Archive

Archive for September 22, 2011

Particles break light-speed limit

September 22, 2011 2 comments

An Italian experiment has unveiled evidence that fundamental particles known as neutrinos can travel faster than light. Other researchers are cautious about the result, but if it stands further scrutiny, the finding would overturn the most fundamental rule of modern physics — that nothing travels faster than 299,792,458 metres per second.

The experiment is called OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus), and lies 1,400 metres underground in the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. It is designed to study a beam of neutrinos coming from CERN, Europe’s premier high-energy physics laboratory located 730 kilometres away near Geneva, Switzerland. Neutrinos are fundamental particles that are electrically neutral, rarely interact with other matter, and have a vanishingly small mass. But they are all around us — the Sun produces so many neutrinos as a by-product of nuclear reactions that many billions pass through your eye every second.

Full Story: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110922/full/news.2011.554.html

US Safe from Falling NASA Satellite on Friday, Scientists Refine Predictions

September 22, 2011 1 comment

Tomorrow appears to be re-entry day for NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) — a school-bus size spacecraft that will shoot its way into Earth’s atmosphere. NASA, the U.S. military and amateur astronomers have been refining their predictions of the spacecraft’s fall, and are now able to say it won’t come down over North America.

In an early Thursday update, NASA posted that the Earth-circling orbit of UARS was 115 miles by 120 miles (185 km by 195 km). Re-entry is expected sometime during the afternoon of Sept. 23, Eastern Daylight Time, the posting explained.

“The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period,” according to the NASA statement. “It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 to 36 hours.”

Full Story: http://www.space.com/13050-falling-nasa-satellite-north-america-safe.html

Exploring an asteroid with the Desert RATS

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Credits: ESA - F. Didot

Credits: ESA - F. Didot

Earlier this month, European scientists linked up with astronauts roaming over the surface of an asteroid. Desert RATS, NASA’s realistic simulation of a future mission, this year included a European dimension for the first time.

It was not really an asteroid, but a desert near Flagstaff in Arizona, USA. Since 1999, scientists, astronauts and engineers from various NASA establishments and universities have gathered once a year to simulate human missions to the Moon and Mars.

Desert RATS – Desert Research and Technology Studies – have tested rovers, habitats, spacesuits, instruments, robots, communication systems, research methods and other technical, scientific and operational aspects of future missions.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMKCN3UNSG_index_0.html

Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Spreads Its Influence

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Chalk up one more feat for Saturn’s intriguing moon Enceladus. The small, dynamic moon spews out dramatic plumes of water vapor and ice — first seen by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2005. It possesses simple organic particles and may house liquid water beneath its surface. Its geyser-like jets create a gigantic halo of ice, dust and gas around Enceladus that helps feed Saturn’s E ring. Now, thanks again to those icy jets, Enceladus is the only moon in our solar system known to influence substantially the chemical composition of its parent planet.

In June, the European Space Agency announced that its Herschel Space Observatory, which has important NASA contributions, had found a huge donut-shaped cloud, or torus, of water vapor created by Enceladus encircling Saturn. The torus is more than 373,000 miles (600,000 kilometers) across and about 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) thick. It appears to be the source of water in Saturn’s upper atmosphere.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/cassinifeatures/feature20110921/

Regents’ Professor Michael J. Drake, 1946-2011

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Under Drake’s leadership, the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory grew from a small group of geologists and astronomers into an international powerhouse of research into the solar system.

Michael J. Drake, Regents’ Professor, director of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and head of the department of planetary sciences, died Wednesday at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus in Tucson, Ariz. He was 65.

Drake, who joined the UA planetary sciences faculty in 1973 and headed LPL and the planetary sciences department since 1994, was the principal investigator of the most ambitious UA project to date, OSIRIS-REx, an $800 million mission designed to retrieve a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth. OSIRIS-REx is due to launch in 2016. It is the largest grant or contract the UA has ever received.

Full Story: http://www.uanews.org/node/42011

Plant Experiments Take Root On Space Station To Inspire Students

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

A unique science project designed to sow the excitement of scientific discovery in students is sprouting this week aboard the International Space Station. The Plants in Space project will allow students and teachers to examine root growth in microgravity and compare the results with those from plants used in their own ground-based experiments.

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is funding the project. It began Tuesday, Sept. 20, when space station astronauts planted Brassica rapa seeds during the first of four scheduled five-day trials. The project’s primary scientific goal is to investigate the influence of light on root orientation.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-319_ISS_Plants.html

From the Comfort of Home, Web Users May Have Found New Planets

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Since the online citizen science project Planet Hunters launched last December, 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars in the hopes of discovering Earth-like planets orbiting around them.

Users analyze real scientific data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission, which has been searching for planets beyond our own solar system — called exoplanets — since its launch in March 2009.

Now astronomers at Yale University have announced the discovery of the first two potential exoplanets discovered by Planet Hunters users in a new study to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Full Story: http://opac.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=8898