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Closest Sun-like star may have planets

December 19, 2012 10:40 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may have five planets. The surprise finding was the result of combining more than 6,000 observations from three different instruments and applying intensive modeling to the data. New techniques allowed the scientists to find signals half the size previously thought possible.

Team confirms “gusty winds” in space turbulence

December 17, 2012 3:53 pm | by Gary Galluzzo, University of Iowa | News | Comments

In much the same way that a plane is jolted back and forth by invisible gusts of wind, turbulence is common in space, where chaotic motions affect the movements of ionized gas, or plasma. A research team led by the University of Iowa reports to have directly measured this turbulence for the first time in the laboratory.

Innovation on Wheels

December 14, 2012 11:35 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

The Mars Science Laboratory is more than the biggest rolling science laboratory ever put on another planet. It's a systems engineering—and product development—triumph.

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Twin NASA spacecraft prepare to crash into moon

December 13, 2012 4:38 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

On Friday, engineers are turning off the science instruments in preparation for Monday's big finale. After nearly a year circling the moon, NASA's Ebb and Flow will meet their demise when they crash—on purpose—into the lunar surface. Just don't expect to see celestial fireworks as it will happen on the dark side of the moon.

With Hubble’s help, former “oldest galaxy” regains title

December 12, 2012 4:57 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A galaxy that was once thought to be the oldest known has regained its lost title after a record-long series of exposures by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that it is in fact 13.3 billion years old, 100 million years older than previously thought. The study, which looked back to when the universe was just 4% of its present age, found six other similarly ancient galaxies.

Air Force sends mystery mini-shuttle back to space

December 12, 2012 9:21 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The military's small, top-secret version of the space shuttle rocketed into orbit Tuesday for a repeat mystery mission, two years after making the first flight of its kind. The X-37B is about one-quarter the size of the original NASA space shuttle and can land automatically. The purpose of this mission remains a secret: Launch commentary ended 17 minutes into the flight.

Black branes and blackfolds: Revealing new study on black holes

December 11, 2012 11:25 am | News | Comments

Black holes are surrounded by many mysteries, but now researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have come up with new groundbreaking theories that can explain several of their properties. The research shows that black holes have properties that resemble the dynamics of both solids and liquids.

Eugene Cernan, “last man on moon”, landed 40 years ago

December 10, 2012 4:43 pm | by Emil Venere | News | Comments

Eugene A. Cernan, a Purdue University alumnus and the most recent person to walk on the moon, stepped out of the lunar lander 40 years ago Tuesday. Commander of Apollo 17, Cernan made three moonwalks, explored the barren landscape in a lunar rover, collected about 250 pounds of soil samples and moon rocks, and took scientific measurements.

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Apollo's lunar dust data being restored

December 7, 2012 11:43 am | by Elizabeth Zubritsky, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Forty years after the last Apollo spacecraft launched, the science from those missions continues to shape our view of the moon. In one of the latest developments, readings from the Apollo 14 and 15 dust detectors have been restored by scientists. Digital data from these two experiments were not archived before, and it's thought that roughly the last year-and-a-half of the data have never been studied.

X-ray vision can reveal the moment of birth of violent supernovae

December 7, 2012 11:31 am | News | Comments

A team of astronomers led by the University of Leicester in the U.K.has uncovered new evidence that suggests that X-ray detectors in space could be the first to witness new supernovae that signal the death of massive stars. The possibility stems from the finding that gamma-ray bursts from the largest supernovae are accompanied unique thermal X-ray signatures that can be observed by detectors now in place.

To the moon? Firm hopes to sell $1.5 billion trips

December 7, 2012 8:49 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A new venture called Golden Spike Co. was announced on Thursday that hopes to offer trips for two to the moon for a cool $1.5 billion. Some space experts are skeptical of the firm’s financial ability to get to the moon, but the team of former NASA executives believe they can combine the technical might of Apollo with the marketing of Apple.

When the first stars blinked on

December 6, 2012 7:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As far back in time as astronomers have been able to see, the universe has had some trace of heavy elements, such as carbon and oxygen. These elements, originally churned from the explosion of massive stars, formed the building blocks for planetary bodies, and eventually for life on Earth. Now, researchers have peered far back in time, to the era of the first stars and galaxies, and found matter with no discernible trace of heavy elements.

Cosmic radio waves mimic chirping of “alien birds”

December 5, 2012 10:20 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

NASA's Van Allen Probes have been exploring the hostile radiation belts surrounding Earth for just three months. But already measurements in unprecedented detail have been taken. Scientists said Tuesday these waves can provide an energy boost to radiation belt particles, somewhat like ocean waves can propel a surfer on Earth. What's more, these so-called chorus waves operate in the same frequency as human hearing so they can be heard.

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Mars redux: NASA to launch Curiosity-like rover

December 5, 2012 9:53 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The space agency on Tuesday announced plans to launch another mega-rover to the red planet in 2020 that will be modeled after the wildly popular Curiosity. To keep costs down, engineers will borrow Curiosity's blueprints, recycle spare parts where possible and use proven technology including the novel landing gear that delivered the car-size rover inside an ancient crater in August.

Mars rover Curiosity: No surprise in first soil test

December 3, 2012 2:55 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Results are in from the first test of Martian soil by the rover Curiosity: So far, there is no definitive evidence that the red planet has the chemical ingredients to support life. Scientists said Monday a scoop of sandy soil analyzed by the rover's chemistry lab contained water and a mix of chemicals, but not the complex carbon-based compounds considered necessary for microbial life.

Scientists discover water ice on Mercury

November 29, 2012 4:21 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet in our solar system, revolves around the sun in a mere 88 days, making a tight orbit that keeps the planet incredibly toasty. Surface temperatures on Mercury can reach a blistering 800 F—hot enough to liquefy lead. Now researchers have discovered evidence that the scorching planet may harbor pockets of water ice, along with organic material, in several permanently shadowed craters near Mercury's north pole.

Paradigm shift offers a new look at the beginning of time

November 29, 2012 1:50 pm | News | Comments

A new paradigm for understanding the earliest eras in the history of the universe has been developed by scientists at Penn State University. Using techniques from an area of modern physics called loop quantum cosmology, developed at Penn State, the scientists now have extended analyses that include quantum physics farther back in time than ever before.

3D printer makes parts from moon rock

November 28, 2012 4:45 pm | News | Comments

Imagine landing on the moon or Mars, putting rock through a 3D printer, and making something useful—like a needed wrench or replacement part. It may sound like science fiction, but it's really possible. A group of researchers from Washington State University have demonstrated how to print parts using materials from the moon.

Record-setting X-ray jet discovered

November 28, 2012 1:07 pm | News | Comments

A jet of X-rays from a supermassive black hole 12.4 billion light years from Earth has been detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This is the most distant X-ray jet ever observed and gives astronomers a glimpse into the explosive activity associated with the growth of supermassive black holes in the early universe.

Discovery of “super Jupiter” sheds new light on planet birth

November 20, 2012 10:52 am | News | Comments

Capturing an image of extrasolar planets is difficult, and they exist for very few of the almost 850 exoplanets which are known. A team of researchers has recently obtained an image of a “super Jupiter” about 13 times the mass of Jupiter, circling a star 2.5 times the mass of our own sun. The similarity of this planet to ordinary, lower-mass planets makes it an important test case for current models of how planets are born.

Hubble helps find candidate for most distant object in the Universe yet observed

November 16, 2012 10:06 am | News | Comments

By combining the power of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and one of nature’s zoom lenses, astronomers have found what is probably the most distant galaxy yet seen in the universe. The object offers a peek back into a time when the Universe was only 3% of its present age of 13.7 billion years.

Born-again star foreshadows fate of solar system

November 15, 2012 1:35 pm | News | Comments

Astronomers have found evidence for a dying sun-like star coming briefly back to life after casting its gassy shells out into space, mimicking the possible fate our own solar system faces in a few billion years. This new picture of the planetary nebula Abell 30, located 5,500 light-years from Earth, is a composite of visible images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and X-ray data from ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra space telescopes.

Meteorites reveal warm water existed on Mars

November 15, 2012 11:11 am | News | Comments

New research by the University of Leicester and The Open University into evidence of water on Mars, sufficiently warm enough to support life, has been recently published. The study determined that water temperatures on the Red Planet ranged from 50 C to 150 C. Microbes on Earth can live in similar waters.

Curiosity’s laboratory instrument suite gets first “taste” of soil

November 14, 2012 2:49 pm | News | Comments

A pinch of fine dust and sand from a patch of windblown material called “Rocknest” became the first sample of soil examined by the Mars Science Laboratory’s suite of laboratory instruments, called Sample Analysis at Mars. The sample was delivered on Nov. 9, allowing the mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, and laser spectrometry instruments to study the sample. Researchers are poring through the data now.

BOSS uses quasars to probe dark energy in early universe

November 13, 2012 7:51 am | News | Comments

By collecting tens of thousands of quasar spectra, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) has measured the large-scale structure of the early universe for the first time. Like backlights in the fog, the quasars illuminate clouds of hydrogen gas along the line of sight. No other technique can reach back over 10 billion years to probe structure at a time when the expansion of the universe was still decelerating and dark energy was yet to turn on.

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