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Newly Found Planets Are ‘Roasted Remains’

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a day after announcing the discovery of the first Earth-size planets ever detected outside our Solar System, scientists have confirmed the existence of two even smaller worlds.

There is something very unusual about these objects, however.

It appears they are the roasted remains of planets that spent a period of time inside the outer layers of their star.

Scientists tell Nature magazine that these worlds are therefore likely to have been much bigger in the past.

Once again, these worlds were identified using data from Nasa’s Kepler telescope, which was put in orbit in 2009 with the specific goal of hunting down small planets.

This latest haul was detected around a star known as KIC 05807616. They have diameters that are just 76% and 87% of that of Earth.

Full Story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16279016

Dawn Obtains First Low Altitude Images of Vesta

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

 Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system’s early history.

At this detailed resolution, the surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.

A gallery of images can be found online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/gallery-index.html .

The images were returned to Earth on Dec. 13.  Dawn scientists plan to acquire data in the low-altitude mapping orbit for at least 10 weeks. The primary science objectives in this orbit are to learn about the elemental composition of Vesta’s surface with the gamma ray and neutron detector and to probe the interior structure of the asteroid by measuring the gravity field.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-391

Trio Heads For Holiday Reunion With Space Station Residents

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands launched to the International Space Station aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M craft at 7:16 a.m. CST Wednesday, Dec. 21 (7:16 p.m. local time), from Kazakhstan.

Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are scheduled to dock to the Rassvet module of the station at 9:22 a.m. Friday, Dec. 23. They will receive a holiday welcome from station Commander Dan Burbank of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who have been aboard the orbital laboratory since mid-November.

NASA Television will provide live docking coverage beginning at 8:45 a.m. Friday. Hatch opening and welcoming ceremonies will occur about three hours later.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_11-425_Soyuz_Launch.html