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LISA Pathfinder Takes Major Step in Hunt for Gravity Waves

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Sensors destined for ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission in 2014 have far exceeded expectations, paving the way for a mission to detect one of the most elusive forces permeating through space – gravitational waves.

The Optical Metrology Subsystem underwent its first full tests under space-like temperature and vacuum conditions using an almost complete version of the spacecraft.

The results exceeded the precision required to detect the enigmatic ripples in the fabric of space and time predicted by Albert Einstein – and did it by two to three times.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMX61WWVUG_index_0.html

Updated Radar Movie of Asteroid 2005 YU55

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA Scientists working with the 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have released a second, longer, and more refined, movie clip of asteroid 2005 YU55. The images were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Nov. 7, 2011, between 11:24 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. PST (2:24 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. EST).

The movie clip can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/YU55 .

Each of the 28 frames required 20 minutes of data collection by the Goldstone radar. At the time of the observations, 2005 YU55 was approximately 860,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Earth. The resolution is about 13 feet (4 meters) per pixel. 2005 YU55 takes approximately 18 hours to complete one rotation, so the rotation in the movie appears much more rapid than the actual asteroid rotation speed.

The Goldstone observations utilized a new system to obtain images with a resolution of 4 meters, which is five times finer than the highest resolution previously possible at Goldstone.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-351

Lutetia Is Rare Survivor from Birth of Earth

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit:  ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Credit: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

New observations indicate that the asteroid Lutetia is a leftover fragment of the same original material that formed the Earth, Venus and Mercury. Astronomers have combined data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft, ESO’s New Technology Telescope, and NASA telescopes. They found that the properties of the asteroid closely match those of a rare kind of meteorites found on Earth and thought to have formed in the inner parts of the Solar System. Lutetia must, at some point, have moved out to its current location in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

A team of astronomers from French and North American universities have studied the unusual asteroid Lutetia in detail at a very wide range of wavelengths [1] to deduce its composition. Data from the OSIRIS camera on ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft [2], ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii and Spitzer Space Telescope were combined to create the most complete spectrum of an asteroid ever assembled [3].

This spectrum of Lutetia was then compared with that of meteorites found on Earth that have been extensively studied in the laboratory. Only one type of meteorite — enstatite chondrites— was found to have properties that matched Lutetia over the full range of colours.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1144/

Pristine Gas from the Big Bang

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: Simulation by Ceverino, Dekel & Primack

Credit: Simulation by Ceverino, Dekel & Primack

Two clumps of primordial gas from the dawn of time have been detected in deep space by astronomers using the 10-meter telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory.

The gas clouds are too diffuse to form stars and show virtually no signs of containing any “metals,” which is astronomer-speak for all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium – the two simplest and lightest elements in the universe. In fact the only elements astronomers have detected in the clouds are hydrogen and its heavier isotope, deuterium.

The lack of metals strongly suggests that the gases are reservoirs of the pristine material left over from the Big Bang. Because stars fuse atoms to make heavier elements, these gases have never been involved in any star making in the 2 billion years between the Big Bang and their discovery.  In other words, they are the remnant gases that are unchanged since they were created in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/pristine_gas/