An international team led by scientists from the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy has succeeded in observing the heart of a distant quasar with unprecedented sharpness, or angular resolution. The observations, made by connecting radio telescopes on different continents, are a crucial step towards a dramatic scientific goal: to depict the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy.
To emulate the classical mechanics of physics found in space on full-scale replica spacecraft on Earth requires not only a hefty amount of air to 'float' the object, but a precision, frictionless, large surface area that will allow researchers to replicate the effects of inertia on man-made objects in space. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory recently got that capability with a one-of-a-kind 75,000 gravity offset table made from a single slab of concrete.
Two giant donuts of this plasma surround Earth, trapped within a region known as the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The belts lie close to Earth, sandwiched between satellites in geostationary orbit above and satellites in low Earth orbit are generally below the belts. A new NASA mission called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, due to launch in August 2012, will improve our understanding of what makes plasma move in and out of these electrified belts wrapped around our planet.
Through a labyrinth of hallways deep inside a 1950s-era building that has housed research that dates back to the origins of U.S. space travel, a group of scientists in white coats is stirring, mixing, measuring, brushing and, most important, tasting the end result of their cooking. Their mission: Build a menu for a planned journey to Mars in the 2030s.
A NASA-created application that brings some of the agency's robotic spacecraft to life in 3D now is available for free on the iPhone and iPad. Called Spacecraft 3D, the app uses animation to show how spacecraft can maneuver and manipulate their outside components.
Using computer simulations, researchers from the California Institute of Technology have determined that if the interior of a dying star is spinning rapidly just before it explodes in a magnificent supernova, two different types of signals emanating from that stellar core will oscillate together at the same frequency. This could be a piece of "smoking-gun evidence" that would lead to a better understanding of supernovae.
A research team using Hubble’s powerful vision to scour the Pluto system to uncover potential hazards to the New Horizons spacecraft has located yet another satellite to the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape, 6 to 15 miles across, and in a co-planar orbit with other moons in the system. Its discovery prompts discussion on how such a complex collection of moons occurred.
Technology that helps ground-based telescopes cut through the haze of Earth's atmosphere to get a clearer view of the heavens may also be used to collect better data at cutting-edge X-ray lasers like the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida has announced a new partnership with Cella Energy Inc. that could result in vehicles being powered by hydrogen. The company has formulated a way to store hydrogen safely in tiny pellets that still allow the fuel to be burned in an engine. Because of its rocket work, Kennedy has the infrastructure and experience necessary to handle hydrogen safely.
For the first time, researchers at Aalto University in Finland have located where the sounds associated with the northern lights are created. The auroral sounds that have been described in folktales and by wilderness wanderers are formed about 70 m above the ground level in the measured case.
Scientists have, for the first time, directly detected part of the invisible dark matter skeleton of the universe, where more than half of all matter is believed to reside. The discovery, led by a University of Michigan physics researcher, confirms a key prediction in the prevailing theory of how the universe's current web-like structure evolved.
A team of scientists has created an "MRI" of the sun's interior plasma motions, shedding light on how it transfers heat from its deep interior to its surface. The result upends our understanding of how heat is transported outwards by the sun and challenges existing explanations of the formation of sunspots and magnetic field generation.
As a powerful summertime storm, known as a derecho, moved from Illinois to the Mid-Atlantic states on June 29, expanding and bringing high levels of destruction with it, NASA and other satellites provided a look at various factors involved in the event, its progression and its aftermath.
Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn's moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell. Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid "tides," on the moon only 3 ft in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 30 ft in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material.
In a bold plan unveiled Thursday, a group of ex-NASA astronauts and scientists wants to launch its own space telescope to spot and track small and mid-sized space rocks capable of wiping out a city or continent. They contend that while astronomers routinely look for planet killers like the one that may have wiped out the dinosaurs, not enough attention is paid to smaller objects.
About 800 extra-solar planets have been discovered so far in our galaxy, but the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown. The only previous way to determine mass was to observe a transit, during which the planet’s host is eclipsed. Now, scientist Mercedes López-Morales has, for the first time, determined the mass of a non-transiting planet.
In 1969, an exploding fireball tore through the sky over Mexico, scattering thousands of pieces of meteorite across the state of Chihuahua. More than 40 years later, the Allende meteorite is still serving the scientific community as a rich source of information about the early stages of our solar system's evolution. Recently, scientists from the California Institute of Technology discovered a new mineral embedded in the space rock—one they believe to be among the oldest minerals formed in the solar system.
Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn's atmosphere. Recent images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed the source from which the jets derive their energy.
Scientists have mapped Shackleton crater with unprecedented detail, finding possible evidence for small amounts of ice on the crater's floor. Using a laser altimeter on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, the team essentially illuminated the crater's interior with laser light, measuring its albedo, or natural reflectance. The scientists found that the crater's floor is in fact brighter than that of other nearby craters—an observation consistent with the presence of ice.
The European Space Agency's Euclid mission to explore the hidden side of the universe—dark energy and dark matter—reached an important milestone that will see it head towards full construction.
The European Space Agency (ESA) assembled a top engineering team then challenged them to devise a way for rovers to navigate on alien planets. Six months later, a fully autonomous vehicle was charting its own course through Chile's Mars-like Atacama Desert.
In the dead of a Martian winter, clouds of snow blanket the Red Planet's poles—but unlike our water-based snow, the particles on Mars are frozen crystals of carbon dioxide. Most of the Martian atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide, and in the winter, the poles get so cold—cold enough to freeze alcohol—that the gas condenses, forming tiny particles of snow. Now researchers have calculated the size of snow particles in clouds at both Martian poles from data gathered by orbiting spacecraft.
Building a terrestrial planet requires raw materials that weren't available in the early history of the universe. The Big Bang filled space with hydrogen and helium. Chemical elements like silicon and oxygen had to be cooked up over time by stars. But how long did that take? How many of such heavy elements do you need to form planets?
Scientists had long observed the unusual properties of lunar topsoil but had not taken much notice of the microparticles and nanoparticles found in the soil and their source was unknown. When these tiny glass bubbles were examined, they differed greatly from what is usually found in similar structures on Earth.
During a powerful solar blast on March 7, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the highest-energy light ever associated with an eruption on the sun. The flare produced such an outpouring of gamma rays—a form of light with even greater energy than X-rays—that the sun briefly became the brightest object in the gamma-ray sky.