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Archive for November 18, 2011

Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos Re-Tested: Same Result

November 18, 2011 1 comment

A fiercely contested experiment that appears to show the accepted speed limit of the Universe can be broken has yielded the same results in a re-run, European physicists said.

But counterparts in the United States said the experiment still did not resolve doubts and the Europeans themselves acknowledged this was not the end of the story.

On Sept. 23, the European team issued a massive challenge to fundamental physics by saying they had measured particles called neutrinos which traveled around six kilometers (3.75 miles) per second faster than the speed of light, determined by Einstein to be the highest velocity possible.

Full Story: http://news.discovery.com/space/faster-than-light-speed-neutrinos-re-run-111118.html#mkcpgn=rssnws1

New NASA Missions to Investigate How Mars Turned Hostile

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Maybe because it appears as a speck of blood in the sky, the planet Mars was named after the Roman god of war. From the point of view of life as we know it, that’s appropriate. The Martian surface is incredibly hostile for life. The Red Planet’s thin atmosphere does little to shield the ground against radiation from the Sun and space. Harsh chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide, permeate the soil. Liquid water, a necessity for life, can’t exist for very long here—any that does not quickly evaporate in the diffuse air will soon freeze out in subzero temperatures common over much of the planet.

It wasn’t always this way. There are signs that in the distant past, billions of years ago, Mars was a much more inviting place. Martian terrain is carved with channels that resemble dry riverbeds. Spacecraft sent to orbit Mars have identified patches of minerals that form only in the presence of liquid water. It appears that in its youth, Mars was a place that could have harbored life, with a thicker atmosphere warm enough for rain that formed lakes or even seas.

Two new NASA missions, one that will roam the surface and another that will orbit the planet and dip briefly into its upper atmosphere, will try to discover what transformed Mars. “The ultimate driver for these missions is the question, did Mars ever have life?” says Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Did microbial life ever originate on Mars, and what happened to it as the planet changed? Did it just go extinct, or did it go underground, where it would be protected from space radiation and temperatures might be warm enough for liquid water?”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/hostile_mars.html

Cassini Significant Events 11/9/11 – 11/15/11

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired on November 15 from the Deep Space Network tracking complex at Canberra, Australia. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health and with the exception of the CAPS instrument being powered off, all subsystems are operating normally. Information on the present position and speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the “Present Position” page at: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/significantevents/significantevents20111117/

Cassini Chronicles the Life and Times of Saturn’s Giant Storm

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

New images and animated movies from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft chronicle the birth and evolution of the colossal storm that ravaged the northern face of Saturn for nearly a year.

These new full-color mosaics and animations show the storm from its emergence as a tiny spot in a single image almost one year ago, on Dec. 5, 2010, through its subsequent growth into a storm so large it completely encircled the planet by late January 2011.

The monster tempest, which extended north-south approximately 9,000 miles (15,000 kilometers), is the largest seen on Saturn in the past two decades and is the largest by far ever observed on the planet from an interplanetary spacecraft. On the same day that Cassini’s high-resolution cameras captured the first images of the storm, Cassini’s radio and plasma wave instrument detected the storm’s electrical activity, revealing it to be a convective thunderstorm. The storm’s active convecting phase ended in late June, but the turbulent clouds it created linger in the atmosphere today.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/cassinifeatures/feature20111117/

NASA Orbiter Catches Mars Sand Dunes in Motion

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show sand dunes and ripples moving across the surface of Mars at dozens of locations and shifting up to several yards. These observations reveal the planet’s sandy surface is more dynamic than previously thought.

“Mars either has more gusts of wind than we knew about before, or the winds are capable of transporting more sand,” said Nathan Bridges, planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and lead author of a paper on the finding published online in the journal Geology. “We used to think of the sand on Mars as relatively immobile, so these new observations are changing our whole perspective.”

While red dust is known to swirl all around Mars in storms and dust devils, the planet’s dark sand grains are larger and harder to move. Less than a decade ago, scientists thought the dunes and ripples on Mars either did not budge or moved too slowly for detection.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-358

LRO Camera Team Releases High Resolution Global Topographic Map of Moon

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU

The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.

This new topographic map, from Arizona State University in Tempe, shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire moon with a pixel scale close to 100 meters (328 feet). A single measure of elevation (one pixel) is about the size of two football fields placed side-by-side.

Although the moon is our closest neighbor, knowledge of its morphology is still limited. Due to instrumental limitations of previous missions, a global map of the moon’s topography at high resolution has not existed until now. With the LRO Wide Angle Camera and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument, scientists can now accurately portray the shape of the entire moon at high resolution.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/lro-topo.html

Assembly Stand Completed for NASA’s Webb Telescope Flight Optics

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

The clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has received a giant structural steel frame that will be used to assemble the mirrors and instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope.

“This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope’s optical telescope element,” said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard.

The Webb telescope is the world’s next-generation space observatory and scientific successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies ever formed and study planets around distant stars.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/webb-assembly-stand.html