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Posts Tagged ‘planet’

NASA’s Van Allen Probes Reveal a New Radiation Belt Around Earth


Feb. 28, 2013 — NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission has discovered a previously unknown third radiation belt around Earth, revealing the existence of unexpected structures and processes within these hazardous regions of space.

Two giant swaths of radiation, known as the Van Allen Belts, surrounding Earth were discovered in 1958. In 2012, observations from the Van Allen Probes showed that a third belt can sometimes appear. The radiation is shown here in yellow, with green representing the spaces between the belts. (Credit: NASA/Van Allen Probes/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Previous observations of Earth’s Van Allen belts have long documented two distinct regions of trapped radiation surrounding our planet. Particle detection instruments aboard the twin Van Allen Probes, launched Aug. 30, quickly revealed to scientists the existence of this new, transient, third radiation belt.

The belts, named for their discoverer, James Van Allen, are critical regions for modern society, which is dependent on many space-based technologies. The Van Allen belts are affected by solar storms and space weather and can swell dramatically. When this occurs, they can pose dangers to communications and GPS satellites, as well as humans in space.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130228155430.htm

Mars Orbiter Reveals Evidence Of Underground Lakes – And Possibly Life

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

A new photograph of Mars suggests that huge lakes of liquid water might lie underneath the Red Planet’s surface.

The find has raised hopes that life may have once existed on the planet – and might even still be there.

Nasa said that the image “adds to an increasingly complex picture” of our nearest neighbouring planet.

Researchers analysed data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft as it looked down on the floor of the McLaughlin Crater, which is 57 miles in diameter and over 1.4 miles deep.

The picture showed that the crater was once deep enough to let underground water flow into its interior.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/21/mars-orbiter-reveals-lakes_n_2518459.html?icid=maing-grid7|uk-bb|dl11|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D147443

Roots and wings

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

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