Armchair explorers of the cosmos can now have at their fingertips the nearly 2,000 distant planetary systems discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission. Kepler Explorer, an innovative app for iPads and iPhones developed by a team at the University of California, Santa Cruz, provides interactive displays of newly discovered planetary systems based on Kepler data.
Now available for free from the iTunes App Store, Kepler Explorer was developed through the OpenLab initiative at UC Santa Cruz, which brought together faculty and students in astrophysics, art, and technology for a summer institute last year. The Kepler Explorer team includes astrophysicist Jonathan Fortney, a member of the Kepler science team; two of his graduate students, Eric Lopez and Caroline Morley; artist Kyle McKinley, a recent graduate of the Digital Arts and New Media program; and John Peters, a recent graduate of the computer game design program.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will hold a media briefing on Monday, April 16, to preview the SpaceX demonstration mission to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for launch April 30.
The briefing will immediately follow a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) conducted by senior NASA managers, space station partners and SpaceX officials. The review likely will conclude in the early afternoon. The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.
During the flight, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will conduct a series of checkout procedures, which will test and prove its systems in advance of the rendezvous with the space station. The primary objectives for the flight include a fly-under of the station at a distance of 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous. The spacecraft also will demonstrate the capability to abort the rendezvous.
In a world first, the sounds of Mars and Venus are revealed as part of a planetarium show in Hampshire this Easter.
Despite many years of space exploration, we have no evidence of the sound of other planets. While most planetary probes have focused on imaging with cameras and radar and a couple have carried microphones, none of them successfully listened to the sound of another world.
Now, a team from the University of Southampton, led by Professor Tim Leighton, has the answer. Using the tools and techniques of physics and mathematics, they created the natural sounds of other worlds, from lightning on Venus to whirlwinds on Mars and ice volcanoes on Saturn’s moon, Titan. In addition to these natural sounds, they have modelled the effects of different atmospheres, pressures and temperatures on the human voice on Mars, Venus and Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). They have developed unique software to transform the sound of a voice on earth to one that’s literally ‘out of this world’.
A study led by a University of Utah astrophysicist found a new explanation for the growth of supermassive black holes in the center of most galaxies: they repeatedly capture and swallow single stars from pairs of stars that wander too close.
Using new calculations and previous observations of our own Milky Way and other galaxies, “we found black holes grow enormously as a result of sucking in captured binary star partners,” says physics and astronomy Professor Ben Bromley, lead author of the study, which is set for online publication April 2 in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“I believe this has got to be the dominant method for growing supermassive black holes,” he adds. “There are two ways to grow a supermassive black hole: with gas clouds and with stars. Sometimes there’s gas and sometimes there is not. We know that from observations of other galaxies. But there are always stars.”
Analysis of data from the 10-meter South Pole Telescope (SPT) is providing new support for the most widely accepted explanation of dark energy – the mysterious force that is responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe. The data strongly support Einstein’s cosmological constant, even though the analysis was based on only a fraction of the SPT data collected and only 100 of the over 500 galaxy clusters detected so far.
The results also are beginning to home in on the masses of neutrinos, the most abundant particles in the universe.
“With the full SPT data set we will be able to place extremely tight constraints on dark energy and possibly determine the mass of the neutrinos,” said Bradford Benson, a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Chicago’s Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. Benson is presenting the SPT collaboration’s latest findings on Sunday, April 1, at the American Physical Society meeting in Atlanta.
The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding the efforts announced this week by Jeff Bezos to recover main engines from the Saturn V first stage rocket of Apollo 11:
“I would like to thank Jeff Bezos for his communication with NASA informing us of his historic find. I salute him and his entire team on this bold venture and wish them all the luck in the world.
“NASA does retain ownership of any artifacts recovered and would likely offer one of the Saturn V F-1 engines to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington under long-standing arrangements with the institution as the holder of the national collection of aerospace artifacts.
The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data were collected on March 28 using the Deep Space Network’s 70 meter Station 43 at Canberra, Australia; data from the Enceladus E-17 encounter were captured successfully. Aside from the issue in work with the Ultrastable Oscillator (see the Jan. 5, 2012 Significant Events), the Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health and all subsystems are operating normally. Information on the present position of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the “Present Position” page at: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/.
The Enceladus encounter E-17 occurred Tuesday, and by the end of the day, all the encounter observations resided as telemetry on Cassini’s Solid-State Recorder. The playback to Earth didn’t begin until Wednesday; it will be listed among next week’s significant events. The E-17 webpage will include the data as they become available: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/flybys/enceladus20120306/
At the UK-Germany National Astronomy Meeting NAM2012, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) team today announced the most accurate measurement yet of the distribution of galaxies between five and six billion years ago. This was the key ‘pivot’ moment at which the expansion of the universe stopped slowing down due to gravity and started to accelerate instead, due to a mysterious force dubbed ”dark energy”. The nature of this ”dark energy” is one of the big mysteries in cosmology today, and scientists need precise measurements of the expansion history of the universe to unravel this mystery – BOSS provides this kind of data. In a set of six joint papers presented today, the BOSS team, an international group of scientists with the participation of the Max Planck Institute of Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, used these data together with previous measurements to place tight constraints on various cosmological models.
The BOSS survey, which is a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), was started in 2009 to probe the universe at a time when dark energy started to dominate. The survey will continue until 2014, collecting data for 1.35 million galaxies with a custom-designed new spectrograph on the 2.5-metre Sloan Telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, USA. In the first year-and-a-half, it has already mapped the three-dimensional positions of more than a quarter of a million galaxies spread across about one tenth of the sky, yielding the most accurate and complete map of the galaxy distribution up to a distance of about 6 billion light years.
Full Story: http://www.mpe.mpg.de/News/PR20120330/text.html
Although we think of space as being empty, there is more out there than meets the eye – dust, for example, is everywhere. If all the material between the Sun and Jupiter were compressed together it would form a moon 25 km across. Now a new research programme will try to see how much of this dust enters the Earth’s atmosphere. Metals from the cosmic dust play a part in various phenomena that affect our climate. An accurate estimate of dust would also help us understand how particles are transported through different layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. Professor John Plane of the University of Leeds will present the Cosmic Dust in the Terrestrial Atmosphere (CODITA) project on Friday 30 March at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester.
CODITA has received a EUR 2.5 million grant from the European Research Council to investigate the dust input over the next 5 years. The international team, led by Professor Plane, is made up of 11 scientists in Leeds and a further 10 research groups in the US and Germany.
Complex organic compounds, including many important to life on Earth, were readily produced under conditions that likely prevailed in the primordial solar system. Scientists at the University of Chicago and NASA Ames Research Center came to this conclusion after linking computer simulations to laboratory experiments.
Fred Ciesla, assistant professor in geophysical sciences at UChicago, simulated the dynamics of the solar nebula, the cloud of gas and dust from which the sun and the planets formed. Although every dust particle within the nebula behaved differently, they all experienced the conditions needed for organics to form over a simulated million-year period.
“Whenever you make a new planetary system, these kinds of things should go on,” said Scott Sandford, a space science researcher at NASA Ames. “This potential to make organics and then dump them on the surfaces of any planet you make is probably a universal process.”