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Archive for June 28, 2012

Cassini Finds Likely Subsurface Ocean On Saturn Moon


Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn’s moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell.

Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid “tides,” on the moon only 3 feet (1 meter) in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 30 feet (10 meters) in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material. The finding appears in today’s edition of the journal Science.

“Cassini’s detection of large tides on Titan leads to the almost inescapable conclusion that there is a hidden ocean at depth,” said Luciano Iess, the paper’s lead author and a Cassini team member at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. “The search for water is an important goal in solar system exploration, and now we’ve spotted another place where it is abundant.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-190

The B612 Foundation ANNOUNCES The First Privately Funded Deep Space Mission


In a press conference at the California Academy of Sciences Thursday morning, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission – SENTINEL – a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, ranging up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of discovery and mapping. The Foundation leadership and technical team include some of the most experienced professionals in the world to lead this effort.

“The orbits of the inner solar system where Earth lies are populated with a half million asteroids larger than the one that struck Tunguska (June 30, 1908), and yet we’ve identified and mapped only about one percent of these asteroids to date, said Ed Lu, Space Shuttle, Soyuz, and Space Station Astronaut, now Chairman and CEO of the B612 Foundation. “During its 5.5-year mission survey time, Sentinel will discover and track half a million Near Earth Asteroids, creating a dynamic map that will provide the blueprint for future exploration of our Solar System, while protecting the future of humanity on Earth.”

Full Story: http://b612foundation.org/media/press-releases/

Scientists Discover That Milky Way Was Struck Some 100 Million Years Ago, Still Rings Like A Bell

June 28, 2012 1 comment

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a large spiral galaxy surrounded by dozens of smaller satellite galaxies. Scientists have long theorized that occasionally these satellites will pass through the disk of the Milky Way, perturbing both the satellite and the disk. A team of astronomers from Canada and the United States have discovered what may well be the smoking gun of such an encounter, one that occurred close to our position in the galaxy and relatively recently, at least in the cosmological sense.

“We have found evidence that our Milky Way had an encounter with a small galaxy or massive dark matter structure perhaps as recently as 100 million years ago,” said Larry Widrow, professor at Queen’s University in Canada. “We clearly observe unexpected differences in the Milky Way’s stellar distribution above and below the Galaxy’s midplane that have the appearance of a vertical wave — something that nobody has seen before.”

Full Story: http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2012/milky-way-20120628.html

Hubble, Swift Detect First-Ever Changes In An Exoplanet Atmosphere


An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system.

The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite.

“The multiwavelength coverage by Hubble and Swift has given us an unprecedented view of the interaction between a flare on an active star and the atmosphere of a giant planet,” said lead researcher Alain Lecavelier des Etangs at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics (IAP), part of the French National Scientific Research Center located at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/exoplanet-atmosphere.html

New NASA Game Lets Players Build And Launch A Virtual Rocket


With NASA’s Rocket Science 101, a new game designed for computers and iPad users, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to launch a spacecraft.

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, provides access to space for the studies of Earth and exploration of our solar system and the universe. Now, LSP is turning over the virtual selection, construction and launch of a mission to players who will decide the best rocket to assemble to launch a spacecraft. Rocket scientists in LSP do the same thing for real rockets and missions every day.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jun/HQ_12-219_Rocket_Science_101_Game.html

New Planet-Weighing Technique Found


Although there have been about 800 extra-solar planets discovered so far in our galaxy, the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown, as the most-common planet-finding technique provides only a general idea of an object’s mass. Previously, the only way to determine a planet’s exact mass was if it transits—has an orbit that periodically eclipses that of its host star. Former Carnegie scientist Mercedes López-Morales has, for the first time, determined the mass of a non-transiting planet. The work is published by Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Knowing a body’s mass is essential first to confirm it is a planet and if so, to determine whether it is rocky and possibly habitable or large and gassy. Until now, only the masses of transiting planets have been measured. Transiting planets are also the only type of extra-solar objects on which atmospheres have been detected.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/new_planetweighing_technique_found

Caltech Scientists Find New Primitive Mineral In Meteorite


In 1969, an exploding fireball tore through the sky over Mexico, scattering thousands of pieces of meteorite across the state of Chihuahua. More than 40 years later, the Allende meteorite is still serving the scientific community as a rich source of information about the early stages of our solar system’s evolution. Recently, scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) discovered a new mineral embedded in the space rock—one they believe to be among the oldest minerals formed in the solar system.

Dubbed panguite, the new titanium oxide is named after Pan Gu, the giant from ancient Chinese mythology who established the world by separating yin from yang to create the earth and the sky. The mineral and the mineral name have been approved by the International Mineralogical Association’s Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification. A paper outlining the discovery and the properties of this new mineral will be published in the July issue of the journal American Mineralogist, and is available online now.

Full Story: http://media.caltech.edu/press_releases/13524