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Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy

August 16, 2012 5:37 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope have found a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year. Even more puzzling to astronomers than its prolific nature its age. At 6 billion years old, the large, mature galaxy shouldn’t be producing that many stars.

LRO spectrometer detects helium in moon's atmosphere

August 15, 2012 11:24 am | News | Comments

Scientists using the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project spectrometer aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have made the first spectroscopic observations of the noble gas helium in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the moon. These remote-sensing observations complement in situ measurements taken in 1972 by the Lunar Atmosphere Composition Experiment deployed by Apollo 17.

Curiosity sends back flood of new views from Mars

August 8, 2012 8:32 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Locale aside, Curiosity is giving scientists an unprecedented sense of what it took to reach its Martian destination. A low-quality video of the landing and the first color picture arrived quickly. Now, spectacular images of the crate in which the rover landed are beginning to arrive, and the best views—of Mars and the journey there—are yet to come.

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NASA picks three private firms to develop space taxis

August 7, 2012 12:23 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA recently picked three aerospace companies to build small rocketships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the third phase of NASA's efforts to get private space companies to take over the job of the now-retired space shuttle. The companies will share more than $1.1 billion. Two of the ships are capsules like in the Apollo era and the third is closer in design to the space shuttle.

NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent

August 7, 2012 4:15 am | by Alicia Chang and Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writers | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover on Monday transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Mars atmosphere, giving Earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world. It was a sneak preview since it'll take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back depending on other priorities.

New study links current events to climate change

August 6, 2012 6:59 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The relentless, weather-gone-crazy type of heat that has blistered the United States and other parts of the world in recent years is so rare that it can't be anything but man-made global warming, says a new analysis from NASA’s James Hansen. In a departure from most climate research, which is based on modeling, the new study relies on statistics.

Shredded star heralds a new era for testing relativity

August 6, 2012 6:09 am | News | Comments

Last year, astronomers discovered a quiescent black hole in a distant galaxy that erupted after shredding and consuming a passing star. Now researchers have identified a distinctive X-ray signal observed in the days following the outburst that comes from matter on the verge of falling into the black hole. Called a quasi-periodic oscillation, or QPO, this tell-tale signal helps scientist test principles of general relativity.

Touchdown: NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars

August 6, 2012 5:38 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere. Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

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NASA to athletic Mars rover: 'Stick the landing'

July 31, 2012 8:24 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's most ambitious and expensive Mars mission yet begins with the red planet arrival late Sunday of the smartest interplanetary rover ever built. But before Curiosity can start rolling it must survive a complicated touchdown so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror"—the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph to a complete stop.

Astronomers find pulsar with a tremendous hiccup

July 24, 2012 8:21 am | News | Comments

Using data analysis methods, an international collaboration of researchers dug an unusual gamma-ray pulsar out of imagery from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The pulsar they found is radio-quiet, very young, and, during the observation period, experienced the strongest rotation glitch ever observed for a gamma-ray-only pulsar. The shift was so strong, the pulsar seemed to disappear.

NASA successfully tests hypersonic inflatable heat shield

July 24, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600 mph. A cone of uninflated high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat resistant materials, the shield was launched Monday from a three-stage Black Brant rocket for its suborbital flight.

Colorful science sheds light on solar heating

July 19, 2012 2:04 pm | News | Comments

A new visualization technique created by Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center produces images of the sun reminiscent of Van Gogh, with broad strokes of bright color splashed across a yellow background. But it's science, not art. The color of each pixel contains a wealth of information about the 12-hour history of cooling and heating at that particular spot on the sun.

Motions below Sun’s surface are unexpectedly slow

July 19, 2012 8:56 am | News | Comments

Using observations of solar oscillations from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory to glimpse the interior of the Sun, researchers have found that rather than moving at the speed of a jet plane (as previously understood) the plasma flows at a walking pace, just a few meters per second. The finding refutes predictions made by previous numerical models.

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Study of interstellar plasma reveals a wave mystery

July 18, 2012 7:33 pm | by Karen C. Fox | News | Comments

Most of the matter in the universe is plasma. Using data from the WAVES instrument on NASA's Wind mission, space plasma physicist Lynn Wilson and his colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have discovered evidence for a type of plasma wave moving faster than theory predicted it could move. The research suggests that a different process than expected may be driving the waves.

Plasma is next NASA science target

July 18, 2012 4:35 am | News | Comments

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.

NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s

July 17, 2012 5:39 am | by Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

Hubble discovers fifth moon orbiting Pluto

July 12, 2012 4:05 am | News | Comments

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.

NASA partners with Cella Energy on hydrogen technology

July 10, 2012 1:45 pm | News | Comments

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.

New studies nix report of arsenic-loving bacteria

July 9, 2012 8:42 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

It was a provocative finding: strange bacteria in a California lake that thrived on something completely unexpected—arsenic. What it suggested is that life, a very different kind of life, could possibly exist on some other planet. On Sunday, that same journal, Science , released two papers that rip apart the original research.

Sounding rocket mission has finest mirrors ever made

July 9, 2012 6:28 am | News | Comments

On July 11, NASA scientists will launch into space the highest resolution solar telescope ever to observe the solar corona. Often one improves telescope resolution simply by building bigger mirrors, but this is not possible when constraining a telescope to the size of a sounding rocket, so the High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) orbiter has a 9.5-inch with a variance of less than two atoms.

Researchers create 'MRI' of the sun's interior motions

July 9, 2012 5:51 am | News | Comments

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.

Life's molecules could lie within reach of Mars Curiosity rover

July 6, 2012 8:34 am | News | Comments

Stick a shovel in the ground and scoop. That's about how deep scientists need to go in order to find evidence for ancient life on Mars, if there is any to be found, a new study suggests. That's within reach of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover expected to land on the Red Planet next month.

NASA signs agreement with Craig Technologies to maintain assets

July 5, 2012 8:02 am | News | Comments

NASA’s new partnership with Craig Technologies will help them maintain an inventory of unique processing and manufacturing equipment for future mission support at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Under a five-year agreement, NASA will loan to Craig 1,600 pieces of equipment used for Space Shuttle Program support.

Cassini finds probable ocean below Titan's surface

June 28, 2012 10:50 am | News | Comments

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.

Cassini shows why jet streams cross-cut Saturn

June 25, 2012 1:38 pm | News | Comments

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.

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