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Subaru Telescope Captures Images of the “Stealth Merger” of Dwarf Galaxies

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

An international team of scientists led by David Martinez-Delgado (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Germany) has conducted research that reveals a “stealth merger” of dwarf galaxies, where an in-falling satellite galaxy is nearly undetectable by conventional means yet has a substantial influence on its host galaxy. Aaron Romanowsky (University of California Observatories in Santa Cruz) along with graduate student Jacob Arnold (UCSC) used the Subaru Telescope to obtain high-resolution images of individual stars in a dense stream of stars in the outer regions of a nearby dwarf galaxy (NGC 4449); these outlying stars are the remains of an even smaller companion galaxy in the process of merging with its host (Figure 1). NGC 4449, the host galaxy, is the smallest primary galaxy in which a stellar stream from an ongoing merger has been identified and studied in detail. Romanowsky commented, “I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of a galaxy merger where you can see the individual stars. It’s really an impressive image.”

Full Story: http://subarutelescope.org/Pressrelease/2012/02/08/index.html

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Saturn’s Rings and Enceladus

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credits: NASA/JPL–Caltech/Space Science Institute

Image Credits: NASA/JPL–Caltech/Space Science Institute

A crescent Enceladus appears with Saturn’s rings in this Cassini spacecraft view of the moon.

The famed jets of water ice emanating from the south polar region of the 504 km-diameter moon are faintly visible.

They appear as a small white blur below the dark pole, down and to the right of the illuminated part of the moon’s surface. The image’s contrast was enhanced to increase their visibility.

The sunlit terrain seen here is on the trailing hemisphere of Enceladus; north is up. This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane. The image was taken with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera on 4 January at a distance of 291 000 km from Enceladus. Image scale is about 2 km per pixel.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEMZ46WX7YG_index_0.html

NASA Calls for New Commercial Crew Proposals

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

As part of NASA’s ongoing efforts to foster development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station, NASA has issued a call for industry to submit proposals for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative.

It’s expected that proposals will lead to Space Act Agreements that will help NASA and the U.S. achieve safe, reliable, and cost effective human access to space. NASA expects to make multiple awards this summer, with values ranging from $300 – $500 million.

To provide industry a better understanding of this initiative so that they may provide more comprehensive proposals, NASA plans a pre-proposal conference on Feb. 14, at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Proposals are due March 23.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ_12-045_CCiCap.html

Mars-Bound NASA Rover Carries Coin for Camera Checkup

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

The camera at the end of the robotic arm on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has its own calibration target, a smartphone-size plaque that looks like an eye chart supplemented with color chips and an attached penny.

When Curiosity lands on Mars in August, researchers will use this calibration target to test performance of the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI. MAHLI’s close-up inspections of Martian rocks and soil will show details so tiny, the calibration target includes reference lines finer than a human hair. This camera is not limited to close-ups, though. It can focus on any target from about a finger’s-width away to the horizon.

Curiosity, the rover of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, also carries four other science cameras and a dozen black-and-white engineering cameras, plus other research instruments. The spacecraft, launched Nov. 26, 2011, will deliver Curiosity to a landing site inside Mars’ Gale Crater in August to begin a two-year investigation of whether that area has ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-033

NASA Spinoff 2011 Unveils Benefits of NASA Technologies on Earth

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Spinoff 2011 publication, now available online, reveals how the space agency’s ingenuity and partnerships have saved thousands of lives, generated billions of dollars, and created thousands of American jobs.

The latest edition of Spinoff records 44 journeys of NASA’s most innovative technologies. It chronicles their origins in NASA missions and programs and their transfer to the public in the form of practical commercial products and benefits to society.

“This year’s Spinoff demonstrates once again how through productive and innovative partnerships, NASA’s aerospace research brings real returns to the American people in the form of tangible products, services and new jobs,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “For 35 years, Spinoff has been the definitive resource for those who want to learn how space exploration benefits life on Earth.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ12-043_NASA_Spinoff_2011.html

Astronaut Don Pettit Shares Passion for Science from Space

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA and the American Physical Society (APS) have begun a partnership to share videos from the International Space Station with students, educators and science fans around the world. NASA astronaut Don Pettit, currently on the orbiting outpost as a member of the Expedition 30 crew, will use everyday objects from Earth to demonstrate physics through “Science off the Sphere” presentations.

Space fans know Pettit from his previous science demonstrations performed in space, such as the “Zero G Coffee Cup” from the space shuttle’s STS-126 mission in 2008. This time he has added a physics challenge for viewers. Some episodes of “Science off the Sphere” will end with a question. APS will review the responses and identify a winner. Pettit will announce the winner from aboard the station.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/feb/HQ_12-043_Astronaut_Pettit_Shares_Passion_for_Science.html

Big Bend Designated as International Dark Sky Park

February 8, 2012 2 comments

The stars at night are big and bright in Texas’ Big Bend National Park. The park was recently designated as an International Dark Sky Park, one of now just ten in the world. Big Bend National Park (BBNP) came in at the ‘Gold Tier’ level meaning that the skies above the park are free from all but the most minor impacts of light pollution.

Measurements by the National Park Service Night Sky Team show that the Big Bend Region offers the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states making it a worthy jewel to the worldwide crown of dark sky oases recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

With an area of over 801,000 acres, Big Bend National Park is also the largest International Dark Sky Park to date.

Full Story (PDF): http://docs.darksky.org/PR/BigBendNPPR.pdf