Using the powerful eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets. The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.
NASA said Monday that the Hubble Space Telescope is the best bet for figuring out whether Comet ISON disintegrated during its brush with the sun last week. A pair of solar observatories saw something emerge from around the sun following ISON's close approach on Thanksgiving Day. But scientists don't yet know whether the spot of light was merely the comet's shattered remains or what's left of its icy nucleus.
On Monday, China launched its first rover mission to the moon, sending a robotic craft named Jade Rabbit to trundle across the lunar landscape, examine its geology and beam images back to Earth. If the Chang'e 3 successfully soft-lands on the moon, China will become the third country to do so, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Research has shed new light on the properties of neutron stars, super dense stars that form when a large star explodes and collapses into itself. Writing in Nature, the team describes a newly discovered process that happens within the star's crust, located just below the surface. Until now, scientists thought that nuclear reactions within the crust contributed to the heating of the star's surface.
The presence of molecular hydrogen, in addition to carbon dioxide and water, could have created a greenhouse effect on Mars 3.8 billion years ago that pushed temperatures high enough to allow for liquid water. This is according to a team of researchers who believe this is the only way for giant canyons like Nanedi Valles could have formed.
Einstein@Home creates a global supercomputer by connecting more than 350,000 participants that contribute to a variety of scientific projects, particularly astronomy, by conducting distributed analysis routines with their home computers. This resource has already found several pulsars hidden in radio telescope data. Now, “citizen scientists” have helped researchers discover four new gamma-ray pulsars.
Comet ISON will be only about 1 million miles away from the sun's super-hot surface during its close encounter on Thanksgiving. On Monday, it looked like it was about to die even before it got there. On Tuesday, it appeared healthy again. Will it meet a fiery death (or survive) when it whips around the sun on Thursday? Scientists haven’t seen a comet behave this way before.
Where do you go to look at the stars? Away from city lights, certainly. But if you're serious about peering far out into space, to the observable edges of our universe, at submillimeter wavelengths, you have to do a little better than that. You have to go farther and higher, up to where the atmosphere is thin. And if you want to look at the stars for more than a few nights a year, you also need some place that is very, very dry.
In April, a bright flash of light burst from near the constellation Leo. Originating billions of light years away, this explosion of light, called a gamma ray burst, has now been confirmed as the brightest gamma ray burst ever observed. Astronomers around the world were able to view the blast in unprecedented detail and observe several aspects of the event. The data could lead to a rewrite of standard theories on how gamma ray bursts work.
For months, all eyes in the sky have pointed at the comet that's zooming toward a blisteringly close encounter with the sun. The moment of truth comes Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. The sun-grazing Comet ISON, now thought to be less than a mile wide, will either fry and shatter, victim of the sun's incredible power, or endure and quite possibly put on one fabulous celestial show. Talk about an astronomical cliffhanger.
Orbiting telescopes got the fireworks show of a lifetime last spring when they spotted what is known as a gamma ray burst in a far-off galaxy. It’s not an unusual occurrence, but this one set records. Had it been closer, Earth would have been toast. But because this blast was 3.7 billion light-years away, mankind was spared.
As NASA prepares to launch a new Martian probe, a scientist at Florida State Univ.’s MagLab has uncovered what may be the first recognized example of ancient Martian crust. Professor Munir Humayun’s groundbreaking discoveries are based on an analysis of a 4.4 billion-year-old Martian meteorite that was unearthed by Bedouin tribesmen in the Sahara desert.
An instrument on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has learned more than ever before about the high-energy hazards at and around the moon. These dangers are serious but manageable, and human exploration missions will rely on these measurements to know how much radiation to expect in deep space and how best to shield against it.
For nearly as long as astronomers have been able to observe asteroids, a question has gone unanswered: Why do the surfaces of most asteroids appear redder than meteorites—the remnants of asteroids that have crashed to Earth? Scientists have now found that Mars, not Earth, shakes up some near-Earth asteroids.
NASA's newest Martian explorer, Maven, is on its launch pad in Florida, ready to soar. Bearing eight science instruments, the spacecraft will take 10 months to reach Mars, entering into orbit around the red planet in September 2014. Scientists hope Maven will help them learn why Mars went from being warm and wet during its first billion years, to the cold and dry place it is today.
The first solids to form in the solar system contain unusual isotopic signatures that show a nearby supernova injected material within ~100,000 years of their formation. That supernova, caused from the cataclysmic death of a star, could have even triggered the birth of the sun.
A planned mission to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos will likely be a twofer, according to a study by Brown Univ. geologists. The Russian mission launching in 2020, would return samples from Phobos that contain bits and pieces of Mars itself. The study calculates how much Martian material is on the surface of Phobos and how deep it is likely to go.
Researchers find that huge craters on the near side of the moon may overstate the intensity of asteroid impacts about 4.1 billion years ago.
A Russian rocket soared into the cosmos Thursday carrying the Sochi Olympic torch and three astronauts to the International Space Station ahead of the first-ever spacewalk for the symbol of peace. The unlit torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi is to be taken on a spacewalk Saturday, then return to Earth on Monday (late Sunday EST) with three departing space station astronauts.
A rare, recently discovered microbe that survives on very little to eat has been found in two places on Earth: spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and South America. Some other microbes have been discovered in a spacecraft clean room and found nowhere else, but none previously had been found in two different clean rooms and nowhere else.
Over billions of years, small black holes can slowly grow into the supermassive variety by taking on mass from their surroundings and by merging with other black holes. But this slow process can't explain the problem of supermassive black holes existing in the early universe. New findings may help to test a model that solves this problem.
Leslie Rosenberg and his colleagues are about to go hunting. Their quarry: A theorized-but-never-seen elementary particle called an axion. The search will be conducted with a recently retooled, extremely sensitive detector that is currently in a testing and shakeout phase at the University of Washington’s Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics.
Space is vast, but it may not be so lonely after all: A study finds the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and are not too hot or cold for life. For the first time, NASA scientists have calculated, not estimated, what percent of stars that are just like our sun have planets similar to Earth: 22%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 8 percentage points.
With a launch planned for Mangalyaan, which means "Mars craft" in Hindi, India will this week attempt to become only the fourth country or group of countries to reach the Red Planet, after the Soviet Union, U.S. and Europe. India is aiming to join the world's deep-space pioneers with a journey to Mars that it hopes will showcase its technological ability to explore the solar system while seeking solutions for everyday problems on Earth.
Doom may be averted for the Smith Cloud, a gigantic streamer of hydrogen gas that is on a collision course with the Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers have discovered a magnetic field deep in the cloud’s interior, which may protect it during its meteoric plunge into the disk of our galaxy. This discovery could help explain how so-called high velocity clouds remain mostly intact during their mergers with the disks of galaxies.