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Study provides evidence ancient asteroid caused global firestorm on Earth

March 28, 2013 7:48 am | News | Comments

A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush, and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80% of all Earth’s species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

Measuring the magnetism of antimatter

March 25, 2013 3:28 pm | News | Comments

In a breakthrough that could one day yield important clues about the nature of matter itself, a team of Harvard University scientists have made a major leap in measuring the magnetic charge of single particles of matter and antimatter. By precisely measuring the oscillations of each particle, the team was able to measure the magnetism of a proton more than 1,000 times more accurately than an antiproton had been measured before.

Universe ages 80M years; Big Bang gets clearer

March 21, 2013 9:09 am | by Lori Hinnant and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Big Bang theory says the visible portion of the universe was smaller than an atom when, in a split second, it exploded, cooled and expanded rapidly, much faster than the speed of light. The European Space Agency's Planck space probe has looked back at the afterglow of the Big Bang, and results released today have now added about 80 million years to the universe's age, putting it 13.81 billion years old.

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Voyager 1 has left the solar system

March 20, 2013 2:56 pm | News | Comments

After taking measurements of sudden, drastic changes in radiation levels, researchers have reported that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, now more than 11 billion miles from the Sun, left the heliosphere dominated by the Sun and has passed outside our solar system. Anomalous cosmic rays, which are cosmic rays trapped in the outer heliosphere, all but vanished, dropping to less than 1% of previous amounts.

Water signature in distant planet shows clues to its formation

March 14, 2013 12:10 pm | News | Comments

A team of international scientists, including a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory astrophysicist, has made the most detailed examination yet of the atmosphere of a Jupiter-size like planet beyond our solar system. The finding provides astrophysicists with additional insight into how planets are formed.

Massive new observatory makes “game-changing” galaxy discovery

March 14, 2013 9:21 am | News | Comments

Shining in the infrared with the energy of a trillion suns and producing a thousand new suns per year, newly discovered “starburst galaxies” represent what the most massive galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood looked like in their star-making youth. The discovery of these “abnormal” galaxies was recently made by the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile, which was formally dedicated this week.

Foundations of carbon-based life leave little room for error

March 13, 2013 4:49 pm | News | Comments

Life as we know it is based upon the elements of carbon and oxygen. Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, is looking at the conditions necessary to the formation of those two elements in the universe. They’ve found that when it comes to supporting life, the universe leaves very little margin for error.

NASA to reveal contents of drilled Martian rock

March 12, 2013 12:54 pm | by ALICIA CHANG - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Mars rover Curiosity drilled into its first rock a month ago. Now scientists will reveal what's inside. Gathering at NASA headquarters Tuesday, the rover team will detail the minerals and chemicals found in a pinch of ground-up rock. The results come seven months after Curiosity made a dramatic landing in an ancient crater near the equator.

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Lunar impacts created seas of molten rock

March 12, 2013 10:46 am | News | Comments

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter shows that molten rock may have been present on the Moon more recently and for longer periods than previously thought. Differentiation—a settling out of rock layers as liquid rock cools—would require thousands of years and a fluid rock sea at least six miles deep.

Astronomers find closest star system in a century

March 11, 2013 1:25 pm | News | Comments

A pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a recent paper published by a Penn State University astrophysicist. At 6.5 light years, the duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916, and is expected to attract considerable attention from planet hunters.

Curiosity sleeps as solar blast races toward Mars

March 7, 2013 9:47 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA’s Martian rover hunkered down Wednesday after the sun unleashed a blast that raced toward Mars. While Curiosity was designed to withstand punishing space weather, its handlers decided to power it down as a precaution since it suffered a recent computer problem. While the hardy rover slept, the Opportunity rover and two NASA spacecraft circling overhead carried on with normal activities.

Distance to nearest galaxy measured

March 6, 2013 3:31 pm | News | Comments

The Hubble constant is a fundamental quantity that measures the current rate at which our universe is expanding; it is critical for gauging the age and size of our universe. One of the largest uncertainties plaguing past measurements of the Hubble constant has involved the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud, our nearest neighboring galaxy. A team of astronomers have now managed to improve the measurement of the distance to our nearest neighbor galaxy and, in the process, refine the calculation that helps measure the expansion of the universe.

Evidence found that comets could have seeded life on Earth

March 6, 2013 2:08 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Chemists have recently shown that conditions in space are capable of creating complex dipeptides—linked pairs of amino acids—that are essential building blocks shared by all living things. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that these molecules were brought to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, catalyzing the formation of proteins (polypeptides), enzymes and even more complex molecules, such as sugars, that are necessary for life.

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Goddard scientists work at extreme edge of cosmic ice

March 5, 2013 9:49 am | by Elizabeth Zubritsky, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

In tiny test tubes, researchers at the Cosmic Ice Lab at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center can reproduce reactions in ice from almost any time and place in the history of the solar system, including some that might help explain the origin of life. But to do so, they must use ice that produced with intense cold and low pressure, conditions that rarely occur on Earth.

Fermi's motion produces a study in spirograph

February 28, 2013 12:33 pm | News | Comments

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing gamma rays from sources across the universe. A Fermi scientist has transformed LAT data of a famous pulsar into a mesmerizing movie that visually encapsulates the spacecraft's complex motion.

NuSTAR helps solve riddle of black hole spin

February 27, 2013 3:06 pm | News | Comments

An international team including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has definitively measured the spin rate of a supermassive black hole for the first time. The findings, made by the two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, solve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.

Capt. Kirk's Vulcan entry wins Pluto moons contest

February 26, 2013 9:28 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

An online vote to name Pluto's two newest, itty-bitty moons is over. And No. 1 is Vulcan, a name suggested by actor William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk in the original "Star Trek" TV series. The contest was conducted by SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., the research base for the primary moon hunter. The 10 astronomers who made the discoveries will take the voting results into account, as they come up with what they consider to be the two best names.

Future evidence for extraterrestrial life might come from dying stars

February 25, 2013 1:08 pm | News | Comments

Even dying stars could host planets with life—and if such life exists, we might be able to detect it within the next decade. This encouraging result comes from a new theoretical study of Earth-like planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Researchers found that we could detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf's planet much more easily than for an Earth-like planet orbiting a sun-like star.

Supercomputers journey to limits of spacetime

February 21, 2013 1:19 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have used the 3D simulation capabilities of the supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to predict the formation of accretion disks and relativistic jets that warp and bend more than previously thought, shaped both by the extreme gravity of the black hole and by powerful magnetic forces generated by its spin. Their highly detailed models of the black hole environment contribute new knowledge to the field.

Mercury may have harbored an ancient magma ocean

February 21, 2013 7:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

By analyzing Mercury's rocky surface, scientists have been able to partially reconstruct the planet's history over billions of years. Now, drawing upon the chemical composition of rock features on the planet's surface, scientists have proposed that Mercury may have harbored a large, roiling ocean of magma very early in its history, shortly after its formation about 4.5 billion years ago.

Astronomers find smallest known planet

February 20, 2013 4:45 pm | News | Comments

A team of scientists including two Yale University astronomers has discovered the smallest planet yet detected. In recently published research, the scientists reported finding a planetary system, Kepler-37, with three planets. Two of them are smaller than Earth, and one of these is smaller than Mercury, the smallest of the eight planets in Earth's solar system.

Russian scientists recover meteor fragments

February 18, 2013 10:32 am | News | Comments

Scientists have found more than 50 tiny fragments of a meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of dozens of atomic bombs. Most are less than a centimeter in diameter, but locals saw a big meteorite fall into the lake on Friday, leaving a 6-m-wide hole in the ice. A meteor up to 50-60 cm could eventually be found in the lake.

Particle decay “smoking gun” settles long debate on cosmic ray source

February 15, 2013 9:00 am | News | Comments

After sifting through four years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a research team has found the first unambiguous evidence of how cosmic rays are born. The new study confirms what scientists have long suspected: Cosmic rays—energetic particles that pelt Earth from all directions—are born in the violent aftermath of supernovas, exploding stars throughout the galaxy.

Nearly 1,000 injured by blasts as meteor falls in Russia

February 15, 2013 8:30 am | by Jim Heintz, Associated Press | News | Comments

A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured nearly 1,000 people and frightened countless more. The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the meteor over the Chelyabinsk region entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 km (18-32 miles) above ground.

Expert: Asteroid would explode like a thermonuclear weapon

February 13, 2013 8:36 am | by Jim Schenke, Purdue University | News | Comments

According to Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and physics and aerospace engineering at Purdue University, if the asteroid rapidly approaching us this week were to impact rather than nearly miss Earth, it would explode with a four-megaton force near what the military calls optimum height for damage. This asteroid would release only half the energy of the Siberian strike in 1917, but the 30,000-foot detonation height could cause significant property damage and loss of life.

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