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Archive for June, 2012

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

Exhumed Rocks Reveal Mars Water Ran Deep


By studying rocks blasted out of impact craters, ESA’s Mars Express has found evidence that underground water persisted at depth for prolonged periods during the first billion years of the Red Planet’s existence.

Impact craters are natural windows into the history of planetary surfaces – the deeper the crater, the further back in time you can probe.

In addition, rocks blasted out during the impact offer a chance to study material that once lay hidden beneath the surface.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEMKT91VW3H_index_0.html

NASA Adds Orbital’s Antares To Launch Services II Contract


NASA has modified its NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., to add the Antares launch vehicle, formerly known as Taurus II, for future missions.

The NLS II on-ramp provision provides an opportunity annually for launch service providers not presently under NLS II contract to compete for future missions, and allows launch service providers already under contract to introduce launch vehicles not currently on their NLS II contracts, such as Antares.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jun/HQ_C12-027_NLS_II_mod.html

A Black Hole´s Dinner

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

A giant gas cloud is on collision course with the black hole in the centre of our galaxy in 2013. This is a unique opportunity to observe how a super massive black hole sucks in material, in real time.The black hole at the centre of the galaxy, formally known as Sagittarius A*, fascinates scientists. By mid-2013 a gas cloud is expected to pass in its vicinity at a distance of only 36 light-hours (equivalent to 40.000.000.000km), which is extremely close in astronomical terms.For the past 20 years, Stefan Gillessen, astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich, Germany, has been observing the black hole. “So far there were only two stars that came that close to Sagittarius A*”, he says. “They passed unharmed, but this time will be different: the gas cloud will be completely ripped apart by the tidal forces of the black hole.”  A black hole is what remains after a super massive star dies. When the “fuel” of a star runs low, it will first swell and then collapse to a dense core. If this remnant core has more than three times the mass of our Sun, it will transform to a black hole.

Direct observations of such black holes are impossible because they are coal-black and do not emit light or matter. But astronomers can identify a black hole indirectly due to the gravitational forces observed in their vicinity.

So-called super massive black holes are the largest type of black holes. Their mass equals hundreds of thousands to a billion times the mass of our sun. The centre of all galaxies is thought to contain super massive black holes. But their origin is not fully understood and astrophysicists can only speculate as to what happens inside them. Hence the imminent collision is of great interest to scientists as it should provide some new insights.

Full Story: http://www.youris.com/Environment/Space/A_Black_HoleS_Dinner.kl

NASA’s Hubble Spots Rare Gravitational Arc from Distant, Hefty Galaxy Cluster

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Seeing is believing, except when you don’t believe what you see. Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling  arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing  10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA’s  Spitzer Space Telescope, was observed when the universe was roughly a  quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years.

The giant arc is the stretched shape of a more distant galaxy whose  light is distorted by the monster cluster’s powerful gravity, an effect  called gravitational lensing. The trouble is, the arc shouldn’t exist.

Full Story: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/19/