Showing posts from June, 2010

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).