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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.

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.

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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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SwRI to build eight NASA nanosatellites

June 21, 2012 11:25 am | News | Comments

NASA has selected a team including Southwest Research Institute to develop the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will provide better prediction capabilities for extreme weather events, particularly the intensification of hurricanes.

Researchers calculate size of particles in Martian clouds of CO2 snow

June 19, 2012 3:44 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

NASA's Fermi detects the highest-energy light from a solar flare

June 11, 2012 10:26 pm | News | Comments

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.

Tiny planet-finding mirrors borrow from Webb Telescope playbook

May 25, 2012 5:25 am | by Lori Keesey | News | Comments

NASA’s next flagship mission, the James Webb Space Telescope, will carry the largest primary mirror ever deployed in space. Researchers has borrowed a page from its segmented mirror design to create a similar example just a half-inch in diameter. Strangely, the tiny mirror may one day become the standard for future space telescopes.

Cassini reveals details about charged nanograins

May 22, 2012 8:59 am | News | Comments

In a new study, researchers describe what they found in data from Cassini: a new class of space particles—submicroscopic nanograins of electrically charged dust. Such particles are believed to exist throughout the universe, and this marks the first time researchers have measured and analyzed them.

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Newfound exoplanet may turn to dust

May 18, 2012 3:30 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, and elsewhere have detected a possible planet, some 1,500 light years away, that appears to be evaporating under the blistering heat of its parent star. The scientists infer that a long tail of debris is following the planet, and that this tail may tell the story of the planet's disintegration.

Studying the internal mechanisms of shape-memory alloys

May 9, 2012 6:29 am | News | Comments

Shape-memory alloys are an engineer's dream, able to shape-shift spontaneously to accommodate changing operating conditions. A research team from NASA and the University of Central Florida is studying the internal mechanisms of these real-life "transformers" at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with an eye toward increasing their use in everyday scenarios.

First light from a super-Earth spotted

May 9, 2012 5:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Scientists on a planetary-heat-seeking mission have detected the first infrared light from a super-Earth—in this case, a planet some 40 light-years away. And according to their calculations, 55 Cancri e, a planet just over twice the size of Earth, is throwing off some serious heat.

Beaming up on the way to space

May 7, 2012 5:43 am | News | Comments

Space may be the final frontier. But often a few trips to NIST's Physical Measurement Laboratory are necessary before things can get off the ground. One recent case in point is the test of an instrument called the Extreme Ultraviolet Monitor, which will soon be heading for Mars to help answer a vexing question in planetary science: Where did the Red Planet’s once-dense atmosphere go?

Scientists use airship to look for meteorites

May 4, 2012 3:04 pm | News | Comments

A group of scientists took to the skies in a slow-moving airship Thursday in search of meteorites that rained over California's gold country last month. It's the latest hunt for extraterrestrial fragments from the April 22 explosion that was witnessed over a swath of Northern California and Nevada.

Space shuttle Enterprise zooms over NYC on jet

April 27, 2012 10:01 am | by Deepti Hajela, Associated Press | News | Comments

As the Boeing 747 zoomed over the Manhattan skyline Friday, onlookers gawked at the unusual sight, realizing that the smaller plane hitched to its fuselage was an actual space shuttle. The Enterprise will soon make its home in New York City, basking in retirement about the Intrepid carrier in the Hudson River.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter brings “Earthrise” to everyone

April 20, 2012 7:20 am | News | Comments

On December 24, 1968, the astronauts aboard Apollo 8 were conducting an extensive photographic survey of the moon’s surface. When they paused to take a navigation sighting, they were shocked to see the Earth “rising” above the lunar surface. Using modern imagery, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has recreated the moment, shortly before the first real photograph was taken.

NASA collecting ideas on new strategy for exploring the Red Planet

April 16, 2012 3:36 am | News | Comments

Starting Friday, NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group began accepting ideas and abstracts online from the worldwide scientific and technical community as part of NASA's effort to seek out the best and the brightest ideas from researchers and engineers in planetary science. They hope to develop a new strategy for the exploration of Mars.

NASA spacecraft spot something new on the sun

April 10, 2012 4:38 am | News | Comments

A researcher working with images from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory recently saw something he’d never seen before: a pattern of cells in the sun’s corona. Using a combination of conventional and magnetic imaging from several satellites and spacecraft, astronomer were able to build a 3D picture of what was happening on the sun’s surface.

Discovery sheds new light on wandering continents

March 22, 2012 1:44 pm | by Bill Steigerwald | News | Comments

According to NASA scientist Dr. Nicholas Schmerr, a layer of partially molten rock about 22 to 75 miles underground can't be the only mechanism that allows continents to gradually shift their position over millions of years. He contends that because his research has revealed this melt-rich layer to be spotty, another cause must exist for the movement of plates over the mantle.

A close-up view of Mercury

March 22, 2012 3:52 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New observations from a spacecraft orbiting Mercury have revealed that the tiny, pockmarked planet harbors a highly unusual interior—and the craft's glimpse of Mercury's surface topography suggests the planet has had a very dynamic history.

First geologic map of Io details otherworldly volcanic surface

March 21, 2012 10:16 am | News | Comments

Published by the U.S. Geological Survey, the first fully global geologic map of Jupiter’s moon Io technically illustrates the geologic character of some of the most unique and active volcanoes ever documented in the solar system.

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