Showing posts from 2010

Lunar Phases Planisphere

Source:  Stephen Shawl, Astronomy Education Review                  A lunar phases planisphere with which a user can answer questions about the rising and setting times of the Moon as well as questions about where the Moon will be at a given phase and time. The article contains figures that can be photocopied to make the planisphere.

‪7 Years of Opportunity on Mars and a Science Bonanza‬

Source:   Ken Kremer, Universe Today Excerpt: Jan. 24, 2011 marks the 7th anniversary of the safe landing of the Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover (MER). Opportunity will soon celebrate another remarkable milestone – 2500 Sols, or Martian days, roving the red planet. ... Opportunity is now 84 months into the 3 month mission – still alive and blazing a trail of Exploration and Discovery across the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. The amazing Martian robot has driven more than 16.5 miles (26.7 km) and snapped over 148,000 pictures....

Cassini Finds an Oxygen–Carbon Dioxide Atmosphere at Saturn’s Icy Moon Rhea

Source:   Teolis, Science Excerpt: The flyby measurements of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn’s moon Rhea reveal a tenuous oxygen (O2)–carbon dioxide (CO2) atmosphere. The atmosphere appears to be sustained by chemical decomposition of the surface water ice ….

Cassini Spots Potential Ice Volcano On Saturn Moon

Source:    NASA RELEASE: 10-335 Excerpt: NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan that are similar in shape to those on Earth that spew molten rock. "When we look at our new 3-D map of Sotra Facula on Titan, we are struck by its resemblance to volcanoes like Mt. Etna in Italy, Laki in Iceland and even some small volcanic cones and flows near my hometown of Flagstaff," said Randolph Kirk, who led the 3-D mapping work, and is a Cassini radar team member and geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz....

NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-320   Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. ..."The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. Visit:  ...See also Science article -

Year of the Solar System, Dec 2010/Jan 2011: A Family Affair

Source:   NASA Excerpt: Our solar system is a family of planets, dwarf planets, comets, and asteroids orbiting our Sun, which share many common features, but each have unique personality traits. ...The top wind speeds on the gas giant planets are hundreds of meters per second--faster than many speeding bullets. See several models of the solar system  [link: ]

NASA Aids First Characterization Of Super-Earth Atmosphere

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-318   Excerpt:  A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth's atmosphere by using a ground-based telescope. A super-Earth is a planet up to three times the size of Earth and weighing up to 10 times as much. ...The team determined the planet, GJ 1214b, is either blanketed with a thin layer of water steam or surrounded by a thick layer of high clouds. If the former, the planet itself would have an icy composition. If the latter, the planet would be rocky or similar to the composition of Neptune, though much smaller. ...Bean and his team observed infrared light as the planet crossed in front of its star. During such transits, the star's light filters through the atmosphere. Gases absorb the starlight at particular wavelengths, leaving behind chemical fingerprints detectable from Earth. This same type of technique has been used to study the atmospheres of distant "hot Jupiters,&qu

Europa’s Tidal Processes Give Hints to Our Moon’s Far-side Bulge

Source:   Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today Excerpt: A self-conscious Moon might ask, “Does my far side look big?” To which lunar scientists would have to reply in the affirmative. ... there is a bulge on the Moon’s far side, a thick region of the lunar crust.... But why that bulge is there has been a mystery, … Now, a group of international scientists have found that perhaps the tidal processes of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, can provide a clue. “Europa is a completely different satellite from our moon, but it gave us the idea to look at the process of tidal flexing of the crust over a liquid ocean,” said Ian Garrick-Bethell, the lead author of a new paper that offers an explanation for the lop-sided Moon.  

Aboriginal time runs east to west

Source:   Bruce Bower, Science News Excerpt: Sun’s trajectory may channel time’s flow for one remote group. …Time rises in the east and sets in the west in a remote part of Australia. Aborigines living there assume that time moves westward, apparently in accord with the sun’s daily arc across the sky, say Stanford University psychologist Lera Boroditsky and linguist Alice Gaby of the University of California, Berkeley. ...For them, time flows from left to right when facing south, from right to left when facing north, toward the body when facing east and away from the body when facing west.... Aboriginal_time_runs_east_to_west

Year of the Solar System, November 2010: Birth of Worlds

Source:   NASA Excerpt: Our world's birth story is intertwined with that of its family -- the Earth formed along with the rest of our solar system, 4.5 billion years ago. ... New scientific models and data suggest that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune shifted places early in our solar system's history. YSS missions will help scientists piece together this dramatic history!

Liquid Water Found on Mars, But It's Still a Hard Road for Life

Source:    Richard A. Kerr, Science Excerpt: Researchers appear to have finally achieved one of the Phoenix lander's primary goals. After digging through piles of data left from the mission to Mars more than 2 years ago, they've discovered signs that liquid water has lately flowed on the frigid planet. In a paper in press in Geophysical Research Letters, Phoenix team members report that liquid water—probably only thin films of it—appears to have concentrated salts onto small patches of soil that Phoenix uncovered. The water may be liquid every martian spring or summer, or perhaps it only melted many millennia ago. might—just might—be holding out a bit beneath the surface of the martian arctic. On the face of it, Phoenix team members are merely reporting a second detection of perchlorate salts by Phoenix.

NASA Trapped Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water

Source:    NASA RELEASE: 10-278 Excerpt: The ground where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck last year holds evidence that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis.

Eris and Pluto: Two Peas in a Pod

Source:   Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today Excerpt: … Eris — that pesky big dwarf planet that caused all the brouhaha about planets, dwarf planets, plutoids and the like — has gotten a closer look by a team of astronomers from several different universities, and guess what? Eris and Pluto have a lot in common. Eris appears to have a frozen surface, predominantly covered in nitrogen ice and methane, just like Pluto. …“By combining the astronomical data and laboratory data, we found about 90 percent of Eris’s icy surface is made up of nitrogen ice and about 10 percent is made up of methane ice, which is not all that different from Pluto,” said David Cornelison, coauthor and physicist at Missouri State University….

Warm ‘Perrier’ Ocean Could be Powering Enceladus’ Geysers

Source:   7.1, 9.2 Excerpt: Bottled water companies take note: an exotic form of warm, bubbly mineral water could be what feeds the mysterious jets spraying from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. A new model of the sub-surface ocean explains how the small moon could be so cryo-volcanically active....

Saturn’s Rings Formed from Large Moon’s Destruction

Source:   Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today Excerpt: The formation of Saturn’s rings has been one of the classical if not eternal questions in astronomy. ... The two leading theories involve a small moon that was shattered by meteor impacts, or the tidal disruption of a comet coming too close to Saturn.  ...But one researcher has provided a provocative new theory to answer that question. Robin Canup from the Southwest Research Institute has uncovered evidence that the rings came from a large, Titan-sized moon that was destroyed as it spiraled into a young Saturn....

Titan-ic Tsunami Causing Crack in Saturn’s C Ring

Source:   Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today Saturn’s rings have several gaps, most of which are caused by small moons shepherding ring debris into breaks in the rocky rings. But one gap may be caused by gravitational perturbations from Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, sending tsunami-like waves up to 3 kilometers (2 miles) high in the C ring. … “The whole pattern rotates around at the same rate as the satellite Titan orbits Saturn, once every 16 days,” said Nicholson said....

NASA Mission Shows Evolution Of Conditions At Edge Of Solar System

Source:    NASA RELEASE: 10-233 Excerpt: New data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spacecraft, reveal that conditions at the edge of our solar system may be much more dynamic than previously thought. …"Our discovery of changes over six months … show that the interaction of our sun and the galaxy is amazingly dynamic," said David J. McComas, IBEX principal investigator and assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "These variations are taking place on remarkably short timescales." For more information about IBEX, visit

NASA'S Lunar Spacecraft Completes Exploration Mission Phase

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-223 Excerpt: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, will complete the exploration phase of its mission on Sept. 16, after a number of successes that transformed our understanding of Earth's nearest neighbor. LRO completed a one-year exploration mission in a polar orbit approximately 31 miles above the moon's surface. It produced a comprehensive map of the lunar surface in unprecedented detail; searched for resources and safe landing sites for potential future missions to the moon; and measured lunar temperatures and radiation levels. …Results from the mission include: new observations of the Apollo landing sites; indications that permanently shadowed and nearby regions may harbor water and hydrogen; observations that large areas in the permanently shadowed regions are colder than Pluto; detailed information about lunar terrain; …. For more information about LRO, visit

NASA Data Shed New Light About Water and Volcanoes on Mars

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-216 Data from NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suggest liquid water has interacted with the Martian surface throughout the planet's history and into modern times. The research also provides new evidence that volcanic activity has persisted on the Red Planet into geologically recent times, several million years ago.  For more information about the Phoenix mission, visit:

Amateur Astronomers are First to Detect Objects Impacting Jupiter

Source:   NASA Excerpt:   (Sept. 9) Amateur astronomers using backyard telescopes were the first to detect two small objects that burned up in Jupiter’s atmosphere on June 3 and Aug. 20.  

NASA Scientists Talk About Asteroids Passing Near Earth

Source:   NASA Excerpt:   ...Two asteroids passed within the moon’s distance from Earth on Sept. 8. NASA scientists were available for satellite interviews to discuss these near-Earth objects.  

30 Years Ago: Detection of Other Planetary Systems

Source:   Katherine Bracher, Mercury Magazine  Excerpt:...These days it’s common knowledge that there are planets around other stars; several hundred have now been found. But 30 years ago none had yet been discovered, and there was much discussion about whether other planetary systems did exist.  ...[In Mercury for Sept/Oct 1980, David C. Black] wrote that: “if we are ever to understand the origin of our own planetary system, we must look for other planetary systems in the hope of establishing, for example, whether planetary systems are a common or a rare occurrence, whether planetary systems are found around single stars or also found around binary and multiple stars, and whether the structure of planetary systems in general is similar to that of the solar system.” Today we have some answers to these questions....

Citizen Scientists Discover Rotating Pulsa

Source:   NSF Release 10-140 Excerpt: ...Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries.... The new pulsar--called PSR J2007+2722--is a neutron star that rotates 41 times per second the Milky Way, approximately 17,000 light years from Earth....

Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies, 2010

Source:   National Academy Press The United States spends approximately $4 million each year searching for near-Earth objects (NEOs) to detect those that may collide with Earth and a small amount of funding investigating ways to protect the Earth from such a potential collision. The funding is insufficient in detecting the majority of NEOs that may present a tangible threat to humanity. In 2005, a Congressional mandate called for NASA to detect 90 percent of NEOs with diameters of 140 meters of greater by 2020. There is a need for detection of objects as small as 30 to 50 meters as these can be highly destructive.   Mitigation strategies include civil defense, "slow push" or "pull" of the asteroid, kinetic impactors and nuclear explosions.

Ancient Mars rocks may be remains of life

Source:   Holly Hight, Cosmos Online Excerpt:  ...Rocks in the Nili Fossae region of Mars are similar to the earliest evidence of life on Earth – the ‘stromatolites’ of Western Australia – scientists said. “We have found a location on Mars that is very similar to an ancient part of the Earth that is known to have been inhabited,” said Adrian Brown of the SETI Institute in California.  …“The question that remains now is - we know Mars was habitable, but was it ‘inhabited’ by life?

The tiny moon with the long reach

Source:   Discover Magazine   Excerpt: When I was a kid, Saturn had one big, flat ring system divided up into maybe three or four broad sections separated by gaps, and that was it. Turns out, we were wrong. Saturn has thousands of rings made up of billions upon billions of tiny ice particles. There aren’t just a handful of gaps, there are thousands of them, too, and there are moonlets in those gaps. Those tiny moons tug and pull on the rings, distorting them into weird and fantastic shapes. And "flat"? Not quite. The Cassini mission apparently delights in showing us just how wrong we were: [see photos in article]

NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft Discovers Surprises on Mercury

Source:  Kenneth Chang, New York Times Excerpt: Images suggest that Mercury was volcanically active well into its middle age, given that it formed 4.5 billion years ago with the rest of the solar system.

NASA Finds Super Hot Planet With Unique Comet-Like Tail

Source:   NASA News Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the existence of a baked object that could be called a "cometary planet" ... gas giant ... HD 209458b, ... orbiting so close to its star that its heated atmosphere is escaping into space. Observations taken with Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) suggest powerful stellar winds are sweeping the cast-off atmospheric material behind the scorched planet and shaping it into a comet-like tail. …The planet, located 153 light years from Earth, weighs slightly less than Jupiter but orbits 100 times closer to its star than the Jovian giant ... zips around its star in a short 3.5 days. …Linsky and his team used COS to analyze the planet's atmosphere during transiting events.  

MESSENGER Spacecraft Reveals New Information About Mercury

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-170   Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- The first spacecraft designed by NASA to orbit Mercury is giving scientists a new perspective on the planet's atmosphere and evolution. ... MESSENGER conducted a third and final flyby of Mercury in September 2009 ... revealed the first observations of ion emissions in Mercury's exosphere, or thin atmosphere … and evidence of younger volcanic activity than previously recorded. ...During its first two flybys of Mercury, the spacecraft captured images confirming that the planet's early history was marked by pervasive volcanism. The spacecraft's third flyby revealed … cratered plains … younger than the basin they fill… the youngest volcanic deposits … yet found on Mercury,"  ... observations suggest the planet spanned a much greater duration volcanism than previously thought, perhaps extending well into the second half of solar system history."

How does Lutetia compare to the other asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft?

Source:  Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society Excerpt: Almost a week after Rosetta flew past Lutetia, the asteroid is now a distant pinprick of light to the spacecraft, and the science team is getting down to the business of analyzing their data. To help them place things in context, I've prepared a new version of my "asteroids and comets to scale" image, laid out to be easy to drop into your slide presentation....

A Giant Planet Imaged in the Disk of the Young Star β Pictoris

Source:   Lagrange et al, Science AAAS Excerpt: The 10-million-year-old star β Pictoris, has long been suspected to host a planet. Through images obtained with the Very Large Telescope, an array of four telescopes located in Chile, Lagrange et al. (p. 57, published online 10 June) now confirm the presence of a young, giant planet, β Pictoris b, orbiting within the dusty disk that surrounds the star. β Pictoris b orbits closer to its star than Uranus and Neptune do to the Sun in our solar system. This orbital separation is consistent with the in situ formation of the planet via a core accretion mechanism. Thus, giant planets can form within a stellar dust disk in only a few million years.

Armed with space telescope, planet hunters search for extraterrestrial life

Source:  Madeleine Amberge, Deutsche Welle Excerpt: Astronomers have made a quantum leap in the search for other life forms in the universe thanks to NASA's new Kepler space telescope, which has identified more than 700 potential exosolar planets. ...Geoff the most successful planet hunter of all time, discovering more than 70 exosolar planets, most of them gas giants like our own Jupiter. "It's true that finding a Jupiter is a little bit ho-hum," he told Deutsche Welle. "Saturns don't get me up in the morning, nor do Neptunes. But with this Kepler telescope, we're getting so close to finding new Earths that the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.",,5742970,00.html

Hotspots leave magnetic scars on Mars

Source:   Eric Hand, Nature Excerpt: …Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) …magnetometer.... A section of the martian crust appeared to consist of long 'stripes' of iron-bearing minerals permanently magnetized with alternating orientations. …Ken Sprenke of the University of Idaho…has provided a tantalizing theory to explain these stripes: they were created by ancient hotspots beneath the crust. The hotspots would exhume material from the interior that would then 'freeze' with the magnetic field holding sway at the time. …Sprenke points out how the stripes recall a famous, elongated feature made by a hotspot on Earth: the Hawaiian islands.

Seventh Graders Find a Cave on Mars

Source:  Guy Webster, JPL News Excerpt:  They went looking for lava tubes on Mars — and found what may be a hole in the roof of a Martian cave. The 16 students in Dennis Mitchell's 7th-grade science class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., chose to study lava tubes, a common volcanic feature on Earth and Mars. It was their class project for the Mars Student Imaging Program (MSIP), …"The students developed a research project focused on finding the most common locations of lava tubes on Mars," Mitchell said. "Do they occur most often near the summit of a volcano, on its flanks, or the plains surrounding it?" To answer the question, the students examined more than 200 images of Mars taken with the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), an instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. …On their two targeted images the students found lava tubes, as they had hoped. And on the backup image, they also found a small, round black spot…. www.jpl

Seventh Graders Find a Cave on Mars

Source:   NASA/JPL Excerpt: California middle school students using the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave.

Strange Martian Spirals Explained

Source:   NASA/JPL Excerpt: For 40 years researchers have puzzled over a strange pattern of ice spirals and chasms around the Martian north pole. New data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter solve the mystery.

NASA Releases Kepler Data on Potential Extrasolar Planets

Source:  NASA/JPL Excerpt: NASA's Kepler Mission has released 43 days of science data on more than 156,000 stars. These stars are being monitored for subtle brightness changes as part of an ongoing search for Earth-like planets outside of our solar system. Astronomers will use the new data to determine if orbiting planets are responsible for brightness variations in several hundred stars.

Research Suggests Water Content Of Moon Interior Underestimated

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-144 Excerpt: NASA-funded scientists estimate from recent research that the volume of water molecules locked inside minerals in the moon's interior could exceed the amount of water in the Great Lakes here on Earth. ..."For over 40 years we thought the moon was dry," said Francis McCubbin of Carnegie...The origin of the moon is now commonly believed to be the result of a Mars-sized object that impacted the Earth 4.5 billion years ago. This impact put a large amount of material into Earth's orbit that ultimately compacted to form the moon. The lunar magma ocean that is thought to have formed at some point during the compacting process, began to cool. During this cooling, water either escaped or was preserved as hydroxyl molecules in the crystallizing minerals. l

Jupiter Impact: Mystery of the Missing Debris

Source:  Science@NASA Excerpt:  Amateur astronomers were startled by a bright flash of light on Jupiter. It appeared to be an impact event--a comet or asteroid hitting the planet's cloudtops. Curiously, though, the strike left no obvious debris. Was it really an impact--or something else?

Your Age On Other Worlds

Source:   Ron Hipschman, Exploratorium Calculate your age on another planet. Put it in as numbers: two digits for month and day and  4 for the year you were born and scroll down

Followup: Jupiter impact video, and a color picture!

Source:  Phil Plait, Discover Magazine  Excerpt:  Anthony Wesley, who discovered the impact event on Jupiter yesterday, has posted a lovely color image of the flash.  …even though this explosion may have been the equivalent of thousands of nuclear weapons all blowing up at once, it probably will only have a passing and unnoticeable effect on Jupiter’s weather. ...A rock 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) across moving at 80 km/sec will explode with the energy of almost <Dr. Evil>one million one-megaton bombs</Dr. Evil>. ...It’s not clear how often Jupiter gets hit, and this is only the third confirmed impact we’ve seen (along with the Shoemaker Levy 9 comet impact in 1994, and last year’s asteroid impact also discovered by Wesley).

Magnetic refuge found on Moon

Source:   Larry O'Hanlon, MSNBC Discovery News Excerpt: A miniature magnetic field has been imaged on the surface of the moon, making it a rare, minimally protective lunar refuge from some aspects of the harsh solar wind.... "You can think of it as kind of a mini umbrella," said Martin Wieser of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, Sweden. "It will be effective for certain kinds of (space) weather."...

NASA-Funded Research Suggests Venus is Geologically Alive

Source:   NASA RELEASE: M10 - 081 Excerpt: For the first time, scientists have detected clear signs of recent lava flows on the surface of Venus. The observations reveal that volcanoes on Venus appeared to erupt between a few hundred years to 2.5 million years ago. This suggests the planet may still be geologically active, making Venus one of the few worlds in our solar system that has been volcanically active within the last 3 million years. The evidence comes from the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission, which has been in orbit around the planet since April 2006….See also  European Space Agency News Item .

New evidence of (transient) liquid water on Mars!

Source:   Phil Plait, Astronomy, Pretty Pictures, Science  Excerpt: Does liquid water still flow on Mars? We know that in the distant past — like, a billion years ago — liquid water was abundant on Mars. We also know that water currently exists on Mars in the form of ice, .... But can there still be liquid water flowing on Mars, even if only for a very, very short time? Maybe. ... HiRISE image shows a small region of a Martian crater named Russel… There are a lot of sand dunes in it, and … many gullies as well.... Sometimes, these gullies can form due to the presence of dry ice: … the dry ice turns into a gas, dislodging material and letting it roll downhill. …But these Russell Crater gullies are different. …The gullies do widen where two tributaries meet, which is exactly as you’d expect from flowing material.

International Space Station (ISS) construction timeline

Source:   Rober W. Ahrens, NASA, USA Today Interactive International Space Station (ISS) construction timeline

NASA Mars Spacecraft Snaps Photos Chosen by Public

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-071 Excerpt: The most powerful camera aboard a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has returned the first pictures of locations on the Red Planet suggested by the public. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera, aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, is nicknamed, "the people's camera." Through a program called HiWish that began in January, scientists have received approximately 1,000 suggestions. The first eight images of areas the public selected are available online at:

Helium rain washing away neon on Jupiter

Source:   Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times It's raining on Jupiter… raining helium. …droplets of that inert gas that keeps the Goodyear blimp aloft and that powers the runaway house in the movie "Up" are falling like a soft rain from the upper atmosphere of the planet into the gas giant's high-pressure interior. In the process, they're washing away the neon that should also be in the upper atmosphere, researchers from UC Berkeley reported Monday.... See also  Discover Magazine Online , and .

LRO image of Luan 21 Lander

Source:  NASA-LRO Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter images showing the USSR Luna Lander and rover. The Luna 21 spacecraft landed in Le Monnier crater on 15 January 1973 delivering the Soviet Union’s second rover - Lunokhod 2 to the lunar surface. The rover drew two giant circles to honor International Women’s Day.

Guilty of Killing the Dinosaurs

Source:   Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Excerpt: …an international panel of 41 experts in geology, paleontology  and other related fields, after an exhaustive review of the data, declared an end to a 30 year controversy over what triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs – an asteroid or volcanoes. The panel ruled in favor of the asteroid... the size of San Francisco, traveling faster than a bullet, slammed into Earth ...delivered a destructive blast thousands of times more powerful than the combined yield of all the world’s nuclear weapons, setting off earthquakes greater than 11 in magnitude and widespread tsunamis, and shrouding the globe for years in a thick cocoon of sky-blackening dust and debris....

Probe may have found cosmic dust

Source:   Paul Rincon, BBC News Excerpt: ...Scientists may have identified the first specks of interstellar dust in material collected by the US space agency's Stardust spacecraft. ...The Nasa spacecraft was primarily sent to catch dust streaming from Comet Wild 2 .... also set out to capture particles of interstellar a seven-year, 4.8-billion-km (2.9 billion miles) interplanetary voyage. “So far this particle is unique... if we drop it on the floor, it will cost $300m to get another one ” Dr Andrew Westphal, University of California, Berkeley. …The discovery was made by a member of the public, using the Stardust@Home internet application, which invited participants to search the aerogel collection medium for tiny particles of the dust. ….

“Blue Marble” Earth image

Source:   NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) A spectacular “blue marble” image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date. Using a collection of satellite- based observations, scientists and visualizers stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer (.386 square mile) of our planet. These images are freely available to educators, scientists, museums, and the public. This record includes preview images and links to full resolution versions up to 21,600 pixels across.” GSFC has also uploaded an animation of these images, as well as almost 1,400 other images and videos. gsfc/4392965590/

Chilean Quake May Have Shortened Earth Days

Source:   Alan Buis, NASA News 2010-071 Excerpt:  The Feb. 27 magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile may have shortened the length of each Earth day. JPL research scientist Richard Gross computed how Earth's rotation should have changed as a result of the Feb. 27 quake. … by about 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second). … more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis. Gross calculates the quake should have moved Earth's figure axis… by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters, or 3 inches).

Suspected Asteroid Collision Leaves Trailing Debris

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 10-029 Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed a mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that suggest a head-on collision between two asteroids. Astronomers have long thought the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never been seen before.  Asteroid collisions are energetic, with an average impact speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour, or five times faster than a rifle bullet....

Obama Calls for End to NASA's Moon Program

Source:   Kenneth Chang, New York Times Excerpt: The ambitious space initiative that President Obama unveiled for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Monday calls for sweeping changes in mission and priorities for the 52-year-old agency, yet it omits two major details: where the agency will send its astronauts and a timetable for getting them there. If Mr. Obama’s proposed budget is implemented, NASA a few years from now would longer operate its own spacecraft, but essentially buy tickets for its astronauts on commercially launched rockets. It would end its program to return to the moon and would pursue future missions to deep space by drawing more cooperation and financing from other nations….