Showing posts from November, 2011

NASA Launches Most Capable and Robust Rover to Explore Mars

Source:    NASA RELEASE : 11-397 NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST. For more information about the mission, visit:

NASA Captures New Images of Large Asteroid Passing Earth

Source:    NASA RELEASE : 11-375 NASA's  Deep Space Network  antenna in Goldstone, Calif. has captured new radar images of Asteroid 2005 YU55 passing close to Earth. The asteroid safely will fly past our planet slightly closer than the moon's orbit on Nov. 8. The last time a space rock this large came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this size will be in 2028. The new radar images are online at: For more information about asteroids and near-Earth objects, visit:  More information about asteroid radar research is available online at:

NASA Study Of Clay Minerals Suggests Watery Martian Underground.

Source:    NASA RELEASE : 11-369 Excerpt: ...A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface. ...A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data … suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. …Discovery of clay minerals on Mars in 2005 indicated the planet once hosted warm, wet conditions. …This new study supports an alternative hypothesis that persistent warm water was confined to the subsurface and many erosional features were carved during brief periods when liquid water was stable at the surface.

Watery Enceladus

Source:   John Spencer, Physics Today Excerpt: [page 38] ....Has life developed in the warm, wet conditions that we suspect exist within Enceladus? A positive answer would have profound implications for the ubiquity of life throughout the cosmos and its ability to develop independently of solar or stellar energy input. Even if the answer is negative, an understanding of how close Enceladus has come to being able to support life would tell us much about the potential development of habitable environments elsewhere in the solar system and beyond.

The curious aftermath of Neptune’s discovery.

Source:   Deborah Kent, Physics Today Excerpt:  ... sensational news of Neptune’s observation ... at the Berlin Observatory just after midnight on 23 September 1846. The discovery was seen as a remarkable accomplishment of celestial mechanics. ...the planet had been mathematically predicted before it was observed. … In the summer of 1845, French scientist Urbain Jean Joseph LeVerrier also started to study the irregularities of the orbit of Uranus. … LeVerrier sent his request to Johann Galle at the Berlin Observatory. ...after less than an hour of observing, Galle reported “there is a star of the 8th magnitude in such and such a position, whereupon I immediately exclaimed: that star is not on the map!”

The formation and differentiation of Earth

Source:   Bernard Wood, Physics Today  pg. 40 Excerpt: The solar system began to form 4568 million years ago, from a disk of dust and gas around the young Sun. Within a few million years, Jupiter and Saturn had formed and the terrestrial planets had reached significant fractions of their present size. The processes by which the planets formed are of particular interest at a time when the search for Earth-like planets around other stars occupies considerable attention. Earth-like exoplanets somewhat larger than our own are already detectable, ... The mechanisms of initial growth toward large bodies are poorly understood … some combination of mechanical sticking and eventually gravitational perturbation must have formed many 10-km-sized objects in the first 10^4–10^5 years. ...Although some planetesimals would have been destroyed in collisions, others would have continued to accrete….