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Archive for February, 2012

Exosphere Confirmed at Saturn’s Moon Dione

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

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.

Full Story: http://www.agu.org/news/press/jhighlight_archives/2012/2012-02-29.shtml#six

Young Stars Flicker Amidst Clouds of Gas and Dust

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/IRAM

Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/IRAM

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.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-052

Live Feeds of Mars Opposition from 2 Observatories

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

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.

Full Story: http://www.slooh.com/pr/slooh-live-feed-mars-opposition-march-2012.php

Proposed Mars Mission Has New Name

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

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.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-050

Herschel Materials Newly Open for Research

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

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.”

Full Story: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/press/releases/2012/herschel.html

Powerful New Astronomy Tool Arrives on Mauna Kea

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

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.

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

NASA Lunar Scientists Shed Light on Moon’s Impact History

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

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.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2012/12-19AR.html

Ultra-fast Outflows Help Monster Black Holes Shape Their Galaxies

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

A curious correlation between the mass of a galaxy’s central black hole and the velocity of stars in a vast, roughly spherical structure known as its bulge has puzzled astronomers for years. An international team led by Francesco Tombesi at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., now has identified a new type of black-hole-driven outflow that appears to be both powerful enough and common enough to explain this link.

Most big galaxies contain a central black hole weighing millions of times the sun’s mass, but galaxies hosting more massive black holes also possess bulges that contain, on average, faster-moving stars. This link suggested some sort of feedback mechanism between a galaxy’s black hole and its star-formation processes. Yet there was no adequate explanation for how a monster black hole’s activity, which strongly affects a region several times larger than our solar system, could influence a galaxy’s bulge, which encompasses regions roughly a million times larger.

“This was a real conundrum. Everything was pointing to supermassive black holes as somehow driving this connection, but only now are we beginning to understand how they do it,” Tombesi said.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/fast-outflow.html

NASA Glenn Event to Celebrate John Glenn’s Legacy on March 2

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Glenn Research Center will host an event on March 2 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s orbital flight, the first by an American.

“Celebrating John Glenn’s Legacy: 50 Years of Americans in Orbit” will be held at 1 p.m. EST at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Ave., in Cleveland. More than 800 complimentary tickets are being distributed to the general public for this event through a lottery by Cleveland State University in partnership with NASA Glenn.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Glenn Director Ramon “Ray” Lugo will provide remarks during the one-hour program, which will include a welcome from Cleveland State University President Dr. Ronald Berkman. Space shuttle mission STS-95 pilot Steve Lindsey will pay tribute from the astronaut corps to Glenn. The program will culminate with a keynote address by the guest of honor Sen. John H. Glenn Jr.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ_12-061_Glenn_50.html

Dwarf Galaxy Questions Galaxy Formation Models

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Researcher from the Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (Center for Astrophysics of the University of Porto) observed the dwarf galaxy I Zw 18, and found that much of what is known about galaxy formation and evolution might need substantial revision.

CAUP Astronomer Polychronis Papaderos, along with his colleague Göran Östlin (Oskar Klein Center, U. Stokholm), used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to get extremely accurate observations of the I Zw 18 galaxy. Their research led to the conclusion that this enigmatic blue compact dwarf might force astronomers to review current galaxy formation models.

I Zw 18 is one of the most studied dwarf galaxies, because among those that have strong star forming activity, it’s one of the poorest in heavy elements. Besides, it’s proximity to the Earth, combined with a total exposure time of nearly 3 days, gave the researchers data with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity.

Full Story: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=117893&CultureCode=en