Showing posts from December, 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