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Archive for March 12, 2012

NASA Launches International Competition to Develop Space Apps

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA, governments around the world and civil society organizations will co-host the International Space Apps Challenge on April 21-22 with events across seven continents and in space.

The apps competition will bring people together to exploit openly available data collected by space agencies around the world to create innovative solutions to longstanding global challenges. An initiative of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, the challenge will showcase the impact scientists and citizens can have by working together to solve challenging problems that affect every person on Earth. Events will take place in San Francisco; Exeter, U.K.; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paulo; Nairobi, Kenya; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo; McMurdo Station, Antarctica; and the International Space Station.

“We are excited to convene the International Space Apps Challenge as one of the U.S. commitments to the Open Government Partnership to explore new ways that open space data can help the planet and further space exploration,” said Deborah Diaz, deputy chief information officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/mar/HQ_12-063_Space_Apps_Challenge.html

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Storms From the Sun

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Space weather starts at the sun. It begins with an eruption such as a huge burst of light and radiation called a solar flare or a gigantic cloud of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME). But the effects of those eruptions happen at Earth, or at least near-Earth space. Scientists monitor several kinds of space “weather” events — geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms, and radio blackouts – all caused by these immense explosions on the sun.

One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm refers to any time Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, undergoes sudden and repeated change. This is a time when magnetic fields continually re-align and energy dances quickly from one area to another.

Geomagnetic storms occur when certain types of CMEs connect up with the outside of the magnetosphere for an extended period of time. The solar material in a CME travels with its own set of magnetic fields. If the fields point northward, they align with the magnetosphere’s own fields and the energy and particles simply slide around Earth, causing little change. But if the magnetic fields point southward, in the opposite direction of Earth’s fields, the effects can be dramatic. The sun’s magnetic fields peel back the outermost layers of Earth’s fields changing the whole shape of the magnetosphere. This is the initial phase of a geomagnetic storm.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/storms-on-sun.html

New Discovery About Neutrino Oscillations

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

A new discovery provides a crucial key to understanding how neutrinos – ghostly particles with multiple personalities – change identity and may help shed light on why matter exists in the universe.

In an announcement today (Thursday, March 8), members of the large international Daya Bay collaboration reported the last of three measurements that describe how the three types, or flavors, of neutrinos blend with one another, providing an explanation for their spooky morphing from one flavor to another, a phenomenon called neutrino oscillation.

The measurement makes possible new experiments that may help explain why the present universe is filled mostly with matter, and not equal parts of matter and antimatter that would have annihilated each other to leave behind nothing but energy. One theory is that a process shortly after the birth of the universe led to the asymmetry, but a necessary condition for this is the violation of charge-parity (or CP) symmetry. If neutrinos and their antimatter equivalent, antineutrinos, oscillate differently, this could provide the explanation.

Full Story: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/03/08/new-discovery-key-to-understanding-neutrino-transformation/

Earth’s Magnetic Field Provides Vital Protection

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

A chance alignment of planets during a passing gust of the solar wind has allowed scientists to compare the protective effects of Earth’s magnetic field with that of Mars’ naked atmosphere. The result is clear: Earth’s magnetic field is vital for keeping our atmosphere in place.

The alignment took place on 6 January 2008. Using ESA’s Cluster and Mars Express missions to provide data from Earth and Mars, respectively, scientists compared the loss of oxygen from the two planets’ atmospheres as the same stream of solar wind hit them. This allowed a direct evaluation of the effectiveness of Earth’s magnetic field in protecting our atmosphere.

They found that while the pressure of the solar wind increased at each planet by similar amounts, the increase in the rate of loss of martian oxygen was ten times that of Earth’s increase.

Such a difference would have a dramatic impact over billions of years, leading to large losses of the martian atmosphere, perhaps explaining or at least contributing to its current tenuous state.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMXWW7YBZG_index_0.html

Citizen Scientists Reveal a Bubbly Milky Way

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

A team of volunteers has pored over observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and discovered more than 5,000 “bubbles” in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy. Young, hot stars blow these bubbles into surrounding gas and dust, indicating areas of brand new star formation.

Upwards of 35,000 “citizen scientists” sifted through the Spitzer infrared data as part of the online Milky Way Project to find these telltale bubbles. The volunteers have turned up 10 times as many bubbles as previous surveys so far.

“These findings make us suspect that the Milky Way is a much more active star-forming galaxy than previously thought,” said Eli Bressert, an astrophysics doctoral student at the European Southern Observatory, based in Germany, and the University of Exeter, England, and co-author of a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“The Milky Way’s disk is like champagne with bubbles all over the place,” he said.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-062