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NASA Joins ESA’s ‘Dark Universe’ Mission

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

NASA has officially joined ESA’s Euclid mission, a space telescope designed to investigate the mysterious natures of dark matter and dark energy. To be launched in 2020, Euclid’s 1.2 m-diameter telescope and two scientific instruments will map the shape, brightness and 3D distribution of two billion galaxies covering more than a third of the whole sky and looking back over three-quarters of the history of the Universe.

Scientists hope to solve key problems in our understanding of the evolution and fate of our expanding cosmos: the roles played by ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’. Dark matter is invisible, but has gravity and acts to slow the expansion. Dark energy, however, seems to be accelerating the expansion seen around us today. Together, these two components are thought to comprise more than 95% of the mass and energy of the Universe, with ‘normal’ matter and energy making up the remaining small fraction. But what they are remains a profound mystery.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/NASA_joins_ESA_s_dark_Universe_mission
Also: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-055
Also: http://releases.jhu.edu/2013/02/12/johns-hopkins-astrophysicists-join-space-mission-aimed-at-solving-dark-mysteries-of-the-universe/

New Study Suggests That Black Holes Are Growing Faster Than Previously Thought

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

The black hole that has grown the most can be found in the Sombrero galaxy. Credit: NASA/ESA

The black hole that has grown the most can be found in the Sombrero galaxy. Credit: NASA/ESA

Astronomers from Swinburne University of Technology have discovered how supermassive black holes grow – and it’s not what was expected. For years, scientists had believed that supermassive black holes, located at the centers of galaxies, increased their mass in step with the growth of their host galaxy. However, new observations have revealed a dramatically different behavior.

“Black holes have been growing much faster than we thought,” Professor Alister Graham from Swinburne’s Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing said.

Within galaxies, there is a competition of sorts for the available gas; for either the formation of new stars or feeding the central black hole.

For more than a decade the leading models and theories have assigned a fixed fraction of the gas to each process, effectively preserving the ratio of black hole mass to galaxy mass. New research to be published in The Astrophysical Journal reveals that this approach needs to be changed.

Full Story: http://scitechdaily.com/new-study-suggests-that-black-holes-are-growing-faster-than-previously-thought/
Also: http://www.kurzweilai.net/black-holes-growing-faster-than-expected

Astronomers Ask Public To Help Name Pluto’s New Moons

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

By tradition, the moons of Pluto have names associated with Hades and the underworld. Beginning today, people can vote by visiting:

http://www.plutorocks.com/

Voting ends at noon EST on Monday, February 25th, 2013.

“The Greeks were great storytellers and they have given us a colorful cast of characters to work with,” said Mark Showalter, Senior Research Scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. He and the teams of astronomers who made the discoveries will select two names based on the outcome of the voting.

Full Story: http://www.seti.org/node/1592

NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars.

The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.

“The most advanced planetary robot ever designed is now a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. “This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-052