The Hubble Deep Field exposures have helped us spot galaxies from the Universe’s early days. But now, a special Hubble project has used an intervening cluster of galaxies as a lens to spot what appears to be the most distant galaxy ever imaged, one that dates from just 425 million years after the Big Bang.

Since it takes light time to reach us from distant corners of the Universe, the further you look, the older the objects you see. The wavelength of the light also gets shifted towards the red by the expansion of the Universe, which stretches it out as it travels. As you get closer to the Big Bang, light that started out in the UV end of the spectrum gets pushed deeper and deeper into the infrared. To make these galaxies even harder to spot, the extreme distance means that very few photons actually make their way to Earth, so these objects are incredibly dim.

Read more: http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/11/gravitational-lens-magnifies-earliest-galaxy-yet-seen/

 

NASA’s Cassini Sees Burp at Saturn After Large Storm

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

These red, orange and green clouds (false color) in Saturn's northern hemisphere indicate the tail end of a  massive storm

These red, orange and green clouds (false color) in Saturn’s northern hemisphere indicate the tail end of a massive storm that started in December 2010. Even after visible signs of the storm started to fade, infrared measurements continued to reveal powerful effects at work in Saturn’s stratosphere. Image credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
› Full image and caption

October 25, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet’s upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought.

Data from Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) instrument revealed the storm’s powerful discharge sent the temperature in Saturn’s stratosphere soaring 150 degrees Fahrenheit (83 kelvins) above normal. At the same time, researchers at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md., detected a huge increase in the amount of ethylene gas, the origin of which is a mystery. Ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas, isn’t typically observed on Saturn. On Earth, it is created by natural and man-made sources.

Goddard scientists describe the unprecedented belch of energy in a paper to be published in the Nov. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

“This temperature spike is so extreme it’s almost unbelievable, especially in this part of Saturn’s atmosphere, which typically is very stable,” said Brigette Hesman, the study’s lead author and a University of Maryland scientist who works at Goddard. “To get a temperature change of the same scale on Earth, you’d be going from the depths of winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the height of summer in the Mojave Desert.”

Read more: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-335&rn=news.xml&rst=3564

Is NASA about to unveil plans for manned moon mission?

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

by Robert T. Gonzalez at http://io9.com/

Suit up, people — word is we’re heading back to the Moon.

According to space policy expert John Logsdon, there’s a decent chance NASA has already cleared plans to establish a manned base on the far side of the Moon with the Obama administration. Thing is, they’ve probably been keeping it under wraps in the event that Romney had won Tuesday’s election. Now that Obama has secured a second term, Logsdon says an accouncement from the Agency could be forthcoming.

“NASA has been evolving its thinking, and its latest charts have inserted a new element of cislunar/lunar gateway/Earth-moon L2 sort of stuff into the plan,” said Logsdon in an interview with SPACE.com’s Mike Wall.

“They’ve been holding off announcing that until after the election,” Logsdon added, noting that NASA’s mission, direction, and budget could have been revised under a Romney administration.

An announcement would certainly gel with the Obama administration’s ambitious agenda for space. In 2010, the President signed the NASA 2010 Authorization Act into law, freeing up close to $60 billion in NASA spending through 2013. This funding would serve as one of the first sparks in a plan to ignite a resurgence in space exploration, including an asteroid visit by 2025 and and a trip to Mars by the 2030s. A manned outpost at the Earth-moon L2 “gateway” — shown in the diagram below — could serve as an important stepping stone in our path out into the solar system.

Is NASA about to unveil plans for manned moon mission?

Read more: http://io9.com/5958867/is-nasa-about-to-unveil-plans-for-manned-moon-mission#13524574961213&{“type”:”iframeUpdated”,”height”:1984}

 

 

Earth-sized planet found just outside solar system

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

October 16, 2012 by Seth Borenstein

Earth-sized planet found just outside solar systemEnlargeThis artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Alpha Centauri B is the most brilliant object in the sky and the other dazzling object is Alpha Centauri A. Our own Sun is visible to the upper right. The tiny signal of the planet was found with the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

(Phys.org)—European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system—the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012.

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest in the southern skies and is the nearest stellar system to our Solar System—only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star—a system consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close to each other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more distant and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri. Since the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes for life beyond the Solar System, but searches of increasing precision had revealed nothing. Until now.

Read more: http://phys.org/news/2012-10-earth-sized-planet-solar.html

Large water reservoirs at the dawn of stellar birth

October 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Large water reservoirs at the dawn of stellar birth

Herschel’s infrared view of part of the Taurus Molecular Cloud, within which the bright, cold pre-stellar cloud L1544 can be seen at the lower left. It is surrounded by many other clouds of gas and dust of varying density. The Taurus Molecular Cloud is about 450 light-years from Earth and is the nearest large region of star formation. The image covers a field of view of approximately 1 x 2 arcminutes. Credit: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has discovered enough water vapour to fill Earth’s oceans more than 2000 times over, in a gas and dust cloud that is on the verge of collapsing into a new Sun-like star.

Stars form within cold, dark clouds of gas and dust – ‘pre-stellar cores’ – that contain all the ingredients to make solar systems like our own.

Water, essential to life on Earth, has previously been detected outside of our Solar System as gas and ice coated onto tiny dust grains near sites of active star formation, and in proto-planetary discs capable of forming alien planetary systems.

The new Herschel observations of a cold pre- in the constellation of Taurus known as Lynds 1544 are the first detection of water vapour in a molecular cloud on the verge of star formation.

More than 2000 Earth oceans-worth of water vapour were detected, liberated from icy dust grains by high-energy cosmic rays passing through the cloud.

Large water reservoirs at the dawn of stellar birth

Read more: http://phys.org/news/2012-10-large-reservoirs-dawn-stellar-birth.html

Mars Rock Touched by NASA Curiosity Has Surprises

October 12, 2012 1 comment

ScienceDaily (Oct. 12, 2012) — The first Martian rock NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached out to touch presents a more varied composition than expected from previous missions. The rock also resembles some unusual rocks from Earth’s interior.

Target: Jake Matijevic Rock. This image shows where NASA’s Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as “Jake Matijevic.” (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The rover team used two instruments on Curiosity to study the chemical makeup of the football-size rock called “Jake Matijevic” (matt-EE-oh-vick). The results support some surprising recent measurements and provide an example of why identifying rocks’ composition is such a major emphasis of the mission. Rock compositions tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who is a Curiosity co-investigator. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”

Mars rover Curiosity scoops, detects bright object


This image from the right Mast Camera (Mastcam) of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity shows a scoop full of sand and dust lifted by the rover’s first use of the scoop on its robotic arm. In the foreground, near the bottom of the image, a bright object is visible on the ground. The object might be a piece of rover hardware. This image was taken during the mission’s 61st Martian day, or sol (Oct. 7, 2012), the same sol as the first scooping. After examining Sol 61 imaging, the rover team decided to refrain from using the arm on Sol 62 (Oct. 8). Instead, the rover was instructed to acquire additional imaging of the bright object, on Sol 62, to aid the team in assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities. For scale, the scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSSRead more: http://phys.org/news/2012-10-mars-rover-curiosity-scoops-bright.html

Mars rover Curiosity finds evidence of ancient fast-moving streams on surface of red planet

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

The Nasa rover Curiosity has beamed pictures back from the red planet that appear to show the remnants of an ancient stream which once ‘ran vigorously’ on the surface of Mars.

The discovery of bedrock and pebbles, which appear to indicate there was once fast moving water on the planet, was described by the mission’s chief scientist as ‘exciting’.

Pebbles, that appear to have been rounded off by water, have offered the most convincing evidence yet that there was water on the surface of Mars.

Read more: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mars-rover-curiosity-finds-evidence-of-ancient-fastmoving-streams-on-surface-of-red-planet-8189797.html