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Space News Reports

A Universe of Water Planets? --"Common During the Formation of All Planetary Systems"
"This is an important step forward in our quest to find out if life exists on other planets," said Tim Harries, from the University of Exeter's Physics and Astronomy department, who was part of the research team. "We
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Mars' Atmosphere Provides Insights into Weather on Venus, Saturn's Titan & the Gas Giants
  New research on Mars weather promises to advance scientists’ understanding of the dynamics of Earth’s own atmosphere – and could provide insights into the weather of Venus, Saturn’s moon Titan,
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The Rosetta Comet Mission --Unlocking the Secrets of Our Origins 12 November 2014, 21.04 Administrator Space
The Rosetta Comet Mission --Unlocking the Secrets of Our Origins
"Comet impacts are thought to have been one of the principal means by which water was delivered to the early Earth, around 3.6 billion years ago, possibly contributing half the water in our oceans," says planetary
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European Spacecraft Set to Harpoon a Comet Tomorrow
Early tomorrow morning, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft will deploy its comet lander, "Philae." A little over seven hours later (8 a.m. PST/11 a.m. EST), the experiment-laden, harpoon-firing Philae is scheduled
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Jupiter's Red Spot is Likely a Sunburn, Not a Blush
Research suggests effects of sunlight produce the color of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The feature's clouds are much higher than those elsewhere on the planet, and its vortex nature confines the reddish particles once they form.
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NASA's New Wind Watcher Ready for Weather Forecasters
In an early holiday gift to the world's weather and marine forecasting agencies, ocean-winds data from NASA's newest Earth-observing mission, the International Space Station-Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat), are being
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Newest NASA Mars Orbiter Demonstrates Relay Prowess
The newest node in NASA's Mars telecommunications network -- a radio aboard the MAVEN orbiter custom-designed for data links with robots on the surface of Mars -- handled a copious 550 megabits during its first relay of real
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Cassini Sails into New Ocean Adventures on Titan 12 November 2014, 21.04 Space
Cassini Sails into New Ocean Adventures on Titan
NASA's Cassini mission continues its adventures in extraterrestrial oceanography with new findings about the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan. During a flyby in August, the spacecraft sounded the depths near the mouth
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Rosetta's Singing Comet 12 November 2014, 21.04 Space
Rosetta's Singing Comet
A set of instruments on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has picked up a mysterious "song" from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech › Play audio A set of instruments on the
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Rosetta Races Toward Comet Touchdown 08 November 2014, 16.58 Space
Rosetta Races Toward Comet Touchdown
• Landing scheduled for Nov. 12 • Landing site gets a name • Camera gets sneak peek of the comet's "dark side" After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is now
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NASA Telecon to Discuss Mars Comet Flyby Science 08 November 2014, 16.58 Space
NASA Telecon to Discuss Mars Comet Flyby Science
These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet's close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
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NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Finds Mineral Match 08 November 2014, 16.58 Space
NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Finds Mineral Match
Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA's Curiosity rover has yielded the mission's first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit. "This connects us with the mineral identifications
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NASA Rocket Experiment: Universe is Brighter Than We Thought
A NASA sounding rocket experiment has detected a surprising surplus of infrared light in the dark space between galaxies, a diffuse cosmic glow as bright as all known galaxies combined. The glow is thought to be from orphaned
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NASA Rolls Out Enhanced, Mobile-Friendly Climate Site
NASA's Global Climate Change website tracks key indicators of climate change, include the retreat of glaciers and the shrinking of ice sheets around the world. Image credit: Shutterstock › Larger image NASA has relaunched
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"Are We the Only Technologically-Intensive Civilization in the Universe?" (Weekend Feature)
Human-caused climate change, ocean acidification and species extinctions may eventually threaten the collapse of civilization, according to some scientists, while other people argue that for political or economic
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"Higgs Boson" Points to an Undiscovered Force of Nature
The research team has scrutinized the existing scientific data from CERN about the newfound particle and published their analysis in the journal Physical Review D. A member of this team is Mads Toudal Frandsen,
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"There Might be Civilizations in the Middle of Cold Dark Space Without a Milky Way" -NASA
    “There might be people living out there, out in the middle of cold dark space, that don't have a Milky Way,” says Harvey Moseley, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
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NASA Holds Teleconference on Intriguing Rocket Experiment Results
NASA will host a news teleconference at 2 p.m. EST Thursday, Nov. 6, to announce discoveries from a sub-orbital rocket experiment that are redefining what we think of as galaxies. The results are embargoed by the journal
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Mars Spacecraft Reveal Comet Flyby Effects on Martian Atmosphere
[image-50][image-69][image-96][image-114]Two NASA and one European spacecraft that obtained the first up-close observations of a comet flyby of Mars on Oct. 19, have gathered new information about the basic properties of the
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NASA to Discuss Science Findings of Oct. 19 Comet Flyby of Mars
NASA will host a media teleconference at noon EST on Friday, Nov. 7, to provide initial science observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring’s close flyby of Mars and the impact on the Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Mars
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Hubble Surveys Debris-Strewn Exoplanetary Construction Yards
Get larger image formats Over the past few years, astronomers have found an incredible diversity in the architecture of exoplanetary systems, as well as the planets themselves. A survey using the sharp view of the Hubble
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Pluto the "Unexplored Planet" --Could It Have Astrobiological Potential?  (Weekend Feature)
But, what is a planet? For generations of kids the answer was easy. A big ball of rock or gas that orbited our Sun, and there were nine of them in our solar system. But then astronomers started finding more
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Distant Galaxy Hints at a "Hidden Universe" of Unobserved Objects (Weekend Feature)
"This object is a unique example of what is suspected to be an abundant, underlying population of small and faint galaxies at about 500 million years after the Big Bang," explained Adi Zitrin of the California
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"The Day After Mars" (Weekend Feature) 01 November 2014, 15.35 Space
"The Day After Mars" (Weekend Feature)
      October 31, 1938 was the day after Martians encountered planet Earth, and everything was calm. Reports of the invasion were revealed to be part of a Halloween radio drama, the now famous
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NASA-led Study Sees Titan Glowing at Dusk and Dawn
[image-50]New maps of Saturn’s moon Titan reveal large patches of trace gases shining brightly near the north and south poles. These regions are curiously shifted off the poles, to the east or west, so that dawn is breaking
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Hubble Sees 'Ghost Light' From Dead Galaxies 01 November 2014, 15.34 Space
Hubble Sees 'Ghost Light' From Dead Galaxies
Get larger image formats The universe is an infinite sea of galaxies, which are majestic star-cities. When galaxies group together in massive clusters, some of them can be ripped apart by the gravitational tug of other
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Here's Looking At You: Spooky Shadow Play Gives Jupiter a Giant Eye
Get larger image formats The Hubble Space Telescope treats astronomers to gorgeous close-up views of the eerie outer planets. But it's a bit of a trick when it seems like the planet's looking back at you! In this view, the
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Close Encounters: Comet Siding Spring Seen Next to Mars
Get larger image formats This is a photo composite of the encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on October 19, 2014. Separate Hubble Space Telescope images of Mars and the comet have been combined together into a single
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One of Oldest, Most Distant Galaxies Reveals a "Hidden Universe" of Unobserved Objects
"This object is a unique example of what is suspected to be an abundant, underlying population of small and faint galaxies at about 500 million years after the Big Bang," explained Adi Zitrin of the California
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Long-Sought Source of Massive Supernovas Detected
A group of researchers recently presented a model that provides the first characterization of the progenitor for a hydrogen-deficient supernova. Their model predicts that a bright hot star, which is the binary
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Milky Way's "Zombie" Zone --"Orbiting Dwarf Galaxies Completely Devoid of Hydrogen Gas"
Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, along with data from other large radio telescopes, have discovered that our nearest galactic neighbors, the dwarf
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Saturn Moon May Hide a 'Fossil' Core or an Ocean
This mosaic of Saturn's moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute › Full image and
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NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Studies Comet Flyby
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has sent home more data about Mars than all other missions combined, is also now providing data about a comet that buzzed The Red
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NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near
Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Full image and caption Mars Odyssey Mission Status Report The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in
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All Three NASA Mars Orbiters Healthy After Comet Flyby
This artist's concept shows NASA's Mars orbiters lining up behind the Red Planet for their "duck and cover" maneuver to shield them from comet dust from the close flyby of comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) on Oct. 19, 2014. ›
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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
Read More 5066 Hits 1 Rating
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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Your Chance To Name A Comet Landing Site PDF Print E-mail

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
› Full image and caption

Ever want to get in on the celestial feature-naming action? Now is your chance. The European Space Agency is inviting the public to suggest a name for the site where the Rosetta mission's Philae lander will touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 12. The winner of the competition will have an opportunity to travel to the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, to follow the landing live from the mission's control center.

The competition will end on Oct. 22 at 4 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. EDT). The winner will be announced on Nov. 3 on the main Rosetta web page:

www.esa.int/rosetta

For details of the competition and to enter, visit:

http://sci.esa.int/rosetta-competition/

Launched in March 2004, Rosetta was reactivated in January 2014 after a record 957 days in hibernation. Composed of an orbiter and lander, Rosetta's objectives since arriving at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko earlier this month have been to study the celestial object up close in unprecedented detail, prepare for landing a probe on the comet's nucleus in November, and following the landing, track the comet's changes as it sweeps past the sun.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when our sun and its planets formed. Rosetta's lander will obtain the first images taken from a comet's surface and will provide comprehensive analysis of the comet's possible primordial composition by drilling into the surface. Rosetta also will be the first spacecraft to witness at close proximity how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun's radiation. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.

Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; National Center of Space Studies of France (CNES), Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:

http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov

More information about Rosetta is available at:

http://www.esa.int/rosetta

Media Contact

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-9011
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Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726
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Markus Bauer
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2014-360

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NASA Mission Provides Its First Look at Martian Upper Atmosphere PDF Print E-mail

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NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars, produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, and yielded a comprehensive map of highly-variable ozone in the atmosphere underlying the coronas.

The spacecraft, which entered Mars' orbit Sept. 21, now is lowering its orbit and testing its instruments. MAVEN was launched to Mars in November 2013, to help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere.

"All the instruments are showing data quality that is better than anticipated at this early stage of the mission," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN Principal Investigator at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "All instruments have now been turned on -- although not yet fully checked out -- and are functioning nominally. It's turning out to be an easy and straightforward spacecraft to fly, at least so far. It really looks as if we're headed for an exciting science mission."

Solar energetic particles (SEPs) are streams of high-speed particles blasted from the sun during explosive solar activity like flares or coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Around Earth, SEP storms can damage the sensitive electronics on satellites. At Mars, they are thought to be one possible mechanism for driving atmospheric loss.

A solar flare on Sept. 26 produced a CME that was observed by NASA satellites on both sides of the sun. Computer models of the CME propagation predicted the disturbance and the accompanying SEPs would reach Mars on Sept. 29. MAVEN's Solar Energetic Particle instrument was able to observe the onset of the event that day.

"After traveling through interplanetary space, these energetic particles of mostly protons deposit their energy in the upper atmosphere of Mars," said SEP instrument lead Davin Larson of the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. "A SEP event like this typically occurs every couple weeks. Once all the instruments are turned on, we expect to also be able to track the response of the upper atmosphere to them."

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. These molecules control the climate, so following them allows us to understand the history of Mars over the last four billion years and to track the change from a warm and wet climate to the cold, dry climate we see today. MAVEN observed the edges of the Martian atmosphere using the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS), which is sensitive to the sunlight reflected by these atoms.

"With these observations, MAVEN's IUVS has obtained the most complete picture of the extended Martian upper atmosphere ever made," said MAVEN Remote Sensing Team member Mike Chaffin of the University of Colorado, Boulder. "By measuring the extended upper atmosphere of the planet, MAVEN directly probes how these atoms escape to space. The observations support our current understanding that the upper atmosphere of Mars, when compared to Venus and Earth, is only tenuously bound by the Red Planet's weak gravity."

IUVS also created a map of the atmospheric ozone on Mars by detecting the absorption of ultraviolet sunlight by the molecule.

"With these maps we have the kind of complete and simultaneous coverage of Mars that is usually only possible for Earth," said MAVEN Remote Sensing Team member Justin Deighan of the University of Colorado, Boulder. "On Earth, ozone destruction by refrigerator CFCs is the cause of the polar ozone hole. On Mars, ozone is just as easily destroyed by the byproducts of water vapor breakdown by ultraviolet sunlight. Tracking the ozone lets us track the photochemical processes taking place in the Martian atmosphere. We'll be exploring this in more complete detail during MAVEN's primary science mission."

There will be about two weeks of additional instrument calibration and testing before MAVEN starts its primary science mission. This includes an end-to-end test to transmit data between NASA's Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars and Earth using the MAVEN mission's Electra telecommunications relay. The mission aims to start full science gathering in early to mid-November.

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. The University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory also provided four science instruments for the mission. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland manages the MAVEN project and provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, as well as the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

For more about MAVEN, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/maven

-end-



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NASA Mission Finds Widespread Evidence of Young Lunar Volcanism PDF Print E-mail

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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. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old. Details of the study are published online in Sunday’s edition of Nature Geoscience.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The deposits are 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. Because of this combination of textures, the researchers refer to these unusual areas as irregular mare patches.

The features are too small to be seen from Earth, averaging less than a third of a mile (500 meters) across in their largest dimension. One of the largest, a well-studied area called Ina, was imaged from lunar orbit by Apollo 15 astronauts.

Ina appeared to be a one-of-a-kind feature until researchers from Arizona State University in Tempe and Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany spotted many similar regions in high-resolution images taken by the two Narrow Angle Cameras that are part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC. The team identified a total of 70 irregular mare patches on the near side of the moon.

The large number of these features and their wide distribution strongly suggest that late-stage volcanic activity was not an anomaly but an important part of the moon's geologic history.

The numbers and sizes of the craters within these areas indicate the deposits are relatively recent. Based on a technique that links such crater measurements to the ages of Apollo and Luna samples, three of the irregular mare patches are thought to be less than 100 million years old, and perhaps less than 50 million years old in the case of Ina. The steep slopes leading down from the smooth rock layers to the rough terrain are consistent with the young age estimates.

In contrast, the volcanic plains surrounding these distinctive regions are attributed to volcanic activity that started about 3 1/2 billion years ago and ended roughly 1 billion years ago. At that point, all volcanic activity on the moon was thought to cease.

Several earlier studies suggested that Ina was quite young and might have formed due to localized volcanic activity. However, in the absence of other similar features, Ina was not considered an indication of widespread volcanism.

The findings have major implications for how warm the moon’s interior is thought to be.

“The existence and age of the irregular mare patches tell us that the lunar mantle had to remain hot enough to provide magma for the small-volume eruptions that created these unusual young features,” said Sarah Braden, a recent Arizona State University graduate and the lead author of the study.

The new information is hard to reconcile with what currently is thought about the temperature of the interior of the moon.

“These young volcanic features are prime targets for future exploration, both robotic and human,” said Mark Robinson, LROC principal investigator at Arizona State University.

LRO is managed by Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. LROC, a system of three cameras, was designed and built by Malin Space Science Systems and is operated by Arizona State University.

To access the complete collection of LROC images, visit

http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/

For more information about LRO, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/lro

-end-



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NASA’s Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission PDF Print E-mail

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Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015.

The KBOs were detected through a dedicated Hubble observing program by a New Horizons search team that was awarded telescope time for this purpose.

“This has been a very challenging search and it’s great that in the end Hubble could accomplish a detection – one NASA mission helping another,” said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

The Kuiper Belt is a vast rim of primordial debris encircling our solar system. KBOs belong to a unique class of solar system objects that has never been visited by spacecraft and which contain clues to the origin of our solar system.

The KBOs Hubble found are each about 10 times larger than typical comets, but only about 1-2 percent of the size of Pluto. Unlike asteroids, KBOs have not been heated by the sun and are thought to represent a pristine, well preserved deep-freeze sample of what the outer solar system was like following its birth 4.6 billion years ago. The KBOs found in the Hubble data are thought to be the building blocks of dwarf planets such as Pluto.

The New Horizons team started to look for suitable KBOs in 2011 using some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth. They found several dozen KBOs, but none was reachable within the fuel supply available aboard the New Horizons spacecraft.

“We started to get worried that we could not find anything suitable, even with Hubble, but in the end the space telescope came to the rescue,” said New Horizons science team member John Spencer of SwRI. “There was a huge sigh of relief when we found suitable KBOs; we are ‘over the moon’ about this detection.”

Following an initial proof of concept of the Hubble pilot observing program in June, the New Horizons Team was awarded telescope time by the Space Telescope Science Institute for a wider survey in July. When the search was completed in early September, the team identified one KBO that is considered “definitely reachable,” and two other potentially accessible KBOs that will require more tracking over several months to know whether they too are accessible by the New Horizons spacecraft.

This was a needle-in-haystack search for the New Horizons team because the elusive KBOs are extremely small, faint, and difficult to pick out against a myriad background of stars in the constellation Sagittarius, which is in the present direction of Pluto. The three KBOs identified each are a whopping 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. Two of the KBOs are estimated to be as large as 34 miles (55 kilometers) across, and the third is perhaps as small as 15 miles (25 kilometers).

The New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006 from Florida, is the first mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. Once a NASA mission completes its prime mission, the agency conducts an extensive science and technical review to determine whether extended operations are warranted. 

The New Horizons team expects to submit such a proposal to NASA in late 2016 for an extended mission to fly by one of the newly identified KBOs. Hurtling across the solar system, the New Horizons spacecraft would reach the distance of 4 billion miles from the sun at its farthest point roughly three to four years after its July 2015 Pluto encounter. Accomplishing such a KBO flyby would substantially increase the science return from the New Horizons mission as laid out by the 2003 Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, manages the New Horizons mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. APL also built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft.

For images of the KBOs and more information about Hubble, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

For information about the New Horizons mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

-end-



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Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass PDF Print E-mail


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Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted one of the farthest, faintest, and smallest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away. This new detection is considered one of the most reliable distance measurements of a galaxy that existed in the early universe, said the Hubble researchers. Hubble detected the galaxy due to the lensing power of the mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora's Cluster. The cluster is so massive that its powerful gravity bends the light from galaxies far behind it, making the background objects appear larger and brighter in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

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NASA's Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission PDF Print E-mail


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The Kuiper Belt is a vast disk of icy debris left over from our Sun's formation 4.6 billion years ago. Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) are a unique class of solar-system body that has never been visited by interplanetary spacecraft. They contain well-preserved clues to the origin of our solar system. NASA's New Horizons probe will fly by Pluto in mid-2015 and then continue across the Kuiper Belt on its way toward interstellar space. The Hubble Space Telescope was used to do a deep sky survey to identify KBOs that the New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit on its outbound trajectory. The deep sky survey was successful, and Hubble found targetable KBOs for New Horizons.

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New Dark Matter Theory Solves Milky Way's "Missing Satellite-Galaxies" Puzzle PDF Print E-mail

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A new measurement of dark matter in the Milky Way has revealed there is half as much of the mysterious substance as previously thought. Australian astronomers probed the edge of the Milky Way, looking closely, for the first time, at the fringes of the galaxy about 5 million billion kilometres from Earth using a method developed almost 100 years ago. They  discovered that the weight of dark matter in our own galaxy is 800 000 000 000 (or 8 x 1011) times the mass of the Sun.



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First Ultraluminous Pulsar Ever Detected --"Extreme X Ray Source in Cigar Galaxy was Thought to be a Black Hole" PDF Print E-mail

Astronomers working with NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), led by Caltech's Fiona Harrison, have found a pulsating dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. The object, previously thought to be a black hole because it is so powerful, is in fact a pulsar—the incredibly dense rotating remains of a star. "This compact little stellar remnant is a real powerhouse. We've never seen anything quite like it," says Harrison, NuSTAR's principal investigator and the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics at Caltech. "We all thought an object with that much energy had to be a black hole."

Walton, who works with NuSTAR data, says that with its extreme energy, this pulsar takes the top prize in the weirdness category. Pulsars are typically between one and two times the mass of the sun. This new pulsar presumably falls in that same range but shines about 100 times brighter than theory suggests something of its mass should be able to.

Harrison, Walton, and their colleagues describe NuSTAR's detection of this first ultraluminous pulsar in a paper that appears in the current issue of Nature.

"This was certainly an unexpected discovery," says Harrison. "In fact, we were looking for something else entirely when we found this."

Earlier this year, astronomers in London detected a spectacular, once-in-a-century supernova (dubbed SN2014J) in a relatively nearby galaxy known as Messier 82 (M82), or the Cigar Galaxy, 12 million light-years away. Because of the rarity of that event, telescopes around the world and in space adjusted their gaze to study the aftermath of the explosion in detail.

Besides the supernova, M82 harbors a number of other ULXs. When Matteo Bachetti of the Université de Toulouse in France, the lead author of this new paper, took a closer look at these ULXs in NuSTAR's data, he discovered that something in the galaxy was pulsing, or flashing light.

"That was a big surprise," Harrison says. "For decades everybody has thought these ultraluminous X-ray sources had to be black holes. But black holes don't have a way to create this pulsing."

But pulsars do. They are like giant magnets that emit radiation from their magnetic poles. As they rotate, an outside observer with an X-ray telescope, situated at the right angle, would see flashes of powerful light as the beam swept periodically across the observer's field of view, like a lighthouse beacon.

The reason most astronomers had assumed black holes were powering ULXs is that these X-ray sources are so incredibly bright. Black holes can be anywhere from 10 to billions of times the mass of the sun, making their gravitational tug much stronger than that of a pulsar. As matter falls onto the black hole the gravitational energy turns it to heat, which creates X-ray light. The bigger the black hole, the more energy there is to make the object shine.

Surprised to see the flashes coming from M82, the NuSTAR team checked and rechecked the data. The flashes were really there, with a pulse showing up every 1.37 seconds.

The next step was to figure out which X-ray source was producing the flashes. Walton and several other Caltech researchers analyzed the data from NuSTAR and a second NASA X-ray telescope, Chandra, to rule out about 25 different X-ray sources, finally settling on a ULX known as M82X-2 as the source of the flashes.

With the pulsar and its location within M82 identified, there are still many questions left to answer. It is many times higher than the Eddington limit, a basic physics guideline that sets an upper limit on the brightness that an object of a given mass should be able to achieve.

"This is the most extreme violation of that limit that we've ever seen," says Walton. "We have known that things can go above that by a small amount, but this blows that limit away."

NuSTAR is particularly well-suited to make discoveries like this one. Not only does the space telescope see high-energy X-rays, but it sees them in a unique way. Rather than snapping images the way that your cell-phone camera does—by integrating the light such that images blur if you move—NuSTAR detects individual particles of X-ray light and marks when they are measured. That allows the team to do timing analyses and, in this case, to see that the light from the ULX was coming in pulses.

Now that the NuSTAR team has shown that this ULX is a pulsar, Harrison points out that many other known ULXs may in fact be pulsars as well. "Everybody had assumed all of these sources were black holes," she says. "Now I think people have to go back to the drawing board and decide whether that's really true. This could just be a very unique, strange object, or it could be that they're not that uncommon. We just don't know. We need more observations to see if other ULXs are pulsing."

The work was supported by NASA and made use of data supplied by the UK Swift Science Data Centre at the University of Leicester.

The Daily Galaxy via Caltech



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Discovery of New Particle will "Transform Our Understanding of Fundamental Force of Nature" PDF Print E-mail

 

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Led by scientists from the University of Warwick, the discovery of the new particle will help provide greater understanding of the strong interaction, the fundamental force of nature found within the protons of an atom's nucleus. Poetically named Ds3*(2860)ˉ, the particle, a new type of meson, was discovered by analysing data collected with the LHCb detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).



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