The frigid McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica are famously dry, yet the sandy soils there are frequently dotted with moist patches in the spring despite a lack of snowmelt and no possibility of rain. A new study has found that that the salty soils in the region actually suck moisture out of the atmosphere, raising the possibility that such a process could take place on Mars or on other planets.
A mysterious phenomenon detected by space probes has finally been explained, thanks to a massive computer simulation that was able to precisely align with details of spacecraft observations. The finding could not only solve an astrophysical puzzle, but might also lead to a better ability to predict high-energy electron streams in space that could damage satellites.
The fastest wind ever discovered blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole has been observed by a team of astronomers. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory they clocked the record-breaking super wind at about 20 million mph, or about 3% of the speed of light.
In new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), researchers have found what they believe is evidence of a rift valley. Small, narrow trenches called graben have been discovered in high-resolution imagery that seems to show that despite the fact the Moon is shrinking, forces are still acting that can pull it apart as well.
Coronal mass ejections, also known as solar flares, erupt from the sun’s surface as the result of breaks in the star’s magnetic field. Even though the process of field lines breaking and merging with other lines—called magnetic reconnection—has such significant effects, a detailed picture of what precisely is going on has, until now, long eluded scientists.
According to the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, the world’s most powerful telescope—the Square Kilometre Array—will produce on exabyte of data every day when it begins operation. Though still awaiting construction, scientists involved in SKA are already planning on how to deal with such a tremendous influx of information.
In recent research using high-powered lasers, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-led team has discovered that just as graphite can transform into diamond under high pressure, liquid magmas may similarly undergo major transformations at the pressures and temperatures that exist deep inside Earth-like planets. The findings provide a potential blueprint for planet formation.
A team led by University of California, Los Angeles research astronomer Michael Rich has used a unique telescope to discover a previously unknown companion to the nearby galaxy NGC 4449, which is some 12.5 million light years from Earth. The newly discovered dwarf galaxy had escaped even the prying eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope.
A camera aboard one of NASA's twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. Thousands of fourth- to eighth-grade students will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego. Photos of the target areas will be sent back by the satellites for students to study.
A glimpse beyond our solar system reveals the neighborhood just outside the sun's influence is different and stranger than expected, scientists reported Tuesday. One oddity is the amount of oxygen. According to observations, researchers say there are more oxygen atoms floating freely in the solar system than in the immediate interstellar space, or the vast region between stars.
An outstanding mystery about cold interstellar gas clouds is that hydrogen cyanide and its far more energetic isomer, hydrogen isocyanide, are present in almost equal amounts. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Germany have figured why this is so by conducting experiments in an ion storage ring.
Coinciding with a peak in solar activity, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Space Weather Laboratory will soon simultaneously produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts by calculating multiple possible parameters, improving our ability to predict the impact of solar storms. Currently, just one set of conditions is used to anticipate solar-storm activity.
University of California, Los Angeles researchers have explained the puzzling disappearing act of energetic electrons in Earth's outer radiation belt, using data collected from a fleet of orbiting spacecraft. In a paper, the team shows that the missing electrons are swept away from the planet by a tide of solar wind particles during periods of heightened solar activity.
Why is the universe magnetized? It's a question scientists have been asking for decades. Now, an international team of researchers including a University of Michigan professor have demonstrated that it could have happened spontaneously, as the prevailing theory suggests.
Rice University physicists have gone to extremes to prove that Isaac Newton's classical laws of motion can apply in the atomic world: They've built an accurate model of part of the solar system inside a single atom of potassium.
Most astrophysicists stare at the night sky and look at stars. But Lance Simms from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory looks at the blackness of night and knows there something else there. Simms has been working for a year on a NASA project called the Cosmic X-Ray Background Nanosatellite. The breadbox-sized satellite, set for an August launch, will gather X-ray data from the cosmos and beam it back to Earth.
For more than a decade, the three Sloan Digital Sky Surveys have surveyed well over a quarter of the night sky and produced the biggest 3D color map of the universe ever. Now, the sheer volume of light information it contains has allowed researchers to make the most accurate calculation yet of how matter clumps together.
Three studies released Wednesday, in the journal Nature and at the American Astronomical Society's conference in Austin, Texas, demonstrate an extrasolar real estate boom. One of those studies shows that in our Milky Way, most stars have planets. And since there are a lot of stars in our galaxy—about 100 billion—that means a lot of planets.
A team of astronomers at the University of Pittsburgh announced the most accurate determination yet of the color of the aptly named Milky Way Galaxy. The team says the galaxy is a very pure white, almost mirroring a fresh spring snowfall.
Two teams at Fermilab and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have independently made the largest direct measurements of the invisible scaffolding of the universe, using the gravitational lensing effect known as "cosmic shear" to build maps of the distribution of dark matter.
Floating to an altitude of 130,000 feet, NASA’s new X-Calibur instrument will make two new types of X-ray wavelength measurement: polarization and direction. Researchers are hoping this and another instrument, a detector of lower energy X-rays, will provide much-needed information about black holes.
Using powerful magnets to levitate fruit flies can provide vital clues to how biological organisms are affected by weightless conditions in space, researchers at The University of Nottingham say. The team of scientists has shown that simulating weightlessness in fruit flies here on earth with the use of magnets causes the flies to walk more quickly.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been a fervent photographer, snapping more than 10,000 pictures of the asteroid Vesta since it slipped into orbit around the giant space rock last summer. The views were taken from a distance away—until now.
Identifying the composition of the Earth's core is key to understanding how our planet formed and the current behavior of its interior. While it has been known for many years that iron is the main element in the core, many questions have remained about just how iron behaves under the conditions found deep in the Earth. Until now.
The “supernova of a generation” that had researchers and hobbyists alike looking skyward in September was a binary star. But researchers have recently learned that the explosion itself was not caused by a massive red giant. Rather, it was a star that resembles what our own sun will become one day.