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NASA Mars Rover Preparing To Drill Into First Martian Rock

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers’ approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

“Drilling into a rock to collect a sample will be this mission’s most challenging activity since the landing. It has never been done on Mars,” said Mars Science Laboratory project manager Richard Cook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The drill hardware interacts energetically with Martian material we don’t control. We won’t be surprised if some steps in the process don’t go exactly as planned the first time through.”

Curiosity first will gather powdered samples from inside the rock and use those to scrub the drill. Then the rover will drill and ingest more samples from this rock, which it will analyze for information about its mineral and chemical composition.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-020

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Neon Lights Up Exploding Stars

January 18, 2013 2 comments

Artistic view. Credit: David A Hardy and STFC

Artistic view. Credit: David A Hardy and STFC

An international team of nuclear astrophysicists has shed new light on the explosive stellar events known as novae. These dramatic explosions are driven by nuclear processes and make previously unseen stars visible for a short time. The team of scientists measured the nuclear structure of the radioactive neon produced through this process in unprecedented detail.

Their findings, reported in the US journal Physical Review Letters, show there is much less uncertainty in how quickly one of the key nuclear reactions will occur as well as in the final abundance of radioactive isotopes than has previously been suggested.

Dr Alison Laird, from the University of York’s Department of Physics, said: “…We have demonstrated that previous assumptions about key nuclear properties are incorrect and have improved our knowledge of the nuclear reaction pathway.”

Full Story: http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2013/research/exploding-stars/

Dynamic, Dark Energy In An Accelerating Universe

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

It was cosmology that drew Irene Sendra from Valencia to the Basque Country. Cosmology alsogave her the chance to collaborate with one of the winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics on one of the darkest areas of the universe. And dark matter and dark energy, well-known precisely because so little is known about them, are in fact the object of the study bySendra, a researcher in the Department of Theoretical Physics and History of Science of the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Science and Technology.

“Observations tell us that about 5% of the universe is made up of ordinary matter; 22% corresponds to dark matter, which we know exists because it interacts gravitationally with ordinary matter; another 73% is dark energy, which is known to be there because otherwise one would not be able to account for the accelerating expansion of the universe,” explains Irene Sendra; “We are trying to find out a bit more about what dark energy is,” she adds.

If dark energy did not exist, the gravitational pull exerted by matter would slow down the expansion of the universe, but observations have concluded that the opposite is the case.Dark energy is what makes the universe expand in an accelerating way, and contributing towards understanding its nature is the basis of the research Sendra has done as part of her PhD thesis entitled: “Cosmology in an accelerating universe: observations and phenomenology”.

Full Story: http://www.basqueresearch.com/berria_irakurri.asp?Berri_Kod=4315&hizk=I#.UPVkCqFxe40

Light From The Darkness

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO/F. Comeron

Credit: ESO/F. Comeron

An evocative new image from ESO shows a dark cloud where new stars are forming, along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. The new picture was taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and is the best image ever taken in visible light of this little-known object.

On the left of this new image there is a dark column resembling a cloud of smoke. To the right shines a small group of brilliant stars. At first glance these two features could not be more different, but they are in fact closely linked. The cloud contains huge amounts of cool cosmic dust and is a nursery where new stars are being born. It is likely that the Sun formed in a similar star formation region more than four billion years ago.

This cloud is known as Lupus 3 and it lies about 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). The section shown here is about five light-years across.

Full Story, Photo & Links: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1303/

Nearby Dwarf Galaxy And Possible Protogalaxy Discovered: Optical And Radio Telescopes Lead To Finds, Reconstruction Of Intergalactic Traffic Jam

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Peering deep into the dim edges of a distorted pinwheel galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear), astronomers at Case Western Reserve University and their colleagues have discovered a faint dwarf galaxy and another possible young dwarf caught before it had a chance to form any stars.

Within the faint trails of intergalactic traffic, the researchers also found more evidence pointing to two already known dwarf galaxies as probable forces that pulled the pinwheel-shaped disk galaxy known as M101 out of shape.

M101 is the dominant member in a group of 15 galaxies in Ursa Major. Most galaxies reside in such small-group environments, which means the factors shaping M101 are likely the same shaping most galaxies throughout the universe, the researchers say.

Full Story: http://blog.case.edu/think/2013/01/11/nearby_dwarf_galaxy_and_possible_protogalaxy_discovered_optical_and_radio_telescopes_lead_to_finds_reconstruction_of_intergalactic_traffic_jam

Slooh Space Camera To Broadcast Live Feeds Of Super Close Moon / Jupiter Conjunction

January 18, 2013 Leave a comment

On Monday, January 21st, the Moon will appear amazingly close in the sky to the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. In North America, the waxing gibbous Moon — the lunar phase between first quarter and full Moon — will be approximately one degree south of Jupiter, appearing to be only a pen width (seen at arm’s length) apart. Slooh Space Camera will cover the event live on Slooh.com, free to the public, Monday, January 21st, at 6:00 p.m. PST / 9:00 p.m. EST / 02:00 UTC (1/22) — international times here: http://goo.gl/xySeo — accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh president Patrick Paolucci, Astronomy magazine columnist Bob Berman, and astro-imager Matt Francis of the Prescott Observatory. Viewers can watch live on their PC or iOS/Android mobile device at t-minus zero.

Text & Links (PDF): http://goo.gl/dMxik
Event Times: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?msg=Super+Close+Moon+%2F+Jupiter+Conjunction&iso=20130121T18&p1=137
Slooh Space Camera G+ Page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108176209664415419112/#108176209664415419112/posts