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Researchers Take Temperature of Mars’s Past

October 12, 2011 2 comments

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have directly determined the surface temperature of early Mars for the first time, providing evidence that’s consistent with a warmer and wetter Martian past.

By analyzing carbonate minerals in a four-billion-year-old meteorite that originated near the surface of Mars, the scientists determined that the minerals formed at about 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit). “The thing that’s really cool is that 18 degrees is not particularly cold nor particularly hot,” says Woody Fischer, assistant professor of geobiology and coauthor of the paper, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on October 3. “It’s kind of a remarkable result.”

Knowing the temperature of Mars is crucial to understanding the planet’s history—its past climate and whether it once had liquid water. The Mars rovers and orbiting spacecraft have found ancient deltas, rivers, lakebeds, and mineral deposits, suggesting that water did indeed flow. Because Mars now has an average temperature of -63 degrees Celsius, the existence of liquid water in the past means that the climate was much warmer then. But what’s been lacking is data that directly points to such a history. “There are all these ideas that have been developed about a warmer, wetter early Mars,” Fischer says. “But there’s precious little data that actually bears on it.” That is, until now.

Full Story: http://news.caltech.edu/press_releases/13462

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NASA Releases New Interactive Space Communications Game

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NASA has released an interactive, educational video game called NetworKing that depicts how the Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) network operates. The release of the video game coincides with the close of World Space Week, Oct. 4-10.

Developed by the Information Technology Office at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., NetworKing gives players an insider’s perspective into how astronauts, mission controllers and scientists communicate during space missions.

“For any young person who ever dreamed of one day contributing to space missions, NetworKing lets players develop a kingdom of multiple space communication networks working together to support space missions,” said Barbara Adde, policy and strategic communications director for SCaN at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/oct/HQ_11-341_SCaN_Video_Game.html

Atwood Awarded Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics

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The American Physical Society (APS) has awarded the 2012 W. K. H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics to William Atwood, adjunct professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The award recognizes Atwood “for his leading work on the design, construction, and use of the Large Area Telescope on the Fermi Gamma-ray Satellite, enabling numerous new results in gamma-ray astrophysics and fundamental physics.”

Atwood played a central role in the conception and development of Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT). The LAT is one of two instruments onboard Fermi and is the most sensitive and highest-resolution gamma-ray detector ever launched. The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, formerly called GLAST, is an international and multi-agency space observatory that studies the cosmos in gamma-rays, the most energetic form of light.

Full Story: http://news.ucsc.edu/2011/10/atwood-panofsky-prize.html

NASA Transfers Endeavour Title To California Science Center

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NASA transferred title and ownership of space shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center (CSC) during a ceremony Tuesday at the center in Los Angeles. The transfer is the first step toward CSC receiving Endeavour in the latter half of 2012.

“NASA is pleased to share this wonderful orbiter with the California Science Center to help inspire a new generation of explorers,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “The next chapter in space exploration begins now, and we’re standing on the shoulders of the men and women of the shuttle program to reach farther into the solar system.”

Bolden announced April 12 that CSC was one of four institutions nationwide to receive a shuttle. After display preparation and post-mission work are complete, NASA will deliver Endeavour on the 747 shuttle carrier aircraft to Los Angeles International Airport. From there, the shuttle will be driven through the streets of Los Angeles to its destination at the Science Center in Exposition Park.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/oct/HQ_11-343_Endeavour_CSC.html

Astronomy Education Review Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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Astronomy Education Review (AER), the online journal of astronomy and space-science education published by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), celebrated 10 years of promoting science literacy last week.

Editor-in-Chief Thomas Hockey credits AER’s success to the wisdom of the founding editors. “Andrew Fraknoi and Sidney Wolff saw astronomy educators laboring in splendid isolation and decided that a research journal would unite the field,” he says. “They were right.” AER now publishes the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed research papers about astronomy teaching and learning, by authors from around the world.

AER supports the science-literacy goals of the National Research Council’s “New Worlds, New Horizons” decadal survey, which concluded that “a more rigorous program of assessment is needed of outcomes and efficacy across the entire spectrum of astronomical education.” It also contributes to the America COMPETES Act’s goal to develop a scientifically literate workforce for the 21st century.

Full Story: http://aas.org/press/pr2011Oct11

Distant Galaxies Reveal The Clearing of the Cosmic Fog

October 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Scientists have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to probe the early Universe at several different times as it was becoming transparent to ultraviolet light. This brief but dramatic phase in cosmic history — known as reionisation — occurred around 13 billion years ago. By carefully studying some of the most distant galaxies ever detected, the team has been able to establish a timeline for reionisation for the first time. They have also demonstrated that this phase must have happened quicker than astronomers previously thought.

An international team of astronomers used the VLT as a time machine, to look back into the early Universe and observe several of the most distant galaxies ever detected. They have been able to measure their distances accurately and find that we are seeing them as they were between 780 million and a billion years after the Big Bang [1].

The new observations have allowed astronomers to establish a timeline for what is known as the age of reionisation [2] for the first time. During this phase the fog of hydrogen gas in the early Universe was clearing, allowing ultraviolet light to pass unhindered for the first time.The new results, which will appear in the Astrophysical Journal, build on a long and systematic search for distant galaxies that the team has carried out with the VLT over the last three years.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1138/