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Astronomers find blue planet outside solar system

July 15, 2013 8:15 am | by James Brooks, Associated Press | News | Comments

Astronomers have for the first time managed to determine the color of a planet outside our solar system, a blue gas giant 63 light-years away. Measuring the planet's color, which is probably created by a turbulent atmosphere of silicate particles, is a significant first. It has never been done before with a planet outside our solar system.

Next Mars rover should gather rocks, soil

July 9, 2013 7:44 pm | by ALICIA CHANG - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Explore an intriguing spot on Mars. Hunt for ancient signs of Martian life. Bag a bunch of rocks and leave them on the surface for a future mission to possibly return. That's what the next rover to Mars should strive for, a NASA-appointed team said Tuesday. The scientists released a 154-page report outlining ambitious science goals for a red planet mission that NASA wants to launch in 2020.

NASA Mars rover Curiosity begins delayed road trip

July 8, 2013 4:48 pm | by ALICIA CHANG - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Martian mountain, here Curiosity comes. The NASA rover has officially kicked off its long-delayed road trip to Mount Sharp, a trek that involves rolling over rocky landscapes. Since July Fourth, the six-wheel rover has driven 190 feet to the southwest, leaving behind the spot where it spent the past seven months performing science experiments.

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New NASA satellite to begin sun-watching mission

June 28, 2013 4:30 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

From its perch in low-Earth orbit, NASA's newest satellite will soon get a close-up look at a little-explored region of the sun that's thought to drive space weather that can affect Earth. The Iris satellite was boosted into orbit about 400 miles above Earth by a Pegasus rocket Thursday evening after a sunset launch. Engineers will test the satellite first before turning on its telescope to stare at the sun.

The science of impact: "Shields to maximum, Mr. Scott"

June 27, 2013 2:43 pm | by Aaron Dubrow, TACC | News | Comments

According to NASA, there are more than 21,000 pieces of “space junk roughly the size of a baseball in orbit, and about 500,000 pieces that are golf ball-sized. These pieces can be dangerous, which is why researchers at Texas Advanced Computing Center’s supercomputers are simulating orbital debris impacts on spacecraft and fragment impacts on body armor to help NASA design better shielding.

Metamorphosis of moon’s water ice explained

June 20, 2013 9:21 am | News | Comments

Using data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system’s coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the moon. They have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.

Scientists discuss new photo-taking satellite

June 19, 2013 12:52 am | by Dirk Lammers, Associated Press | News | Comments

Nearly 120 scientists and engineers from around the world are meeting in South Dakota this week to discuss operational and technical issues with collecting images from the Landsat 8 satellite. In February, NASA launched the satellite, which takes images of every inch of the Earth’s surface to see what happens over time, and recently handed over operational control of it to the EROS Center.

Moon radiation findings may reduce health risks to astronauts

June 11, 2013 3:55 pm | News | Comments

Space scientists from the Univ. of New Hampshire and the Southwest Research Institute report that data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show lighter materials like plastics provide effective shielding against the radiation hazards faced by astronauts during extended space travel. The finding could help reduce health risks to humans on future missions into deep space.

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“One giant leap” toward a NASA Armstrong center?

June 11, 2013 7:25 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Neil Armstrong's name is attached to a lunar crater, an asteroid, more than a dozen schools and a museum, but not a single NASA facility is christened in honor of the man whose "giant leap" made him the first to walk on the moon. All that could soon change on the fringes of the Mojave Desert, where leaders at the space agency's top flight research center are mulling a name change.

On board Mars Express, in orbit around the Red Planet

June 3, 2013 3:42 pm | News | Comments

Just about 10 years ago, NASA’s Mars Express launched, setting the stage for a remarkable advance in knowledge of the Red Planet in the past decade. Using high-resolution camera technologies, researchers could for the first time see Mars spatially. Over time, a 3-D image of Mars was built. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center, who have been instrumental in this effort, have taken a look back the impact of this orbiter.

Experts: Rounded stones on Mars evidence of flowing water

May 30, 2013 5:59 pm | News | Comments

Observations by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have revealed areas with gravel and pebbles that are characteristic of a former riverbed.  Researchers, including members of the Niels Bohr Institute, have analyzed their shapes and sizes and the rounded pebbles clearly show that there has been flowing water on Mars.

Super-dense star is first ever found suddenly slowing its spin

May 30, 2013 5:37 pm | News | Comments

One of the densest objects in the universe, a neutron star about 10,000 light years from Earth, has been discovered suddenly putting the brakes on its spinning speed. The event is a mystery that holds important clues for understanding how matter reacts when it is squeezed more tightly than the density of an atomic nucleus—a state that no laboratory on Earth has achieved.

Researchers use weightlessness of space to design better materials

May 30, 2013 11:10 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Northeastern University are among the many scientists helping NASA use the weightlessness of space to design stronger materials here on Earth. Researchers say by observing the solidification process in a microgravity environment—in this case, the International Space Station—they were able to study how this morphological instability develops in three dimensions to shape the structure of materials on a micron scale.

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NASA head views progress on asteroid lasso mission

May 23, 2013 10:59 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Surrounded by engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, NASA chief Charles Bolden on Thursday inspected a prototype spacecraft engine that could power an audacious mission to lasso an asteroid and tow it closer to Earth for astronauts to explore. Once relegated to science fiction, ion propulsion is preferred for deep space cruising because it's more fuel-efficient.

New pump resolves big space station leak

May 17, 2013 8:20 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

An impromptu spacewalk over the weekend seems to have fixed a big ammonia leak at the International Space Station, NASA said Thursday. The "gusher" erupted a week ago, prompting the hastiest repair job ever by residents of the orbiting lab. Spacewalking astronauts replaced a suspect ammonia pump on Saturday, just two days after the trouble arose.

Hubble finds dead stars “polluted” with planet debris

May 10, 2013 9:24 am | News | Comments

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found the building blocks for Earth-sized planets in an unlikely place—the atmospheres of a pair of burned-out stars called white dwarfs. Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph observed silicon and only low levels of carbon in the white dwarfs' atmospheres. Silicon is a major ingredient of the rocky material that constitutes Earth and other solid planets in our solar system.

Telling time on Saturn

May 3, 2013 12:30 pm | News | Comments

A University of Iowa undergraduate student has discovered that a process occurring in Saturn’s magnetosphere is linked to the planet's seasons and changes with them, a finding that helps clarify the length of a Saturn day and could alter our understanding of the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The day NASA’s Fermi dodged a 1.5-ton bullet

May 1, 2013 12:08 pm | by Francis Reddy, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

On March 29, 2012, the science team for NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope learned that a defunct Cold-War spy satellite would pass too close for comfort on April 4. The two spacecraft were expected to occupy the same point in space within 30 milliseconds of each other. The story of how it sidestepped a potential disaster offers a glimpse at an underappreciated aspect of managing a space mission.

Russia charging NASA $70 million per rocket seat

May 1, 2013 9:24 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

Based on numbers from the latest contract between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, the United States is paying $424 million more to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is is blaming Congress for the extra expense, saying reduced funding for commercial spaceflight development has forced the agency to sign the new contract.

NASA mission will study what disrupts radio waves

April 26, 2013 8:46 am | by Karen C. Fox, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

A NASA-funded sounding rocket mission will launch from an atoll in the Pacific in the next few weeks to help scientists better understand and predict the electrical storms in Earth's upper atmosphere These storms can interfere with satellite communication and global positioning signals.

NASA sees distant planets that seem ideal for life

April 19, 2013 12:33 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The planet-hunting Kepler telescope has discovered two planets that seem like ideal places for some sort of life to flourish. According to scientists working with the NASA telescope, they are just the right size and in just the right place near their star. The discoveries, published online Thursday, mark a milestone in the search for planets where life could exist.

Nuclear fusion-powered rocket could send humans to Mars

April 5, 2013 7:32 am | News | Comments

Human travel to Mars has long been the unachievable dangling carrot for space programs. Now, astronauts could be a step closer to our nearest planetary neighbor through a unique manipulation of nuclear fusion, the same energy that powers the sun and stars. University of Washington researchers and scientists at a Redmond-based space-propulsion company are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs, and health risks.

Mars missions scaled back in April because of sun

April 4, 2013 12:39 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

It's the Martian version of spring break: Curiosity and Opportunity, along with their spacecraft friends circling overhead, will take it easy this month because of the sun's interference. For much of April, the sun blocks the line of sight between Earth and Mars. This celestial alignment—called a Mars solar conjunction—makes it difficult for engineers to send instructions or hear from the flotilla in orbit and on the surface.

NASA team investigates complex chemistry at Titan

April 3, 2013 6:06 pm | News | Comments

A laboratory experiment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., simulating the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan suggests complex organic chemistry that could eventually lead to the building blocks of life extends lower in the atmosphere than previously thought. The results now point out another region on the moon that could brew up prebiotic materials.

Measuring Mars: The MAVEN magnetometer takes shape

March 27, 2013 7:40 am | by Claire De Saravia, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Scheduled for launch in late 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Very little magnetic field traces remain on Mars, which is forcing NASA to eliminate all magnetic traces from its spacecraft. The magnetometer may help determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.

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