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Animal study suggests some astronauts are at risk for cognitive impairment

April 24, 2014 11:57 am | News | Comments

Johns Hopkins Univ. scientists report that rats exposed to high-energy particles, simulating conditions astronauts would face on a long-term deep space mission, show lapses in attention and slower reaction times, even when the radiation exposure is in extremely low dose ranges.

“Upside-down planet” reveals new method for studying binary star systems

April 22, 2014 8:12 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

What looked at first like an upside-down planet has instead revealed a new method for studying binary star systems, discovered by a Univ. of Washington (UW) student astronomer. Working with UW astronomer Eric Agol, doctoral student Ethan Kruse has confirmed the first “self-lensing” binary star system: one in which the mass of the closer star can be measured by how powerfully it magnifies light from its more distant companion star.

Unlocking a mystery of human disease in space

April 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Huntington's disease is a grim diagnosis. A hereditary disorder with debilitating physical and cognitive symptoms, the disease usually robs adult patients of their ability to walk, balance and speak. More than 15 years ago, researchers revealed the disorder's likely cause—an abnormal version of the protein huntingtin; however, the mutant protein's mechanism is poorly understood, and the disease remains untreatable.

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Easter morning delivery for space station

April 20, 2014 8:20 am | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via a Dragon, versus a bunny. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. Astronauts used a robot arm to capture the capsule 260 miles above Egypt.

NASA's moon-orbiting robot crashes down as planned

April 18, 2014 10:28 am | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is no more. Flight controllers confirmed Friday that the orbiting spacecraft crashed into the back side of the moon as planned, just three days after surviving a full lunar eclipse, something it was never designed to do. Researchers believe LADEE likely vaporized when it hit because of its extreme orbiting speed of 3,600 mph, possibly smacking into a mountain or side of a crater.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

April 18, 2014 10:22 am | by Mark Nickel, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists exploring large fields of impact glass in Argentina suggest that what happened on Earth might well have happened on Mars millions of years ago. Martian impact glass could hold traces of organic compounds.

Researchers predict signs of black holes swallowing stars

April 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Aaron Dubrow, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

Somewhere out in the cosmos an ordinary galaxy spins, seemingly at slumber. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! A flash of light explodes from the galaxy's center. A star orbiting too close to the event horizon of the galaxy's central supermassive black hole has been torn apart by the force of gravity, heating up its gas and sending out a beacon to the far reaches of the universe.

Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

April 17, 2014 2:56 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, a newly found planet is the most Earth-like planet yet detected. Astronomers say the distant, rocky world is similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life. The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

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SpaceX will try again Friday to launch station cargo

April 16, 2014 12:22 pm | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

SpaceX is shooting for another launch attempt Friday to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. NASA confirmed the launch date Wednesday, two days after a last-minute rocket leak delayed the mission. Stormy weather, however, is forecast for Friday. Saturday is the backup launch date.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by a team of astronomers. In fact, sometimes it helps because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them, are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

Rocket leak delays space station delivery launch

April 14, 2014 4:21 pm | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A space station cargo ship will remain Earthbound for a while longer. With just over an hour remaining, the Space X company called off Monday's planned launch because of a rocket leak. A new launch date was not set; the next opportunity would be Friday. Officials said a helium leak in the first-stage of the unmanned Falcon rocket forced the postponement. The launch already had been delayed a full month for various reasons.

NASA OKs space station visit despite dead computer

April 13, 2014 3:20 pm | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA is pressing ahead with Monday's planned launch of a supply ship despite a critical computer outage at the International Space Station, promising the situation is safe. Mission managers decided Sunday to proceed with the countdown for the SpaceX capsule, Dragon, already a month late in delivering more than 2 tons of cargo.

Study to measure gravity’s effects on plant cells in space

April 11, 2014 7:53 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A Purdue Univ. experiment that will test how plant cells sense and respond to different levels of gravity is scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday (April 14). Understanding how gravity impacts plants is key for determining the conditions necessary to grow plants in space.

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Researchers make most precise measurement yet of the expanding universe

April 10, 2014 1:15 pm | by Barbara Kennedy, Penn State | News | Comments

Astronomers at Penn State and other institutions participating in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have used 140,000 distant quasars to measure the expansion rate of the universe when it was only one-quarter of its present age. This measurement is the best yet of the expansion rate at any epoch in the last 13 billion years during the history of the universe.

Gravity measurements confirm subsurface ocean on Enceladus

April 7, 2014 9:18 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft sent pictures back to Earth depicting an icy Saturnian moon spewing water vapor and ice from fractures, known as "tiger stripes," in its frozen surface. It was big news that tiny Enceladus was such an active place. Since then, scientists have hypothesized that a large reservoir of water lies beneath that icy surface, possibly fueling the plumes.

How Earth got its plated shell

April 7, 2014 9:03 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

New Yale Univ.-led research suggests how and when Earth came to develop one of its most distinct features—rigid tectonic plates—and why Venus, Earth’s twin-like neighbor, never has. Earth has a unique network of shifting plates embedded in its cold and rocky outermost layer, the lithosphere. The motion of these plates drives many Earth processes, while also stabilizing the planet’s climate and enabling life.

Fermi data tantalize with new clues to dark matter

April 4, 2014 9:05 am | by Fermi | News | Comments

A new study of gamma-ray light from the center of our galaxy makes the strongest case to date that some of this emission may arise from dark matter, an unknown substance making up most of the material universe.                               

ESA launching satellite for new monitoring system

April 3, 2014 1:14 pm | News | Comments

The European Space Agency is launching the first of six satellites for a new system designed to better monitor climate change, environmental disasters and catastrophes like floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.           

Astronomers challenge current cosmological model

April 3, 2014 9:30 am | by Liverpool John Moores University | News | Comments

Astronomers are challenging the view that the currently preferred cosmological model of the Universe is correct. They are comparing recent measurements of the cosmic background radiation and galaxy clusters in two independent studies.            

NASA cuts Russian ties, except on ISS

April 3, 2014 8:36 am | by Associated Press, Alicia Chang | News | Comments

After insisting that space relations wouldn't be altered by earthly politics, NASA announced it was severing ties with Russia except for the International Space Station. NASA employees can't travel to Russia or host visitors until further notice. They're also barred from emailing or holding teleconferences with their Russian counterparts because of Russia's actions in Ukraine, according to a memo sent to workers.

The ringed asteroid

March 28, 2014 11:51 am | News | Comments

Benefited from a rare occultation on June 3, 2013, researchers observed the asteroid Chariklo when it passed by a star that concealed it for several seconds. Although the astronomer planned only to measure its size, they were surprised to discover this “centaur”, which has an unstable orbit that passes through the outer planets, has two thin rings made of ice. It is only the fifth Solar System object to exhibit such a system.

2018 mission: Mars rover prototype unveiled in U.K.

March 28, 2014 8:34 am | by Gregory Katz, Associated Press | News | Comments

The European Mars rover unveiled Thursday at a "Mars Yard" testing ground in Britain is designed to drill beneath the surface of the Red Planet searching for signs of life. It's been dubbed “Bryan” by its creators, and the plan is to send it to Mars in 2018 as part of the European Space Agency's ExoMars program, an ambitious plan that begins in 2016 with the launch of a Mars orbiter and demonstrator landing module.

Newfound pink world lurks at solar system fringes

March 27, 2014 9:30 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Until now, the lone known resident in the region of the solar system beyond Pluto was an oddball dwarf planet spotted in 2003 named Sedna. For years, astronomers hunted in vain for other Sednas in the little-studied fringes of the solar system. Now, they’ve found one: a pink frozen world 7.5 billion miles from the sun. And astronomer think they will find others.

NIST gives astronomers better ruler in search for extrasolar planets

March 26, 2014 2:14 pm | News | Comments

As a planet orbits, its gravity makes its parent star wobble a tiny bit, resulting in slight color changes in the star's light due to the Doppler effect. A high-quality reference spectrum allows scientists to make a comparison to find planets. Now, NIST has made extensive new measurements of thorium, a heavy element often used in emission lamps that help provide that fixed ruler. The work has more than doubled the number of spectral lines.

Dramatic new portrait helps define Milky Way’s shape, contents

March 21, 2014 8:22 am | by Terry Devitt, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Using more than two million images collected by NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of Wisconsin scientists has stitched together a dramatic 360-degree portrait of the Milky Way, providing new details of our galaxy’s structure and contents.

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