Showing posts from 2013

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon

Source:  NASA  Press Release 13-358 Excerpt:  NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn's north pole. ...Better views of the hexagon are available now because the sun began to illuminate its interior in late 2012. ... these images [are] in false color, a rendering method that made it easier to distinguish differences among the types of particles suspended in the atmosphere -- relatively small particles that make up haze -- inside and outside the hexagon. See images at:

Maven teacher resources

Source:   MAVEN EPO, NASA MAVEN resources for elementary, middle, and high school. Elementary: Middle and High School:

MAVEN’s Quest – Where Did Mars Water Go?

Source:   Ken Kremer, Universe Today Excerpt: KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – MAVEN [Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution], NASA’s next spacecraft launching to the Red Planet in barely three days time on Nov. 18 seeks to unlock one of the greatest Martian mysteries; Where did all the water go? Mars lost its atmosphere starting somewhere around 3.5 to 3.7 Billion years ago. As the atmosphere thinned and the pressure decreased, the water evaporated and Mars evolved into the cold arid world we know today. ...“Where did the water go and where did the carbon dioxide go from the early atmosphere? What were the mechanisms?” asks Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s Principal Investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder. ...“The major questions about the history of Mars center on the history of its climate and atmosphere and how that’s influenced the surface, geology and the possibility for life,” says Jakosky. ...MAVEN is equipped with ...nine science instruments ...[6] built by the UC Berke

Resource Guides from Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Source: Various Authors, Astronomical Society of the Pacific                Latest Guide is "Exoplanets Resource Guide for Astro 101 Instructors".  Others: "Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic’s Bibliography" "Black Holes: An Introductory Resource List" "Cosmology Resource Guide for Astro 101 Instructors" "Dark Night Skies: Dealing with Light Pollution" (pdf) "Galileo: The Man and His Science" "Multicultural Astronomy Resource Guide" "Science Fiction with Good Astronomy & Physics: A Topical Index" "SETI Messages Bibilography" "The Moon: A Resource Guide" "Women in Astronomy: An Introductory Bibliography

NASA's Hubble Sees Asteroid Spout Six Comet-like Tails

Source:   NASA  Press Release 13-321 Excerpt: Hubble researchers say they were "literally dumbfounded" when they took a close-up look at an object that lives in the asteroid belt but superficially looks like a comet. It has no less than six dust tails that seem to be forming sequentially. The entire structure rotates like a bicycle wheel with spokes on one side.

Resource Guide for Teaching about Extrasolar Planets

Source:   Andrew Fraknoi , Astronomical Society of the Pacific  A new annotated guide to written, web, and audio-visual resources for teaching or learning about planets orbiting other stars is now available.  Materials include video and audio files of lectures and interviews with leading scientists in the field, phone and tablet apps, a citizen-science web site, popular-level books and articles, and more. Published by the NASA Astrophysics Education and Outreach Forum and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Impact Theory Gets Whacked

Source:  Daniel Clery, Science    Excerpt:  Where did the moon come from? For 3 decades, planetary scientists have agreed that ... a body the size of Mars struck Earth a glancing blow that reduced both to rubble. The cloud of debris reformed itself into the modern Earth and moon ..."giant impact" theory neatly explained why the rocks Apollo astronauts brought back from the moon closely resembled rocks on Earth—or so it seemed at first. ...recent computer models show, such a collision wouldn't have scrambled the two bodies together enough to explain the similarity. Meeting last month in London to discuss the problem, scientists agreed that the origin of the moon must have been messier and more complicated than anyone had assumed.... [Hear podcast interview at ]

NASA Spacecraft Embarks on Historic Journey into Interstellar Space

Source:   Jia-Rui C. Cook ,  NASA Press Rrelease 13-280  Excerpt: NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our Sun. ...Traveling at the speed of light, a signal from Voyager 1 takes about 17 hours to travel to Earth. ...Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars.  ...A coronal mass ejection, or a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields, that erupted from the sun in March 2012 provided scientists the data they needed ...eventually arrived at Voyager 1's location 13 months later.... On April 9 [2013], Voyager 1's plasma wave instrument detected the movement. ...the spacecraft was bathed in plasma more than 40 times denser than what they had encountered in the outer layer of the heliosphere. Density of this sort is to be expected in interstellar space

NASA-Funded Scientists Detect Water on Moon's Surface that Hints at Water Below

Source:  NASA  Press Release 13-267                 Excerpt: Using data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists remotely detected ... water that originates from deep within the moon's interior, on the surface of the moon. ..."NASA missions like Lunar Prospector and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and instruments like M3 have gathered crucial data that fundamentally changed our understanding of whether water exists on the surface of the moon," said S. Pete Worden, center director at NASA's Ames Research Center....

NASA's Grail Mission Solves Mystery of Moon's Surface Gravity

Source:   NASA RELEASE 13-164 Excerpt: ...NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission has uncovered the origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon's gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft. Because of GRAIL's findings, spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision in the future GRAIL's twin spacecraft ... pinpointed the locations of large, dense regions called mass concentrations, or mascons, which are characterized by strong gravitational pull. ...The origin of lunar mascons has been a mystery in planetary science since their discovery in 1968 by a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. Researchers generally agree mascons resulted from ancient impacts billions of years ago. It was not clear until now how much of the unseen excess mass resulted from lava filling the crater or iron-rich mantle upwelling to the crust.

NASA Probe Observes Meteors Colliding With Saturn's Rings

Source:   NASA RELEASE 13-120 Excerpt: ...NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids breaking into streams of rubble and crashing into Saturn's rings. These observations make Saturn's rings the only location besides Earth, the moon, and Jupiter where scientists and amateur astronomers have been able to observe impacts as they occur.  ... Saturn's rings act as very effective detectors of many kinds of surrounding phenomena, including the interior structure of the planet and the orbits of its moons.  ...  http://

Kepler's Tally of Planets (Interactive)

Source:  Jonathan Corum, New York Times                  This is an interactive showing more than 100 Kepler planet discoveries with a known size and orbit, including five planets orbiting Kepler 62, announced on April 18.

Kepler's Smallest Habitable Zone Planets

Source:  NASA Kepler Mission Excerpt:  ...We're a step closer to knowing if our galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth or if we are a rarity. The three habitable zone super-Earth-size planets are in two systems containing a total of seven newly discovered planets...Star Kepler-62 is not Sun-like: just 2/3 the size of the Sun, cooler, older, and only 1/5 as bright. Planet Kepler-62f, 40% larger than Earth, the smallest known habitable zone exoplanet, orbits every 267 days. Planet Kepler-62e, about 60% larger than Earth, orbits every 122 days in the the habitable zone's inner edge.

NASA-Funded Asteroid Tracking Sensor Passes Key Test

Source:   NASA RELEASE 13-109 Excerpt:...An infrared sensor that could improve NASA's future detecting and tracking of asteroids and comets has passed a critical design test. The test assessed performance of the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) in an environment that mimicked the temperatures and pressures of deep space. NEOCam is the cornerstone instrument for a proposed new space-based asteroid-hunting telescope. ...The sensor could be a vital component to inform plans for the agency's recently announced initiative to develop the first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid closer to Earth for future exploration by astronauts. ...NASA's NEOWISE is an enhancement of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, mission that launched in December 2009. WISE scanned the entire celestial sky in infrared light twice. It captured more than 2.7 million images of objects in space, ranging from faraway galaxies to asteroids and comets close to Earth.

NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

Source:   NASA    Press release 13-073 Excerpt: An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Researchers Identify Water Rich Meteorite Linked to Mars Crust

Source:  NASA RELEASE 13-011 Excerpt: …NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins. This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). ...a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago .... "The age of NWA 7034 is important because it is significantly older than most other Martian meteorites," said Mitch Schulte, program scientist for the Mars Exploration Program …Most Martian meteorites are divided into three rock types, …Shergotty, Nakhla, and Chassigny. These "SNC" meteorites currently number about 110. …Although NWA 7034 has similarities to the SNC meteorites, …"The texture of the NWA meteorite is not like any of the SNC meteorites," said co-author Andrew Steele… http://www.nasa.g