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Space News Reports

Hunt for Missing 27% of the Universe Intensifies
Physicists believe dark matter could be made of difficult-to-detect particles called Weakly Interacting Massive Particles or WIMPs, which usually pass through ordinary matter without leaving a trace. The current LUX
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"Mapping Dark Energy's Impact on the Universe" --The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Phase 4
“The power of a large survey is that there may be surprises we weren’t planning on, and that means learning something really new,” said C. Megan Urry, Yale’s Israel Munson Professor of Astronomy and
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"Explosive Microbial Growth Caused Earth's Greatest Extinction Event" --The Great Dying (Today's Most Popular)
The end-Permian (or PT) extinction event occurred 252 million years ago. It is often called the Great Dying because around 90 percent of marine species disappeared in one fell swoop. Similar numbers died on land as
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Hubble Sees Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Between Two Ancient Galaxies
Get larger image formats It seems like our compulsive universe can be downright capricious when it comes to making oddball-looking things in the cosmos. The latest surprise to Hubble astronomers is a
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Black Hole Fireworks in Nearby Galaxy 06 July 2014, 22.32 Space
Black Hole Fireworks in Nearby Galaxy
A galaxy about 23 million light-years away is the site of impressive, ongoing, fireworks. Rather than paper, powder, and fire, this galactic light show involves a giant black hole, shock waves, and vast reservoirs of gas.
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Comet Pan-STARRS Marches Across the Sky 06 July 2014, 22.32 Space
Comet Pan-STARRS Marches Across the Sky
NASA's NEOWISE mission captured a series of infrared images of comet C/2012 K1 -- also referred to as comet Pan-STARRS -- as it swept across our skies in May 2014. › Full image and caption July 03, 2014 NASA's
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Newfound Frozen World Orbits in Binary Star System
This artist's rendering shows a newly discovered planet (far right) orbiting one star (right) of a binary star system. The discovery, made by a collaboration of international research teams and led by researchers at The Ohio
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OCO-2 Takes the A-Train to Study Earth's Atmosphere
OCO-2 will become the leader of the Afternoon Constellation, or A-Train, as shown in this artist's concept. Japan's Global Change Observation Mission - Water (GCOM-W1) satellite and NASA's Aqua, CALIPSO, CloudSat and Aura
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NASA Radio Delivered for Europe's 2016 Mars Orbiter
The European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, being assembled in France for a 2016 launch, will carry two Electra UHF relay radios provided by NASA. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/TAS › Full image and caption
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Spectacular Southern Lights, Shooting Stars, Sahara Snapshots and more from ESA’s Alexander Gerst aboard ISS
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter “Saw a beautiful Southern Light last night. I so wish you could see this with your own eyes!” Image taken from the International Space Station
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Sketches of Saturn: Ringed Planet Dances In Raw Cassini Images
by Elizabeth Howell on July 7, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter A hexagonal storm on Saturn rages in this Cassini image taken July 2, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science
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Mars ‘Sky Crane’ Revisited? Rover Prototype Drops To Ground Safely In European Tests
by Elizabeth Howell on July 7, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter How do you land a machine on the Red Planet? Appears that the answer keeps changing as engineers get smarter
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New Horizons Enters ‘Pluto-Space!’ To Celebrate, Here Are Pictures Of The Dwarf Planet
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter New Horizons spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA After almost nine years on the road, New Horizons is in what NASA calls “Pluto-space”! Earlier today
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Carnival of Space #361 06 July 2014, 22.31 Space
Carnival of Space #361
by Susie Murph on July 7, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major. This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Mika McKinnon at the io9
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Virtual Summer Camp Alert! Maker Camp Kicks Off Today
by Elizabeth Howell on July 7, 2014 Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Logo for MakerCamp. If you’re a high school student who’s really into space, Maker Camp bills itself as
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Ocean on Saturn Moon Could be as Salty as the Dead Sea
[image-36]Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have firm evidence the ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea. The new results come from a study of gravity and
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Hubble to Proceed with Full Search for New Horizons Targets
Get larger image formats Planetary scientists have successfully used the Hubble Space Telescope to boldly look out to the far frontier of the solar system to find suitable targets for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto.
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NASA Set to Launch OCO-2 Observatory on July 1 – Sniffer of Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) at the Launch PadThis black-and-white infrared view shows the launch gantry, surrounding the United
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NASA’s Orion Deep Space Capsule Completes Most Complex  Parachute Test Ahead of Maiden Launch
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter A test version of NASA’s Orion manned spacecraft descends under its three main parachutes above the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Arizona in the
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First LDSD Test Flight a Success 29 June 2014, 15.19 Space
First LDSD Test Flight a Success
June 29, 2014 NASA representatives participated in a media teleconference this morning to discuss the June 28, 2014 near-space test flight of the agency's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred off the coast
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Media Telecon: NASA Supersonic Test Flight Completed
A screen shot shows the LDSD test vehicle after it dropped from the balloon that lifted it to high altitudes and fired its rocket. The picture was taken by a low-resolution camera onboard the vehicle. Earth is the blue-green
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NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Lifts Off
The launch tower helps link the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle to a balloon; once the balloon floats up, the vehicle is released from the tower and the balloon carries it to high altitudes. The vehicle's
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"Gravity is Driving Growth of the Universe" --Astronomers Confirm via 600,000 Galaxies
Samushia and his colleagues analysed more than 600,000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) Baryon Oscillations Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) catalogue to come up with a measurement of how much
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'The Youngness Paradox' --"Why SETI has Not Found Any Signals from Extraterrestrial Civilizations” (Weekend Feature)
Guth says that "the synchronous gauge probability distribution strongly implies that there is no civilization in the visible Universe more advanced than us. We would conclude, therefore, that it is extraordinarily
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Force Needed to Measure Gravitational Waves Detected for 1st Time --"Small as One Thousandth the Diameter of a Proton"
This week, what is believed to be the smallest force ever measured has been detected by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley. Using
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Fossil Discovery Shows The Antarctic Icecap is 33.6 million Years Old (Today's Most Popular)
    The Antarctic continental ice cap came into existence during the Oligocene epoch, some 33.6 million years ago, according to data from a 2013 international expedition led by the Andalusian Institute of
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NASA's Curiosity Explores Mars' Once Glacier-Covered Area of Gale Crater
"It is even possible that the area of impact was already covered by glaciers before the collision, and in that case the glaciers would have re-covered the recently formed crater in a very short time," says the lead
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NASA Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Set to Lift Off
This artist's concept shows the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Full image and caption
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Five Things about OCO-2 27 June 2014, 16.43 Space
Five Things about OCO-2
Engineers connected the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) to a crane at California¹s Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 14, preparing to mate it to a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. › Full image and caption
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NASA's Curiosity Rover Team Today Features Women
Some of the women working on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project, which built and operates the Curiosity Mars rover, gathered for this photo in the Mars Yard used for rover testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
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NASA's OCO-2 Will Track Our Impact on Airborne Carbon
Fossil fuel burning and other human activities are the primary source for the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. NASA's OCO-2 mission will help sort out the gas's sources and reservoirs. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons ›
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NASA Sets New Dates for Saucer-Shaped Test Vehicle Flight
This artist's concept shows the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), designed to test landing technologies for future Mars missions. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Full image and caption
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NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator to Lift Off June 28
The launch tower helps link the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle to a balloon; once the balloon floats up, the vehicle is released from the tower and the balloon carries it to high altitudes. The vehicle's
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Support a Good Cause To Win a Trip To Space
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle is designed to fly to 328,000 feet (Credit: XCOR) Well, technically not space*, but
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Has the Cosmology Standard Model become a Rube Goldberg Device?
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Artists illustration of the expansion of the Universe (Credit: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center) This week at the Royal Astronomical Society’s
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Future News Reports

Obama's War Against US Energy Independence:  Give Away Oil Rich Alaskan Islands to Russia!
  By Joe Miller The Obama administration, despite the nation’s economic woes, effectively killed the job-producing Keystone Pipeline last month. The Arab Spring is turning the oil production of Libya and other Arab
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OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials 08 April 2012, 02.33 Administrator Energy
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials Visit http://www.osbitpower.com for further information OSBIT Power (OP), Siemens Wind Power and Statoil have successfully completed offshore
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North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost 12 January 2012, 02.01 Administrator Energy
North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost
        North America’s EV charging infrastructure may soon see significant improvements, thanks to a recent agreement between Eaton Corporation and Coulomb Technologies. Under the deal, Eaton’s Level II and
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Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source? 28 May 2011, 01.34 Administrator Energy
Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source?
      Have scientists already unknowingly discovered the source for all atomic energy reactions, and could the discovery of the gravitomagnetic field be the ultimate energy source?  What if our understandings on how
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Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation 25 September 2011, 16.27 Administrator Energy
Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation
Physicists wary of junking light speed limit yet Physicist Antonio Ereditato poses before presenting the result of an experiment, which found a subatomic particle, the neutrino, seemed to move faster than the speed of
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STEORN ORBO  FREE ENERGY:  What's Next a Self Charging Unit for your Electric Car?
Steorn's Free Energy Orbo -- From Permanent Magnets to Solid State Systems   My associate, Hank Mills composed this for PESN, Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:17 Steorn is a small company based in Dublin, Ireland. For
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Cold Fusion, Releases Energy from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field 16 January 2011, 09.17 Administrator Energy
Cold Fusion, Releases Energy  from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field
Cold Fusion "In Bologna we did it" By Ilaria VENTURI, La Republica News, Bolona, Italy For the first time in Italy, in front of experts, the process was carried out using nickel and hydrogen. It 's the way to achieve
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Abu Dhabi Media Zone to generate renewable energy through its façade
Eco Factor: Sustainable development to generate renewable solar energy. Bernard Tschumi Architects have re-imagined their master plan for the new Abu Dhabi Media Zone, by incorporating several environmentally-friendly
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Space

Ceres and Vesta Converge in the Sky on July 5: How to See It PDF Print E-mail

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Ceres and Vesta are converging in Virgo not far from Mars and Spica. On July 5, the duo will be just 10' apart and visible in the high power telescope field of view. Positions are shown every 5 days for 10 p.m. EDT and stars to magnitude +8.5. Created with Chris Marriott's SkyMap software

Ceres and Vesta are converging in Virgo not far from Mars and Spica. On July 5, the duo will be just 10′ apart and visible in the high power telescope field of view. Positions are shown every 5 days for 10 p.m. EDT and stars to magnitude +8.5. Created with Chris Marriott’s SkyMap software

I bet you’ve forgotten. I almost did. In April, we reported that Ceres and Vesta, the largest and brightest asteroids respectively, were speeding through Virgo in tandem. Since then both have faded, but the best is yet to come. Converging closer by the day, on July 5, the two will make rare close pass of each other when they’ll be separated by just 10 minutes of arc or the thickness of a fat crescent moon.

Vesta (left) and Ceres. Vesta was photographed up close by the Dawn spacecraft from July 2011-Sept. 2012, while the best views we have to date of Ceres come from the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright white spot is still a mystery. Credit: NASA

Vesta (left) and Ceres. Vesta was photographed up close by the Dawn spacecraft from July 2011-Sept. 2012, while the best views we have to date of Ceres come from the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright white spot is still a mystery. NASA will plunk Dawn into orbit around Ceres next February.  Credit: NASA

Both asteroids are still within range of ordinary 35mm and larger binoculars; Vesta is easy at magnitude +7 while Ceres still manages a respectable +8.3. From an outer suburban or rural site, you can watch them draw together in the coming two weeks as if on a collision course. They won’t crash anytime soon. We merely see the two bodies along the same line of sight. Vesta’s closer to Earth at 164 million miles (264 million km) and moves more quickly across the sky compared to Ceres, which orbits 51 million miles (82 million km) farther out.

Ceres and Vesta are happily near an easy naked eye star, Zeta Virginis, which forms an isosceles triangle right now with Mars and Spica. The map shows the sky around 10 p.m. local time facing southwest. Stellarium

Ceres and Vesta lie near an easy naked eye star, Zeta Virginis, which forms an isosceles triangle right now with Mars and Spica. The map shows the sky around 10 p.m. local time tonight facing southwest. Stellarium

Right now the two asteroids are little more than a moon diameter apart not far from the 3rd magnitude star Zeta Virginis. Happily, nearby Mars and Spica make excellent guides for finding Zeta. Once you’re there, use binoculars and the more detailed map to track down Ceres and Vesta.

Virgo will be busy Saturday night July 5, 2014 when the waxing moon is in close conjunction with Mars with Ceres and Vesta at their closest. Stellarium

Virgo will be busy Saturday night July 5, 2014 when the waxing moon passes about 1/2 degree from Mars as Ceres and Vesta squeeze closest.  Stellarium

In early July they’ll look like a wide double star in binoculars and easily fit in the same high power telescopic view. Vesta has always looked pale yellow to my eye. Will its color differ from Ceres? Sitting side by side it will be easier than ever to compare them. Vesta is a stony asteroid with a surface composed of solidified (and meteoroid-battered) lavas; Ceres is darker and covered with a mix of water ice and carbonaceous materials.

On the night of closest approach, it may be difficult to spot dimmer Ceres in binoculars. By coincidence, the 8-day-old moon will be very close to the planet Mars and brighten up the neighborhood. We’ll report more on that event in a future article.

With so much happening the evening of July 5, let’s hope for a good round of clear skies.

About 

I'm a long-time amateur astronomer and member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). My observing passions include everything from auroras to Z Cam stars. Every day the universe offers up something both beautiful and thought-provoking. I also write a daily astronomy blog called Astro Bob.

Tagged as: asteroid, ceres, vesta

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Zoom Around Curiosity’s View on Mars with a New Interactive Panorama PDF Print E-mail

by Nancy Atkinson on June 27, 2014

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Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 647 in out-of-this-world

Here’s the latest interactive panorama via panoramacist Andrew Bodrov from imagery taken by the Curiosity Mars at Gale Crater, from Sol 647 (May 1, 2014).

The images for panorama were obtained by the rover’s 34-millimeter Mast Camera. The mosaic, which stretches about 30,000 pixels width, includes 134 images, all taken on Sol 647.

You can see previous interactive panoramas from Andrew of of Curiosity’s images here.

And in case you missed it, here’s Curiosity’s latest “Selfie”:

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- spent exploring the Red Planet. Curiosity Self-Portrait was taken at the 'Windjana' Drilling Site in April and May 2014 using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the roboic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year — 687 Earth days — spent exploring the Red Planet. Curiosity Self-Portrait was taken at the ‘Windjana’ Drilling Site in April and May 2014 using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the roboic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Tagged as: Andrew Bodrov, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover

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What are Those Colorful, Crazy Clouds in the Sky?? PDF Print E-mail

by Nancy Atkinson on June 27, 2014

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

Ethereal and stunning sundog-like forms in the clouds called circumhorizontal arcs over Oxford, England on June 25, 2014. Credit and copyright: Nathanial Burton-Bradford.

Ethereal and stunning sundog-like forms in the clouds called circumhorizontal arcs over Oxford, England on June 25, 2014. Credit and copyright: Nathanial Burton-Bradford.

My Twitter feed exploded on June 25 with reports of colorful, crazy-looking clouds, sundogs, Sun halos and more. The above image from Nathanial Burton-Bradford is just an example of the type of atmospheric effect called a circumhorizontal arc. These are sometimes referred to as “fire rainbows” but of course are not rainbows at all, and have nothing to do with fire.

This is an optical phenomenon from sunlight hitting ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. It is actually a rather rare occurance, but it it happens most often during the daytime in summer when the Sun is high in the sky. This creates a rainbow-type effect directly in the clouds.

See more examples below.

Wispy clouds and a circumhorizontal arc over Italy. Credit and copyright: Elisabetta Bonora.

Wispy clouds and a circumhorizontal arc over Italy. Credit and copyright: Elisabetta Bonora.

Circumhorizontal Arc over the UK on June 25, 2014. Credit and copyright: Sculptor Lil on Flickr.

Circumhorizontal Arc over the UK on June 25, 2014. Credit and copyright: Sculptor Lil on Flickr.

You can find out more about circumhorizontal arcs from this article from Amusing Planet.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Tagged as: atmospheric effects, Circumhorizontal Arc, clouds

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"Faint Tremors of the Big Bang?" --Gravitational Waves Team Concede Possible Error (VIDEO) PDF Print E-mail

The apparent first direct evidence of such so-called cosmic inflation -- a theory that the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in barely the blink of an eye -- was announced in March by experts at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today," John Kovac, leader of the BICEP2 collaboration at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said at the time. By observing the cosmic microwave background, or a faint glow left over from the Big Bang, the scientists said small fluctuations gave them new clues about the conditions in the early universe.

By observing the cosmic microwave background, or a faint glow left over from the Big Bang, the scientists said small fluctuations gave them new clues about the conditions in the early universe. The gravitational waves rippled through the universe 380,000 years after the Big Bang, and these images were captured by the telescope, they claimed. If confirmed by other experts, some said the work could be a contender for the Nobel Prize.

After weeks in which they avoided the media, the team published its work last Thursday in the US journal Physical Review Letters. The team concluded that their models "are not sufficiently constrained by external public data to exclude the possibility of dust emission bright enough to explain the entire excess signal," as stated by other scientists who questioned their conclusion.

Paul Steinhardt, director of Princeton University's Center for Theoretical Science, addressed the issue in the prestigious British journal Nature in early June. "Serious flaws in the analysis have been revealed that transform the sure detection into no detection," Steinhardt wrote, citing an independent analysis of the BICEP2 findings.

That analysis was carried out by David Spergel, a theoretical astrophysicist who is also at Princeton. Spergel queried whether what the BICEP2 telescope picked up really came from the first moments of the universe's existence. "What I think, it is not certain whether polarized emissions come from galactic dust or from the early universe," he told AFP.

When using just one frequency, as these scientists did, it is impossible to distinguish between gravitational waves and galactic emissions, Spergel added.

"We know that galactic dust emits polarized radiations. We see that in many areas of the sky, and what we pointed out in our paper is that pattern they have seen is just as consistent with the galactic dust radiations as with gravitational waves," Spergel told AFP last week. He added that the question will likely be settled in the coming months when another, competing group, working with the European Space Agency's Planck telescope, publishes its results.

That telescope observes a large part of the sky -- versus the BICEP2's two percent -- and carries out measurements in six frequencies, compared to just one for BICEP2, according to Spergel. "I think in retrospect, they should have been more careful about making a big announcement," he said.

Philipp Mertsch of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University said data from Planck and another team should be able to "shed more light on whether it is primordial gravitational waves or dust in the Milky Way. Let me stress, however, that what is leaving me (and many of my colleagues) unsatisfied with the state of affairs: If it is polarized dust emission, where is it coming from?" he said in an email to AFP.

 

      

The Daily Galaxy via AFP and CfA

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Richard Dawkins on the "Origin of Life in the Universe" (Weekend Feature) PDF Print E-mail

It's no accident that we see stars in the sky, says Dawkins: they are a vital part of any universe capable of generating us. But, as Dawkins emphasizes, that does not mean that stars exists in order to make us."It is just that without stars there would be no atoms heavier than lithium in the periodic table," Dawkins wrote in The Ancestors Tale -- A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, "and a chemistry of only three elements is too impoverished to support life. Seeing is the kind of activity that can go on only in the kind of universe where what you see is stars."

"It's an astonishing stroke of luck that we are here." That was Dawkins' evolutionary message at a recent speech to a packed auditorium at the Christchurch, New Zealand. "Every animal owes its existence to an astonishing list of contingencies that might not have happened. With so much chance and luck it might be thought that evolution itself is a process of pure chance, but nothing could be further from the truth."

It was predictable, for example, that eyes and ears would develop in different species, and they had done so independently several times over, Dawkins said. "Natural selection is the great engine of the predictable side of life, but it cannot start without certain prerequisites."

Dawkins said it was his gut feeling that there has been another stroke of luck that would have developed life elsewhere in the Universe.

"There are billions and billions of planets out there, so there could be millions of planets that have life on them, but the origin of life could still be a staggeringly good stroke of luck," he said.

To Richard Dawkins believing in God is like believing in a teapot orbiting Mars. Dawkins said that a sense of gratitude had developed as an essential part of human societies. This meant humans had an overwhelming desire to give thanks, even when there was no-one to give thanks to and this, in part, had given rise to religion.

Dawkins sees himself as a "religious non-believer" who's career has revolved around Darwin's view that all was 'produced by laws acting around us' described so powerfully by Darwin in the Origin of the Species:

"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving -- namely, the production of the higher animals -- directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

Image of the first galaxy by http://horus.ita.uni-heidelberg.de/research/klessen/current/pom/?lang=en

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Galactic Winds from Supermassive Black Holes Found Shaping Structure of the Universe PDF Print E-mail

 

Eye-of-sauron-black-hole

 

An international team of scientists have discovered that winds blowing from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy work to obscure observations and x-rays. The discovery sheds light on the unexpected behavior of black holes, which emit large amounts of matter through powerful, galactic winds. Using a large array of satellites and space observatories, the team spent more than a year training their instruments on the brightest and most studied of the "local" black holes — the one situated at the core of Type I Seyfert Galaxy NGC 5548. "Shadowing" of light from a black hole had not been seen before. With the discovery, scientists were able to decipher the outflow.



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NASA Announces Latest Progress in Hunt for Asteroids PDF Print E-mail

Artist Concept-Comparison Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveal new information about the structure of 2011 MD, a small asteroid being considered by NASA for its proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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June 19, 2014

NASA is on the hunt for an asteroid to capture with a robotic spacecraft, redirect to a stable orbit around the moon, and send astronauts to study in the 2020s -- all on the agency's human Path to Mars. Agency officials announced on Thursday, June 19, recent progress to identify candidate asteroids for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), increase public participation in the search for asteroids, and advance the mission's design.

NASA plans to launch the ARM robotic spacecraft in 2019 and will make a final choice of the asteroid for the mission about a year before the spacecraft launches. NASA is working on two concepts for the mission: The first is to fully capture a very small asteroid in open space, and the second is to collect a boulder-sized sample off of a much larger asteroid. Both concepts would require redirecting an asteroid less than 32 feet (10 meters) in size into the moon's orbit. The agency will choose between these two concepts in late 2014 and further refine the mission's design.

The agency will award a total of $4.9 million for concept studies addressing components of ARM. Proposals for the concept studies were solicited through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) released in March, and selected in collaboration with NASA's Space Technology and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorates. The studies will be completed over a six-month period beginning in July, during which time system concepts and key technologies needed for ARM will be refined and matured. The studies also will include an assessment of the feasibility of potential commercial partners to support the robotic mission.

"With these system concept studies, we are taking the next steps to develop capabilities needed to send humans deeper into space than ever before, and ultimately to Mars, while testing new techniques to protect Earth from asteroids," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

For more information about the BAA and award recipients, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/1sr6sRn

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope made recent observations of an asteroid designated 2011 MD, which bears the characteristics of a good candidate for the full capture concept. While NASA will continue to look for other candidate asteroids during the next few years as the mission develops, astronomers are making progress to find suitable candidate asteroids for humanity's next destination into the solar system.

"Observing these elusive remnants that may date from the formation of our solar system as they come close to Earth is expanding our understanding of our world and the space it resides in," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Closer study of these objects challenges our capabilities for future exploration and will help us test ways to protect our planet from impact. The Spitzer observatory is one of our tools to identify and characterize potential candidate targets for the asteroid mission."

Analysis of Spitzer's infrared data shows 2011 MD is roughly 20 feet (6 meters) in size and has a remarkably low density -- about the same as water, which supports the analysis of observations taken in 2011.

The asteroid appears to have a structure perhaps resembling a pile of rocks, or a "rubble pile." Since solid rock is about three times as dense as water, this suggests about two-thirds of the asteroid must be empty space. The research team behind the observation says the asteroid could be a collection of small rocks, held loosely together by gravity, or it may be one solid rock with a surrounding halo of small particles. In both cases, the asteroid mass could be captured by the ARM capture mechanism and redirected into lunar orbit.

The findings based on the Spitzer observation were published Thursday in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. For more information, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/1lJ61Z2

To date, nine asteroids have been identified as potential candidates for the mission, having favorable orbits and measuring the right size for the ARM full capture option. With these Spitzer findings on 2011 MD, sizes now have been established for three of the nine candidates. Another asteroid -- 2008 HU4 -- will pass close enough to Earth in 2016 for interplanetary radar to determine some of its characteristics, such as size, shape and rotation. The other five will not get close enough to be observed again before the final mission selection, but NASA's Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program is finding several potential candidate asteroids per year. One or two of these get close enough to Earth each year to be well characterized.

Boulders have been directly imaged on all larger asteroids visited by spacecraft so far, making retrieval of a large boulder a viable concept for ARM. During the next few years, NASA expects to add several candidates for this option, including asteroid Bennu, which will be imaged up close by the agency's Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission in 2018.

NASA's search for candidate asteroids for ARM is a component of the agency's existing efforts to identify all NEOs that could pose a threat to the Earth. Some of these NEOs could become candidates for ARM because they are in orbits similar to Earth's. More than 11,140 NEOs have been discovered as of June 9. Approximately 1,483 of those have been classified as potentially hazardous.

In June 2013, NASA announced an Asteroid Grand Challenge (AGC) to accelerate this observation work through non-traditional collaborations and partnerships. On the first anniversary of the grand challenge this week, NASA officials announced new ways the public can contribute to the Asteroid Grand Challenge, building on the successes of the challenge to date. To that end, NASA will host a two-day virtual workshop -- dates to be determined -- on emerging opportunities through the grand challenge, in which the public can participate.

"There are great ways for the public to help with our work to identify potentially hazardous asteroids," said Jason Kessler, program executive for NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge. "By tapping into the innovative spirit of people around the world, new public-private partnerships can help make Earth a safer place, and perhaps even provide valuable information about the asteroid that astronauts will visit."

For more information about the workshop and public opportunities through the grand challenge, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/1lJ5Son

The Asteroid Grand Challenge and Asteroid Redirect Mission comprise NASA's Asteroid Initiative. Capabilities advanced and tested through the Asteroid Initiative will help astronauts reach Mars in the 2030s. For more information about the Asteroid Initiative and NASA's human Path to Mars, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-9011
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Trent J. Perrotto
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0321
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2014-195

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Titan Flybys Test the Talents of NASA's Cassini Team PDF Print E-mail

Artist's concept of Titan flyby Cassini will attempt to bounce signals off of Saturn's moon Titan once more during a flyby on June 18, 2014, revealing important details about the moon's surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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June 17, 2014

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft zooms toward Saturn's smoggy moon Titan for a targeted flyby on June 18, mission scientists are excitedly hoping to repeat a scientific tour de force that will provide valuable new insights into the nature of the moon's surface and atmosphere.

For Cassini's radio science team, the last flyby of Titan, on May 17, was one of the most scientifically valuable encounters of the spacecraft's current extended mission. The focus of that flyby, designated "T-101," was on using radio signals to explore the physical nature of Titan's vast northern seas and probe the high northern regions of its substantial atmosphere.

The Cassini team hopes to replicate the technical success of that flyby during the T-102 encounter, slated for June 18, during which the spacecraft will attempt similar measurements of Titan. During closest approach, the spacecraft will be just 2,274 miles (3,659 kilometers) above the surface of the moon while travelling at 13,000 miles per hour (5.6 kilometers per second).

During the upcoming flyby, if all goes well as before, Cassini's radio science subsystem will bounce signals off the surface of Titan, toward Earth, where they will be received by the ground stations of NASA's Deep Space Network. This sort of observation is known as a bistatic scattering experiment and its results can yield clues to help answer a variety of questions about large areas of Titan's surface: Are they solid, slushy or liquid? Are they reflective? What might they be made of?

During the May encounter, Cassini beamed radio signals over the two largest bodies of liquid on Titan, seas named Ligeia Mare and Kraken Mare. During that first attempt, scientists could not be certain the signals would successfully bounce off the lakes to be received on Earth. They were thrilled when ground stations received specular reflections -- essentially the glint -- of the radio frequencies as they ricocheted off Titan.

"We held our breath as Cassini turned to beam its radio signals at the lakes," said Essam Marouf, a member of the Cassini radio science team of San Jose State University in California. "We knew we were getting good quality data when we saw clear echoes from Titan's surface. It was thrilling."

A second technical accomplishment -- an experiment to send precision-tuned radio frequencies through Titan's atmosphere -- also makes the May and June flybys special. The experiment, known as a radio occultation, provides information about how temperatures vary by altitude in Titan's atmosphere. Preparing for these experiments tested just how thoroughly the Cassini team has come to understand the structure of Titan's atmosphere during nearly a decade of study by the mission.

During this type of radio occultation, a signal is beamed from Earth through the atmosphere of Titan toward the Cassini spacecraft, which responds back to Earth with an identical signal. Information about Titan is imprinted in the signal as it passes through the moon's atmosphere, encountering differences in temperature and density. The trick is that the transmitted signal must be varied during the experiment so that it remains nearly constant when received by the spacecraft.

In order to give the occultation experiments any chance of success, the team has to account for not only the relative motions of the spacecraft and the transmitting antennas on the rotating planet Earth, but also the ways the signal is bent by different layers in Titan's atmosphere.

While this procedure has been used successfully for several Saturn occultations in the past two years, it had not yet been tried at Titan. And since the Titan occultations last just a few minutes, the team was concerned about how quickly the frequency lockup between ground and spacecraft could be established, if at all. For comparison, NASA's Magellan mission tried the technique at Venus in the 1990s, without success.

As they waited for signs of confirmation during the May encounter, the team saw the signal lock occur in only a few seconds, indicating that their predictions were spot-on. Data on Titan's atmosphere flowed in, adding new information to the mission's campaign to monitor the changing of the seasons on this alien moon.

"This was like trying to hit a hole-in-one in golf, except that the hole is close to a billion miles away, and moving," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This was our first attempt to precisely predict and compensate for the effect of Titan's atmosphere on the uplinked radio signal from Earth, and it worked to perfection."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The radio science team is based at JPL. NASA's Deep Space Network is also managed by JPL.

More information about Cassini is available at the following sites:

http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

Preston Dyches
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-7013
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2014-192

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QuikScat's Eye on Ocean Winds Lives On with RapidScat PDF Print E-mail

Using data from NASA's QuikScat, weather forecasters were able to predict hazardous weather events over oceans 6 to 12 hours earlier than before these data were available Using data from NASA's QuikScat, weather forecasters were able to predict hazardous weather events over oceans 6 to 12 hours earlier than before these data were available. Orange areas show where winds are blowing the hardest and blue shows relatively light winds. Image credit: NASA
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June 19, 2014

Today (June 19) marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of NASA's QuikScat, a satellite sent for a three-year mission in 1999 that continues collecting data. Built in less than 12 months, QuikScat has watched ocean wind patterns for 15 years and improved weather forecasting worldwide. Despite a partial instrument failure in 2009, it provides calibration data to international partners.

On this anniversary, the mission's team is preparing to calibrate ISS-RapidScat, the successor that will maintain QuikScat's unbroken data record. After its launch in a few months, RapidScat will watch ocean winds from the International Space Station (ISS) for a two-year mission.

Much like QuikScat, ISS-RapidScat was built in less than two years and at a fraction of its predecessor's budget. Both missions are testaments to ingenuity, craftsmanship and speedy construction in the name of improving our understanding of Earth's winds.

"Both ISS-RapidScat and QuikScat came about to react quickly to the failure of another spaceborne instrument," said Ernesto Rodriguez, project scientist for the ISS-RapidScat mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "What differentiates these missions is cost and risk: RapidScat had to be built with a fraction of the QuikScat budget, and the mission accepted a much riskier approach," Rodriguez said. RapidScat was constructed primarily from QuikScat's spare parts and will be the first scatterometer to berth on the International Space Station.

Scatterometers help scientists estimate the speed and direction of winds at the ocean's surface by sending microwave pulses to Earth's surface. Strong waves or ripples scatter the microwaves, sending some of them back toward the scatterometer. Based on the strength of this backscatter, scientists can estimate the strength and direction of the wind at the ocean's surface.

Scatterometer data are critical for observing global weather patterns. They also help ocean fishermen decide where to fish, ship captains choose shipping lanes and researchers track hurricanes, cyclones and El Niños.

"The usefulness of this wind measurement is enormous," said JPL's Jim Graf, who served as project manager for the QuikScat mission in the 1990s and is now the deputy director of JPL's Earth Science and Technology Directorate. "One of the dominant factors in understanding the climate is to assess what is happening in the ocean circulation. And one of the dominant factors in ocean circulation is the wind at the surface, which is what scatterometers measure."

NASA launched its first scatterometer satellite in 1978 and its second instrument, the NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT), on a Japanese satellite in 1996. Each lasted less than a year, but collected hundreds of times more data about ocean winds than ships or buoys and improved weather forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

But the spacecraft carrying NSCAT malfunctioned in 1997. Immediately, a team of JPL scientists and engineers raced to get a scatterometer satellite back into space.

"We had the idea that a partially developed spacecraft bus could be mated with an advanced version of the instrument that was already under development, and we could get something up quickly. So we went to NASA, and they said, 'Okay, let's give it a shot, but we want you to be ready to go one year from the go-ahead,'" Graf said. "And so we took off running, and we didn't stop for a whole year."

In that year, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado, built the QuikScat satellite bus while JPL finished the new SeaWinds scatterometer instrument. It launched in 1999. For the next decade, QuikScat made about 400,000 daily measurements of wind speed and direction. Over 15-mile (25-kilometer) segments of ocean, its measurements were detailed enough to estimate average wind speed within 6 feet (2 meters) per second.

The SeaWinds instrument on QuikScat used a rotating antenna to measure a swath of Earth's surface 1,118 miles (1,800 kilometers) wide -- about the distance from Los Angeles to Seattle. As QuikScat flew, the rotations overlapped to cover more than 90 percent of Earth's surface every day.

But by the end of 2009, long after the expected end of QuikScat's mission, the lubricant coating the antenna's bearings dried up. Instead of tracing a round swath on Earth's surface, it pointed straight down and only watched the waves directly below it. Still, those data were sufficient to help calibrate newer satellites.

"Since 2009, we've been able to keep QuikScat operating quite successfully," said QuikScat Project Manager Rob Gaston of JPL. "We used QuikScat's highly successful backscatter measurements, which were well understood and had demonstrated stability, as a calibration standard for many instruments, including other scatterometers." The European Space Agency and Indian Space Research Organization have both used QuikScat data to calibrate scatterometers in the last five years.

QuikScat's final task will be to calibrate its successor, RapidScat. The satellite will continue collecting data until April 2015, when it will be decommissioned after nearly 16 years in orbit.

RapidScat, like QuikScat, was built in a fraction of the timeline for most missions. The two missions even share hardware: JPL engineers used SeaWinds test parts to build much of RapidScat, which also uses a rotating dish antenna.

RapidScat will launch aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply mission this summer. Flying in the space station's orbit means RapidScat will spend more time observing Earth's tropics than previous scatterometer satellites, which orbited farther north and south.

"RapidScat will be able to, for the first time, map the evolution of winds as the day progresses, which is important for understanding how clouds and precipitation develop, especially in the tropics, which are key regions in Earth's climate system," Rodriguez said. "It will provide a common reference to tie all of these measurements together."

Together with scatterometers managed by India and Europe, RapidScat will maintain the continuous climate record QuikScat began while adding its own unique perspective from orbit.

For more information about ISS-RapidScat, visit:

http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/RapidScat/

For more information about QuikScat, visit:

http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/quikscat/

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

Alan Buis
818-354-0474
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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Written by Rosalie Murphy
JPL Earth Science and Technology Directorate

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