Showing posts from August, 2011

NASA's Inspiring, Enlightening, and Successful Search for New Earths

Source:   Tim Folger, Discover Magazine Excerpt:  The Kepler space telescope, NASA’s first mission dedicated to the search for planets beyond our solar system, has produced a gusher of strange new worlds. If astronomers are right, many of them will prove to be habitable. …Kepler-10 b …announced … this past January, was the smallest world yet found beyond our solar system. …Kepler-10 b was merely a preview. A month after the January announcement, NASA released its first full data set from the Kepler mission, and the results left astronomers straining for superlatives. ...“We’re learning about a diversity of worlds in our universe that we had no clue about beforehand,” Marcy says. “Rocky planets, yeah, we thought there might be some of those. By the way, we’re finding some rocky planets that are even denser than Earth. But we’re also finding these mini-Neptunes, a class of planet for which we have no examples in our solar system. They’re like small Neptunes but with huge amounts o

Supernova of a Generation: Brightest Exploding Star in 40 Years Spotted

Source:   IB Times Excerpt: Astronomers from Berkeley have discovered the closest supernova, or exploded star, in 40 years in the Pinwheel Galaxy, located just 21 million light-years from Earth. ...Being the source of most of the chemical elements in the universe heavier than iron, supernovas also play an important role in the evolution of galaxies and planetary systems. They also seed the rest of space with elements such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, and can "nudge" gas clouds into collapsing to form new star systems.

LRO and International Observe the Moon Night

Source:   Brooke Hsu, Night Sky Network Links and downloads for a telecon about Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter and the 2011 International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN).

Moon may be younger than thought, study says

Source:    Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times Excerpt: The moon may be 200 million years younger than widely believed, according to a new analysis of a rock brought back to Earth in 1972 by Apollo 16 astronauts. Or, if not, the moon may never have had the magma ocean that scientists think covered its surface soon after it formed. …an international team of scientists decided to use sophisticated techniques to better test a sample collected by the Apollo 16 mission … a about 4.36 billion years, which surprised the scientists. "We all looked at one another and laughed," said lead author Lars Borg, a geochemist …. If that is correct, it means the moon's magma ocean formed — and cooled — more recently than scientists have generally thought …. This also could mean that the great impact that separated the moon from Earth happened more recently too.,0,4380476.story

NASA Mars Rover Arrives At New Site On Martian Surface

Source:    NASA RELEASE: 11-265 Excerpt: After a journey of almost three years, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet's Endeavour crater to study rocks never seen before.  On Aug. 9, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater's rim. Opportunity drove approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) after climbing out of the Victoria crater. …NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched Aug. 12, 2005, is searching for evidence that water persisted on the Martian surface for a long period of time. For more information about the rover and a color image as it approached the crater, visit:

With New Funding, Quest for Alien Life Is Back On

Source:   Fox News Online Excerpt: If ET phones, we're listening again — thanks to you.  Astronomers at the cash-strapped SETI Institute are poised to resume the quest for extraterrestrial life, after raising more than $200,000 to restart a key array of telescopes….

NASA'S Juno Spacecraft Launches To Jupiter

Source:   NASA RELEASE: 11-257   Excerpt: NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT Friday to begin a five-year journey to Jupiter. Juno's detailed study of the largest planet in our solar system will help reveal Jupiter's origin and evolution. As the archetype of giant gas planets, Jupiter can help scientists understand the origin of our solar system and learn more about planetary systems around other stars. …"Jupiter is the Rosetta Stone of our solar system," said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "It is by far the oldest planet, contains more material than all the other planets, asteroids and comets combined and carries deep inside it the story of not only the solar system but of us…." For more information about Juno, visit:  and

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing On Mars

Source:    NASA RELEASE: 11-245   Excerpt: Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars. "NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration." Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring.  …"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. ...For more information about MRO, visit:

Year of the Solar System,August 2011: Windy Worlds

Source:   NASA Excerpt: …Many of the planets in our solar system have significant atmospheres, but none are breathable to us except our own Earth's.   …Venus' atmosphere has suspended droplets -- clouds -- of sulfuric acid. …Extreme Acid Rain! …The outer planets' atmospheres are worse-deadly combinations of gases with unimaginable wind and temperature extremes. ... Like Earth, they have jet streams that can direct the flow of clouds and circulate the atmosphere.