The Cassini spacecraft flew by Dione, one of Saturn’s icy moons, on 7 April 2010. During that flyby, instruments detected molecular oxygen ions around the moon. Tokar et al. used those measurements to estimate the density of the molecular oxygen ions to be in the range of 0.01 to 0.09 ions per cubic centimeter (or ions per 0.06 cubic inches). These molecular oxygen ions are produced when neutral molecules are ionized; the measurements confirm that a neutral exosphere surrounds Dione.
Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks — developing stars strung across the image — are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood.
The image can be viewed at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/herschel/multimedia/pia13959.html
The rainbow of colors represents different wavelengths of infrared light captured by both Spitzer and Herschel. Spitzer is designed to see shorter infrared wavelengths than Herschel. By combining their observations, astronomers get a more complete picture of star formation. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer mission for NASA, and also plays an important role in the European Space Agency-led Herschel mission.
Slooh Space Camera will broadcast a free, real-time feed of the Mars Opposition on Saturday 3/3 starting at 04:00 UT / 8:00 PM PST / 11:00 PM EST. Slooh will provide multiple observatory feeds, including from Arizona and the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The broadcast can be accessed at Slooh’s homepage or by visiting Slooh’s G+ page, where you will be able to see the panel interact live via G+ Hangouts On Air.
Media websites can embed Slooh’s live syndicated image feed directly into their own coverage of the event by visiting Slooh’s media page.
Slooh Space Camera will broadcast a free, real-time feed of the Mars Opposition on Saturday 3/3 starting at 04:00 UT / 8:00 PM PST / 11:00 PM EST. Slooh will provide multiple observatory feeds, including from Arizona and the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.
Slooh’s own Patrick Paolucci will join Astronomy Magazine columnist Bob Berman along with other guests and Slooh members to discuss the event live and in true color.
A proposed Discovery mission concept led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to investigate the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets by studying the deep interior of Mars now has a new name, InSight.
InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport and is a partnership involving JPL, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the French Space Agency (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and other NASA centers. The previous name for the proposal was GEMS (GEophysical Monitoring Station). NASA requested that name be reserved for an astrophysics mission known as the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer, which was already in development.
“We chose the name InSight because we would literally peer into the interior of Mars to map out its structure,” said JPL’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator. “With our geophysical instruments we will be able to see right through to the center of Mars, and will be able to map out how deeply the crust extends as well as the size of the core.”
A collection of science materials from the family of Sir John F. W. Herschel (1792–1871) is now open for research after a $10,000 grant enabled staffers to rehouse the collection and to create an online inventory.
The Herschel family papers, acquired in 1960 with subsequent smaller accessions of additional materials, largely represent the life and work of Herschel, the English mathematician, astronomer, chemist and experimental photographer/inventor. John Herschel has been called Britain’s first modern physical scientist, and his correspondence has been noted as one of the most valuable archives for 19th-century science.
“The Herschel family archive is the most important history of science collection at the Ransom Center,” said Richard Oram, associate director and Hobby Foundation Librarian at the Ransom Center. “The Herschels dominated the natural sciences in England for more than 100 years. While we have significant material relating to William Herschel, the discover of the planet Uranus, and his sister Caroline, who is now regarded as a pioneering female scientist, the most important holding is the correspondence of John Herschel, who, together with Darwin, towers over the Victorian scientific world.”
A 10,000-pound package was delivered on Feb. 16 to the W. M. Keck Observatory near the summit of Mauna Kea. Inside is a powerful new scientific instrument that will dramatically increase the cosmic data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.
The new instrument is called MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration). It is the newest tool to survey the cosmos and help astronomers learn more about star formation, galaxy formation and the early universe. The spectrometer was made possible through funding provided by the National Science Foundation and a generous donation from astronomy benefactors Gordon and Betty Moore.
“This is a crucial and important step,” said MOSFIRE co-principal investigator Ian McLean of U.C. Los Angeles, who has been involved in the building of four instruments for the Keck telescopes. “Just shipping it to Hawaii is the first step.” A long series of installation steps are already underway that will lead up to MOSFIRE’s “first light” on the sky and handover to the Keck community in August.
A team of researchers from the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., have discovered that debris that caused a “lunar cataclysm” on the moon 4 billion years ago struck it at much higher speeds than those that made the most ancient craters. The scientists found evidence supporting this scenario by examining the history of crater formation on the moon.
During Earth’s earliest days, our planet and others in the inner solar system, including the moon, experienced repeated impacts from debris that formed the building blocks of the planets. Over time, as material was swept up and incorporated into the inner planets, the rate of impacts decreased. Then, roughly 4 billion years ago, a second wave of impacts appears to have taken place, with lunar projectiles hitting at much higher speeds. This increase could reflect the origin of the debris, where main belt asteroids were dislodged and sent into the inner solar system by shifts in the orbits of the giant planets.