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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.

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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.

Supply ship meets space station after shaky start

March 4, 2013 7:58 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

A private Earth-to-orbit delivery service made good on its latest shipment to the International Space Station on Sunday, overcoming mechanical difficulty and delivering a ton of supplies with high-flying finesse. The Dragon's arrival couldn't have been sweeter—and not because of the fresh fruit on board for the six-man station crew. Coming a full day late, the 250-mile-high linkup above Ukraine culminated a two-day chase that got off to a shaky, almost dead-ending start.

Private SpaceX rocket launched to space station

March 1, 2013 10:57 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

A commercial cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Friday under a billion-dollar contract with NASA that could lead to astronaut rides in just a few years. Launch controllers applauded and gave high-fives to one another once the spacecraft safely reached orbit. The rocket successfully separated from the white Dragon capsule, which contains more than a ton of food, tools, computer hardware, and science experiments.

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.

Boeing reports 787 battery fix to Japan regulators

February 28, 2013 2:37 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Boeing CEO Ray Conner has met with Japan's transport minister and other officials in Tokyo to explain his company's proposal for resolving problems with the 787 Dreamliner's lithium-ion batteries that have kept the aircraft grounded for over a month.

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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.

SwRI ultraviolet instrument selected for ESA's JUICE mission

February 22, 2013 2:07 pm | News | Comments

An ultraviolet spectrograph designed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been selected for flight on the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE). NASA is funding development of the instrument, which will observe ultraviolet emissions from the Jovian system.

Curiosity takes a self-portrait

February 22, 2013 11:46 am | News | Comments

In a remarkable demonstration of the imaging abilities of the Mars Hand Lens Imager and Mastcam aboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity rover operators recently captured a panoramic self-portrait that includes a sweeping view of the Gale Crater region. Visibly in the photo is Curiosity's recent drilling activities.

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Japan identifies some Boeing 787 problems

February 21, 2013 11:19 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Japanese investigators have identified the causes of fuel leaks and other problems with Boeing's 787 but are still investigating the more serious battery problem that forced an emergency landing in January and the worldwide grounding of the jets. The Transport Ministry on Friday released the results of its investigation into problems that occurred with 787 Dreamliner jets in January.

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.

NASA rover prepares to analyze Mars rock dust

February 20, 2013 3:21 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Fresh off drilling into a rock for the first time, the Mars rover Curiosity is prepping for the next step—dissecting the pulverized rock to determine what it's made of. NASA said Wednesday it received confirmation that Curiosity successfully collected a tablespoon of powder from the drilling two weeks ago and was poised to transfer a pinch to its onboard laboratories. It's the first time a spacecraft has bored into a rock on Mars to retrieve a sample from the interior.

Researchers replicate ice crystal icing formation in aircraft engine

February 20, 2013 9:02 am | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers are demonstrating ice crystal icing formation in a full-scale engine test facility at NASA's Glenn Research Center. The tests duplicate the natural event of cloud formation, ingestion by an aircraft engine of ice crystals created by the cloud, and the reduction of engine power that can result. This phenomenon is being studied to gain an understanding of the physics behind ice crystal formation in a turbine engine.

Japan probe finds miswiring of Boeing 787 battery

February 20, 2013 6:49 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A probe into the overheating of a lithium ion battery in an All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 found it was improperly wired, Japan's Transport Ministry said Wednesday. The Transport Safety Board said in a report that the battery of the aircraft's auxiliary power unit was incorrectly connected to the main battery that overheated, although a protective valve would have prevented power from the APU from doing damage.

Water on the moon: It's been there all along

February 19, 2013 8:10 am | News | Comments

Traces of water have been detected within the crystalline structure of mineral samples from the lunar highland upper crust obtained during the Apollo missions, according to a University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues. The lunar highlands are thought to represent the original crust, crystallized from a magma ocean on a mostly molten early moon. The new findings indicate that the early moon was wet and that water there was not substantially lost during the moon's formation.

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.

Russia, Kazakhstan may manage space base together

February 15, 2013 8:39 am | by Peter Leonard, Associated Press | News | Comments

Russia may suspend its lease for some facilities at the Baikonur space complex in Kazakhstan, opening the way for its joint administration by the two countries, a senior Russian space official says. The launch pad for satellite-deploying Zenit rockets at the complex will be the first facility to be reviewed, Roscosmos deputy head Sergei Savelyev told the Ivzestia newspaper in an interview published Thursday.

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.

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