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Team Produces 1st Complete Geologic Map of Io

March 19, 2012 1 comment

More than 400 years after Galileo’s discovery of Io, the innermost of Jupiter’s largest moons, a team of scientists led by Arizona State University (ASU) has produced the first complete global geologic map of the Jovian satellite. The map, published by the U. S. Geological Survey, depicts the characteristics and relative ages of some of the most geologically unique and active volcanoes and lava flows ever documented in the Solar System.

Following its discovery by Galileo in January 1610, Io has been the focus of repeated telescopic and satellite scientific observation. These studies have shown that the orbital and gravitational relationships between Io, its sister moons Europa and Ganymede, and Jupiter cause massive, rapid flexing of its rocky crust. These tidal flexures generate tremendous heat within Io’s interior, which is released through the many surface volcanoes observed.

“One of the reasons for making this map was to create a tool for continuing scientific studies of Io, and a tool for target planning of Io observations on future missions to the Jupiter system,” says David Williams, a faculty research associate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, who led the six-year research project to produce the geologic map.

Full Story: https://asunews.asu.edu/20120319_iomap

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Cosmic Rays Alter Chemistry Of Lunar Ice

March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Space scientists from the University of New Hampshire and multi-institutional colleagues report they have quantified levels of radiation on the moon’s surface from galactic cosmic ray (GCR) bombardment that over time causes chemical changes in water ice and can create complex carbon chains similar to those that help form the foundations of biological structures. In addition, the radiation process causes the lunar soil, or regolith, to darken over time, which is important in understanding the geologic history of the moon.

The scientists present their findings in a paper published online in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR). The paper, titled “Lunar Radiation Environment and Space Weathering from the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER),” is based on measurements made by the CRaTER instrument onboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. The paper’s lead author is Nathan Schwadron, an associate professor of physics at the UNH Space Science Center within the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS). Co-author Harlan Spence is the director of EOS and lead scientist for the CRaTER instrument.

Full Story: http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2012/mar/ds19cosmic.cfm

Coverage Set for European Cargo Delivery to Space Station

March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA Television will broadcast live the flight of the European Space Agency’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo ship to the International Space Station. Coverage will begin with its launch on Thursday.

The 13-ton “Edoardo Amaldi” spacecraft, named in honor of the 20th-century Italian physicist who is regarded as one of the fathers of European spaceflight, will carry 7.2 tons of propellant, water and supplies to the six crew members aboard the orbital laboratory.

An Ariane 5 rocket that will place the cargo ship into orbit is scheduled to launch at 11:34 p.m. CDT on March 22 from the Arianespace launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. NASA TV’s coverage of the launch will begin at 11 p.m.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/mar/HQ_M12-044_ATV-3_Launch_Schedule.html

Some Orbits More Popular than Others

March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In young solar systems emerging around baby stars, some orbits are more popular than others, resulting in “planet pile-ups” and “planet deserts.”

Computer simulations have revealed a plausible explanation for a phenomenon that has puzzled astronomers: Rather than occupying orbits at regular distances from a star, giant gas planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn appear to prefer to occupy certain regions in mature solar systems while staying clear of others.

“Our results show that the final distribution of planets does not vary smoothly with distance from the star, but instead has clear ‘deserts’ – deficits of planets – and ‘pile-ups’ of planets at particular locations,” said Ilaria Pascucci, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

“Our models offer a plausible explanation for the pile-ups of giant planets observed recently detected in exoplanet surveys,” said Richard Alexander of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Full Story: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2012/march/some-orbits-more-popular-than-others-in-solar-systems