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Scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars

August 10, 2012 7:19 am | News | Comments

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a University of California, Los Angeles scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars.

First public data release from biggest spectroscopic sky survey

August 8, 2012 5:26 am | by Paul Preuss | News | Comments

In what is just the first of three data releases from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), spectra has been published from 535,995 newly observed galaxies, 102,100 quasars, and 116,474 stars. The ambitious survey is designed to measure the large-scale clustering of matter in the universe.

First public data release from BOSS

August 8, 2012 4:49 am | News | Comments

Now available to the public: spectroscopic data from over 500,000 galaxies up to 7 billion light years away, over 100,000 quasars up to 11.5 billion light years away, and many thousands of other astronomical objects in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey's Data Release 9. This is the first data from BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists, the largest spectroscopic survey ever for measuring evolution of large-scale galactic structure.

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Shredded star heralds a new era for testing relativity

August 6, 2012 6:09 am | News | Comments

Last year, astronomers discovered a quiescent black hole in a distant galaxy that erupted after shredding and consuming a passing star. Now researchers have identified a distinctive X-ray signal observed in the days following the outburst that comes from matter on the verge of falling into the black hole. Called a quasi-periodic oscillation, or QPO, this tell-tale signal helps scientist test principles of general relativity.

New accelerator helps scientists understand workings of the universe

August 6, 2012 6:00 am | by Carol C. Bradley and William G. Gilroy | News | Comments

Housed inside a new 40-foot-tall tower, a new 5 MV accelerator at the Universitty of Notre Dame is helping to recreate stellar nuclear processes in the laboratory to complement the observational studies of new earth- and space-based telescopes that trace past and present nucleosynthesis processes in the cosmos.

Vaporizing the Earth to help find Earth-like planets

August 3, 2012 7:50 am | by Diana Lutz | News | Comments

In science fiction novels, evil overlords and hostile aliens often threaten to vaporize the Earth. Now, scientists are not content just to talk about vaporizing the Earth. They want to understand what it would be like if it happened. Why? Because such knowledge helps them determine the atmospheric composition of exoplanets.

The culprit that polluted the solar system

August 3, 2012 5:32 am | News | Comments

For decades it has been thought that a shock wave from a supernova explosion triggered the formation of our Solar System. Material from the exploding star generated cloud of dust and gas, which collapsed to form the Sun and its surrounding planets. New work from the Carnegie Institution provides the first fully 3D models for how this process could have happened.

NASA to athletic Mars rover: 'Stick the landing'

July 31, 2012 8:24 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's most ambitious and expensive Mars mission yet begins with the red planet arrival late Sunday of the smartest interplanetary rover ever built. But before Curiosity can start rolling it must survive a complicated touchdown so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror"—the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph to a complete stop.

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Astronomers find pulsar with a tremendous hiccup

July 24, 2012 8:21 am | News | Comments

Using data analysis methods, an international collaboration of researchers dug an unusual gamma-ray pulsar out of imagery from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The pulsar they found is radio-quiet, very young, and, during the observation period, experienced the strongest rotation glitch ever observed for a gamma-ray-only pulsar. The shift was so strong, the pulsar seemed to disappear.

Tiny “Firefly” satellite may solve mystery about lightning

July 20, 2012 10:46 am | by Cheryl Dybas, NSF | News | Comments

CubeSats are fully-instrumented satellites the size of a half-gallon milk carton. Several are in orbit around the Earth, including Firefly, a CubeSat is designed to help solve the mystery of a phenomenon that's linked with lightning: terrestrial gamma rays, or TGFs. By using its small but powerful instrumentation,Its designers hope that Firefly will provide the first direct evidence for a relationship between lightning and TGFs.

Colorful science sheds light on solar heating

July 19, 2012 2:04 pm | News | Comments

A new visualization technique created by Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center produces images of the sun reminiscent of Van Gogh, with broad strokes of bright color splashed across a yellow background. But it's science, not art. The color of each pixel contains a wealth of information about the 12-hour history of cooling and heating at that particular spot on the sun.

Motions below Sun’s surface are unexpectedly slow

July 19, 2012 8:56 am | News | Comments

Using observations of solar oscillations from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory to glimpse the interior of the Sun, researchers have found that rather than moving at the speed of a jet plane (as previously understood) the plasma flows at a walking pace, just a few meters per second. The finding refutes predictions made by previous numerical models.

Magnification of two million reveals heart of distant quasar

July 18, 2012 8:38 am | News | Comments

An international team led by scientists from the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy has succeeded in observing the heart of a distant quasar with unprecedented sharpness, or angular resolution. The observations, made by connecting radio telescopes on different continents, are a crucial step towards a dramatic scientific goal: to depict the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy.

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Peering into the heart of a supernova

July 12, 2012 6:32 am | News | Comments

Using computer simulations, researchers from the California Institute of Technology have determined that if the interior of a dying star is spinning rapidly just before it explodes in a magnificent supernova, two different types of signals emanating from that stellar core will oscillate together at the same frequency. This could be a piece of "smoking-gun evidence" that would lead to a better understanding of supernovae.

Hubble discovers fifth moon orbiting Pluto

July 12, 2012 4:05 am | News | Comments

A research team using Hubble’s powerful vision to scour the Pluto system to uncover potential hazards to the New Horizons spacecraft has located yet another satellite to the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape, 6 to 15 miles across, and in a co-planar orbit with other moons in the system. Its discovery prompts discussion on how such a complex collection of moons occurred.

Dark matter scaffolding of universe detected for first time

July 9, 2012 11:31 am | News | Comments

Scientists have, for the first time, directly detected part of the invisible dark matter skeleton of the universe, where more than half of all matter is believed to reside. The discovery, led by a University of Michigan physics researcher, confirms a key prediction in the prevailing theory of how the universe's current web-like structure evolved.

Researchers create 'MRI' of the sun's interior motions

July 9, 2012 5:51 am | News | Comments

A team of scientists has created an "MRI" of the sun's interior plasma motions, shedding light on how it transfers heat from its deep interior to its surface. The result upends our understanding of how heat is transported outwards by the sun and challenges existing explanations of the formation of sunspots and magnetic field generation.

Asteroid hunters want to launch private telescope

June 28, 2012 7:27 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

In a bold plan unveiled Thursday, a group of ex-NASA astronauts and scientists wants to launch its own space telescope to spot and track small and mid-sized space rocks capable of wiping out a city or continent. They contend that while astronomers routinely look for planet killers like the one that may have wiped out the dinosaurs, not enough attention is paid to smaller objects.

New planet-weighing technique found

June 27, 2012 10:53 am | News | Comments

About 800 extra-solar planets have been discovered so far in our galaxy, but the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown. The only previous way to determine mass was to observe a transit, during which the planet’s host is eclipsed. Now, scientist Mercedes López-Morales has, for the first time, determined the mass of a non-transiting planet.

Cassini shows why jet streams cross-cut Saturn

June 25, 2012 1:38 pm | News | Comments

Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn's atmosphere. Recent images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed the source from which the jets derive their energy.

Black holes as particle detectors

June 19, 2012 6:26 am | News | Comments

Finding new particles usually requires high energies—that is why huge accelerators have been built, which can accelerate particles to almost the speed of light. But there are other creative ways of finding new particles: At the Vienna University of Technology, scientists presented a method to prove the existence of hypothetical "axions."

Alien Earths could form earlier than expected

June 14, 2012 7:15 am | News | Comments

Building a terrestrial planet requires raw materials that weren't available in the early history of the universe. The Big Bang filled space with hydrogen and helium. Chemical elements like silicon and oxygen had to be cooked up over time by stars. But how long did that take? How many of such heavy elements do you need to form planets?

NuSTAR to hunt for extreme objects in space

June 13, 2012 10:29 am | by Anne M. Stark | News | Comments

Scheduled for launch this week from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (or NuSTAR), is the first focusing, high energy X-ray satellite to be launched from NASA. Hundreds of times more sensitive than any previous hard X-ray instrument, it will allow researchers to take a census of black holes.

NASA's Fermi detects the highest-energy light from a solar flare

June 11, 2012 10:26 pm | News | Comments

During a powerful solar blast on March 7, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the highest-energy light ever associated with an eruption on the sun. The flare produced such an outpouring of gamma rays—a form of light with even greater energy than X-rays—that the sun briefly became the brightest object in the gamma-ray sky.

Cosmic smashup predicted, but Earth will survive

June 1, 2012 8:20 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Astronomers in a NASA news conference Thursday said that years of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope provide grisly details of a long-anticipated galactic smashup, one that will involve the dead-on crash of a neighboring galaxy with our entire Milky Way.

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