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.
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.
Every six seconds, for millions of years, comets have been colliding with one another near a star in the constellation Cetus called 49 CETI, which is visible to the naked eye. Over the past three decades, astronomers have discovered hundreds of dusty disks around stars, but only two—49 CETI is one—have been found that also have large amounts of gas orbiting them. Until now, the answer was unclear as to why.
A set of instruments aboard the rover has ingested and analyzed samples of the atmosphere collected near the "Rocknest" site in Gale Crater where the Curiosity rover is stopped for research. With these initial sniffs of Martian atmosphere, preliminary results reveal little to no methane. Methane is of interest as a simple precursor chemical for life.
Earth's largest radio telescope is growing more powerful by the day on this remote plateau high above Chile's Atacama desert, where visitors often feel like they're planting the first human footprints on the red crust of Mars. So far, 43 of the 66 radio antennas have been set up and point skyward like 100-ton white mushrooms. When fully assembled, its vision will be up to ten times sharper than NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
In the event that a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, you'd better hope that it's blindingly white. A pale asteroid would reflect sunlight—and over time, this bouncing of photons off its surface could create enough of a force to push the asteroid off its course. How might one encourage such a deflection? The answer, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student: with a volley or two of space-launched paintballs.
When astronauts return to Earth, their altitude isn't the only thing that drops—their blood pressure does too. New research that solves this biological mystery suggests that a major cause of low blood pressure in astronauts—particularly during standing—is the compromised ability of arteries and veins to constrict normally and return blood back to the heart.
A new study based on data from European Space Agency’s Cluster mission shows that it is easier for the solar wind to penetrate Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, than had previously been thought. Scientists have, for the first time, directly observed the presence of certain waves that show Earth’s atmosphere behaving more like a sieve than a barrier.
A new image of the Milky Way created by the survey telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory incorporates more than ten times more stars—84 million—than previous studies. The new 9-billion pixel image is so large it would be 7 by 9 m if printed.
Optical scientists and engineers have recently been polishing an 8.4-m diameter mirror underneath the University of Arizona’s football stadium. Destined for the 25-m Giant Magellan Telescope, the giant slab of glass is, by a factor of ten, the most “difficult” mirror ever made, boasting a precision of 19 nm along its surface. The shape allows it to merge seamlessly with six other mirror to form the next generation of giant telescopes.
A Russian spacecraft surged into clear skies over the Central Asian steppe Tuesday, carrying a three-man crew on their way to the International Space Station. The engines of the Soyuz TMA-06M sent a powerful roar across the tinder-dry countryside of southern Kazakhstan as scheduled in the afternoon to deliver NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin to the orbiting laboratory.
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has received funding from NASA to build a miniature, portable solar observatory for developing and testing innovative instrumentation in suborbital flight. The SwRI Solar Instrument Pointing Platform will fly on new, commercial manned suborbital craft to enable spaceborne science and instrument development at a fraction of the cost of unmanned sounding rockets.
An astronaut departing this week for the International Space Station said Monday that the bulk of the scientific benefits from the orbiting laboratory will be seen over the coming decade, amid questions on whether the estimated $100 billion spent in last 12 years is worth the effort. Portland, Indiana-born Kevin Ford said the station is just now entering the phase where the bulk of science being conducted there will come to fruition.
Get ready for a fascinating eating experience in the center of our galaxy. The event involves a black hole that may devour much of an approaching cloud of dust and gas known as G2. A supercomputer simulation prepared by two Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory physicists suggests that some of G2 will survive, although its surviving mass will be torn apart, leaving it with a different shape and questionable fate.
Predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, the waves occur when massive celestial objects move and disrupt the fabric of space-time. But by the time these waves reach Earth, they are so weak that the planet expands and contracts less than an atom in response. No instrument or observatory has ever directly detected them. A pioneering technology capable of atomic-level precision is now being developed to detect what so far has remained imperceptible.
A U.S. astronaut departing this week for the International Space Station said Monday that the bulk of the scientific benefits from the orbiting laboratory will be seen over the coming decade, amid questions on whether the estimated $100 billion spent in last 12 years is worth the effort.
The ability to ingest solid samples and examine them using X-ray diffraction is a core capability for the Curiosity rover. This week that ability was tested using a small scoop of minerals that has been shaken to remove any residues carried from Earth. These particles have been placed inside CheMin, an analytical instrument about the size of a laptop computer inside a carrying case.
A medium-sized planet that has recently been located by astronomers at Geneva Observatory in Europe is just four light-years away, which is about the closest an extra-solar planet can get to Earth. It is the type of planet they've been searching for across the Milky Way galaxy and they found it circling Alpha Centauri B, a star right next door.
Extending 60 million light-years from one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, the filament of dark matter examined recently by the Hubble Space Telescope is part of the cosmic web that constitutes the large-scale structure of the Universe, and is a leftover of the very first moments after the Big Bang. If the high mass measured for the filament is representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe.
NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin has successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen rocket engine. As part of Blue's Reusable Booster System (RBS), the engines are designed eventually to launch the biconic-shaped space vehicle the company is developing.
Scientists have pieced together the sequence of events of the farthest touchdown a man-made spacecraft has ever made on an alien world. Their work in tracking the bounces, wobbles, and skids the probe made before coming to rest on Titan reveals new clues about the Saturn moon’s surface and helps plan future missions to moons and planets.
The United States may lose its leadership role in space to other countries unless it makes research and development funding and processes—especially in nanotechnology—a renewed and urgent priority, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Felix Baumgartner stood poised in the open hatch of a capsule suspended above Earth, wondering if he would make it back alive. Twenty four miles below him, millions of people were right there with him, watching on the Internet and marveling at the wonder of the moment. Nine minutes later he landed, becoming the world's first supersonic skydiver.
Two instruments on the Mars rover Curiosity were used to study the chemical makeup of a football-size rock called "Jake Matijevic". In addition to the ChemCam, which had examined a number of rocks, NASA for the first time used an X-ray spectrometer on the new rock, finding that its composition resembles some unusual rocks found in Earth’s interior.
Located by Yale University researchers, a new planet—called 55 Cancri e—has a radius twice Earth’s, and a mass eight times greater, making it a “super-Earth.” Forty light-years away, the placement and chemical signature suggest to planetary scientists that it is composed primarily of carbon, iron, silicon carbide, and silicates. Much of that carbon would in the form of graphite or diamond.