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Astronomers image lowest-mass exoplanet around a sun-like star

August 5, 2013 6:22 pm | by Francis Reddy, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Using infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, an international team of astronomers has imaged a giant planet around the bright star GJ 504. Several times the mass of Jupiter and similar in size, the new world, dubbed GJ 504b and still glowing from the heat of its formation, is the lowest-mass planet ever detected around a star like the sun using direct imaging techniques.

Van Allen probes pinpoint driver of speeding electrons

July 25, 2013 7:08 pm | News | Comments

After studying data from a pair of NASA probes roaming the harsh space environment within the Van Allen radiation belts, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory believe they have solved a lingering mystery about how electrons within Earth’s radiation belt can suddenly become energetic enough to kill orbiting satellites.

IRIS telescope offers first glimpse of sun’s mysterious atmosphere

July 25, 2013 6:37 pm | News | Comments

On July 17, 2013, the international team which supported and built NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, was rewarded for its hard work when the door of the telescope opened to view the mysterious lowest layers of the sun's atmosphere in unprecedented detail. Imaging in ultraviolet light and using a spectrograph, the orbiter has already revealed a multitude of previously unseen structures.

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Team sets record for cosmic x-ray sightings

July 24, 2013 8:54 am | News | Comments

Three years of research, led by the Univ. of Leicester in the U.K., has produced a new catalog of x-ray source observations call 3XMM. With the help of the university’s supercomputer, the scientists were able to log 531,261 detections of x-ray emitting objects and 372,728 unique x-ray sources. The catalog will provide a useful dataset for generating large, well-defined samples of celestial objects.

Ancient snowfall likely carved Martian valleys

July 24, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Brown Univ. have shown that some Martian valleys appear to have been caused by runoff from orographic precipitation—moisture carried part of the way up a mountain and deposited on the slopes. The new findings are the most detailed evidence yet of an orographic effect on ancient Mars.

Curiosity rover confirms Martian air is mostly CO2

July 22, 2013 9:20 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The measurements by the most advanced spacecraft to land on the red planet closely match what the twin Viking landers detected in the late 1970s and what scientists have gleaned from Martian meteorites. Mars' atmosphere is overwhelmingly dominated by carbon dioxide, unlike Earth's air, which is a mix of nitrogen and oxygen. But Curiosity’s measurements did yield one small surprise.

Physicists unveil results helping explain universe

July 22, 2013 9:17 am | by John Heilprin, Associated Press | News | Comments

After a quarter-century of searching, scientists have nailed down how one particularly rare subatomic particle decays into something else. CERN on Friday it had measured the decay time of a particle known as a Bs (B sub s) meson into two other fundamental particles called muons, which are much heavier than but similar to electrons.

Earth’s gold came from colliding dead stars

July 17, 2013 3:49 pm | News | Comments

Unlike elements like carbon or iron, gold cannot be created within a star. Instead, it must be born in a more cataclysmic event—like one that occurred last month known as a short gamma-ray burst (GRB). Observations of this GRB provide evidence that it resulted from the collision of two neutron stars, and that its unique glow potentially signifies the creation of large amounts of heavy elements, including gold.

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Newly discovered flux in the Earth may solve missing-mantle mystery

July 17, 2013 11:52 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If the Earth arose from the collision of asteroids, as is widely thought, its composition should resemble that of meteoroids, which break off of asteroids. But the Earth’s mantle is missing an amount of lead found in meteorites whose composition has been analyzed following impact with the Earth. New research points to large reservoirs of material deep in the mantle that may help solve the mystery and explain Earth’s origins.

Spacesuit water leak ends spacewalk; astronaut OK

July 17, 2013 9:56 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

In one of the most harrowing spacewalks in decades, an astronaut had to rush back into the International Space Station on Tuesday after a mysterious water leak inside his helmet robbed him of the ability to speak or hear at times and could have caused him to choke or even drown. Italian Luca Parmitano was reported to be fine after the dangerous episode, which might have been caused by an unprecedented leak in the cooling system of his suit.

The heart of space weather observed in action

July 16, 2013 9:22 am | by Karen C. Fox, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Two NASA spacecraft have provided the most comprehensive movie ever of a mysterious process at the heart of all explosions on the sun: magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection happens when magnetic field lines come together, break apart and then exchange partners, snapping into new positions and releasing a jolt of magnetic energy. This process lies at the heart of giant explosions on the sun.

Astronomers find blue planet outside solar system

July 15, 2013 8:15 am | by James Brooks, Associated Press | News | Comments

Astronomers have for the first time managed to determine the color of a planet outside our solar system, a blue gas giant 63 light-years away. Measuring the planet's color, which is probably created by a turbulent atmosphere of silicate particles, is a significant first. It has never been done before with a planet outside our solar system.

Study: Space-time is not the same for everyone

July 9, 2013 11:54 am | News | Comments

Soon after the Big Bang, the universe was so dense and so hot that elementary particles felt the existence of gravity strongly. For decades, physicists have attempted to model the laws of quantum gravity to describe this phase of the universe’s evolution. A new mathematical model developed by physicists in Poland surprisingly shows that different elementary particles “experience” the existence of different space-times.

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Cluster spacecraft detects elusive space wind

July 2, 2013 10:16 am | News | Comments

A new study has provided the first conclusive proof of the existence of a space wind first proposed theoretically over 20 years ago. By analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster spacecraft, researchers have the plasmaspheric wind, so-called because it contributes to the loss of material from the plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region extending above the Earth’s atmosphere.

Supermassive black hole observations reveal “dusty” surprise

July 1, 2013 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Gathering the most detailed observations ever into the surroundings of the supermassive black hole at the center of an active galaxy, astronomers using the Very Large Telescope Interferometer in Chile made a surprising discovery: Dust is being propelled into space in a ring-shaped disk, possibly by intense radiation released by the black hole and its hot surroundings.

Metamorphosis of moon’s water ice explained

June 20, 2013 9:21 am | News | Comments

Using data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system’s coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the moon. They have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.

Minute variations in brightness reveal whole new class of stars

June 12, 2013 5:41 pm | News | Comments

Astronomers using the Swiss 1.2-m Euler telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile have found a new type of variable star. The discovery was based on the detection of very tiny changes in brightness of stars in a cluster. The observations revealed previously unknown properties of these stars that defy current theories and raise questions about the origin of the variations.

Simple theory may explain mysterious dark matter

June 10, 2013 3:54 pm | News | Comments

Most of the matter in the universe may be made out of particles that possess an unusual, donut-shaped electromagnetic field called an anapole. This proposal, which endows dark matter particles with a rare form of electromagnetism, has been strengthened by a detailed analysis performed by a pair of theoretical physicists at Vanderbilt University.

Pebbles, sand on Mars best evidence that a river ran through it

June 6, 2013 7:29 am | News | Comments

Pebbles and sand scattered near an ancient Martian river network may present the most convincing evidence yet that the frigid deserts of the Red Planet were once a habitable environment traversed by flowing water. Scientists with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission reported on May 30, 2013, the discovery of sand grains and small stones that bear the telltale roundness of river stones and are too heavy to have been moved by wind.

Life on Earth comes from out of this world

June 5, 2013 10:33 am | News | Comments

Early Earth was not very hospitable when it came to jump starting life. In fact, new research shows that life on Earth may have come from out of this world. A team of scientists found that icy comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced life building organic compounds, including the building blocks of proteins and nucleobases pairs of DNA and RNA.

Galaxy in its death throes may hold clues to birth of dwarf systems

June 5, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

A bright dwarf galaxy relatively close to Earth’s Milky Way and trailing fireballs is the first clear example of a galaxy in the act of dying, scientists argue in new research. The work gives a known galaxy new status and offers the potential for better understanding of the mysterious origin of dwarf elliptical galaxies, a subspecies of the universe’s most common type of galaxy.

Super-dense star is first ever found suddenly slowing its spin

May 30, 2013 5:37 pm | News | Comments

One of the densest objects in the universe, a neutron star about 10,000 light years from Earth, has been discovered suddenly putting the brakes on its spinning speed. The event is a mystery that holds important clues for understanding how matter reacts when it is squeezed more tightly than the density of an atomic nucleus—a state that no laboratory on Earth has achieved.

Mathematical model links space-time theories

May 30, 2013 10:03 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Southampton have taken a significant step in a project to unravel the secrets of the structure of our universe. A recently published paper by the team makes connections between negatively curved space-time and flat space-time.

NASA head views progress on asteroid lasso mission

May 23, 2013 10:59 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Surrounded by engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, NASA chief Charles Bolden on Thursday inspected a prototype spacecraft engine that could power an audacious mission to lasso an asteroid and tow it closer to Earth for astronauts to explore. Once relegated to science fiction, ion propulsion is preferred for deep space cruising because it's more fuel-efficient.

Researchers explain magnetic field misbehavior in solar flares

May 23, 2013 8:39 am | News | Comments

When a solar flare filled with charged particles erupts from the sun, its magnetic fields sometimes break a widely accepted rule of physics. The flux-freezing theorem dictates that the magnetic lines of force should flow away in lock-step with the particles, whole and unbroken. Instead, the lines sometimes break apart and quickly reconnect in a way that has mystified astrophysicists.

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