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Archive for November 23, 2011

NASA Ames Features Live Broadcast of Mars Launch

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

News media are invited to observe a live televised broadcast of the launch of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft with the Curiosity rover on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in the Exploration Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens at 7:02 a.m. PST, and the Exploration Center at Ames will open at 6:30 a.m. PST. The launch will be preceded with brief comments from NASA scientist Tori Hoehler, who will share information about the upcoming mission. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Mars in August 2012.

Curiosity has 10 science instruments to search for evidence about whether Mars has had environments favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. Ames scientist David Blake is the principal investigator for CheMin, an X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition. CheMin data will be useful in the search for potential mineral biosignatures, energy sources for life or indicators of past habitable environments.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2011/11-96AR.html

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‘Perfect Black’ Coating Raises Intriguing Possibilities in Astronomy

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

A carbon nanotube coating developed at the University of Michigan acts as a “magic black cloth” that conceals an object’s three-dimensional geometry and makes it look like a flat black sheet.

The 70-micron coating, or carbon nanotube carpet, is about half the thickness of a sheet of paper. It absorbs 99.9 percent of the light that hits it, researchers say.

“You could use it to completely hide any 3D attributes of an object,” said Jay Guo, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and principal investigator.

“It’s not cloaking, as the object can still cast a shadow. But if you put an object on a black background, then with this coating, it could really become invisible.”

A paper on the research is newly published online in Applied Physics Letters.

Full Story: http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/20088-perfect-black-coating-can-render-a-3d-object-flat-raises-intriguing-dark-veil-possibility-in-astronomy

System Proposed for Assessing Odds for Life on Other Worlds

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Within the next few years, the number of planets discovered in orbits around distant stars will likely reach several thousand or more. But even as our list of these newly discovered “exoplanets” grows ever-longer, the search for life beyond our solar system will likely focus much more narrowly on the relatively few of these new worlds which exhibit the most Earth-like of conditions.
For much of the scientific community, thesearch for alien life has long been dominated by the notion that our own planet serves as the best model of conditions best suited to the emergence of life on other worlds. And while there’s an undeniable logic to seeking life in the same sort of conditions in which you already know it to be successful, there are scientists like Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist with the Washington State University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Abel Mendez, a modeling expert from the University of Puerto Rico at Aricebo, who also see such a model as the product of a potentially limiting form of earthling-biased thinking.
To Schulze-Makuch and his nine fellow authors – an international working group representing, NASA, SETI,the German Aerospace Center, and four universities– the search for life on other worlds is really driven by two questions.

Full Story: http://news.wsu.edu/pages/publications.asp?Action=Detail&PublicationID=28889&TypeID=1

NASA’s Hubble Finds Stellar Life and Death in a Globular Cluster

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: P. Goudfrooij, STScI)

Credit: P. Goudfrooij, STScI)

A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that can be seen from the southern hemisphere.

Aging bright stars in the cluster glow in intense shades of red and blue. The majority of middle-aged stars, several billions of years old, are whitish in color. A myriad of far distant background galaxies of varying shapes and structure are scattered around the image.

The most intriguing object, however, doesn’t seem to belong in the cluster. It is a faint green bubble near the bottom center of the image. This so-called ‘planetary nebula’ is the aftermath of the death of a star. The burned-out central star can be seen inside the bubble. It is uncertain whether the planetary nebula is a member of NGC 1846, or simply lies along the line of sight to the cluster. Measurements of the motion of the cluster stars and the planetary nebula’s central star suggest it might be a cluster member.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/life-death.html