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Researchers Identify Water Rich Meteorite Linked To Mars Crust

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed "Black Beauty". Credit: NASA

Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty”. Credit: NASA

NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins.

This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty,” it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.

“The age of NWA 7034 is important because it is significantly older than most other Martian meteorites,” said Mitch Schulte, program scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We now have insight into a piece of Mars’ history at a critical time in its evolution.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/news/mars20130103.html

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Vesta: Giant Impacts Delivered Carbon

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Most of the dark, carbonaceous material on Vesta can be found on the rims of smaller craters. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Most of the dark, carbonaceous material on Vesta can be found on the rims of smaller craters. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA’s space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn’s year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge impacts not only altered Vesta’s shape, but also its surface composition. Scientists under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany have shown that impacting small asteroids delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet. In the early days of our solar system, similar events may have provided the inner planets such as Earth with carbon, an essential building block for organic molecules. These results were published in the November-December issue of the journal Icarus.

Full Story: http://www.dawn.mps.mpg.de/index.php?id=17&L=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=172&cHash=fb71c4cb2dd3810fdc8752db4e4dcf3e

A New Year’s Gift From NASA And Penn State

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Omega Centauri (also known as NGC 5139). Credit: NASA/Swift/S. Holland (GSFC), M. Siegel and E. Fonseca (PSU)

Omega Centauri (also known as NGC 5139). Credit: NASA/Swift/S. Holland (GSFC), M. Siegel and E. Fonseca (PSU)

A large new collection of space photos taken at wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye and blocked by Earth’s atmosphere has been released as a New Year’s gift to the people of Earth by NASA and Penn State University. The images were captured by a telescope on board NASA’s Swift satellite, whose science and flight operations are controlled by Penn State from the Mission Operations Center in State College, Pennsylvania, using the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope, which resulted from Penn State’s collaboration with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of the University College-London. The telescope is one of just a few that study ultraviolet light, much of which is blocked by the atmosphere surrounding Earth.

“This extensive image gallery has some of the best pictures ever taken by this telescope, including some very early images that have not been published until now,” said Michael Siegel, a Penn State research associate in astronomy and astrophysics who is the lead scientist for the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope.

Full Story and Links: http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2013-news/Siegel1-2013

Surprise Pancake Structure In Andromeda Galaxy Upends Galactic Understanding

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the Solar System. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.

The study reveals almost 30 dwarf galaxies orbiting the larger Andromeda galaxy in this regular, solar system-like plane. The astronomers’ expectations were that these smaller galaxies should be buzzing around randomly, like bees around a hive.

“This was completely unexpected,” said Geraint Lewis, one of the lead authors on the Nature publication. “The chance of this happening randomly is next to nothing.” The fact that astronomers now see that a majority of these little systems in fact contrive to map out an immensely large – approximately one million light years across – but extremely flattened structure, implies that this understanding is grossly incorrect. Either something about how these galaxies formed, or subsequently evolved, must have led them to trace out this peculiar, coherent, structure.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/surprise_pancake_structure_in_andromeda_galaxy_upends_galactic_understandin
Also: http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/news/Andromeda/
Also: http://astro.unistra.fr/Cosmic_Order/Site/Welcome.html

Magnetic Forces Without Magnets: Bochum Physicist Calculates Field Strengths In The Early Universe

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Magnets have practically become everyday objects. Earlier on, however, the universe consisted only of nonmagnetic elements and particles. Just how the magnetic forces came into existence has been researched by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Schlickeiser at the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. In the journal Physical Review Letters, he describes a new mechanism for the magnetisation of the universe even before the emergence of the first stars.

Before the formation of the first stars, the luminous matter consisted only of a fully ionised gas of protons, electrons, helium nuclei and lithium nuclei which were produced during the Big Bang. “All higher metals, for example, magnetic iron could, according to today’s conception, only be formed in the inside of stars”, says Reinhard Schlickeiser. “In early times therefore, there were no permanent magnets in the Universe.” The parameters that describe the state of a gas are, however, not constant. Density and pressure, as well as electric and magnetic fields fluctuate around certain mean values. As a result of this fluctuation, at certain points in the plasma weak magnetic fields formed – so-called random fields. How strong these fields are in a fully ionised plasma of protons and electrons, has now been calculated by Prof. Schlickeiser, specifically for the gas densities and temperatures that occurred in the plasmas of the early universe.

Full Story: http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2013/pm00002.html.en

Planets Abound

January 6, 2013 1 comment

Look up at the night sky and you’ll see stars, sure. But you’re also seeing planets—billions and billions of them. At least.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) that provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm. The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32—planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority in the galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most planets form.

“There’s at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy—just our galaxy,” says John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “That’s mind-boggling.”

Full Story: http://www.caltech.edu/content/planets-abound

Galactic Geysers Fuelled By Star Stuff

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

The new-found outflows of particles (pale blue) from the Galactic Centre. Credits: Ettore Carretti, CSIRO (radio image); S-PASS survey team (radio data); Axel Mellinger, Central Michigan University (optical image); Eli Bressert, CSIRO (composition)

The new-found outflows of particles (pale blue) from the Galactic Centre. Credits: Ettore Carretti, CSIRO (radio image); S-PASS survey team (radio data); Axel Mellinger, Central Michigan University (optical image); Eli Bressert, CSIRO (composition)

“Monster” outflows of charged particles from the centre of our Galaxy, stretching more than halfway across the sky, have been detected and mapped with CSIRO’s 64-m Parkes radio telescope. “These outflows contain an extraordinary amount of energy — about a million times the energy of an exploding star,” said the research team’s leader, CSIRO’s Dr Ettore Carretti.

The speed of the outflow is supersonic, about 1000 kilometres a second. “That’s fast, even for astronomers,” Dr Carretti said.

From top to bottom the outflows extend 50,000 light-years (five hundred thousand million million kilometres) out of the Galactic Plane. That’s equal to half the diameter of our Galaxy (which is 100,000 light-years — a million million million kilometres — across).

Full Story: http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Media/Our-Galaxys-geysers-are-towers-of-power.aspx
Also: http://www.icrar.org/home/galactic-geysers-fuelled-by-star-stuff