A recent arrival to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft will have quite a different approach than that taken by recent probes dispatched to the Red Planet. Instead of rolling about on the surface looking for clues to the planet's hidden heritage, MAVEN will orbit high above the surface so it can sample the upper atmosphere for signs of what changed over the eons and why.
Astronomers have solved a 40-year-old mystery on the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy. It appears to originate from two dwarf galaxies, but astronomers did not know if one or both galaxies were the source. Hubble Space Telescope’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph was used to examine the gas and find the answer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.